Monday, October 17, 2011

Grip Crazy!

Generally speaking, lifting straps make as much sense to me as thumbless pull-ups: they don't. Yeah, I'm aware that there are beginners with weak hands or trainees compromised hands out there. I've been one of those on a rare occasion when I forgot that my thumbs go forwards only and not backwards. Sometimes, there's a need to make things easy on the hands.

Then we see people who we know could use their full grip- but don't. I don't get deprioritization of the grip. Maybe it's a part of the gaps in strength training. There's a gap that exists between the look of being strong and actually being strong. There's another gap where strength is defined by game and strength to finish real work. Two gaps, like the holes in the middle of whatever you're grabbing without your damn thumb! Strength, perceived and demonstrated, comes from the hard shit that we grab and how well we manipulate it when it's in our hands.

Maybe that standpoint has something to do with my heritage. Living in Northern Vermont and having a healthy dose of French-Canadian descent, I've got a great deal of respect for the old-time strongmen of the turn of the 20th century. Quebec was quite the hotbed of that time, producing some very notable strongmen.
The most obvious, big-daddy of all Quebec Strongmen: Louis Cyr!

It kind of makes sense if you live in the area. If you hang out on the east side of Vermont, you'll see logs constantly heading south from Quebec. If you enter Quebec from North-Western Vermont, you'll note that most of the old houses are made out of field stones. Those stones didn't move themselves any more than the trees cut themselves down 130 years ago. It was a harsh land of hard work that made powerful men.

The kind of work that you don't get done with half of a grip!
Were I to pick a favorite French-Canadian strongman of yore, I'd have to go with Arthur Dandurand. If forearm power is your thing, how could you not be impressed with a guy who had 15.5" forearms on a 5'8", 180 lbs frame? Apparently, the guy put them to good use by pushing a wheel borrow with 4300 pounds 23 feet. That's got to be one of the most uniquely insane feats of strength I've ever heard of!

So, this all means that I'm beginning to morph into something of a grip strength junkie. I consider it an affront to both my reputation as a strong man and my strongmen-laden ancestry to not be. With few exceptions, I look at nearly everything I do and wonder if I can use it to enhance my grip.

Grip training is really the only thing that I do that comes close to isolation exercising. I started using CoC grippers early April, barely able to close a Number 1. Now, I'm within striking distance of closing the Number 2. Getting closer...

I don't consider doing pull-ups unless they are hell on my grip. Thick bars, towels, lifting straps, uneven "ladders", and most especially using my 3" thick rope.
Yes, I haven't forgotten or disregarded my 3" climbing rope.

It's not too uncommon to see lifting straps used for deadlifts. Not only do I not own them, I look for deadlift variations that require more grip work than usual. My latest favorite has been the Steve Reeves style deadlift. More on that later.FYI, I do use my thumb on these.

I'm sure that a few of my readers are new to my blog, finding out about me from Paul Wade's newest book, "Convict Conditioning 2." I still use fingertip push-ups on a regular basis. A week doesn't go by without me adding some 5 finger (one hand, 5 finger) and handstand-fingertip push-ups. To add insult to injury, they're usually super-setted with either rope climbing or pull-ups!
This is where one of the pics in CC2 came from!

Maybe the grip is a limiting factor in doing a lot of moves that we do. Maybe I could deadlift more weight and do more pull-ups if I could try to use less grip. Well, I'm not a powerlifter and there's no pull-up rep count contests. As a freelancer strength trainer, I can do whatever I want to do and I choose to make my hands as close to vices as I possibly can.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mermaids or Whales?

The damnest things bounce around Facebook with amazing speed. I swear, I've seen this show up on at least seven friends' status updates. I had advanced warning before this latest round of basura hit my ocular rods and cones. The cookiemonster Christine posted her barrage against this latest piece of fluff that too many are falling for. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, I'm going to subject you to the same piece of unfortunate, incoherent piece of writing that I did. Unlike Christine, I was nice enough to include the picture of the naked french girl that went along with the "story":

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was "This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?"

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

"Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I'd rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn't enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: "How amazing am I ?! "

(The girl on the picture is French model Tara Lynn)

Now, you're up to speed.

This chunk of words struck me as bizarre but it did make me think. Most specifically, it made me think about how poor to non-existent the the amount of thought that goes into body image amongst human beings. Maybe that's a lot to ask on something that most people react emotionally to rather than thinking about. Maybe that's part of the problem.

Maybe it's just coincidental that mermaids were brought up in a gym setting but it is fitting in one respect: mermaids don't exist any more than fitness models exist, or at least as we see them in the pictures. What we see is a tribute to someone's ability to pose, light, airbrush, and photoshop an image for people to chase after.
This isn't here just to show off muscle gals. I'll get to why in a minute...

It seems sadly fitting that many of those people seduced into believing that they can look like those models are running on machinery but going nowhere since they're chasing something that they'll never get. Most of us would agree that the whole senario is a poor and cruel way to shame people into a gym to work out.
Pauline, same woman as above, in real life. I have to hand it to her: she's honest!

As bad as that imagery is, the rest of the story is worse. I came across a fancy term in a book that I read earlier this year that seems to adequately describe that: cognitive dissonance. I'm sure that since you're reading this blog that you agree with me that being fat isn't any good and no amount of fantasizing that your wisdom will accumulate on your hips will ever change that. It's just an elaborate excuse.

