Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Looking Back at the Back: More on The Traps

In keeping up with my cyber-narcissism, I watch the stats to see what's popular here at my blog. Yes, the whole bench press-push-up thing dominates my page view counter but another interesting post shows up as a perenneal favorite: Traps without Weights

How does that happen, just out of curiosity? I'm hardly the neckless, cobra-like trap-monster required to give out any advice about them in the first place. I won't say that mine are huge, but I guess they're good enough for people to accept my advice about them. So, if you're hungry for my advice and you think I show enough in the Trap department to make a comment on how to make them tough, then let's chat...

This glorious cut of meat is one of those things that lots of BW fanatics, or maybe just strength training fanatics in general, love so very much but whine about not having them while wondering how to get them. I have to bring up the dirty word around here first and foremost: genetics. Some people just hit the lottery with their fiber count and attachment points. My sister's fiance is a great example. He can barely find the motivation to hit the weights but he sports a pair of super-high, almost 300-monster-immortal-like upper trap muscle. BASTARD!

So, let's talk about us, less-gifted mortals. I could launch into some sort of anatomy lesson here like I did the last time I posted about the Trap but I'll spare you this. After all, I'm not a doctor, or an accredited anything, so I probably don't have any business lecturing about it. I think I have a practical mind though and when I look at the trapezius muscle and read about its actions that I come up with my own conclusion about what the traps are stuck on our back to do: they keep our shoulder blades in their proper place, relative to the spine. Sure, they assist in the rotation of the shoulder blades and they also shrug them but those are minor roles. The former is the action that we need to intitiat in our training.

Another, lesser-known fact about the traps is that they're made of more, slower twitch fibers. After all, keeping the shoulder blades in their proper place is a full-time job, not a fast-strong burst action. So, to make them strong, we probably need sets of reps that keep them working for 30-60 seconds. Both of these ideas explain why farmers walking with weight in the hands works so much better than more isolating shoulder shrugging. If there's a force shoving the shoulder blades downward or upward (overhead pressing or farmers walking), the trap has to kick in to keep those shoulders where they need to be.

These are weighted exercises of course. BW also has something to offer, it's just not as obvious. In my past entry, I noted that pull-ups activate the trap and I gave an isometric exercise as well. Extending the range of handstand push-ups can also call up the trap muscle in a big way. If this isn't feasible, then try doing it with pike push-ups. Either way, just get your head below your hands as much as possible!

Perhaps I should have mentioned this earlier. It's probably more important than the exercises for the trap in the first place: posture! Nothing you do in an hour at the gym will come close to making up for 8 hours a day spent like this:
This would also explain why the better trainers are so adamant about fixing posture problems before looking to make the muscles more powerful.

Like I mentioned above, maybe I have no business talking about any of this. We choose this subculture where our body sells our message. No, I don't have humongous muscles behind my ears but of all of the aches, injuries and pains I've inflcited on myself, my shoulders have remained sound and strong. My trapezius muscle may not be as flashy but they sure as shit get the job done with minimal issues. What more could anyone ask for?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crushing the CoC's

I'm not sure you, or they, need a review of their flagship product by now. The Captains of Crush grippers are pretty well-known to a lot of subculturists. It's not like I need to tell you that they rock or that they're a first-class product. Still, if you come to my blog to see what I've been doing or what I think works or not, then this is what I think about the CoC's.


I have no idea about the history of these style of grippers. Some random memory neuron in my mind recalls seeing one of these from the 1950s. Since a lot of fitness equipment follows the same trajectory into the mainstream, I guess that somewhere along the line, someone took this formerly-awesome gripper and then mass-produced it down to the plastic-handled jobby that my 3 week old son Henry could probably squeeze shut for 5 reps. We went from something that could make a strong grip to something that our girlfriends, terrified of having real muscle, could use to tone their forearms.

So, I never gave much thought to this tool. All it was to me was a junk-style exercise thing that showed up in the sporting goods department at K-mart.

Then, I had a change of heart. I decided to buy the Trainer and the #1 for the plane ride out to Sacramento. I had to get my work stuff and I figured that they might be something I could do when I'm driving back across the fruited plains as well. These things, when you count the shipping, run around $20-$25 each. There isn't much to them. They're an aluminum handle with a steel spring. There isn't much to screw up and make poorly and Ironmind doesn't screw them up. They are very nicely made! As you move up in difficulty, the springs stock increases in diameter. You might not even notice unless you put them side-to-side.

