Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two of my Favorite gym equipment hacks

As soon as a crash-landed in a real gym way back in September, I quickly gained a reputation as being an unusual, unconventional, and just outright crazy guy in the gym.  Free from any restraints of being in a lifting sport at the moment and enriched with a decade, or so, of strength training improvisation I look at things differently.  These are a few tricks of my trade that I've employed lately.

Fat Gripz...or just thick grip training
It's easily been years since I've done anything resembling a normal-diameter bar for pull-ups with any regularity.  I've avoided them like I had an allergy to them...if I've even used a bar at all.  Venture far enough into this blog and you'll find numerous example of me using towels, balls, ropes, suspension rigs, or just a plain thick bar to do pull-ups with.  Early on in my training I developed a rich respect for training with some sort of grip challenge and couldn't conceive of a week going by without one. 

While I love adding grip challenges into my training, I only do grip training only when I can do no other form of work (ie:  CoC training when I'm in a plane or car).  At this point of life, I've got  a house falling apart and a child to make sure doesn't turn into a misbehaved, rabid baby gorilla in the manners department grip training-only isn't the most judicious use of my precious training time. 

I've been asked in the gym before how to train my grip.  Too many go out of their way to avoid using their hands in any meaningful manner and then ponder why they can't do shit when they're not sitting on comfortably-padded piece of a machinery.

The antidote is simple:  get some fat gripz.  I long avoided buying these because I never actually had a pair in my hands.  On their web site, they look like some sort of cheap shit, even when not deforming under the pressure of weight plates.
Yes, they are tougher than they look

That was a horrible misconception.  I tried a pair in Florida and loved them so much for months that I bumped up to the Extremes as soon as they became available.  They recommend these only if you have a lot of experience with standard fat gripping work (2-2 3/8" diameter) and I cannot disagree with that.  The big boys are brOOtal!  They sliced my Pull-ups from 20 reps on a 2 3/8" bar down to 13!  They also make a barbell curl with a set of plates stupid-difficult.  The latter makes a great stupid human challenge in a gym. 
Frankly, they are so humiliating to use that I refuse to be photographed with the stupid-small amounts of weight I can use while working out with them. 
Anyway, if you've got a light night with a particular movement then consider throwing some sort of grip challenge element into the training mixture.  Another advantage that few know about to fat grip work is that it's also easier on your calluses.  The fat handle's increased surface area won't put nearly the pressure on your precious hand skin and reduces the likelihood of a tear.   Should you tear a callus, super glue it back on, go back to bed, and the next day do some work in the gym with thick bar training. 

Or if your gym has a thick bar, then use it.  Look for ways to add grip work in anywhere you see an opening for it. 

25 lbs Plates
Next to using a stack of 5 lbs bumper plates on a barbell to hide the fact that you're weaker than a prepubescent girl, using 25 lbs plates when you could use 45's is the most reliable manner to look like a gym-douche.  Still, that's exactly what I did for the bulk of my squat work after coming off my ACL rehab work. 

...and I was picked on in a corresponding manner for using them. 

My choice squats these days have been belt squats and Zercher lifting (Deadlift-to-zercher squat...and back again).  For both of these lifts, I use a  prodigious stack of 25 lbs plates for one simple reason:  they're shorter than 45's.  While the few true adherents to squatting  (and generally shun off the leg press as an acceptable squat substitute) can't seem to step away from the squat cage, I enthusiastically start my barbells on the floor.  The shorter plates start everything lower, thus adding much-needed depth to belt squatting and creating a deficit for the deadlift portion of the Zercher lift. I've also used these for lateral/hockey deadlifts and barbell hack squats as well. 
Belt squatting.  This actually made my knee feel good while getting some quad strength back!
 
Or, they could be used for a conventional deficit deadlift.  If memory serves me correctly, you can get about 350 lbs on a bar with just quarter plates.  My hamstrings are still shit from lack of training due to my knee that led to some muscle tightness and imbalance that culminated in an irritated disc in my lumbar spine.  So, my hamstrings are crying for stimulation and this was their way of throwing a fit at me.  So, I've tried to wring as much hamstring action out of the conventional deadlift by doing them in medium volume with 25 lbs plates.  It's been sore going but it's working. 

