Friday, November 23, 2007

The Bodyweight Files Commandments

I feel as though that there are things about fitness that I keep repeating over and over again. Therefore, I decided to sum them all up as the commandments of the Bodyweight files. They are as follows:

1. Muscular strength comes from intense contraction of the muscles. It doesn't matter where the tension comes from.

2. Breath deeply and powerfully.

3. Don't sacrifice control for speed. Speed-Control= INJURY

4. To manipulate your body, be it muscle gain or weight loss, you must maintain a strict diet.

5. To manipulate your body mass you must develop a level of commitment that the public will regard as fanatical. Ignore this at all costs!

6. Train Everyday. Vary your intensity but never take a day off.

These aren't in any particular order of importance either. I just thought I'd throw them up for people to absorb and keep in mind when putting together a plan for staying healthy and strong.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Too Strong Too Fast?

You don't need me to tell you that we live in a world that craves and demands rapid results. We're all about short-term gratification and we often lack the ability to see the bigger picture of what detrimental things our desires could do to us. Strength training is no different. We demand to see rapid results in strength gains in the shortest period of time possible. Unfortunately, this can result in some serious problems down the road.

I will give this to weight training: It's probably easier for the average person to rapidly increase your maximal strength with weights than it is with bodyweight. Still, there is more to it than that. I have no doubt that I could have reached 180 lbs faster had I been stacking dozens of pounds onto some dumbells. Still, there's more to it than that. What happens when my joints start to ache once I hit my late 30's? What happens if I compress my cartilage discs in my back from the exta weight on my body? How about if I have a minor slip and an accident? Sure, I may have all kinds of strength in those muscles but what is the good if I'm partially crippled and can't use it? I've heard that the several people, from the Alan Calvert, godfather of weight lifting, to Jamie Foxx who moved away from weight lifting for the same reason: aching joints from heavy weight lifting.

Your cartilage and joints over the long term aren't the only thing to worry about. Every though about the tendons that your muscles connect to? One problem with tendons and ligaments is that they have a far more limited blood flow to them (if any at all) than your muscles do. This is important because they take longer to strengthen. So, if you have a ridiculously powerful muscle attached to a tendon that can't hold the strain of the contraction placed on it, you're going to end up ripping it right off your bone. What good is your powerful muscle then? This is exacerbated by anabolic supplements and steriods too I might add.

So, don't be in such a damn rush. Don't let your aching desire to be the biggest and strongest in the shortest period of time overwhelm your need for a healthy body. At the end of the day, your muscles are only as good as the rest of the support structure on your body. If you wreck it in the name of big, pretty, and powerful muscles then you're going to be left with a body that can't do anything that you want to do with it.

What do I have against Weights?

Kettlebells are catching on more than I thought that they would. Now, they're showing up at Dick's Sporting Goods. Not that I'm in any rush to buy them because what I'm doing is working just fine and I just can't justify buying something that I may not be able to travel with. I admit that I may have a bit of a chip on my shoulder and splashed with some distain for weights but when I sit down with a rational mind and think about it, I only have two things against weights:

1. They cost money (especially if you need a gym membership to use them).

2. I can't travel with them easily.

So really, my beef isn't with the iron itself per ce. It is more to do with the guys who advocate pumping them. Most of my bitterness lies with them.

Speaking of lying, that is my biggest problem with weight lifting advocates: The lies. Were you to listen to the overwhelming majority of them, there is only one way to get strong and that is by lifting weights. That is a flat lie and I have a bit of a perfectionist streak in me that just goes crazy when I hear someone saying something that is just flat out not true. Of course it's possible to get strong without them. I've been doing it for four years now (doing an organized, daily routine that is). Even as I've gone from 145 lbs to 177 lbs I've stunned my Brazilian Jui Jitsu classmates with my strength in relation to my size. The whole time I've been doing it, I've never touched a weight. I can't count how many push-ups and pull-ups I've cracked out over the past six years though.

There is another lie that I hear a lot too: You can't gain muscle mass with bodyweight. Bodyweight is only good for muscular endurance not for bulking up. The truth is that if you do high enough intensity exercises combined with the proper food intake, you will definetly gain muscle mass. I was up to 180lbs at one point this year and all I did was Bodyweight and eat more. No weights, no supplements (ah-HEM) .

Just remember this: Muscles will grow if you place enough tension on them. This will force small tears and prompt regrowth of the muscle to a much thicker size, thus increasing strength. Ultimately, your body doesn't know, and doesn't care, where that intense tension comes from. It could come from your body's gravitational pull, an opposing limb, an antagonist muscle, or a foreign object. It all works.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is it fanaticism?

If only I could count the number of times that I've been called a fitness fanatic or an exercise nazi (or some variation on that theme). It doesn't bother me though. I've always had desire to do what I wanted and disregarded doing things that would make people approve of me. Besides, few will complain or criticize the results of my training even if they ridicule the way that I got it.

I find that comical. People with inferior builds telling those who are physically conditioned that the way they got that body it is too strict, rigorous, or fanatical make me laugh. If what they did yielded good results, then why are they never getting to where they want to be physically?

Some philosopher once described virtue as being the middle ground between too much and too little. For example, courage would be the middle ground between being a coward and being stupid. Now, the middle ground will change from time to time as the social definitions of excess vary.