You will when you grip them! This was immediately fun! After burning into my mind that this genre of gripper was garbage, I was taken back. I even went overboard using things. Ironmind recommends using these things two or three times a week, treating this as seriously as any other workout you'd do. That's good advice to heed. By the time I hit Wyoming, my hands were ACHING.

That is the downside of this style of training, I guess. Furthermore, it's good to balance this out with some extension exercises. Ironmind knows how to sell stuff. They include in their instructions a plug for their glorified rubber bands. I prefer some sort of fingertip push-ups.

On the plus side, after I got rid of that new toy enthusiasm and started getting serious about using the CoC, I couldn't believe how well that these work. After two weeks of using these, I tacked on two more reps to my 3.5" thick bar pull-ups and three reps back onto my fingertip HSPU's and OAP's. I haven't had such a quick increase in grip strength since I took up rope climbing.

I started out being able to close the trainer but struggled with the #1. Now, I can close both reasonably easy so I bumped up to the #2. I'm not closing that one yet. I'm stuck at a partial close for time. I'll just enjoy the journey like I'm enjoying the CoC's.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Generation ROT!

40 Horsepower Electric Motor

The repair man and I stood before it in front of my truck. He looked at it nervously, asking me how we were going to get it into my pick-up truck. His face seemed to tighten up in a combination of what looked like equal parts fear and question. As he started to bend over to grab this sucker, I squatted down and rapidly scooped it up and gently placed it in my truck.

I lifted a 382 lbs electric motor???

Actually... no. I lifted the Variable Frequency Drive that controls the speed of the motor. For those of you not familiar with a VFD, it's basically a computer that runs Tesla's greatest gift to mankind, and it barely weighs 60 lbs. So, why in the hell was this kid, who has to be about my age, twisting himself up, questioning how the hell two men, supposedly at their physical peak, going to handle such a modest piece of equipment?

Welcome to Generation ROT!

This kid, physically speaking, was a tribute to our epoch of degeneration: Corn Syrup fattened with shoulders and a neck custom-destroyed to make out the slightest detail on any 1080p screen put in front of his face. All around me, I'm watching my peers wreck themselves at a rate that has some predicting my generation will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents in a long time. While we try to figure out how to enjoy the less time we have on earth, we're guaranteed to have a shit-storm of ailments brought on by this eat-shit-don't-do-shit way of life. No wonder everyone's treating 30 like it's old. How many of us 30 year olds are looking at ourselves in the mirror, knowing that our physical peak has gone by when in the back of our head, we know it should still be going on?

Seriously, professional athletes in most sports are at their absolute best between the ages of 27-32. There should be no fucking reason to treat this like the gateway of old age!

Nothing's getting better either. My wife had me watch Jamie Oliver's food revolution. It's downright fucking horrid how little people know, or even care, about what they eat anymore. With all due respect to Oliver's work (which I appreciate very much) if anyone gave a fuck, they'd figure out how to eat right on their own regardless if school taught them to or not. Never before in the history of humankind has more information been available on such a vast scale to even the youngest of our physically-degraded population. If they wanted to know, they'd could figure it out. It's all just a google search away!

Speaking of Google, I did a little experiment, typing in the following words and recording the number of hits. Maybe we can draw some conclusions about what information people most want to know about...

Eating right...39,300,000 results
Strength training: 54,300,000 results
Justin Bieber: 445,000,000 results
Free Porn: 394,000,000 results
Lady GaGa: 549,000,000 results
Selena Gomez: 194,000,000 results
Jersey Shore: 72,500,000 results
OWN: 4,080,000,000 results
Fat and sexy: 162,000,000 results

It's nice to see where our priorities lay...

It seems to me that what we care about most is being indifferent and lazy. People don't want to know and they don't even care that they're rotting on the inside. Hell, I see and hear the healthy and strong mocked as much as their messages are even given half-attention to. When you think about it, the extreme popularity of the plague driven, flesh-rotted zombie makes for a great mascot of generation ROT! This generation has descended into degraded bodies moving around with no sense of direction or control over themselves... they just want to eat!
Some suggest that it's someone else's responsibility to wake up this pile of fatties and make them get into shape. Who exactly is supposed to do that? Maybe our pack-a-day, hen-pecked president who can't seem to stop face-fucking every fast food restaurant he can whenever he's away from Michelle? Or, maybe congress can do something about it. Then again maybe not. It doesn't seem like they know what the gym is supposed to be used for these days, do they?

