Saturday, June 23, 2007

How Fast Should You go on Calisthenics?

Everyone's run into this at some point: The guy who can do 100 pushups or 20 pullups. When you finally see this guy do them, he does them with such poor form that you just roll your eyes. He's sacrificing proper form and control (worst of all) to get the rep count. Every atheletic endevour loves statistical brilliance and doing the most of anything counts for so much. Trouble is, this fixation with getting the most reps out doesn't build strength and it often leads to pain.

I'll be the first to admit, I like having high calisthenic rep counts too. Still, the point of the exercise is to build strength and without proper form, that may not happen. Proper form ensures that the right muscles will get their due stimulation from the exercise. If your ass is in the air or if you're just lifting your chest and head rather than your entire abdomen just for the sake of getting to 100 reps, you're not getting the benefit. You're so focused on that rather than strengthening that the motion is a wasted effort.

Worse yet is the guy who'll sacrifice the control for the speed or ease. I see this a lot on pullups. The person will get their chin to the bar and then let themselves drop rather than control their weight downward. It's bad enough that they're loosing the stimulation on the lats from letting themselves drop but they're also risking INJURING themselves. One point of exercising is to injury-proof yourself, not to induce injury. Remember this because I'm getting tired of repeating it...


Thursday, June 21, 2007

More on Routines

I posted earlier on my routines and how I structure them. I also mentioned that I despise a lot of what I read about routines because I feel like they sound like directions for assembling a grill. They don't take into account that we are all built differently. We have different physical abilities and attributes. Take a biceps muscle and move the insertion and origion movements farther away from the joints and you have a person who is capable of great power but not precision. Some people are the opposite. This is just one example of the differences in body composition.

There's other considerations too. Let's say you take someone's routine that takes 45 minutes to do. What happens if you only have fifteen minutes? Are you better off to bag working out rather than figuring out a way to work out with some effectiveness? Let's throw in a weakness in the body, such as an injury. Let's say you can't do a pushup because your elbow is swollen. Should you skip or work around it, such as doing a hands-wide pushup? Well, that wasn't in the routine. Does it matter?

You are not a cookie-cutter creation. Don't workout like you are. You can get something out of any routine that you chose to do if you apply hard work and mental focus on your efforts. I'll concede that routine A may be better than routine B but if B is all you can do or what you like to do and you are moving your body, who am I to say? I'd rather you do something than nothing. That's my mantra when I exercise. It should be yours too.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Jowett Lunge, A Forgotten Gem

If you dig into the Sandow Site, into George Jowett's pages, into Molding Mighty Legs, you'll find a set of exercises for the legs, among them is "exercise six". It's an odd lunge that I was intruiged with and I decided to try in November, 2005. Trouble was, it didn't work as well as I wanted it to. It was the bent knee starting position. Besides, my legs weren't strong enough to do it quite yet so I gave up on it for a while.

After a while, I wanted to make a more concerted effort to bulk up my legs so I gave it another look. I tried it again but this time it was too easy. So, I played with it a little bit and decided to start with my lead leg straight rather than bent. The results were intense and satisfying. Here's How I do this variation of "exercise six" that I'm now calling the Jowett Lunge:

1. Stand with your feet together,your hands on your wais, and take a comfortable step backwards with one foot.

2. Raise your heels off the floor. It doesn't have to be very much.

3. Keeping your back in line with your rear leg, lower your bodyweight onto your lead foot while inhaling. Don't bounce.

4. Go down as far as possible. Exhale and slowly come back up.

5. Repeat with the rear leg up front.

There are a few important points to remember while doing this exercise. Keep your weight over your front leg going both down and up while keeping your heels off the ground. If you fail to do either, you'll lose the benefit of the exercise. When you come back up, try to push your foot into the ground while pushing yourself back up. This will add more stimulation to the calf muscles. This is a more advanced exercise so proceed with care. You could also do this near a wall or a chair if you need balance. Properly done, this lunge will hammer every muscle in your legs. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Why is the Wrestler's Bridge is the So Great?

It's is probably the most controversal exercise in all of BW exercising methodology. It may also be the most feared as well. Most people see a picture of a person performing a bridge and they swear that that person is on the verge of breaking their neck. Some say that it is dangerous hyperextension of the spine. All of this is talk of the uninformed and ignorant. The truth is , there may not be an exercise better for strengthening the back, removing back pain, and improving posture all in one exercise.