What is comprehensible to me about gyms is how needlessly dogmatic everyone can be about how they train and what they train with.  There is as little deviation from norms as there is hell to pay for straying from those norms. 
A bit of the hell I caught for a video I did on belt squatting and a perfect example of how to make the ultimate douchebag:  throw a Masshole in South Florida and let him make a living perving out to figure model clients dumb enough to hire him. 

 
The rest of the gym world can go fuck themselves. Yes, some of the shit they do works and a lot of it doesn't.  There's plenty of perfectly good gym hacks that go unnoticed and unused because of the horrid lack of anything resembling free thought or imagination while training.  Don't fall prey to this.  Use what works well, even if it's a bit weird.  
 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fear and Respect the Sandbag Push-up

 
Is it better to be feared or respected? 
 
 

Is it too much to ask for both?
 
 
That above statement could easily apply to strengthening the chest and keeping the shoulders healthy simultaneously.   My bench press-pushup articles have become so heavily hit on by Google searches by now that they've also become the single biggest source of SPAM on my site.   For some reason, if people want strength and/or big pecs, they bench press and put up with shoulder pain until they can't.  If they want conditioning and healthy shoulders, they push-up and then pretend that conditioning is so much more important than strength. 
 
So, I ask:  IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR BOTH?
 
 For some reason, weighted push-ups elude just about everyone's mind as a great compromise to getting strong without turning the shoulder joint into tendon-graters.  That may well be due to the difficulty of loading up the body with weight to perform them.  The pull-up and the dip are more straightforward since an inexpensive and easy method of adding weight to them exists in nearly every serious gym:  the dip belt.  The push-up is a bit more tricky.  The weight cant hang from the torso.  Weighted vests are expensive with any serious amount of mass to them. 
 
Those are not the only means to weight a push-up.  I've used chains around my neck and had a friend load plates on my upper back (CAUTION:  use rubber coated or bumper plates.  they stay stacked much better!   Few sensations will induce un-needed panic like the feel of 3 plates falling off your back).  My choice pick has been sandbags.  Alpha Strong Sandbags.  These are the easiest weight I've found to get on the back alone and stay in place without beating the shit out of the body.
 
I've used the smaller, Beast sandbag (50-60 lbs) as well as the larger Kraken (135-to-who-the-fuck-knows-left-it-in-the-rain-again pounds).  The little guy is pretty simple to get into position since it can just be dangled around the neck.  I'm sure the fine readers remember this one from a several months ago...
 
 
That This was good for sets of 15-20 reps.  That can still build some strength and it's also a great neck and trap work-out simultaneously. 
 
Since being set free to try tempt fate with my knees again, I've resorted to throwing the big one on my back and doing push-ups pretty often.  Figuring out the best way to get that bulky blob of sand back there as efficiently as possible looked like a Three Stooges prank but I came up with the following sequence:
  • Clean the sandbag off the ground
  • place the sandbag on one shoulder while doing some twerking and holding the bag to the neck.
  • squat down and let the sandbag slide down the back a bit.
  • get into the push-up position at the bottom of the squat

Clearly, should have let this one slide farther down my back
Since I wasn't interested in challenging my midsection strength on either of these weighted push-ups, I usually spread my feet to impart a bit more stability.  Since there is no rule book to doing these sandbag push-ups, I also mess around with hand placement.  Regardless of where my hands go (wide or narrow) I don't like to flare my elbows out. 

On either of these push-ups I just demonstrated, getting rid of the weight is as easy as dropping one shoulder and letting it slide off. 

Since I brought up a key point of doing a push-up right, Another virtue of slinging some weight on the back and pushing some extra bodyweight off the ground is that it also can help clean up bad push-up form.  Rather than take the word of some wing-nut blogger on the internet, here's a guy who actually, successfully, trains people for a living on how to do one right:


See that around 7:26?  I'm kind of re-enacting the same thing with 135 lbs of sand instead of 135 lbs of super-cool, kick-ass woman.  It's not particularly feasible to do these sandbag push-ups with bad form.  Something will give out too soon.  So, I've found that I either have to do them right, or they just won't get done. 

