Sunday, August 22, 2010

The most into the least

The one thing that I've been most happy about lately about my training is how much hard work I've been able to put into a workout that barely lasts 30 minutes. I've also blogged about this quite a bit in the past, including this earlier this year. I didn't want to keep writing about it since I assumed that I'd inevitably start sounding like an antiquated, malfunctioning music machine. Since it's been previously covered the not-too-distant past, I was a little surprised to see someone asking about it again recently. Either I wasn't through or I need to start tagging. Either way, I can talk about this some more.

Some trainers and trainees out there do a really good job of turning training into a veritable theater production, complete with the warm-up act, stretches/foam-rolling/whatever act, the workout act, the cool-down act, more stretches/foam-rolling/whatever act, then cardio act (or does that go in the beginning?), then whatever-else act... Could they possibly make this more complicated? Complication takes too much time. Is this stuff necessary? I really have my doubts. Even if I'm wrong about how effective all of this is, it doesn't really matter. You and I don't have the time and what's better: 30 minutes of (supposedly) incomplete, (maybe) half-ass training or none at all?

I don't think that 15-30 minutes of training time dooms the workout to being half-assed or incomplete at all. There are a surprising number of people that don't get a lot of attention for using such brief training sessions and gotten great results. I certainly have. If anything, I look at it as ultra-efficiency at it's best, not as a measuring stick of dedication or effectiveness.

I've never been a fan of doing the typical sets of reps training stuff. It just takes up too much time. For the past couple of years, I've been doing nearly every workout circuit-style. I'd rather work my ass off on one exercise and move to something else that I haven't worked out. Sure, I might pause for a bit in between but I'm not really "resting." I'll usually take a minute of rest after the circuit is completed. I'll mix it up between supersetting a lot, mostly with my pulls & chins and push-ups/dips. I also like to do a lot of sandbag squat-and-carry work.

Structure is important to shaving time off the time-crunched workout. Keeping the rest down is paramount. You've to to do everything possible to push the pace and keep moving. That's really the most important part. You can rest after you finish up! When I work out, I pause for maybe 30 seconds between exercises and about a minute in between circiuts, at most. Anything more than that is wasting a lot of time un-necessarily. Besides, there's some very convincing evidence that the abbreviated rest periods are better overall for you anyway. I recently read that Don Howorth used to rest even less than my self-imposed 30 seconds. Moving this fast won't make you miss the extra 30 minutes of rest in the workout. If anything, I see this move as maximizing efficiency of the entire workout.
30 seconds of rest per set, 45 minutes total workout time built this!
There are other ways to make your workout more time efficient. Make sure that you're properly hydrated before you start. Get all your gear prepped and ready to go. Have a solid idea of what you're going to do before you start. If something's taking up a lot of time, ask yourself if it's really needed.

I've given some of my routines out in the past. I'm not the fondest of doing it though. I really believe in being self-observant and introspective. Experiment for yourself and work with what you have available. Cutters good for cookies, not training. I've given you some guidelines and tips. It's up to you to make them into something that will work for you. It's really that simple.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Many Reps does it take to build strength and/or Size?

It's been, what, 115 years since Sandow got this whole sub-culture really going? You'd think that, by this time, we'd have a pretty good handle on exactly how the muscles work and we'd have gotten this information disseminated down to every gym, to every personal trainer and to every gym rat. By now, I thought we'd have no more issues about how many reps it takes to get big and strong... or just strong... or just big.

There's still Smoke and there's still mirrors in the muscle-building world. It still pays to keep people in the dark, occasionally throwing them just enough scraps of decent information to keep them coming back. I've rarely work out in a gym and I've never gotten any instruction from a personal trainer. I'd love to know what the hell goes on when people get personally trained? Doesn't the whole thing about rep ranges get discussed? I guess not because I still get people asking about how many reps to a set does it take to get big and strong. Or, even worse, I see them doing 30 reps with a puny weight expecting to get some serious pythons.

So, that's why I thought I'd discuss it. After all, two family members recently asked me about this and I didn't have a chance to answer. Rep range isn't as concrete as everyone would like to think. The most boiler-plate answer is 3-5 reps to a set for max strength, 8-10 for muscle growth, and anything over 15-20 is just strength endurance and conditioning. It's not that simple. Take a handstand push-up. Is 8 reps the same on that as 8 reps on a squat? The body's moving a lot more distance on a squat than it is the former. So, it takes longer.