To understand why the bridge is so great for you, we have to start out with the anatomical definition of Extension. This simply means moving away from the fetal position. The opposite would be flexion, or moving towords the fetal position. The deep back muscles are extension muscles. They pull the spine into correct posture by Extenstion. Obviously, the bridge directly hits these muscles exactly as they were designed to do.

It doesn't stop there though. The bridge is an aerobic isometric exercise since it requires the modest tension of the muscles for a moderately long period of time. This also conditions the deep back muscles since they are mostly built out of slow twitch fiber.

The third benefit of the bridge is that it also hits almost every muscle along the superficial back line. This line is responsible for extension of almost all of the posterior muscles. The bridge makes them all work while performing it. This is significant since even the fitness world will admit that exercises that hit multiple muscles are preferable to ones that isolate for all-around health and conditioning.

This is a lot of ground that is covered in only one exercise. This is why the bridge is so highly regarded in the BW world. If you don't know how to do the bridge or you're too weak, I strongly reccomend Matt Furey's Combat Conditioning if you want to learn how to build up to and execute the bridge properly. Nobody has devoted as much time to building the body up to the point of bridging.

Do yourself a favor if you don't have it yet... ORDER IT NOW!

Bernarr McFadden and Gaining Weight

I haven't read even an eigth of the massive amount of literature that Bernarr McFadden wrote in his lifetime but what I have read of his, I notice a common theme: Looking to nature to find the answers to physical culture. This footstep that he left has been somewhat obscured by the passing sands of time and erosion of ignorance but it wasn't lost on me when I was looking for some answers on how to gain some muscle mass.

Last year I bought a text book on nutrition from the University of California and proceeded to read it with great interest. I mentioned in my last post that I have been eating a large quantity of nuts, milk (and milk products), and eggs. There is a reason for that. I read about the nutritional content of all of these foods and I saw a common link.

Calories come from protein, carbohyrates, and fats. Most foods' calorie content is almost entirely one of the three. Rarely are they split even 90% of one and 5% of the other two. Milk, eggs, and most nuts are an exception. Their ratio varies amongst each but they are more evenly split than most foods.

Then, something dawned on me. These three foods are designed to support life until whatever is feeding on them are capable of getting its respective food for itself. So, these food sources must have all of the nutritional needs present in order to GROW until it gets to that point. It's no surprise that all three are dense sources of nutrients that promote growth. It's McFadden's theory of looking to nature for the answers that helped me get from 157 lbs to 175 pounds so far this year.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

No Wonder There's so much lower back pain!

There's a lot of reasons for lower back pain and I don't think that what I'm about to share is the biggest reason but it no doubt is a big one just the same. At the moment, I'm just stunned that after all of those posters covering the walls at just about any work place where you might have to lift something off the floor on a regular basis, people still don't use their legs to lift a heavy object. Always with the back. I was working at a construction site recently and I almost never saw anyone lift anything with their legs, including my co-worker.

I wrote recently about how I got rid of what modest amount of back pain that I had by leg exercising and in closing I mentioned that strengthening the legs would help with back pain since if your legs were strong, you wouldn't have to lift with your back. Now I see there is another angle to that: The more you exercise your legs with squats and lunges, the more likely you are to pick something off the ground with your legs rather than your back. It isn't just that your legs are stronger, it's also that after so much leg work, it becomes second nature to bend at the knees to pick up a load, rather than at the back. It's muscle memory that will save your back in the end.

I never mentioned in my last post WHAT I was doing as far as routine or exercises, so here's a taste of what I was doing.

1. Warm up, 100-300 hindu squats (depends on how much time I have to work out)

2. Jowett Lunges, 10 reps each leg

3. sissy squats, 20-30 reps

4. DVR/DSR for the Leg (Such as a DVR Squat)

5. Isometric set for the legs (wall chairs)

I would repeat this set for 3 sets, usually changing the DVR/DSR and the Iso set each rep, working around my thighs and hitting the calves properly. I try to make sure that I hit every muscle in the legs somewhat evenly. I'll often change and do some different squats and/or lunges.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Ever thought that fat people are breaking health care?

It isn't nice these days to suggest that problems facing this nation are caused by individual's mistakes. After all, nothing really is anyone's fault anymore. Furthermore, if it isn't an individual's fault, then it's up to someone else (read: government) to fix it. For anyone who has an honest willingness to solve the problem and the desire to take a closer look, they'll notice this convoluted scam as to why our health care system is so broken.

