Friday, November 28, 2008

The Proof: My T-Handle Push-up Video!

The G Word!

One word that you haven't seen me write very much on this blog is genetics. I felt no inclination to discuss genetics because I feel like its becoming a favored excuse for people not accomplishing their fitness goals. Apparently, things don't work because your body doesn't allow you.

To me, that isn't what physical culture is about. Its about exceeding limits and expectations. It's about doing what you thought wasn't possible. It's about flipping your genetics the bird. Unfortunately, genetics are everyone's excuse for not getting where they want to be. After all, if it's the body's main blueprint. If the blueprint has a defect built into it, then there's just nothing that we can do about it.

To me, that's just bullshit. If you look at the things that they say are genetic, such as being fat, you'll find that it's not a guaranteed outcome. It's something that the person is predisposed to. In other words, it might be more likely but it's not a definite. So, what you have is a situation where someone may be more sensitive to becoming overweight.

What further shoots this bogus excuse down there are studies that show that you may have control over which of your genes get expressed! So, it's not set in stone after all!

Don't fall victim to this thinking. It's just another negative excuse. Train hard, eat smart, stay focused and believe. At the end of it all, there's only one place this thinking will lead you: to a great body. Sure, there are reasons why some will get it easier than others but in the end, everyone who tries this sincerely will get results.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What gets or keeps you fat?

Weight loss diets tend to break down into two basic strategies of getting the weight off: Calorie reduction or hormone manipulation. Calorie reduction is pretty straight-forward: cut back your daily calorie intake in an effort to burn more calories in a day than you're taking in. The idea is that your body will resort to using it's fat stores (the calories stored in your body) for energy.

The latter is a bit more in-depth. Certain foods provoke different chemical and hormonal responses. The one that interests many with fat loss is insulin release. Insulin is a powerful hormone that triggers the body to draw sugar into the muscle cells and tells the body to hold onto fat. Moderating insulin is crucial for weight loss. This is the theory behind low-carb diets. If you moderate the glycemic load into your body, you'll lose weight.

One thing that I've never understood is why some insist that weight loss has got to be one or the other. Maybe it has to do with businesses being set up sell clients on losing weight one way or the other that fuels this competition. Frankly, it comes down to someone's eating habits. It's entirely possible to get fat on 2000 calories a day if someone's eating a high glycemic load on a regular basis. Subsequently, there are some who eat a 2,600 calorie diet consisting of low carb foods who still manage to lose weight.

The bottom line is that weight loss happens for a number of reasons and are more personal than many would have you believe. If you're having trouble losing weight, then you need to write down EVERYTHING YOU EAT AND DRINK. Then, go to a web site like, check out a few of your day's logs, and take an average of how many calories you're taking in a day. If it isn't very high, then check out the foods that you're eating. If they're a high glycemic index or glycemic load, then you need to change what you're eating.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Not too long ago, someone PM'ed me on Ross Enamait's forum with a couple of questions. The first one was about the T-handles that John Peterson sells. The second was how I trained to be able to support my sister sitting on my chest while doing a nose-to-mat bridge. Looking back on it, I think that my answer was kind of lame. So, I'd like to take the time now to give a more thoughtful response.

Initially, I didn't think that I had much to offer him for an answer. Bridging, like handstand push-ups, seemed to be something that I was naturally good at. All I did was practice bridging on a regular basis. I saw Matt Furey balance two people on his chest in a bridge and I got it in my head that I could do that. Then, one day when my sister was at my house, I asked if she'd be willing to do it. That was it. I didn't work up to it with any weights at all. So, since it came so natural, I just didn't think that there was much to comment on. If I had difficulty and came up with some sort of plan and routine, there would be more to say.

There is more to say. It's the one thing that so many people lack when the work out: belief in themselves. I'm convinced that if I didn't think that I could do it, I wouldn't have been able to. People sell the ability of the mind or positive thinking short. It just sounds too good to be true.

Truth is, your body is capable of far more power than you think it is. Even when you think that you're exerting your full strength, you're still not even close. Your muscles are only performing at a fraction of your total strength (I heard somewhere 20%). Your mind is unconsciously blocking your full muscular potential for emergency use only. Otherwise, you could damage your muscles.

