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:

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...

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...

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:


: 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. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Impatience Epidemic

Since I started this blog a half-decade ago, I've steadfastly refused to accommodate any suggestion that I'm an expert at any of this stuff that we do.  I enjoy writing and I enjoy working out so I figured that this would be a fun way for me to disseminate some information.  While I'm not a professional, I have distinctive experiences since my training took a far less conventional path than the average shaved ape taking up spaces at the gym. 

Since I have no illusions of being worthy of regularly consulted about working out by newbies, I was somewhat taken back when new guys at the gym that I regularly work out at started asking me tips on how I got strong.  I guess after doing this somewhat regularly for 11 years, much of which I swear I was simple stumbling around in the dark, I have something to say on the matter. 

 They have their guesses.  There are the notions of certain exercises that need to be done.  That doesn't do it, as far as I'm concerned.  Neither do specific methodologies or routines.  Consistency has to be the most common guess.  That may be close but I think that a better key to getting strong is patience.  As far as I’m concerned, patience isn’t just a frame of mind that you need to have in order to succeed.  It’s a key ingredient, as necessary as the food you eat and the movements that you do to build up your body and increase your strength. 

 Nothing good happens to the body in a hurry.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you want to get stronger, bigger, or leaner.  All goals involving the body take months, and even years, to achieve.  In a way, body transformations can be like raising children.  When my kid doesn’t do what I tell him to do, I can let it slide because I don’t feel like getting up to make him do what I want him to do.  Or, I just nip things in the ass and force him to do what he should be doing.  It’s more work now, sure, but it pays off later.  Otherwise I end up raising an intolerable cretin that is difficult to control and nobody wants to be around. 
 In other words, it can only be so easy. 
Your body is the same way.  You’ve got to have some patience and put in the work.  As I intermingle with gym culture at large, the more I realize there is an epidemic of impatience going on.  Rather than realizing that proficiency takes time, there’s a generation of gym goofs who just can’t be bothered to actually build strength over a period of months and years.  They want it yesterday and will resort to turning themselves into little more than abominations of training to meet these ends. 
  • Impatience is the kid who’ll put wrist straps on to do bicep curls with the entire weight stack on the cable machine because he’s in too much of a hurry to get big arms than bring his forearms along for the fun. 
  • Impatience is that guy who has to bench the biggest dumbbells in the gym and can’t be bothered to actually be able both fully lower and lock out those dumbbells.   
  • Impatience is those legions of people who kip their way into torn labrums rather than fully master a pull-up. 
  • Impatience are the people who focus more on strength endurance because it’s faster to develop and try to ignore max strength work because, you know, that’s REALLY hard. 
Shortcuts only last so long before the truth will bite you in the ass:  You’re not strong and you’ve screwed up because you’ve spent too much time faking it.  This realization will probably by painful too and result in set-backs.  You forgot, or never realized, how virtuous patience really is. 
I've mad my mistakes over the years but being patience, mercifully, wasn't one of them.  From an impatient eye, my 11 years of consistent training has been a study in sucking for long periods of time.  My favorite lift of all is the bent press.  I started doing that one at the tail-end of 2010 with a 35 lbs kettlebell.  It's taken me 3.5 years to get good enough to bent press 130 lbs with any regularity.   I attempted one-arm push-ups back in 2008, only getting 3 or 4 per arm, on a good day.  Now, I'm homing in on six years of training those and I'm up to around 20 per arm, or 8 per arm with 20 lbs of chain around my neck.  My 157 to 180 lbs bulk too me about 8 months.  Lately, it's taken me 8 weeks to sustain a 10 lbs weight increase despite having a soda-straw for a left leg begging for some gains. 

So, if you're new to this whole subculture and are looking for what you're missing as you mindlessly switch from one routine to the next while looking for every shortcut imaginable because you can't stand the thought of sucking in the gym, do yourself a favor and accept the fact that this takes time.  If you don't get this, you don't get strength training. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pushup vs Bench Press Redux

Pete Townsend was obviously prone to his prima-donna moments. After getting a boxed set of the biggest hits of The Who, I read the little booklet from cover-to-cover (several times) and apparently, he was kind of pissed that, "I can see for Miles" one of his favorite songs that the Who ever did wasn't the smash hit he expected. When it barely broke the top 10, he said that he, "spat at the British Audience."
Kind of a douchebag statement, but what do you expect from a guy who got busted for looking up kitty porn on the internet?

