Friday, August 29, 2008

The Third World Squat!

I read a fantastic article by one Craig Weller about what he refered to as the "third world squat" in a great article on T-Nation. What he calls the third world squat is nothing more than a rock-bottom squat. Your knees should be in your armpits and your weight on your heels.

Unfortunately, many (most?) people can't do this. I've heard complaints about improper leverage that doesn't allow them to do this. I disagree. If you watch most children, they can and do this squat with veritable ease. That is, until they start sitting down in chairs too much. Then before they know it, they're an adult rationalizing why they can't do one anymore.

After reading this article, I rapidly switched gears and got myself doing a full range, third world squat. It wasn't terribley hard. Mr. Weller has some great ways to get you going on this move. I also had a few other things that I tried to get myself down.

1. Stretching My fascia. For those who don't know, this is a thin membrane that covers your muscles. Each muscle isn't individually shrink-wrapped though. Several are covered by the same fascia. For our application, stretching out the fascia that connects the muscles of the back line can help out immensely when doing squats. Find a hard rubber ball, sit down, and roll the ball under the arch of the foot while pressing firmly, but not painfully, for 30 seconds for each foot.

2. DVR Squats. Tense all of your leg muscles while lowering yourself down as far as possible. Don't push yourself too much. Go down a comfortable distance for 5-7 reps. Follow up with some normal speed squats.

As I previously mentioned, I don't have chronic back pain but I haven't had any since I mastered this move. I firmly believe that this is another key for a pain-free back. After all, the lower you go, the more you can use your legs to lift an object off the ground rather than your back.

Read the article here, it's well worth your time....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

But I can only do half of a Push-up!

I've heard several people say something to this effect lately. Apparently, the all-or-nothing attitude towards specific exercises is pretty pervasive out there. Frankly, I don't understand or agree with it. Granted I can get pretty dogmatic about training but I just don't see the point in being that strict about an exercise.

If someone can only do half of a push-up, isn't that better than no push-up at all? When you're just getting started, anything is better than nothing and if you're weak, then you can build strength doing half push-ups. Don't get stuck on what can't do; focus on what you can do. Then, work from there.

Besides, there comes times in life where you may be physically limited to doing less that what you're accustomed to. I recall a few years ago that I fell and hit my elbow hard on the way down, swelling my right elbow up grotesquely. I found out that while I couldn't go full-range on normal push-ups, I could go wide-handed and get almost all of the way down on that push-up. It may not be the most intense push-up that I ever did but it still kept me in good shape. It was sure as hell better than no push-ups.

There is no lawbook to exercise that tells you that you can't modify an exercise to suit your physical needs. Don't ever feel like you can't tailor and trim according to your body's needs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More on Gaining Mass

I've gotten a lot of interest about my muscle gain odessy that I went through last year. For those who don't recall, my New Year's resolution for 2007 was to bring myself from 157 lbs up to 180 lbs. To be fair, I normally weighed 162 lbs but by at the end of December, 2006 I dropped down to 157 lbs. I knew it would be difficult to gain weight because in the past I could eat just about anything that I wanted and not gain a single pound (I could eat a quart of ice cream in one sitting and my weight doesn't budge).

I'm going to level with you: Diet is probably more a part of muscle gain than the exercises are. I firmly believe that for hard-gainers, gaining muscle is as hard as losing fat for most others. It requires very disciplined eating. I gained the muscle by eating a high protein and high fat diet.

The fat is the important part. While it's true that you build muscle with protein, you need the fat to tell your body to start making muscle in the first place. Your hormones are responsible for dong that and they are fat-based compounds. Read Vince Gironda's writings. He had his trainees drinking vast quantities of milk, cream, eating eggs (Yolks included!!!) and steak. He followed the same regimen and he was the guy who popularized the ripped look in bodybuilding. This is also why injectable steroids are in an oil solution. Fat is what provokes a hormonal response to build tissue.

One thing that I found with my weight gain though is that sticking to foods with their naturally occuring fat worked better than drowning my veggies with butter or drinking cream. You have to bear in mind that while I have a goal, I also have a physically demanding job. Drinking or eating straight fat just made me feel slow. The principal foods that I used to gain were whole milk, eggs, and nuts. While they're high fat foods, they never slowed me down.

One other tip that I can also give you is to make sure that you never, EVER feel hungry. If you feel hungry, you're not gaining. You might even be losing! This will probably entail eating 5-6 times a day. I told you this required discipline and I told you it wasn't easy.

As for my exericse, I tended to go with higher intensity, lower rep BW exercises as well as high intensity isometrics. Still, I think that high volume should be included, but to a lesser degree. The isometrics maintained my strength-to-Bodyeight ratio, the high intensity built the muscle, and the high volume maintained my versatility.

If you need more information or if you have questions, please feel free to post them. I'll address any further questions that you have now or in a future blog.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

When is it too late to get in shape?

Among the many things that I lose track of as I try to keep myself in good shape is how people can't get into shape because of some particular circumstance that just doesn't allow them to get there. I'm not going to deny that we all lead different lives and each of our lives presents a different set of hurdles of varying difficulties. Hurdles can be jumped and I have nothing but respect for those who do.

One of those hurdles is pregnancy. It's no secret that losing weight and staying shape after having children is a tall order. The physical changes to a woman's body combined with the long hours and constant attention that kids can be a death sentence for a program of physical training. I don't have kids yet but I've had newborns living with me for long stretches of time. It's a labor of love, emphasis on labor. Still, it can be done and Michelle Berger did it (issues with the blog, copy and paste the link)...

Getting into shape once you're older and been out of shape is high up on the list of life circumstance that spells doom for getting back into good shape. This guy did it so well that I think he was put on a Wheaties box along the way.

Then there is the question of maintaining motivation. Apparently that slips with time too. We accept the fact that as we get old, we'll lose energy and motivation. Someone forgot to tell this guy...

If you haven't gotten the idea yet that the time to get into shape isn't as limited as you think it is, I don't know what will convince you. I've said it a dozen times: it's about your mindset. It's about how bad you want it and if it's really worth it to you. I hope it is because there's no reason to accept the inevitability of a long, slow and painful physical decline into death. The body is capable of repairing itself to a point that will boggle the minds of experts for as long as humans exist. There's still time, make the most of it.