This is where we start getting somewhere: the length of time that the muscle is contracting. Muscles contract and move because of this beautiful molecule:

Adenosine Triphosphate, aka ATP. The muscles have two ways of making this little gem: The Oxygen-based aerobic respiration and Glycosis. Muscles also store ATP via creatine phosphate, ready for immediate use. The last two ATP mechanisms are the ones we want to concern ourselves with at the moment. These two are the ones associated with muscular max strength, explosive strength, and hypertrophy. In other words, they are the fuel for creating power and bulk.

Muscle cells have about 15 seconds worth of ATP stored up and are capable of making ATP anaerobically via glycosis for an additional 45 seconds (these numbers may not be exact but you get the idea). So, any exercise set that fatigues the muscle to the point of stopping in less than 60 seconds is going to build the most power and muscle mass. Since they're the creators of power, the muscle adapts to the demand by becoming stronger and thicker. VOILA! Bigger muscles!

See where rep ranges for size and strength can be a little faulty? Let's go back to the handstand push-up/squat comparison. A handstand push-up moves the source of the resistance about 12 inches. Contrast that to squats, which have over 24 inches of movement. So, it's possible to do more handstand push-ups in 30 seconds than squats because the lesser distance to move the resistance. So, relying on rep ranges can be faulty logic.

Speed must also be taken into consideration too. Sprinters conclusively prove that moving as fast as possible can build some muscular bulk. It may not build as much, or build it as fast, as lifting a ridiculously heavy object but it still works. After all, moving the body (or a weight)at balls-to-the-wall speed requires a lot of muscular recruitment and contraction. The muscle has to thicken up to deal with the strain. If the exercise you're working on can go on longer than a minute at a time without stopping from fatigue, then the muscles switch over to the aerobic respiration. This more efficient method involves using oxygen to create ATP. If you're trying to build bulk, then this isn't the way to go. Since the muscles aren't contracting intensely, they're not going to thicken and build up. There's no need since thick muscles are more inefficient for such a task.

So, you could use the guidelines for rep ranges that I described above as a starting point in building your routine. Just keep in mind that if the movement is shorter in distance or faster in speed, then you might be able to fit in more reps. Generally speaking, a set that lasts 30 seconds or less builds more strength while a 30-60 second set builds more muscle bulk. Any more than 60 seconds and, from a muscle and power-building stand point, you're wasting your time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Old Strongmen vs New Strongmen... Who was stronger?

Famed scientist Nikola Tesla knew that he needed some photographic proof to cause a sensation about his mysterious experiments in Colorado Springs when he returned to New York in 1900. So, he worked with a photographer and went public with this fantastic picture:

There's just one problem: This picture is a fake. It's actually two pictures, one of Tesla and another of the equipment, exposed on the same film. He created the illusion that he mastered electricity enough to know how to sit amongst a 7 million volt, man-made electrical storm. Ideas like this die hard and even to this day, many believe in Tesla's near-magical capabilities with electricity. Take a look at the depiction of Tesla in 2006 movie, "The Prestige."

Strength training has it's own issues with its early roots. With old becoming new again, contemporary strength trainers see it fit to deride a lot of the roots of strength training, decrying old-timers as inferior fakes. Possibly the best example of this is George Jowett. Although he was a fantastic writer and a respected old-time strongman (having worked for both Bob Hoffman and Joe Weider), legitimate doubt about his most famous lifting stunt, his 168 lbs anvil lift and press, exist out there.

Most don't believe that this is a 168 lbs anvil that he's lifting. Plus, the picture looks to be doctored (Was the anvil resting on a chair that was removed from the photo?). It's hard to believe that anyone could lift an anvil by the horn that far in front of the body one-handed.
Indeed, lying, cheating, doctoring and double-exposing, rigging or exaggerating has a long and scandalous history in the iron game. It was very common back in those days to claim to be the World's Strongest Man and then find ways to make it appear so other than by legitimate lifting feats. Strength was demonstrated at Vaudville theaters and circus's, neither of which had a stellar reputation for honesty and integrity.

It's not an open and shut case that that our modern-day strongmen were stronger than the old-timers as far as I'm concerned. Like any other, modern sport, things have changed considerably in the past 110 years. First of all, there are lifts today that didn't exist 100 years ago. Who knows how much Eugen Sandow could bench? He probably never benched in his entire life! Likewise, several of the lifts popular in 1900 are barely practiced today. How can you compare two lifters who never even did the same lifts? Of course, steroid use has completely changed physical culture. Who knows what Arthur Saxon could have done with a good stack?