Life is already too full of compromises and dogmatic adherence to traditions for no good reason.  There is no excuse for the bench presses hegemonic domination of chest training.  There's no reason why a push-up have to sit in the neglected strength-endurance-conditioning bin of tools, collecting figurative dust.  So, grab a sandbag and get your fear and respect in one move. 
 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Getting Back to the Basics

If you spend enough time cruising around the internets in search of midget porn, the best deals on  anchor chain on ebay, and that ever-elusive Rob Zombie, "Fuck off", t-shirt like I do, you'll eventually come across some sort of training article that calls on the reader to return to the basics.  I like the basics and while my training has morphed dramatically in the past, several months since I've actually been in one spot long enough to join a gym, I still like to keep things simple. 

Simple training and getting back to basics.  That should be easy to do.  It's also an understandable sentiment for me to relate to.  After all, the history of the past 40 years of strength training was kind of bizarre.  For some reason, we decided that we needed all of this...



Because this...

Was somehow inadequate for the job of building a strong body.

Somehow worked for her.
A call to get rid of machinery seems totally natural.  After all, the contemporary house of strength and fitness is such a hopeless cluster-fuck of implements chained to training so mind-numbingly dull and boring McFitness gym owners have to install TV's just to get people to stay there for an hour.  Something had to give in and someone had to demand an end to the clutter. 

So, we need to get back to basics but that also raises an interesting question:  does anyone still know what that is anymore?  I've heard several renditions of what the basics are in strength training.  Depending on which source you choose to worship as the best source of the basics, that could break down into two categories:

1.  Moving simply with lots of objects.  This is the most common one that you'll likely see.  While it's not McFitness as we know it in equipment overload and excess, this category of, "basic but brutal," still needs mats, barbells, dumbbells, racks, some odd objects, etc.  From there, it's basic exercises, usually the "big four" with some accessory movements. 

2.  Moving complexly with less objects.  Here you'll get some weird movements to make up for the lack of training equipment.  This tends to be the refuge of Penitentiary strength training, Parkour, Bodyweight guys, etc. 

We can, and may, debate which of thee basic approaches is the best answer to making gyms better, there's more to this issue than just how we move and we use to move to get stronger.  It relates back to those TV's to soothe the monotony of being in the latest rendition of a gym.  It's about what Steve Pulcinella touches on a bit here: 

 
 
and here...
 
 
 
To further steal other ideas so I don't have to compel myself to actually write well,  getting back to basics is largely all about is my buddy Chip's summation:  train hard, eat well, rest hard.  While you're doing those, make sure you're doing something that you enjoy doing!  I've got news for people:  if you don't enjoy what you're doing, you're going to be hard pressed to do it hard.  You're just going to be compelled by the boredom to get it over with as fast as possible, thereby missing the party (and results).  Basics have far less to do with the equipment you use and even the exercises you choose to do.  It's mostly about the attitude that you bring to what you're doing.  The two outlines for basic training I put up above will both produce results.  Simply pick one, add Chip's big three and don't forget what Steve said in the last video. 

You don't need a glorified scrap pile with pads to get results.  You just need to get busy with something you enjoy doing. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Getting Big Right With Stew

I totally understand the desire to get huge.  I've made two honest attempts in my life to accumulate more than 20 lbs of mass on my genetically-robbed frame.  It's got to be the biggest reason why anyone with testicles ever attempts to strength train.  Whenever I write about it here, they're my most popular posts.  What I don't understand is why there is so much mystery about how to get big.  It's simpler than the collective IQ of the riders on the little, yellow bus:  eat more and train a lot... and get some rest (yeah, I fuck that one up, just like you do too). 