I can sort of relate to his sentiments about his writing. It's not that I get pissed when something that I think is my best writing doesn't attract the most accolades but I'm curious as to why certain things that I write become so, damn popular than others. One such instance is my, by the BW-Files standards, iconic post: The Pushup vs. The Bench Press I still don't quite get why it's always my most popular all-time post.

According to BWF's CentCom, and after the title of my blog itself, a lot of my traffic comes from the following Search keywords:
push ups vs bench press
body weight bench press

Yeah, I admit, the pectoral major's are important muscles. Put your arms above your head, move them down, and then move them to the front of your body. Your pec-maj's are doing a lot of that. So, we need to work on those. That deserves a lot of attention.

Still, THIS much attention? While chest exercises will always land on pretty much everyone's top exercises, we'll all sheepishly admit that none of them are really the best exercises out there.

What's the best exercise in the world? Give me $20 and I'll tell you. THE SQUAT! No, you can't have your $20 back.

So, why all of the fuss?

It must be the mirrors. I still think that regardless of how much a lot of people talk about being geniunely strong, balanced, functional, real world, athletic or any other catch phrase designed to not seem obsessed about the way that they look, they're full of shit. It's far closer to a lot of people's minds than they let on. I've seen this several times when I'm working out in public, usually in a hotel parking lot. I could be doing some sort of single leg squat work, some nasty plyos, or working some sandbag cossak squats and it doesn't attract nearly as much attention if I was doing ring dips, one-arm push-ups, etc.

The upper body still rules in people's minds. The bench press rules upper body exercises.

Yeah, I do more blog entries on upper body work than the lower body. There's a lot more room for varation up top than down below since the arms move in more directions than the legs. That doesn't mean that it dominates my training and I certainly don't think it should dominate yours. In my perfect world (and mabye this is my prima-donna moment) I'd simply get rid of all of this fixation on the pecs.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think the bench press sucks.  Said before, and will say again:  I don't think that it strengthens the shoulder muscles equally enough to warrant it's run-away popularity.   I could care less if I ever do one ever again. The push-up movement has got it all over the bench.  You could probably do push-ups with no other assistance exercise and keep your shoulders intact.  Even hardcore powerlifters will admit that you can't do that with the bench press.  Besides, I try to keep my back and my ass off padding as much as possible during a workout.  I think that there's a lot of logic to this. 

The problem is that most disagree because most don't bother to take the push-up beyond a high rep or a warm-up exercise.  Weighted push-ups are a nice middle ground if you seek max strength and huge chest alike. I've been doing lots of these with sandbags on my upper back.

I like the sandbag because I can place it on my back when I'm alone and put the weight of the bag over my shoulders, neck and head.  If you're going to way down a push-up, this is key. 
For a bodyweight purist, exericse minimalist, or budget-minded basement gorilla, you just can't go wrong with some sort of suspension training gear. This doesn't have to be expensive. I made one out of scrap rope, PVC pipe, and some knotting know-how. Push-ups on such a rig take on a whole different character.

Were these variations tried more often,  I don't think that many would miss the challenge of a heavy bench press.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Do More Handstand Push-ups!

193 Reps of Handstand Push-ups in 30 minutes was how I saw fit to bring in the New Years.   I re-accepted this challenge and really surprised myself by blowing past my previous-best 30 min HSPU's of 175 reps two years ago despite being really limited for the past 8 months about doing them since I couldn't get myself into a handstand with my bad knee.  Prior to that I was a machine, super-setting well over 100 reps with an equal number of pull-ups.  So, this was a nice kick-off to 2014. 

Push-ups are as important to any BW strength-apes as pushing stuff overhead should be for weight trainers.  Pressing overhead is a fundamental movement for the human body and handstand push-ups are the BW answer to getting this important work in. 
There's a good reason why I included pictures of the HSPU's so often in the last few entries here.  I consider it that important of  a movement and, the ACL rehab months notwithstanding, there is rarely a week I let pass by without doing some sort of HSPU.  If you're going to choose BW as a primary method of strength training, you're going to need some overhead work.  Unless you use weights (no quarrel there from me, just to clarify), this is the movement you need to be doing.  It might even be a movement that you should do even if you do move weights. 