Plus, we have to keep in mind how specialized modern iron gamers are today with their training. There was Olympic lifting but there was no strict bodybuilding contests. Powerlifting didn't even exist. To make a something resembling a living off strength training, you had to be good at all of the popular shows of strength, including gymnastics. Can you imagine Matt Kroc doing a back flips and handstands? While a small handful of guys can make a living off of strength training today, that was just impossible 90 years ago. Sandow had to work as an circus acrobat and wrestler (which he hated) when he wasn't modeling for sculptures or touring on the Vaudville circuit in his early years. Jowett had to keep blacksmithing and chainmaking when his writing and mail-order business was starting and again when the depression hit. Bob Hoffman supported his barbell business with his boiler-making work.

So, is old worth being new again? Or, do we take their information and treat it as obsolete as the Ford Model T's that they used to drive? Is there something legitimately useful that we lost and need to find? I think happen to think so. It's a horribly over-used and heavily abused term that I almost don't want to say but this non-specialized training is where training becomes functional. All too often, it's not enough to be strong at, say, max strength but have no conditioning, or vise versa. Take, for example, my project in Greensburg, PA back in the Fall of 2009. I had to shovel out 10 yards (approximately) of wet sand out of the bottom of a tank and load four-55 gallon drums. The drums had to be lifted, by crane, out of the tank an then manually tipped over into a dumpster. So, I had to climb out of the tank (30' deep) and help tip each barrel. I have no idea how much they weighed but they had to be well over 500 lbs. (I know that I can tip a 500 lbs drum by myself).

So, I had to have some pretty good conditioning to keep shoveling the dirt. Then, I had to have enough max and starting strength to tip those barrels over. Plus, I had to do it all day. What I'm getting at is the need for more complete strength development. That's what the old-new-timers were probably better at than the new-old timers. They couldn't be as specific in their training goals. In a way, that makes them just as strong, or stronger, than the latest generation of iron gamers and strength trainers. That's why a strength trainer who lived when Tesla was alive is still relevant. We'd be foolish to disregard it over suspicion or inferior lifting numbers.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

For love of the Bent Press

For those of you who think I'm committing heresey by continuing to post about weightlifting, I promise you this painful chapter in The Bodyweight Files history is almost done...

Arthur Saxon. "The Ironmaster!" At the turn of the 20th century, he emerged as Eugene Sandow's most formidable opponent in vying for over-used terms like, "strongest man alive" or, "srongest man on Earth." His most famous and written-about weight lifting feat was his "two hands anyhow" lift of 448 lbs. Two hands anyhow was a pretty simple feat: just get as much weight overhead as possible. The standard method of doing this was to bent press a heavy barbell and reach down with the opposite hand and grab a lighter weight and put that overhead.

But what the hell is a Bent Press?

It's a lift that's been lost in time. Dan Lurie was probably the last, major bodybuilder to heavily practice this lift back in the 1950's. It's also a lift that's hard to describe in writing. I read a couple of descriptions of it on the Sandowplus website but even then, I had a hard time visualizing it. A video makes it far easier to understand. I like this video on the lift in question...

So, why'd it go "obsolete"? I've read quite a bit about the history of strength training and to be honest with you, I never really got much of a satisfactory answer. Maybe the guys who liked it best didn't end up ruling the roost (think: Mark Barry, Bob Hoffman, Joe Weider, etc) of weightlifting and/or bodybuilding didn't love it enough. Maybe it was because it didn't get adopted as an offical Olympic lift back in 1928, which seems to be about the time the lift began to fall from popularity. Or, and this is my guess, you just can't move a lot of weight or move the weight fast like you can in powerlifting or Olympic lifting. There's even been some mentions that some of the starting positions were bad for the back (some of the old timers really had a heavy, almost scoliosis-looking curve to their back when doing this lift).

So, the bent press has been out of favor for the past 75 years. Why is it becoming more popular? I don't know if anyone's noticed but old became new again in the past 10 years. The Bent Press has similar elements to the Turkish Get-up and the Windmill movements commonly used with kettlebells. So, naturally, it's resurgence seems to coincide with the Kettlebell "revolution."

It's also got some practical reasons for it's comeback, not tied to someone else's whims or marketing plans. The key to understanding the Bent press is that you're not really lifting the weight so much as you are getting under it, kind of like what you do with a snatch. Unlike the snatch, you're not doing this in a ballistic motion and you're not catching it. It's a much more controlled, slow motion, holding the weight in the exact spot that it started at as you move yourself underneath it, only truly lifting it when your arm is fully extended.