So, after basically getting past that pesky physical therapy shit that left my left leg looking like a soda straw with scars, I decided to make the jump up to 200 lbs.  All of that flabby mass that used to wave hello to me in the bathroom mirror as I walked in cooperated and along with the food and leg work, I gained some legitimate mass pretty quickly.  Afterwards, I settled into a nice, steady pound-per-week gain and delighted as my upper back began its steady rejection of size medium t-shirts (unless I wanted to sport the skin-tight douchebag look). 

That was when I was in Florida.  I left around mid-April while the General Contractor I work for proceeded to screw Charlotte County (long story).   When I got home, things hit some snags.  There was that back issue left over from muscle imbalances from babying my leg, letting my hip muscles tighten up.  Then there was that cold that everyone in Florida got that left me with a cough so brutal that if I ate too much and got a coughing fit I'd have to lay down to prevent blowing chunks. 

The biggest problem of all was my diet.  I had a nice system going down in Florida for eating and I let it lapse when I got back due to lack of time to cook for myself.  While I haven't slacked on the high protein nuts for snacks that worked so well seven years ago, I did stop making soups and stews. 

Yes, I got the idea from this article by Jamie Lewis. 
 
That has been a mistake.  While I'm on the brink of 200 lbs, I admit that some of it has been fat gain, more than I cared to see.  I can't share the same distain for abdominal definition that a lot of the strongmen competitors that I interact with have.  I'd rather get a good overhead press from having strong muscles rather than growing a gut.  I still have people to be sexy for, after all.  Upon closer inspection of the matter at hand, I understand why stew worked so well for a nice, lean mass gain...
 
  1. De-naturing and easy-digesting!  No, I'm not going to rip off Jamie that latently.  Yeah, the meat gets de-natured with such a long, slow and low cook.  That makes it more digestible.  Actually, it makes everything in the stew more digestible.  That's really important because, as Vince Gironda pointed out years ago, it's not what you eat that make you big, it's what you can absorb.  Considering that my digestive tract works as well as drunk blind man driving a  heavily-abused Yugo in a F-1 Grand Prix, this is extremely important.  
  2. Garlic and Onions!  Pick a stew.  Any stew.  From anywhere.  I can almost guarantee you that it either has onions and/or garlic in it.  These two vegetables suffer from not being green enough to be considered nutritional powerhouses, or even thought of as vegetables at all, but they have some ridiculously-important benefits to the aspiring muscular man and they all revolve around both having high concentrations of Sulfur-based compounds in both.  These have two notable advantages.  The first is that they play a role in raising testosterone levels (provided that you're eating a high fat diet).  The second is that they play a role in joint health by helping regeneration of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.  
  3. Did I mention a lot of protein?  It's very easy to get a lot of protein into a single meal with a stew or a soup.  Most of my favorite recipes have 60-90 grams of protein in just 8 fluid ounces.   Keep in mind that I'll often eat a 32-58 ounces of stew/soup in one sitting.
No, I'm not citing studies.  This is a blog after all.  If you want to verify this, you'll just have to cut into your porn-watching time to find out...
 
 
What To Do In The Kitchen
 
I've tried out at least ten different soup and stew recipes in that past, several months.  Regardless of which I've tried, there are four tips that work for just about any of them:

  • Double the meat content, at least, and always
  • Triple the spices, at least
  • Use fresh herbs, even when they specify dry ones
  • Be careful about adding extra vegetables.   That will water down the flavors
I also prefer to make stews that have a very high protein content in relation to carbs and fats.  That way, I can adjust the entire meal's macro ratios by adding something fatty or high in carbs.  Some of my personal favorites are:
  1. Borscht (use the first tip listed above on this one.  BIG TIME)
  2. Bacon, Beef and Lentil Stew (throw a few bay leaves into this one)
The routine in Florida was two make two-three of these on a Saturday or Sunday.  These could easily provide a weeks worth of lunches, and a few dinners here and there.  I'd also throw in either some crackers or whole meal bread to mop things up as well as get my carbs in.  This Greek Yogurt works remarkably well as a replacement for sour cream in any recipe that calls for it with the added benefit of having far more protein. 