...and I have no tan whatsoever? 
How is it possible that I've been in Florida a year...

While I generally refuse to use any term that Joe Weider used, I think there is something to the logic that keeping a muscle under tension as long as possible that builds strength.  I'm not referring to any tricks with messing with rep range or time per rep here.  What I do appreciate is a movement where there is very little, if any, opportunity to somewhat rest.  You can make an overhead press easy on the shoulders and upper back by resting the bar on the upper body before you press it again.   With a HSPU, the bottom is the hardest part of the movement, akin to stopping in the hole of a squat.  The top is a handstand.  Both are still work on the targeted muscles.  Unless you rest on your head (which I've always found very uncomfortable), there really is no rest and you just have to keep moving and finish the set.   Maybe that's why guys as far flung as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Anderson did them. 

Falling firmly in the "people who are smarter than me" category of information I've picked up over he years tells me that the HSPU is a good movement for shoulder strengthening and injury prevention.  Has anyone ever heard about how weighted presses with the elbows in (neutral grip) are easier on the shoulder?  Well, the HSPU puts the arms in the same position as the neutral grip on dumbbells and logs.  I don't recall the exact science behind this but using my own body as the test subject, I'd say that there is logic to that idea.  My shoulders aren't Atlas Stone-like huge but are easily the most bullet-resistant joint on my body.  I never have problems with shoulder pain and by doing them regularly, I'm talking about twice a week, for a half-decade. 

Yeah, it's popular to shit on trying to be healthy when strength training but let's face facts:
You can only get away with being strong but not healthy for so long. 
 Eventually, you won't be either.

As previous-stated in a past entry, you can wring a lot of strength training benefits from this movement without a whole lot of monetary investment.  You can progressively increase difficulty on this one by moving your hands in closer, putting more emphasis on the arms than the shoulders.   Then, there is always the option of going deeper by pushing up with your hands elevated.  Inches count with this approach and don't be ashamed to increase the height by just three inches.  What I'm getting at is start on your fists.  Then you can progress to those push-up handles, parallettes, cinder blocks, boxes, etc.  I've even done these on Perfect Push-up handles.

Three years ago in Sacramento...

 Naturally, be prepared to have your reps cut way down... as you go down.  Just remember the same cues that you use with your overhead press work:  glutes, abs and quads tight.  It gets easier to get loose as it gets harder to get down.  If you feel like your back is going to fold in half then you're pushing things too fast. 

If you can't do a handstand pushup, there's no reason to offer yourself as a sacrifice to the Norse Gods just to make yourself useful to humankind.  You could always start with pike push-ups, elevating your feet as you get easier.  After that, try these with your back against the wall until you get good enough to rest your feet only...or do them free-standing.  Granted I haven't gotten to that point yet for no other reason than I haven't tried to get to that point.  At this point in time, I just want to get strong and I'll worry about balance another day.  

In case you're worried about headaches, I can assure you that you'll get used to being upside down in time.  You won't be in that position long enough to cause any harm either. 

Handstand push-ups suffer from a combination of relative obscurity and the same intimidation factor as it's fraternal-twin movement, the pull-up.  That could likely be due to the fact that it's done in a handstand position, something that lots of people struggle with.   Still, work things out and find some way to do some of these.  If 350 lbs Paul Anderson, who could press a 300 lbs dumbbell, found it in his body to do handstand push-ups, then so should you. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

When Your Fat Is My Business

The effects of second hand cigarette smoke, unpleasant to be around no doubt (cigar and pipe smoke smell far better) are horribly exaggerated urban myths, accepted as fact, and have become the standard method of showing respect to your fellow American.  I can't recall a time in the past 10 years where someone didn't apologize for errant cigarette smoke getting in my face. 

Second, unless you live in the city, nobody runs down skateboarders anymore.  Seriously, you city-dwellers, and just plain people who live in Florida, are seriously rude fuckers!  So, since you live in the city, you're not loading chicken feed into a car so I don't have to help with that imaginary scenario.