Why do this lift? Well, what muscles do you have on the side of your trunk, from your hips to your neck? Obliques, Lats, Serratus, Traps, deltoids, plus all the deep stuff along the spine and hips that nobody knows the names of... Well, that's all going to be working double-overtime as you execute a Bent Press. The amount of muscles firing as stabilizers is off the charts when you're doing it. It's a crazy-ass, strength-building exercise that will quickly make you appreciate how powerful Arthur Saxon must have been to Bent press 350 lbs at a bodyweight of 210-220 lbs! Or, Dan Lurie's 285 lbs bent press at 168 lbs!

I'm still pretty new to this exercise so I don't feel qualified to be my normal, opinionated self giving out marching orders about how to do this exercise perfectly. Still, I have a few things to add from personal experience. I've done this exercise with dumbbells, kettlebells and stones. That's also the order of what I consider to be easiest to hardest. I don't know if I'd recommend doing them with stones unless you can find one that has the right shape and if you're careful. I found one in Sacramento that was kind of long, thin and at the balance point had an almost triangular shape to it. Even then, without a grip, it's far more liable to fall out of the hands and onto the head. Not good, but the threat did re-enforce good Bent Press form!
The information on this site is a not a recommendation. It's just what we do. We take responsibility for our actions. You should too... Mark Twight

Before picking up any object at all to Bent Press, it's a good idea to practice the motion with no weight at all. Pay attention to the hand and keep it in the same place during the lift. Drop your body underneath it rather than raising it upwards. That's the point to this exercise.

I'm just going to leave it at that for now and get back to working at this one some more...

Friday, August 6, 2010

So, what kind of genetics am I on?

Long-term readers of the Bodyweight Files can probably count the number of times I've brought up genetics with one hand amputated. There's a very good reason for that: I hate talking about genetics in relation to strength training and fitness in general. The discussion about genetics long-ago degenerated into a mind-numbing routine of one excuse after another as to why people can get to the goals that they want. Genetics work great for this because the way people are taught, they are biological fate. You've got no choice, so you have no blame either.

As of the first draft of this entry, I'm sitting in front of my laptop at work, bored out of my mind, letting my mind run in any direction it wishes (trying to keep the idea of being on Facebook endlessly out of my mind) and I started to wonder if anyone who reads has ever been dismissive of things that I've done because of genetics. Family members often do that to me. Some of them pretty recently. So, I started doing some introspection and thought to myself, "what genetics am I on that make me awesome?" Also, were there other genetics that hold me back? After all, genetics are great excuses too, as we've discussed. So, this is a short list of what I came up with:

Being Strong

Justin: "That's nothing. I've picked up and carried five boards before."
Jen: "You're full of SHIT! YOU CAN'T PICK UP THAT MANY! I Dare you to pick up five boards right now!"
Justin: "okay..."
This one was pretty obvious to me. My dad was in his day (and still is, to the extent that age allows all of us to be...) a sick-strong man. My grandfather was the same way. Two weeks before my 88 year old, great-grandfather died he was pulling tree stumps out of a load of top soil! While I'm not as bulky as my dad is, I'm definitely got some strength genes that I get a lot of mileage out of. Whenever I spar with anyone in BJJ class, my strength is the first thing that they comment on after we finish. My 230 lbs friend told me that I'm as strong as anyone his size that he's ever spared with. So, maybe I'm strong because I work out. Or, maybe I've got that magical gene that turns off my WHATEVER-statin

The Crematorium aka My Metabolism
No, really, if my metabolism was some sort of piece of machinery, it would most resemble...
So, that works both as a good thing and a bad thing. Taking advice from me is also a Catch-22. If you are looking to me to take advice on how to build muscle, then I'm the guy to listen to. very. VERY. CLOSELY! On the other hand, if you're looking to me for weight loss tips, then I'd say switch your parents with my parents because I doubt that there are few other genetic-stacks that guarantee weight loss like ones that I'm on! I've literally consumed 4000 calorie, or more, a day for weeks on end and just barely maintained weight! So, if it wasn't for my training and my diet, I might still look like...
I guarantee you that I'd be the strongest 140 lbs guy you'd ever meet in a BJJ class!