That is the problem right now with society as we know it. The virtue of how much exercise is enough to ensure a healthy, strong and good looking physique is lost in modern society's interpretation of excess and deficiency. Any sort of daily, regular physical training defines you as being extreme. Daily physical training and a clean diet is now considered excessive. We don't often take the time to realize how much modern society skews the lines. Still, it works and its critical for succeeding in getting a fit, strong body.

This is where having a thick skin comes into play. You have to be able to ignore this faulty thinking that society accepts as truth. Manipulating your body, be it losing fat or gaining muscle, requires diligence, focus, determination that the flab-ulous in society can't or won't comprehend. Don't let them talk you out of it. If what they did worked so damned well, then why are they in worse shape than you? Keep that in mind before you allow yourself to be disuaded from healthy living.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I'm sure that a sizable portion of those who are strength training are doing so because of an insecurity of some kind. I know that it was certainly a catalyst for me to start getting stronger. I wasn't heavily bullied as a kid but I did receive a share of it since I was on the bad side of being skinny. Still, I don't think it was a bad thing per-ce. It was part of a conscious decision to get myself stronger and more fit. At the end of the day, I'm no doubt better for it.

Insecurities don't need to be bad things. If we look at it, they are telling us something about ourselves. If we're insecure because we're too weak, too thin, too fat, etc then we are getting a message from ourselves (and outside sources too) that something isn't right. Now, it wasn't right that I got bullied because I was small in school but it did teach me a lesson about life in general: BEING WEAK SUCKS! Weakness isn't a quality to be maintained. It's something that needs to be corrected. This insecurity motivated me to correct this in myself. Now, I'm definitely a better person for it.

Don't allow yourself to be crippled by your insecurities. Use them as a motivating factor. Accept the fact that this could be your mind's way of telling you that there is a situation that needs to be corrected. Then, set your sites on fixing this. Insecurities will only make you a worse person if you allow them to exist to do so.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Never Gymless, a Review

Wow! It's not common to find a book this comprehensive out there. Ross Enamait's book is crammed with more information than the vast majority of exercise books out there. It's a small wonder why he's so widely respected writers and trainers out there. I like how many exercises he has covered in this book as well as variations to make the exercises more difficult should they become easier. Granted, this isn't a strict bodyweight-only book but the equipment he uses to add resistance isn't too exotic or expensive. If you don't wish to use any equipment to add resistance, you can get along just fine with this book.

I really appreciate that this book doesn't just give you the exercises, the routines and expects you to do what is told blindly. The whys of what you're doing is throughly explained. Ross Enamait goes into great detail about the different types of strength, why they're useful, and how to obtain them. The kind of detail that is given here is something that isn't seen a lot and I really appreciate it as a reader.

As much as I'm impressed by this book, I think that there is a few minor shortcomings. I think that this book is definetly geared towards a person who has a more advanced level of conditioning. While there are some beginner exercises, they are somewhat few and far between. Many of the exercises aren't described in great detail either.

This book is also geared towards a person who is training to be a combat athlete, like Ross Enamait is. The structure of the workouts is definetly geared in this direction. While this doesn't bother me (since I do train in Brazilian Jui Jitsu while dabbling in some striking arts) it may turn those who are into general fitness. What I appreciate about Enamait is that he is very honest and says this upfront. This is a minor gripe since you could easily take the exercises and arrange them to your liking.

I have to say that some of the things that he's capable of doing amaze me. One arm pushups aren't my cup of tea but doing a plyometric one arm pushup is fat out remarkable! This guy is in incredible condition! I also like how he gives out information on how to get the equipment or build the equipment that he's using. He definetly brings a can-do attitude to fitness that I love. If you're looking to increase the intensity of your workouts, then I highly reccomend this book.
There is one thing that is so badly neglected in exercising by many people, especially by those who are trying to lose weight. I think it's the reason why so many have such a hard time dropping weight. It has nothing to do with diet or the intensity or duration of the exercise that they are doing. It's their breathing. It's just too shallow. It's surprising how many people who I know are overweight and are shallow breathers. Subsequently, I know two people who gain weight easily but lose it just as fast. Both of them are deep breathers in general. I don't think that this is a coincidence. There is some science to back this theory of mine up.

Breathing has a lot more to do with weight loss than many realize. There is a reason why aerobic exercises (as well as high volume calisthenics) are recommended for weight loss. All physical activity can use sugar present in the bloodstream to make the energy molecule, ATP, that makes muscle movement. Aerobic activity can use sugar and fat, which is why it is turned to for weight loss. Still, there is more to fat burning than just doing a moderately difficult exercise for long periods of time.

It's right in the name. AEROBIC! In other words, OXYGEN. You need to be taking in more oxygen into your lungs when you do your physical activity. Otherwise, you won't be getting the second piece of the puzzle in order to burn more fat. I realized this when I see some overweight people struggling to exercise. They lack the lung power. These are the ones who usually have a hard time losing weight.

Think about that if you're trying to lose weight. Are you of doing deep, diaghram breathing? If you're not, chances are you're not stoking your fat-burning furnace to it's full potential. Practice breathing from your diaghram. A good way to do this is by laying on your back in the sit up position with two light objects, one on your stomach and one on your chest. You should strive to move the object on your stomach when you breath. The object on your chest should stay stationary. Once you've gotten the hang of diaghram breathing, make it a point to practice this frequently through the day. Here is another good reason to quit smoking: the impaired lung function won't be doing you any favors.

It has been said before that all creative thoughts begin with breathing deeply. So, to start creating a fearsome physique, start with some deep breaths. It's the first step in creating a healthy and powerful body.