Third, covering my mouth to prevent the spread of germs?  Don't you mean:  please appease my chronic OCD and germphobia? 

What am I talking about? 



Written by her...
I'm usually enthralled by a well-written article that I almost totally disagree with some original thought put to it.  It is a legitimate question if others fat is anyone else's business than the person carrying it.  It's an interesting point that we tend to treat other fat people as though they have some sort of obligation to not be fat.
So, do I care about your health or do I just think you're gross?  Good questions that I'll get to, eventually.  What I really love about this extremely well-written article is the assertion that her, or anyone else's fatness is nobody's business except the people whose limbs rub together excessively from normal, daily movement. 
Theoretically, that should be true too.  After all, I don't live in S.E Smith's body.  I'm not married to her or interact with her in any capacity beyond reading her material on the internet.  So, since she has no physical footprint in my life, I should have nothing to say about whether or not she's fat, healthy, or simply disgusting to look or not.  After all, I don't have to buy her food, have sex with her, or pay her medial bills if her obesity costs her more money than my fit-oriented lifestyle. 
Wait, I sense a problem...
There is another person who I genuinely don't care at all whether they're fat or not too. 
He has mentioned in the past that he doesn't have health insurance of any kind.  In fact, he's commented before that he's so fabulously wealthy that if he needs medical care, he simply pays out of pocket.  So, as far as I'm concerned, I have no real issue that he's fat either.  He pays for his food and his fatness alike.  It's of no impact on my life. 

So, do I care about you health?  Kind of.  I mean, I don't wish strangers who don't do evil any ill.  If You're fat and causing yourself harm, then I wish you'd get to a point where you're not damaging yourself  Do I think fat is gross?  It can be, but even that depends.  I've never complained about a woman carrying an extra 20-30 lbs in her boobs and butt, that's for sure (I'll refrain from the too-easy excuse to post T&A.  For now).  From your photos and your description, I don't find your fat composition particularly attractive, that's for sure.
I doubt Smith is as fabulously wealthy as Rush but I'm guessing that she's not.  Since she's not, I doubt that she pays all of her medical expenses out of pocket.  In other words, she may have health insurance for that.  That's the problem I have with her notion that her fat isn't anyone's business.  If she has insurance, and she needs more medical attention for her obesity, then guess what?  HER WEIGHT IS OTHER PEOPLE'S BUSINESS.   Simply put, insurance is like a lottery:  everyone pays in, a few draw out.  If more people draw, more people have to pay.  So, if bipedals of her ilk need more medical attention because they're fat then we all end up paying for that.  The notion that fat and health do have relevance.  We know that fat people are more unhealthy.  The simple fact is they are usually more of a burden.  So, we do have grounds to be pissed because fat people cost society money. 

Once again, except Rush's.  Rush pays for his lard, kitchen table to hospital visits to trips to the pharmacy (at least he paid for his Oxys instead of stealing them).  If people like S.E Smith can't afford to do that then they better accept the fact that we're going to fat-judge.  After all, your medical bills are making an impact in my life.  Furthermore, as the government gets more involved, this will only accelerate.  Just sayin'.

So, yes, you do have a right to be fat, much like you have a right to live your life as you see fit.  There might be a good reason why right and responsibility alliterate:  they're connected.  If you're going to live fat, then you need to take full financial responsibility for being fat.  If you can't pay like Rush pays, then maybe there's a lesson there.  After all, your rights end where others begin and if you can't afford to pay for your medical bills, in full, then I guess you shouldn't be fat. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Concluding, "The Fitness Industry is Dead"

While I've not really directly addressed many key points in this article and opted to say what I think are the reasons why the industry itself is dead in the sense its ineffective, I think that the article itself is great because it's a  much needed sense of introspection for anyone involved in this subculture.  There are no shortage of rants out there about why the McFitness industry sucks but not a whole lot of the root problems.  This author had his thoughts well-laid out why things don't work.  I don't agree and I have mine. 

In the past two entries, I've identified my two, large problems:  lack of good information and far-less than ideal people disseminating it.  There is a third and final problem that I see with the industry and I've pondered this problem for quite some time how to word it properly:  the people that the fitness industry is selling to.   I wonder how this industry will continue to exist in the larger culture it's part of. 