Rather than coming up with some bullshit story/excuse, wouldn't the person writing this have better served her readers by challenging them to think about how healthy their bodies are and how well they perform? Now that I have a kid, I think about things differently. It's fun to eat ice cream with kids. It's far more fun to be able to play with them and not be worn out by trying to keep up with them. Playing with my nephew, as much as he wants. Henry's dad is good to go!

Another, very important consideration for me is being a good example. Muffin tops and beer guts aren't made of wisdom. They're made out of gluttony and sloth. Neither of these are good traits to pass onto children as normal or okay.
Oh, and while that model is a good looking, bigger woman, let's not kid ourselves. For every Tara Lynn out there, there's at least 50 Rosie O'Donnells and Kathy Bates. Fat rarely looks that good!

Maybe I'm taking this viral garbage too seriously. It really is a pretty stupid glob of words. It would have been too easy to dismiss had it not shown up over and over again on my wall. It's unfortunate when agreements can be made on problems but the solutions to them are so far apart. In the end, there's no good justification for obesity.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Charmed Times!

Ranting dominates lots of blogs. I try fake originality to the best of my ability and so I generally don't try to turn my blog entries into masses of angry words that give people the impression that Pantera enters my earholes too many times a day. Last time I checked, I'm a human living in a bizarre society that I understand but just don't get. I get mad, and I guess rants are inevitable.

We do live in some charmed times. Our consumption habits and our ideas behind their justification are just too rich. They're as overwhelming in the sheer volume of silliness as their justifications are flat-out stupid. My pressure-cooker of a mind needs a release, right about now...

We stopped lots of smoking (tobacco)because it causes cancer. That was a good step... but now we have smoking (marijuana)that HELPS with cancer. To your health?

Somewhere in a natural market near me...and possibly you... you can find cookies and brownies that are good for you, so long as they're vegan and organic. No, wait, they can be good for you if they're gluten free and organic too.

Hey, wait a minute... if we come up with a cookie that's gluten free AND vegan (plus organic), would that mean that we invented a SUPERFOOD? Yeah, like that $5.00 juice in the produce section that's supposed to convince us that drinking juice is the same as eating fruit. Yes, that's the key to being healthy!

That might be a topic of discussion on the next episode of Dr Oz. You know, the guy that said that the top three best foods to have on a deserted island are broccoli, walnuts... AND BEER!

Oh, and exercise may not be good for that whole fat-loss thing. After all, doctors have been telling people to exercise for 50 years (while doctors 50 years before that told our ancestors that exercise would bind up their joints and use up their heartbeats) and we just get fatter and fatter. Besides, exercise makes us hungry, and therefore we eat more. Remember this gem of an article (and my reflection on it)?

Of course, it's not because some expURTS told people in rag-mag's that eating cookies was a good post-recovery snack... Hey, just make sure you get the cookies from one of those "Healthy Vending Machines" full of candies and cookies that must be healthy because they're ORGANIC!
As the steam finishes rolling out of my ears and my fingers begin to stop violently smashing the keyboard, I'm left wondering how we could live in a time where so much information is more available to us than at any other time in human history and we still seem as dumb as ever. It's as though we decided to use our leaps in technology, our discoveries about health, our revelations about diet cherry-picked the data that would give us the best ammunition to excuse our obviously bad consumption habits.

Organic methods of food production are groovy. Vegan is leaps and bounds better than the common Western diet. Gluten-free helps a lot of people regain their health. They all have their limits though and if it what you're eating would be considered junk food before getting the organic-vegan-deglutenated treatment, then chances are it's STILL junk food afterwards.

I really think that after you read this fine piece of writing, you should devote 20-30 minutes of research into the liver. Next to the brain, it's probably the most impressive organ in your body. Yes, some alcoholic beverages have some health benefits but most of them are heavily washed out by the damage that they do to this, most special organ.

If you have any doubt about how healthy alcohol, or any other food item that you eat is really good for you or not, I have the perfect way to find out. First, consume the item in question. Next, wait one or two hours. Then, pick your favorite above-average level of difficulty workout. If you feel like shit midway through, you shouldn't have ate the questionable food-like item to begin with. Training is the ultimate form of figuring out what does and doesn't belong in your body.

Finally, could we please, PLEASE...PLEASE!!!!!... start showing even an inkling of good sense about recreational drug use? Most of the Western World has been locked in a 130 year cycle of dumb-ass when it comes to them. It all began when a young Sigmund Freud thought he could cure his ailing friend, Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow, of his chronic pain and crippling morphine addiction with a new and safe drug: Cocaine. Care to guess how that turn out?Ever since then, the same history has repeated itself. We find a drug, abuse it, find a new drug that's considered safe (even declare it healthy) and we find out that it's just as bad (or worse) than the last popular drug that the previous generation ditched.

Seen in this light, doesn't the whole, "tobacco smoking is bad but marijuana smoking is good," look repetitively stupid?

Let's not confuse me as a 1000.1625% clean-living-all-the-time guy here. I like cigars, wine, whiskey, ice cream, etc and lots of other stuff that's not good for me. I'm just not here trying to explain away the fact that they are bad for me with the latest health and fitness buzz words and concepts. These are REALLY good though!

I know that the more of them I consume, the worse my health will get. I'm just tired of this film of willful ignorance that our culture keeps stretching over all of this stuff. I'm tired of the pretending and the sooner it stops, the less my blood pressure will spike for such foolish reasoning.