The second thing about your mind that you may not be aware of is that in your brain, the line between what you perceive to be real and what is is very, very thin. I've alluded to this in another post. What this means is that positive visualization and using your imagination to picture what you want will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals. I can tell you for sure that it works both ways. I've talked myself into doing 20 handstand push-ups and 4 T-handle handstand push-ups. I've also talked myself into believing that I could only do 15 handstand push-ups even knowing I'm capable of 20.

So, WorkoutWarrior, this isn't me just telling you and everyone else some mindless, baseless and sappy dreams. There is ample proof out there that your mind is the key to achieving your physical goals. If you think and believe that you can, you ultimately will achieve what you want. It might require some thoughtful planning but you will get there, trust me.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wrist Problems, Wrist Solutions

Remember the job that I described in my blog post, "The Test"? Well, I jammed my right thumb when I dropped a pitchfork on it, causing it to swell for a few days. While the swelling went down, pain in my wrist didn't subside. Pronation and supination on my right hand has been a pain, say nothing of shoveling!

Sometimes, my family wonder why I read the same book or magazine thing over and over again. Even though I have a good memory, there are things that I will forget about. Small details that often times make all of the difference when I'm working out. One such piece of information that hit me was from "Never Gymless" by Ross Enamait. He relates in his book that hand/wrist injuries forced him out of the fight game but one thing that has helped him immensely was doing push-ups on his fists. He stated he's had no further problems with his wrists since.

This tidbit of information dovetailed in neatly with an article that I read in Fitness Rx where a report that strength training acutally helps joint pain rather than aggravating it. This to me is a no-brainer for the simple reason that I know that your bones sort of float on muscle tension. One muscle pulls one way, another pulls the opposite direction and the result of that pull is proper joint allignment. Still, reading it again was the refresher that I needed.

So, after a few days of doing push-ups on my fists (even doing handstand push-ups on my fists), I'm noticing less and less pain in my right wrists. I'm thankful for that since I'm getting people bugging me for a video of me doing handstand push-ups on T's (I'll get to that, believe me!). Obviously, I'm going to take the lesson of importance of taking care of my wrists to heart. Still, I think that there's something deeper that I've come to realize: There's something to be learned from anything, including the sources you already knew. Refreshers are never a bad thing.

Oh, if you plan on doing push-ups on your fists, make sure that you trim your nails!

Another, very simple idea came my way via that helped me out. So simple, in fact, that I wished that had thought of it myself. Instead of simply resting your weight on your palms while doing push-ups, push your fingers into the ground. This will take some of the pressure off your wrist, give you some strength training for your fingers, and I suspect that it would be a good way to progress to doing fingertip push-ups.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Magic Foods!

Oh, come on! If you read this blog regularly, you must know by now that I don't believe in magic ANYTHING when it comes to getting in shape and staying there. There are things that work better than others but nothing is really a secret. So, I thought that I'd list some of the foods that I think work well to get into shape and stay there. As usual, they are in no particular order of importance:

1. Ginger. I'm going to start with this one since I just can't stop eating or drinking lately. I absolutely adore the taste of ginger. I put it in marinades, I eat crystallized ginger (small amounts) for a treat. I sprinkle it on fruits. I drink hot or iced tea almost every night. I've noticed an improvement in my stomach (I've had stomach problems since birth) and my digestion since I've started drinking the tea. From what I've read, ginger is not only for the stomach but it helps with blood circulation. Obviously, this can improve a host of issues throughout the body. It's no wonder that it's considered so good for overall health in the Eastern part of the world.

2. Quinoa. I got into this stuff about 5 years ago when I hooked up with this Peruvian chick that I eventually married. Quinoa is a traditional "grain" grown in the mountains by the Chechquwa People. It belongs to the same botanical family as swiss chard and spinach. Like it's cousins, Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse. It's very high in Protein (including the essential amino acid lysine), iron, Phosphorus, magnesium, B Vitamins and more. It's very light and slightly nutty in flavor, making it very versatile. You can cook and eat it like rice or oatmeal. It can take on sweet and savory flavors easily. Since it's a specialty food, it can be kind of pricey (I buy a bunch when I go to Peru where it's dirt-cheap) but it's so dense in nutrients that you wouldn't need to eat a ton at a time to take advantage of it's benefits.