Best of all, just about all of these stews and soups can be made on a pretty modest budget too while getting a lot of very easily digestible calories and protein.  If you can't grow on a steady of these you probably can't grow on anything. 

There's a good reason why despite drastically different cultures with vastly different foods to work with in every corner of the world all have at least one, or several different stews or soups in their cuisines.  This is the sure-fire way to get inexpensive, nutritious dishes in the diet.  This has fallen into a sewer pipe in the past, several decades in the strength training world.  Consider this entry a suggestion and a stern warning that forgetting this style of cooking should be making it into your diet on a regular basis if muscle-building is a concern to you. 



Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Costs of Gaining Muscle Mass

I've never been huge.  Ever.  I doubt I'll ever get to anyone, even my own, standard of being huge.  Puberty and genetics were depressing let-downs, leaving me at 5'10" and 147-157 lbs for a good chunk of my early adult years.  That's a nearly-unfathomable disappointment to me considering my dad clocks in at 80 lbs bigger than my at an inch shorter.  I was clearly let down by genetics and if I wanted to have the physique of an adult male, I'd have to do it myself.  So, back in 2007, I started bulking up to 180 lbs.  It took me most of the year (and I had to gain a lot of it back after a stomach bug I caught in Peru) to do it but I got there.  This year, after my knee was back to 85%, I came to the inescapable conclusion that 200 lbs was were I wanted to be with my body. 

I'm not going to go on about the details about how to do it again.  I've done that several times in the past here.  Plus, I'm doing this more for my own personal satisfaction than to prove a point like I was trying to do 7 years ago.  Lastly, there are piles of articles all detailing how to train and eat to get big.  I've got my little stack to the right.  Despite all the writing about getting big, there are things about it that don't get written about very often, if at all.  So, I decided to write down some thoughts and observations on the topic of gaining that I thought may be of some use to the reader should they ever partake in personal muscular expansion.

I did say muscular expansion...
A time or two in the past I've been beaten down by people about how I suck at gaining mass since I don't gain much, don't gain very fast, and haven't gain much at all.  By the time I'm done with this bulk, I'll have succeeded in gaining around 43 pounds of mass in the past 7 years, yet still just 2 bills in weight. 

That's a sign of either ignorance or arrogance.  I've been greeted by answers to the effect of, "dude, I gained 35 lbs in one summer," by arguably powerlifting's foremost gossip-hound/prima-donna.  That one was arrogance getting in the way of good sense.  One thing I've learned about manipulating body weight, be it fat loss or muscle gain, is that fast changes in the size of the body are never good.  Fast gain is fat gain in the bulking game.  I personally like to see a 1 lbs gain per week, at most.  If I gain faster than that, then I'm certain I'm gaining fat.   That's not my goal and I hope it's not yours. 

Furthermore, weight gain isn't a function of training and body mass just happens.  It requires eating.  Lots of it.  Any and all discussion about getting big must begin with food.  It's never just exercise alone. 

So, how do you I know when I'm gaining muscle?
Since I've only made the decision to bulk twice in my life, I've not made any effort to buy anything to calculate body fat while I'm bulking.  Instead, I go by my upper back, glutes and thighs.  After all, I'm a guy and like most guys, I gain fat in the stomach area first.  So, if my pants don't fit in the waist, I'm getting fat.  If my pants don't fit in the ass or the thighs, I'm gaining muscle.  Lately, I've pretty much grown out of medium t-shirts while relegating myself to cargo this and carpenter cut that. 

This might be a good time to let you know that in addition to spending more money on food, you may want to make sure you've got some coin to invest in new clothes.  I love clothes shopping as much as that time I feel outside the gym two months after surgery.  Both are painful experiences. Which brings me to my next point...

This is never fun...most of the time it's uncomfortable
Tell any non-gym rat layman about how you're trying to gain some mass and you'll be greeted with some sort of, "must be nice.." , reply.  Sure, it's a dream come true if your dreams are filled with aches and pains for months on end. 