Oddly enough, my two favorite blogs to read about strength training are intensely different from one-another.  The first is Chaos and Pain.  The Second is Body Tribe.   The latter does about a good of a job reaching out to the 85% discussed in the last entry as anyone in the subculture.  The former generally could care less if they come along or fall off a cliff...their choice. 

I can see the logic of both points of view and how neither will particularly work well to get people moving properly.  While the inspiration of this article delves into the psychological aspects of how to get people physically right, I generally disregard such a direction.  Yes, people have emotional issues that hold them back from being better movers.  Still, people long ago had these issues and they didn't become diseased, eating-disordered sloths because they weren't happy.  Clearly something has changed and that change is that people become this way because they can.  I said it in the first entry and it probably explains most of why the fitness industry doesn't work:  the larger culture sabotages it.  Our societies give people the option to remain weak, lazy, dumb to the facts, and they don't have to listen to what us 15% say about getting moving.  If you're reading this then chances are that you are the aforementioned 15% and you're here because you want to be here. 

Am I the only one who despise that these were even thought up?
Let's face the grim reality:  like I mentioned before, we've figured out how to live long and unhealthy.  We've mastered drugs and surgery to the point were we can keep a body that should die from lack of proper function alive with our health care system.  If you HAD no other choice but to lose the unhealthy weight and move in a manner that keeps your body strong and healthy then you'd do so.  If the 20th century had a list of bad notions, near the top of that piece of paper would be the idea that if we moved less, we'd be happier.  In theory, it sounded like a good idea if you consider that humankind spent most of the previous 10,000 years abusively laboring ourselves to death.  Sitting down most of the time must have seemed like a pretty good idea circa 1900.  It clearly wasn't. 
Yeah, I bet they would have opted for a desk job too!

What's also happened to people that makes getting them to accept fitness is another larger issue that we may have all noticed but not really been able to put into words.  With things like this, we have to be open-minded to all sources of information so that we can find the right way to put this into words.  I happened to find it while researching knife fighting on Youtube.  Even if you have no interest in the subject, just scroll ahead to 12.10 and pay attention...

Linking that sort of pervasive, cultural restlessness explains a lot of things wrong.  So, our world largely relies on distraction from the problem at hand.  That's probably why too many need some sort of constant feed of entertainment to get through the day.  Relative to the discussion I've articulated, it explains why gyms these days just don't get things done. 
Look at most modern gyms and you'll see a massive collection of machines and they all tell you how to move.  You don't really have to think about the moves you want to do, how to set up your body posture properly, how to execute.  All you have to do is sit a chair, adjust some padding, and let hinges dictate your movement pattern.   While you're moving, they give you televisions and music to move to.  The fitness industry has just continued to extrapolate on the lack of imagination and continues to feed the restlessness.
I may have identified a cause for that...
I'd be willing to bet big money that promoting a break from that would net more results.  Good work in a gym is time spent in our own world, deep in introspection, and often times being creative with what we're doing.  If the fitness clubs as we know them are nothing more than another conformist distraction, then like every other chunk of bullshit entertainment, people won't stick by it for very long. 
You could say that's the fault of the fitness industry itself.   The industry as we know it in the USA had the misfortune of coming of age in the same time period where we really took getting fat and restless into double-overdrive.  So, were they simply catering to a demand? 
Personally, I just have a hard time buying it.  I'm going to venture into the usually murky waters of personal experience.  That can be troublesome since personal experience is too often devoid of objective introspection.  People aren't known for looking at personal experience and saying, "I did that wrong", nearly as much as they should. 
In my case, I tried the gym world when I was a teenager.  I used Cybex machines and running stuff.  I didn't stick with any of it.  I wanted strength but I wasn't getting answers that I wanted.  So, I went out and I looked for it.  I didn't stop until I found it either.  If people demanded the truth out of the fitness industry, someone would provide it.   They wouldn't accept being stuck. 
Of course, I don't expect the fitness industry to actually go the way of the buggy-making business just yet.  I just don't expect it to suddenly become truly effective any time soon.  These past three entries represent my reasoning as to why don't think it will.  Ultimately, the first two won't get solved until the bigger problems with the society that the gym rat world inhabits gets repaired and demands better out of the business.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

If You haven't thought go go narrow, you've failed. Here's why...