3. Dates. To me, dates are one of those fruits that are so tasty that I can't believe that they're actually good for you. A favorite of the legendary Bernarr McFadden, these soft and sweet little fruits are high in fiber, iron, and potassium. They do have one trade-off however: with almost 70% of their total weight being made up of sugar, these fruits are off the charts on the glycemic index. If you're trying to lose weight, you might be well-suited to steer clear of these until you're a normal weight. I used to eat these before I worked out but I was going for weight gain.

I think that I came up with these foods as personal favorites because, in my opinion, they prove that healthy foods don't have to taste bad. Healthy food is what you make it. It doesn't have to be all steamed broccoli, steamed rice, and steamed chicken. There are a lot of healthy foods out there that can taste great. I'd love to hear what your favorite healthy foods are. Throw them up on the comments section or on the forum!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Video Blog, New Forum!

Here's my latest video blog, this time targeting the obliques.

I also started a forum so if you want to discuss something that I wrote or something on your mind, then throw it up and let's talk about it. The link is on the right hand side of the page, below my pic.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Test

If you think about it, questions like, "how much do ya bench? are tests. We use them to compare our progress with our past performance and especially to others' performances. Such things often get in the way of one thing that strength training is all about: making us strong enough to withstand the rigors and abuses of life. NFL Strength trainer Johnny Parker said it best: "Who needs testing? We have 16 tests a year!"

My last job put my training to the test. I'm cleaned out a tank at a wastewater plant called a digester. It was full of miscellanous trash and massive chunks of grease that could only come out by hand. I pulled out around 4 tons of refuse, by hand, and loaded it into 55 gallon drums attached to a crane truck per day. It was further complicated by the 3 to 1 pitched floor. It's difficult to lift objects when the ground is slipppery, sloped and therefore unstable. If there was a place that would test my training, 8-10 hours a day of this was it.

I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't suffer any pain on this job. One day, I slipped, fell and broke my fall with my outstretched right hand. This jammed my shoulder blade funny and left me with a stinging pain the rest of the day. Several weeks later, I lunged a pitchfork out one handed to get some extra distance on my throw. When I went to catch it with my right hand, the handle hit the base of my thumb, causing it to bruise, swell, and left my wrist feeling painfully weak for a while afterwards.

Things like that you can't really train for though. What was most amazing to me was in spite of the constant shoveling and the akward lifts that I did for weeks on end, I had no pain or weakness from the work. My lower back never ached after work. My legs held up just fine. My shoulders took everything that I threw at them.

I can attribute the lack of lower back pain to getting myself to a point where I could do a full, butt to heels squat. That way, I lifted with my legs and not my back. I also have developed a lot of strength in my glutes and my abs which protects my back when I'm lifting. One leg exercise that I'm grateful that I throw in from time-to-time is the Bulgarian split squat. I do it without the weight and often times on a BOSU ball. It very closely mimicks the way I lifted things on the sloped floor.

In essense, The constant changing up of exercises and hitting my muscles from different angles, the increase range of motion that I've aquired, and the serious core training is what got me through this nasty-difficult job. That's what strength training should be about. It also validates what some tell me isn't true: I can get strong on Bodyweight alone.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More on the Towel Pull-Up

The towel grip pull-up video blog is easily the fan-favorite post here at the Bodyweight Files. I started doing that pull-up back in March, 2007. I was anxious to throw up the video blog last February with the arrival of the Perfect Pullup because I knew there was merit of supinating in the pull-up but I didn't see the need to spend $100 to get that training effect. I'm just starting to see it demonstrated in other places but, interestingly, without that supination.