This is an uncomfortable process on all fronts that muscle gain is approached from.  Listen to Clint Darden talk about gaining mass and he brings up force feeding frequently.  I can relate.  I've had times were I eat so much that I have to lay down on my RIGHT side to keep myself from throwing up (Your stomach curls to the right side of your body.  By lying on the right side, food will settle farther away from your esophagus, lessening the desire to puke).  A friend of mine who likely gains about as easily as I do relates to hating food after trying to bulk.  I can sort of relate.  Eating becomes a job that you have do if you want to gain.  If you don't see it as a chore, and you're not gaining, you're not eating enough. 

Of course, you're adding raw materials to your body to build tissue.  If you're not doing enough hard work, you'll just end up fat.  Too often I see anemic workloads coupled with heavy eating.  Then people wonder why they're fat.   You've got to train your ass off if you're going to climb up over 4,000 calories a day and not get fat.  Remember I mentioned glutes, quads and upper back?  Yeah, those are going to be getting bigger (if you're gaining correctly) and correspondingly SORE. 

So, I've just elucidated you to many of the negatives to gaining mass.  It's not the fun timed mouth-stretching eating free-for-all with lots of lifting that people make it out to be.  It's got side effects and a generally uncomfortable process for extended periods of time that most civilians won't or can't comprehend.   I'm a hobby strength trainer and like everyone else in our subculture, I like the feel, training capabilities, and look of a bigger, stronger body. Every so often, I get the urge to get a bit bigger, just like you. 

There are no free passes to this show.  If you didn't know the price of admission, now you do. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Quit being Dumb...

The idea for this article has swam around in my brain for a while now.  Unfortunately, you haven't seen it sooner, or any other stuff from me in a while, because I've been too busy largely enjoying the mindlessness of internet entertainment.  While I do enjoy writing, sharing a meme on Facebook that sort of echoes what I think is so much easier to do.  I don't have to be bothered with trying to be articulate or original.  Click, click, done... half-ass thought transmission completed. 
A recent example of the extent of my thoughtfulness on FB lately...

The lifting world at large has been far, far ahead of the written world in brain-free activity.
Strength training has been in a nearly 60 year spiral towards getting dumber.  That was the take-away that I got after I read This article by Peary Radar which was written when I was chewing on Legos and struggling to not shit my pants.  Apparently, powerlifting as an organized lifting competition became reality because not everyone was really interested in Olympic Weightlifting. 

The O-lifts are well-known to be technical lifts.  The require more coordination and timing than powerlifts.  Radar himself admitted as much.  By contrast, the squat, deadlift and bench press can be learned in a much shorter period of time.

The differences between these two styles of lifting go back farther than the formation of the competitions themselves.  There has always seemed to be two ways to lift stuff:  either you can do it with coordination, timing and speed (Athleticism).  Or you can do it with pure muscular strength.   Crack open some of Alan Calvert's 110 year old ranting and you can see how he considered bent pressing trickery since it required considerable skill and overhead pressing a better lift because it built, and tested, brute strength. The  patron saint of junkyard weight training, Ed Zercher, was likely a victim of lack of a place to show off his strength because while very strong, he was a mediocre O-lifter.   So, while power lifters lacked a sport to participate in, they were around and simply waiting for their venue to form. 
God bless this skinny bastard for coming up with such a fun way to lift...

Just like the invention of the internet, power lifting obviously didn't intend to start a dumb-assing effect in the barely-formative years of the larger subculture but I submit to the reader that it most certainly did.  Nobody likes to admit it but American powerlifting sponged off a lot of lifters away from Olympic Lifting, exactly as Bob Hoffman thought it would.  It's certainly a much simpler form of lifting.  So, the mold was set that people would lift weights in droves as long as it didn't require too much skill. 

I don't think it's coincidental that a mere 10-15 years later, weight machines became a big business, dragging gyms along with them.  The only thing that could be easier than powerlifting with a barbell was to lift without a barbell.  After all, there is as much IQ required to use a machine as there is to have a reality TV show on the E! Network.

...and we wonder why we make no progress here!

I'm fond of saying that things can only be made so simple.  After a certain level of simplification with all things in life, including strength training, you get to the point where things get harder because you're trying too hard to make them too easy. 