Let's start with an undeniable fact: fat people spend need more health care. Being overweight causes so many health problems it's downright staggering. Just the sheer weight alone pushing down on the body can cause sleep apnea (pressure on the throat), hypertension (pressure on the arteries), and arthritis (pressure on the joints). Diabetes, a very common disease for the overweight, can cause a host of problems in and of itself. The extra sugar in the bloodstream not getting broken down in the muscless basically destroys the bloodstream. Blindness, amputations, and difficulty fighting infection, and impotency are a sample of the results. I could keep going. I've only gotten warmed up but you'd probably start reading before I'm finished.

Now, this all costs money to treat. Doctor visits, sugeries, medicines, procedures, medical equipment, etc. Let's lay down another undeniable fact: The cost of this just doesn't disappear, never to be seen again. It has to get paid for SOMEWHERE. Now, take any of the sampling of the disorders and diseases that obesity causes that I've listed and/or missed and add up how much it costs to treat.

Now multiply it by 198,000,000.

Bear in mind that the price that you put on treating a fat person may be too low. I know a person who is over 100 lbs overweight and I wouldn't be surprised if he costs his insurance over $40,000 a year. He's on at least six different drugs and goes to the doctors nearly every week. He's literally a ticking time bomb of medical maladaies. His son is the same way.

So, why's health care so expensive and why is it getting worse and worse? Simple: We as a nation are taxing it to the limits. Insurance operates a lot like a lottery. Everyone pays in, a few take out of it. It's a pool of money. Trouble is, what happens when everyone is constantly drawing out of it? Everyone has to pay in more or else the pool won't be sustainable. Well, that's what's happening. What's worse is everyone is trying to come up with a solution that tap dances around the problem without solving it.

A true solution to this problem is for America to change their lifestyles. We eat too much bad food in huge quantities and exercise too little. It's not only killing us but it's going to break us finanically. Any other solution (read: universal health care) won't solve the problem. It will just shift it from one part of our economy to another. Besides there is another flaw in this thinking that we need universal health care. Being overweight is a mistake that many people make. This mistake is like any other one: If you don't pay for it personally, you'll keep making it.

Something has got to give though. This obesity epidemic is going to crush us, if not physically then economically. It's not going to get solved by treating it as a problem caused by anyone else other than each and every overweight person in this country.

How I'm gaining some weight

Muscle, that is. I don't want to get fat. I do have some similar parameters for weight gaining as I do for exercising. I don't want to use anything that I can't commonly find, like supplements. I travel a lot and I can't afford to drag my supplements with me everywhere. Besides, if you read my last, somewhat angry, post I have something against supplements. The old timers didn't use them, so I don't need them either. Information was sort of scant on this topic. Most of the information is for losing weight. The weight gaining literature is dependant on supplements (ah-HEM). I found a book on weight gaining that was remarkable in that I don't think I've ever found a book that said so much without saying anything.

So, I set out last year to try to gain some weight (175-180 was fine for me). Trouble was, I started out at 145, well below my normal 155 lbs, due to getting sick in Peru over Christmas. I managed to get up to 157 before the year ended but that was way short of my goal. I tried again this year, armed with some new information and so far I'm up to 173 lbs.

One thing that never struck me for some reason that was the key to gaining...


Truth is, your exercise alone doesn't make muscle grow. If you're not taking in more matter, you're not going to make more matter on your body. Matter, in this case, is FOOD. I wasn't eating nearly enough to make myself bigger. I have a feeling that many who are trying to do the same thing aren't either. Eating right, and more, is inseperable from exercise when trying to gain weight.

One food that nearly every, single old-time strongmen used to gain weight was milk. They often milk by the gallons to get bigger. Another food that was consumed in quantity is eggs. Modern science proves their point: these two foods are the most easily digested protein out there. Still, ingesting protein alone doesn't do it. You need fat too. Most of your hormones are fat-based compounds and your hormones are what tells your body to grow.

Eggs have become a standard food for breakfast. I drink at least 16 oz milk per meal. I get lots of fat in my diet by consuming nuts in between and part of my meals. I also consume at least two servings of fruits and vegetables each meal. I tend to eat a lot of dried fruits because they ar calorie-dense and have a lot of nutrients.

If you're like me and don't gain weight easily, patience and persistance are paramount. I follow a similar cycle in weight gain: I gain around three pounds, lose it and gain it back a few times, gain it, and plateau. It takes as long as it takes. It's not as easy as supplementing but it's all I have and I'll make it work.