Let's get real though. The whole notion of genetics being biological fate is really just weak-minded bullshit. The reality is that genetics are a blueprint for how to build your body and an instructional manual how it should work. Like any other blueprint or manual, it's dependant on execution. How your body is built or how it operates is the complex interaction between genes, environment, and lifestyle choices. A gene could be present but not activated for no other reason than a decision that you made. So, you can get out of my, and everyone elses, face about your genes holding you back. The fact is you do have a choice on how you're built and how you operate.

So, if it doesn't work right, you also share in the blame and you're responsible for the fix. There's too many discussions about genetics in relation to training. Strength training is about taking control, not about ceding it to powers beyond your reach. Least of all, it's not about making excuses to suit inaction. Get moving and make the most of what you have and can we forget about the genetics?

What I am really on..

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Ironmaster Kettlebell Review

Okay, I sold out. I admit it! I had $1,200 extra sitting around in my bank account after working in California, making prevailing wage. I improvise most of my training equipment. Now that I had money, I wanted some nice training equipment. So, maybe my anti-equipment rants was all bullshit because I was a cheap-ass without money. THE MONEY WENT TO MY HEAD AND CHANGED ME!

Okay, I'm kidding so please don't go running off to another blog. I had some practical considerations for buying an Ironmaster Kettlebell. I've mentioned in the past that I have some practical reasons for Kettlebell ownership. Well, I wanted to buy a heavier KB for a little while. I decided to look around and see if anyone made a decent adjustable weight KB. It's a little thin out there. There are handles that you can buy to use with weight plates. While I never got my hands on one, I wasn't really thrilled by what I saw in the pictures. They look kind of cheap. Weider started making an adjustable KB... that goes all the way up to 20 lbs.

Moving right along...

Then I spotted the Ironmaster, ironically, in a Weider magazine (my wife bought it for me when I was puking my brains out because she wanted to cheer me up. She doesn't know any better, guys. She was just trying to cheer me up. HONEST!). I looked it up on the web, did some research, and liking what I saw, I ordered the handle and the extra weight plates. In time, I'll get the final set. Take a look at the links and then we'll talk...

Okay, I'm going to be an asshole and start out with what I don't like about this KB. When I first opened the package, the weight plates had that smell and feel like the paint hadn't fully dried. We all know what that means: some of the paint rubbed off. Also, the plates and the handle have a lot of casting marks on them. I double-checked the weight of this KB and it was, as advertised, 57.5 lbs. Okay so, this isn't the most attractive piece of equipment I'll ever own.


Then again, I hope that we don't buy these to be pretty, little gym ornaments. We buy them to use them! These cosmetic complaints pale in comparison to how this KB WORKS and frankly, it works great! While the aesthetic finish leaves something to be desired, the working parts of this KB are practically flawless!

The handle has got to be the most important part of any KB and, far too often, they all leave something to be desired. Some KB's have a ridge of metal inside the window on the handle. You may not notice it until you start using it. Ironmaster doesn't have that. Even better, the Ironmaster handle is plenty wide enough to get two hands on the bell without having to grab onto the horns. I have medium-large hands and mine fit very comfortably. Another, immediate difference with the Ironmaster KB and many other KB handles is the pretty drastic difference in the size of the window/hole. It's probably made larger just in case the user has less weight plates on board, the pin doesn't stick out too far hand hit the hands. It also makes moving the KB harder. Putting the weight out those extra 3" makes the weight feel noticeably heavier than it really is (IMO, about 10 lbs heavier). One tip: go easy with this 'bell. This difference in the handle makes her move much differently. Take a look...I'd stay away from snatches until you get used to how this KB moves!

Moving farther down the KB, to the heart of the Ironmaster design, is the weight plates themselves. If you notice in the photos, the plates actually interlock with each other, sort of like Legos. That threaded-pin/screw thingy goes through the plates and threads into the handle. I'll bet you're all wondering what I wondered at first: won't that come unscrewed when I'm swinging the KB? It's a legitimate concern but it's totally unwarranted. As long as you hand-tighten the pin, it's not coming undone, no matter how hard you drop it! In fact, I can barely get the plates to move when I drop it, let alone get the screw to loosen. One thing that you have to be certain of when you change the weight of this KB is that it's lying on it's side on a completely flat surface. If the plates aren't level, they won't lock together properly. It's possible to over-tighten this screw to the point where it's very hard to get the pin out to drop plates off the 'bell. Therein lies my only suggestion for improving this product: drill a small hole in the side of the screw's knob and provide a long dowel to insert into the knob in case you over-tighten it. In the meantime, hand-tighten the screw!