For me, this pull-up is a child of necessity. I travel and good pull-up places can be hard to come by. I thought of it at home but I realized that as long as I had something sturdy above my head to wrap something like a towel around, I could do pull-ups, even if I couldn't get my hands around it. Since I'm crunched on time, this pull-up's difficulty, forearm and grip working qualities covers a lot of ground in a little time.

One thing that I've noticed in my improvisation with this pull-up is that what you're gripping makes a noticeable difference in the ease or difficulty of the pull-up. Here are a few points on the subject:

1. Thickness of the object. The easiest object for this pull-up is the object that is the same thickness of your grip when your thumb overlaps your pointer finger's nail. Anything thicker or thinner than this makes the pull-up more difficult.

2. Does the object have natural spring to it? I've done this pull-up with lifting straps and lay-flat fire hoses. both of these objects want to spring back to their naturally-flat shape so I have to squeeze more intensely to do the pull-up. Along those lines, rope that isn't tightly twisted or braided is more difficult because you have to compress it more to get a good grip on it.

3. Smoothness. Twisted natural rope is far easier material for doing this pull-up than a braided, synthetic. I tried this pull-up with a bunch of braided nylon rope and I was stunned by how difficult that it was (it was also loosely braided, which didn't help either).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Get Yourself Mentally Ready to Get Fit!

In my social circle of friends and family, it seems like I'm a physically-fit oasis in a desert of the out of shape who want to get in shape. They all try but never seem to get there. One thing that I am good at is solving problems so I'm also good at identifing them. Nearly every single time they all have problems with their attitudes and outlooks on how to get physically fit. To put it quite simply, it's in their minds as much as it is in their bodies.

I think that there are outlooks that I have about fitness that keep me in shape. Here are a few, in no particular order, that make all of the difference between succeeding and failing.

1. Thinking about what I eat before I eat it. Whenever I eat anything, I always ask myself if what I'm eating is good for me or not. It's always on my mind. That's not to say that I don't eat bad foods but I'm cognizant of of what I'm doing. I really don't think that many people do that. They just go off what they feel like eating and throw it into their mouth without a moment of consideration as to if it's good for them or not.

2. Making Exercise a Priority. For a lot of the people around me, things like gossip and reality shows, cocktail hours, video games, etc are a better use of 30 minutes than working out. Is it any wonder things never get done when Dancing with the Stars gets priority over push-ups? I agree with Matt Furey when he said that daily exercise is just as important as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Remember what "ChickenTuna" mentioned about those two activities? You may not like to work out any more than you like to brush your teeth and take a shower but everyone loves the results.

3. Believe that you can. There is a very thin line in your mind between what you perceive to be true and what is. This is why the technique of positive visualization gets used by such a wide variety of people from professional athletes to business executives to self defense instructors. It will work for you too. You can talk yourself into or out of anything. I've told myself that I could do Handstand Push-ups on T's and eventually, I did! I've also convinced myself I could only do 15 handstand push-ups when I know for a fact that I can do 20. It's a known fact that your muscles only contract at a fraction of their power even when you think that you are doing all that you think that you can. In other words, you're capable of more. BELIEVE!

4. Making Time. This one has had some help from outside sources for sure. You don't need an hour or even hours of time to get yourself into shape. I usually don't work out for more than one hour a day. Still, I get into great shape. My viewpoint on time relates to my belief in being positive. I don't look at my limited time and say that I can't work out. I try to find the way to make the time that I have work best for me. Trust me: you don't need much more than 20-30 minutes a day of exercise. If you don't believe me, then let me know. I guarantee that I can give you a 25 minute workout that will whoop your ass.

5. Focus. I've been approached by a few of my loved ones who believe that if they could watch TV while walking on a treadmill/elliptical/whatever for two hours, then they could get into great shape. I didn't have the heart or the bad manners (at the time) to tell them that is ridiculous. Science is just starting to prove that focused attention on a muscle makes the muscle stronger. So, distractions like television aren't going to help in the long run. The truth is that the more you think into your resisted movements, the more successful you'll become at getting into great shape.

I hope that I've impressed on you that physical fitness is more than just a physical endeavour. It is every bit an emotional and mental exercise. The sooner you realize and embrace this, the more successful you'll be at achieving your goals.