Is this one too many cheap shots? Well, don't forget, this is the same bunch of clowns who subsidize the very crops that get our peeps fat, gave us that atrocious food pyramid guide to eat "healthy", and say that giving the kiddies chicken nuggets at school is perfectly alright. You know that's a short list too but let's face facts: no government anywhere has shown either the good judgement or the qualifications to feed a fucking sewer rat properly, say nothing about the future generation of degenerates expected to take their place!

If this is ever going to get better, then people need to WANT to do it for themselves... or be forced into it by necessity. That first option is hard but I can guarantee that the second one will suck even more. I don't expect one, angry blog rant to make any difference but at least I got this off of my chest. For now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Joining the Strength Training Mainstream?

I've always stated in the past that I don't have anything against weights except that they cost money and they're not easy (sometimes impossible) travel with. I've picked up on Kettlebells in the past two years since they're reasonably easy to throw behind the seat of pick-up trucks. Those I deemed them worth investing some money. On the other hand, I refused to buy a barbell set-up. Even those are a major stretch to drag in a pick-up truck. So, I held off buying that. I won't deny that there was an anti-establishment slant that factored into that decision too. Still, it was bulky and not easy to travel with. That was the major problem with them. If it's going to sit at home, where I'm rarely at, then why make the investment?

Then again, if you don't have to BUY a barbell, the plates and a squat rack, then it's suddenly a good investment, right?

Well, that's what transpired before Henry showed up. My aunt and uncle had a squat rack along with the usual 300 lbs Olympic barbell+plates set-up that they weren't using anymore so they ended up giving it to me. I've got a nice family, don't I?

Now that I've started training with a barbell, I've got a lot to experiment with and reflect upon. Since commencing barbell battles, I'm less apt to skip over much of what people write about them. I find a lot of oddities though. The barbell is consistently held up as the gold standard of getting strong, the best way of getting strong.

I heard a good one the other day...
kettlebells are great for people too weak to lift real weights
Steve Pulcinella
While reading an old Pavel book while on the toilet, I came across this one...
The more I do with kettlebells, the more I think of abandoning every other form of training. The workouts simultaneously train everything... there is a great deal of truth to the axiom that all training is a matter of trade-offs, but if anything out there threatens that wisdom, it's got to be KB's."

Rob Lawrence
I guess we can add these senseless statements to the list of best hits like weight training will bust up joints, make you muscle-bound and inflexible. Or that BW is good for endurance only, incapable of building any REAL strength?

Seriously, has anyone considered how they use the tools that they train with makes more of a difference rather than the tools themselves? Most people train KB's and BW in high reps. That's not the only way to use them though. There's things that can be done in low reps that are so ridiculously hard that they couldn't help but not build max strength on planets Bodyweight and Kettlebell. On the flip side of that equation, things like my 100 rep, 1/2 BW squat challenge was definitely more of an endurance builder than it was a max lift enhancer. To top this all off, try doing a windmill without a weight. This is actually harder! The weight helps you get down there. So, you could call the windmill an instance where weights help you increase flexibility! This is far from the only instance.

That's just one part of why I've got no real burning urge to join anything resembling a fitness mainstream. Too often a materialistic urge, whipped along by clever marketing shit, molds people's outlook on how to get in shape. The tools alone don't make the strength. What you decide to do with what you've elected to work with is what's going to get the job done. This varies from one method of training to the next. As far as I'm concerned, one doesn't have a dramatic edge either.

Off-topic a bit... someone asked me a while ago about my max deadlift. Unable to provide an answer since I had no barbell to deadlift, I figured it out after writing this. I guess I, like most other junkies, had to know. I stopped at 345 lbs since I was indoors with no bumper plates or proper flooring. Funny, this was my first BB-DL attempt!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Do you ever get a little irritated with some of your favorite bloggers when they go way too long without posting anything? I certainly get that way with Sally, Chip, and Jamie when nothing new shows up for weeks at a time.

If you get that way with me, please have some patience. I'm learning to be patient. After all, I my wife just gave birth to our first child: Henry Emilo...

He's already showing positive signs of being a natural-born athlete! He's got a really strong heartbeat that never dropped below 130 bpm during birth. An hour after birth, he was already holding his head up a little on his own Plus, when he's awake, he never stops moving! He can already use his legs to push himself around in his stroller!

I might reduce my self-imposed workload at my blog a little but keep in touch. I will be posting new stuff in the near future!