Durability was an issue for me as well. In the back of my mind, I was hoping that this KB would be rugged enough to throw in a pick-up truck and travel with. My wish was granted! This KB is as close as an adjustable gets to the feel and function of a solid KB. You can toss, drop and swing it as much as you wish. It barely even rattles!

Best of all is the cost savings. Overall, the handle, plates and pins came in at $199.00, shipping included. I started out using a 16 Kg (35 lbs) kettlebell, on sale for $80. I wish I had found this KB sooner. Buying a 44 lbs and a 24 kg KB, would have easily exceeded $199. The final plate set will bring the total price up to $270.

This is far cheaper than buying a complete set of KB's and takes up a lot less space too. If this piece of strength training equipment were an airplane, I think it would be an A-10 Warthog. Sure, it's not the prettiest thing out there but it works beautifully and it's tough as hell. The A-10 is my favorite plane and now the Ironmaster Kettlebell is now my favorite weight training tool.

Another good review on the Ironmaster Kettlebell...

The Queen of Push-ups

If you don't work with Bodyweight on a regular basis for strength training, then chances are you barely know this exercise exists. I've never seen it in a muscle rag (magazines) at all. I've barely heard of any coach mentioning it, much less using it for training purposes (Which is yet another reason why Zach Even-Esh rocks so much: he loves this one!). If you mention this exercise to the average person they'll probably think you're some kind of lunatic for attempting it.

Which makes me love this exercise even more.

It's the handstand push-up (HSPU), and it's probably second only to horizontal one-arm push-up training as the ultimate bad-ass subspecies of push-ups. It's most obvious benefit is some much-needed overhead pushing strength. It's no secret that a lot of strength trainers are pathetically weak on overhead pressing/pushing strength. That's borderline criminal in my mind (and a lot of legit strength coaches too, I might add). What's less obvious about the HSPU is it's sick glute and ab strengthening capabilities. All of these muscles have to contract to hold the spine in place and keep the body stable while pushing up and down. This is also one of the few push-ups where you're working against virtually every pound of your bodyweight (except for your forearms and hands. big deal). So, you can train with even the plain-vanilla HSPU for quite a while and get a lot of the more-enviable max strength benefits before it becomes a strength-endurance exercise.

First, however, you have to get to the point of being able to do a HSPU. I fully understand that most weren't like me when I starting doing them. I was able to do them, with my back against the wall, the very first time that I tried. The answer for the rest of the world is the Pike push-up.

This overhead push-up works well for a progression because you don't engage the core or the glutes like a full-blown HSPU and you're not forced to move the weight of your legs. As this exercise gets easier, you simply raise your legs higher off the ground. The easy way to do this is by standing on an object, such as a milk crate or a chair (just make sure that they're not going to kick out on you when you're on them). Another, more challenging option is to press your feet against the wall. With both options, the higher up your feet go, the harder it gets. Adjust accordingly.

Once you're getting past those without an issue, try doing HSPU with your back against the wall. Like I said, this is where I got my start with handstand push-ups. I worked them like this for about 2-3 years. Once I got to 20, I moved away from the wall, using only my feet to keep balance.

Am I doing them free-standing yet? Um, no. I'd like to get to that point sometime soon. That way, this exercise would truly become a do-anywhere deal. All I'd need is the ground and my BW. No wall necessary. One goal at a time, like Sally says...

That doesn't mean that there aren't other ways to progress other than just free-standing. I've done HSPU's on fists, blocks and push-up handles. All of these extend the range that you have to lower yourself. Inches count here and it doesn't take much more than two, measly little inches to make this push-up much harder. I also love doing them with the Perfect Push-up handles. That's a good way to slice off about half of your reps.

Yes, I did these on the T's. I don't recommend you doing that though. That definetly crosses the line between exercise and stunt. Exercise is for everyone. Stunts are for particularly-powerful, trained pro's... or idiots who think they are. I'd like to think that at the very least, I fall somewhere between the two. As far as I'm concerned, there are other, safer ways to develop this kind of grip strength that don't carry the same amount of risk that there is with HSPU's on T's.

That aside, this is probably my very favorite push-up out there. It's a great exercise for the upper back, shoulders, triceps, abs, and glutes. It's the queen of the push-up world beyond a shadow of a doubt. It's one of those exercises that you rub in the face of any ironhead who says that BW isn't as good as weights for getting strong. It takes a ruggedly powerful person to fully master all of the benefits that this exercise has to offer.

More bragging rights...