Strength training isn't really as technical and IQ-dependent as seminar pimps would have you believe.  Sure, there are some pretty technical lifts out there but as a whole, most strength training movements are pretty easy to learn as long as you don't have an ADHD-riddled mind that was recently lobotomized.

What happens when we try to remove too much of the skill requirements out of lifting in order to make lifting simple to do is we don't get strong.  Sure there are strong humans that have used machinery and low-IQ movements to build up somewhat-impressive bodies here and there but that shit only can take anyone so far. 
Crossfit may have taken this whole dumbing down effect a step farther:  they seem to enjoy taking movements that require skill and removing those key pointers from execution.  There isn't much to learn about doing a pull-up and even doing those key points is just to cumbersome for them...
 

 
 Since I threw the picture up, let's beat up on people who can't be inconvenienced to become proficient with pull-ups.  Pull-ups don't require too much instruction.  I love to tell people, "think of bending the bar on your chest on the way up and pushing the bar away from you on the way down."   Simple, not easy.  Things don't get easier by kipping every, single rep.  It just shred your labrums.   Saying screw it and telling yourself that pulling the entire stack on the Lat Machine is just as good just makes you weaker. 
 
Just bite the bullet and do the fucking pull-ups...Correctly!
 
Squats have been accurately described by people smarter than me as, "easy to learn, hard to master."   Mastery takes time but learning, once again, is simple:  chest proud, hips back, knees out.  That's three cues that covers most squatting.  That's not so, damn difficult that you have to go running to the leg press.   Quit being an idiot or pretending to be stronger than you are and just SQUAT.  
 
So, yes, you need a little bit of skill to get strong.  This isn't trigonometry but it isn't mindless either.  If you're going to build power, you need to use your head in your respective gym for something other than a hat-holder.
 




Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Tranny goes to the CF Games...

The hilarity that ensued over this woman all over my Facebook feed couldn't be avoided.  If you have any sort of strength training-oriented pages that you've like you couldn't have missed it.  In case you did, here's the deal.  This is Cloie Johnson, and she wants to compete in the Crossfit Games.  There's just one problem:  she was born a man.  Or, at least Crossfit's high command thinks that's an issue and stated that if she wanted to compete, she had to do so in the men's division.  So, like any good California-based T-Girl would do, she sued Crossfit for a lot of money.  After all, money makes discrimination feel all better, right? 

Yeah, I never understood that either.  The conversations about this were positively alive and often times on fire.  Leave it up to me to have friends that would happily throw gasoline on this issue.  Unfortunaely, I was sidelined since I wasn't friends with the original posters.  That's about the time that it hit me:  I have a blog and I can say what I want on it.  So, what I was aching to tell everyone that I couldn't post to was that this issue is a triple-stacked bullshit sandwich.  Here are the layers of uncomfortable facts that everyone loved to ignore:

SEX REASSIGNMENT IS INCOMPLETE!
Crossfit's reasoning behind telling Johnson that she has to compete in the men's CF games because  being born a man gives her too-significant advantages over the rest of the natural-born women to assure a fair contest.  The counter-argument is that since California legally recognizes her as a woman after going through the obligatory chopAdickFromy procedure, getting some fake boobs, and taking the right hormones to feminize her body.  After all, the Olympics has long-recognized transvestite athletes and allowed them to compete in their newly adopted sex.  So, what leg does Crossfit have to stand on? 

Frankly, probably the right one... even if few want to acknowledge it.

What people fail to take into consideration is that Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) is a biologically incomplete process.  Yes, it takes a man/woman and makes them look and feel like the opposite sex but that doesn't address the other differences between men and women.  A characteristic of every, single mammal is that the males are typically built bigger and stronger.  Relevant to our discussion here, they have bigger, thicker bones (why archeologist can identify millennia-old skeletons as male or female, in part), more muscle mass (why male fighters can cut more weight than women:  they can have more meat to dry out), thicker tendons and ligaments (why women are more likely than men to tear ACL's), and those tendons insert and attach in differing positions that make a male capable of producing more power than a female. 