Dave Tate said it, I didn't.  I'm no expert so theoretically, I have no credibility.  After all, I'm just a modestly above-average strong 30-something with a humble blog and a handful of fans and I don't train people for a living.  Tate's an expert for sure.  He's so expert-ish that his presence, or absence, from T-Nation is a critical element of making that place a worthwhile place to gather information.  It was there that he said something that I pretty much knew in the back of my mind without realizing it:  powerlifting (and probably most other lifting in general, for that matter) is about shortening the distance you have to move a weight as much as possible to make the lift count as complete. 

That's a kind of rule of thumb that I see a lot lately.  Since August, I've needed to join a gym to get my broken body to a stationary bike as part of rehabbing my knee after my ACL reconstruction.  This is, by far, the longest I've worked out in a gym in over 14 years.  So, I've traded in my solitary training existence for spending more time in a gym.  As a result, I've seen much more training styles first-hand than I have since my teenage years when I had less than a clue about what the fuck I was doing. 

It was kind of like landing on Mars, as much for me as it was probably for them.  They seemed as astonished that I would think to do close-grip pull-ups off of ropes as I was astonished about how few different ways they do pull-ups.  The rope-thing was a novelty but what drew a lot of attention was doing close-grip pull-ups (oddly enough).  Apparently this never entered anyone's mind. 

Regardless of whether you're pulling or pushing with the upper body, the wider you spread your hands apart, the easier the pull or the push becomes.  There's two reasons for this.  The first is that spreading the hands wide de-emphasizes the smaller, weaker arm muscles in favor of the bigger muscles of the upper body.  Then, there's the second reason that Dave Tate brought up and that as you spread the hands farther apart, the distance to complete the rep shortens up. 

I'll use the handstand push-up as an example here... and a jack-in-the-box. 

Here's a wide HSPU...

Now, putting the hands almost under the shoulders...


Like I said, this applies to Push-ups, Pull-ups, and rowing movements.   What this information is useful for depends on what you want to do with it.  It doesn't just have applications to moving as much weight as possible for the shortest possible distance.  That approach works great if you've got lots of iron to play with.  Maybe you do.  Then again if you're reading this article then chances are you're like me:  looking for ways to goose the most work out of a limited equipment supply.  You can change the level of difficulty with one movement by just a simple change in hand placement.  You can also change the focus of the movement from an upper body workout to a more arms-oriented one with this approach.   This is how I use Handstand push-ups to strengthen my shoulders one day and my arms at a later point in the week. 

Going for that extra ROM may pay off dividends may also pay off for that one other, pesky detail that too many people who like go get strong don't really want to think much about:  their health.  Since Dave Tate makes things more legitimate, I'll defer to his words yet again: 

Here's the deal. Powerlifting is about finding the shortest range of motion possible.[see?]
Look at the bench press. If your setup and arch is sound, it's a very short (albeit very safe) range of motion.
Bodybuilding, in the purest sense, is the opposite. The most effective movements generally take the muscles through the longest range of motion.
I realized that I hadn't done any full range of motion work for years, and if I were to regain my "functional mobility" this would be where to start.
This isn't to say that I love bodybuilding but it goes to show that ROM is a use it or lose it proposition.  Losing it will ultimately break you down.  That close-handed HSPU variation easily slices the amount of reps I can do as opposed to the wider-stanced one.  BW guys tend to look at their reps the same way that powerlifters look at their poundage:  keep the number high.  The consequences of that ego trip hurts after a while.  Even Tate admitted that (Read the rest of the article, not to mention all of the others, for that matter). 

I hope that these ideas and concepts aren't new to my readers' minds.  This shouldn't be most strength trainer's equivalent of the the discovery of Vulcanized Rubber (found by accident and never capitalized on by Charles Goodyear).  If that's the case, then feel free to self-flagellate as needed.  Otherwise, ditch any notions about getting creative, not giving as shit about your body, or caring about keeping your rep count high.   Moving the hands closer together here and there is as simple as dropping rubber on a stove so do it more often.