Does GRS go through the effort of re-positioning tendons, thinning those tendons down, removing extra muscle mass, and changing bone structure? 

So, if Crossfit is interested in an equal playing field for the female competitors in their games, then there is a basis for not allowing Johnson to compete with the women.  She was likely born with some distinct, masculine advantages that her GRS didn't address, regardless of what the State of California and the IOC say.  To CF, it's unfair, whatever that means because...

FAIRNESS AND SPORTSMANSHIP DOESN'T REALLY EXIST ANYWAY...
To the best of my knowledge, sports have existed for 4,000 years.  Formal notions of sportsmanship and fair play seem to be, at best, 140 years old.  The only notations about anything related to these two beacons of playing nice in sports seemed to crop up with the Marquis of Queensbury rules in boxing, the establishment of sports with a more game-like element to them (baseball, basketball, etc) and the re-establishment of the Olympic games in the late 1890's. 

Prior to these happenings, the most common sports, dating back to antiquity, were throwing sports (javelin, rocks, shot puts, etc), various forms of wrestling, boxing and striking-based martial arts, archery, and often horseback-based sports.  Surely there are more but has anyone yet noticed the strong, warfare element that all of these share?  That's not an accident.  Where I to draw a conclusion about why sports even exist, it would be for warfare training.  Since when did we have any notions of fair play and doing not to win but for the sake of doing like Baron de Fredy envisioned when he got the 1896 Olympics off the ground?  Where do we get off using war metaphors in sports so often?

It was a fanciful thought but ever since those formative years in the mid-late 1800's as when we started getting more rules, sportsmanship and fair play we seemed to get the much stronger notions of cheating as well as the curious concept of gamesmanship...playing not particularly fair but not really breaking the rules either.  Ever since sports got so damn popular, the lines about what is universally fair and what isn't has been consistently hard to define. 

  • Is it fair to train in high altitude but not to Take EPO, despite the fact they both increase red blood cell count?
  • Is it fair that fighters in combat sports can cut 1-2 gallons of water out of their bodies (8-16 lbs weight) to make a weight class? 
  • Are steroids fair if most of the participants are using them even though the rules prohibit them? 
 Is a feminized male going to have a significant advantage over a naturally-born female? 

The reason why these cute ideas fail to work out most of the time is that they fail to take into consideration the combat origin of sports to begin with.  People may be convinced ostensibly to play by the rules initially but we all know that there is an overwhelming urge to win at costs beyond what a sport tells us we can do.  Does Cloie Johnson only want to play with the girls just because she considers herself a girl?   Or, does she think she'll get her halfway-female ass kicked if she decides to re-cross the gender line in sports? 

I'm sure that CF sees this as an issue of fairness in sport but let's face another fact here...

CROSSFIT ISN'T A SPORT!
If you wanted to look up the definition of a sport and prove me wrong that the Crossfit games are indeed a sport, you might be able to convince a few people that I'm a dick for saying such a thing.  Here's your definition:


2sport

noun
: a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other
: sports in general
: a physical activity (such as hunting, fishing, running, swimming, etc.) that is done for enjoyment

So, getting together and doing competitive exercise is now a sport.  So, by that definition, we could make a sport out of hockey drills couldn't we?  Maybe we could call sparring in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a sport while we're at it.   It seems that, by Crossfit standards and a dictionary's wording, we could just throw some rules and competition into a physical activity we therefore make a sport out of it.  Is that going overboard calling physical preparation for sports sports themselves?  We've already established that sport is watered-down warfare preparation.  I'm curious about how farther diluted things can go. I ponder how much longer before we call tying shoelaces a sport since we have to tie up laces to do exercises.   Hey, it's physical activity and all we need to add is a competitive element...

This whole ordeal is bullshit because each issue I brought up seeks to change reality for the sake of human benefit.  Life doesn't work like that.  I have no overwhelming interest in GRS's legitimacy, notions of sportsmanship, or in sport in general.  Chloie Johnson can play in anything she/he wants and Crossfit can tell her where to play it for all I care.