Wednesday, March 30, 2011
A lot of my readers come from Facebook. If you're one of them, then you know that I just turned 30 a month and a half ago. Most people tend to divide time into eras that don't really seem to exist except in retrospect. How much did music really change from December 1989 to February 1990? How different was bodybuilding from 1960 to 1965? The reason I bring this all up is that somehow, in the span of one, simple day, to most people, I became OLD! Now, many of my FB updates talking about some of my screw-ups or down days are lumped into the, "you're getting old," category.
I can't imagine what 40 will be like.
Out of curiosity, I've asked random people (that I know and don't know, usually around my age) at what age do we become old. I was kind of surprised by the results of my wandering, informal poll. I've heard ages as low as 21 as the drop-off point of old age. It almost seems like we've backpeddled to the 1800's where you were married in your teens because you'd probably be dead by 45. I don't see or fell any difference from my 20's to my 30's, even if I'm just a month into it. I barely have any wrinkles, I can't really grow facial hair, I get carded for alcohol, and most people still guess that I'm 23 when I ask.
Physically, I don't feel that that much different. Were I to think about it, I'd say that my best year, so far, was 2007 (26 years old). I managed to successfully bulk up over 157 lbs and stay above (going as high as 187) and I brought my pull-up numbers comfortably above 20 (depending on what kind I do). That was followed by possibly my worst two, 27 and 28. 2010 was an awesome year and so far, I see no reason to think that 30 will be any different. In other words, I don't see any age-induced drop-off of strength.
Generally, inanimate objects' strength is defined as their ability to resist more than something alive. Getting old implies that a sense of degeneration and decay set in. So, as we get old we become more aware that we're starting to break down and weaken. That might be the defining line to getting old. I'm sure that seeing newer, younger model of humans only help to drive the point of that dagger into the chest and twist it a few times, for good measure.
If that's all true, then I take issue with the notion that numerical age is the indication of old age. Believing that we're old just because we've racked up a certain amount of years implies that we have no control over the loss of ability and toughness. Yes, we can't control the fact that the body declines with age but that doesn't mean that it can't be slowed down considerably. Maybe, just maybe, it can be slowed down far more than a lot of us even think possible. Dave Draper, age sixty...what difference does it make? He's over 60 and he's got that much muscle!
When told yet again that thirty is old on Facebook I quipped that everyone else can get old but I choose not to. Yes, a certain amount of aging inevitable but it's a hell of a lot less than most people think and I'm not going to sit back and let time do it's damage.
Monday, March 28, 2011
It's where, as many of us call it, "the underground" communicate.I don't know if we're a cohesive movement yet but what I'm referring to are a bunch of us strength trainers who look at the state of things in our subculture and realize that there's a lot wrong with strength training. Too many gyms have become too sterile, over-mechanized, and fluffy (As BT'er Amanda calls them). The training protocols are too narrow or closed-minded around their particular cultish strength following of partially. To top it off, they're followed mindlessly by unfocused and undisciplined dopes. So, there's a few of us here and there, looking for a more independent approach to strength training and more serious, less pretenous places to train in. Underground. Minority. Kind of one and the same thing. We're pretty scattered around. On the upside, we have the internet to stay in touch. On the downside, it's still the internet. The faceless internet. So, you can say whatever you want and be everything you want to be... or at least pretend you are. Flame away and sculpt a story that you're God's gift to training... like we won't see through you! Fuck it, it's the internet, right? So, somewhere in the book of being phony-awesome, it's written that puffing thyself up must entail making everyone else's stuff look not nearly as hard. On my 100 rep-1/2 BW Squat goal...
100 squats with 1/2 bodyweight doesnt seem all that to me.... anyone else think that?
They probably didn't. I know what I think: I think you should try 100 reps, BW-only first! That's not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do (except to the more hardcore, High-rep BW junkies). It wouldn't surprise me if said dip-shit has even done that menial piece of physical training, say nothing of tacking on an extra 70-100 lbs (or, in this person's case, more like 50 lbs)When you choose to be an asshole, you'll have an idea of what to criticize so as to not look like an IGNORANT asshole too!
The mark of the "never-been." Then, every once in a while there's the has-been that shows up...
OOOOOH, I must have hit a nerve, little Justine is foaming at the mouth ....Actually no, I'm your height or a little bit taller plus approx 85-90 pounds, didn't you say you were 175 ?...That's what I weighed when I got out of High School and didn't have anywhere near the development that I have now. Regardless of what you blather about in your holy 'Blog', your knowledge in this stuff is VERY limited, so don't be angry that at age (near) 47 I'm still waaaaay bigger than you, with a ton more muscle, can still eat and drink basically anything that ... Not too bad for a guy my age that couldn't give a rats ass about looking like some "in shape" poofter Go back and look again. Could you imagine if I actually trained the area and cleaned up my diet a little??? Say, lost about 30 pounds and carved it all up with some 'contest' type training?...I'd still weigh 50 pounds MORE than you ...
Actually, I don't want to imagine. Who the fuck cares about what what anyone was when they were teenagers or what they could look like if they actually had, um, I don't know... DISCIPLINE? No doubt about it, when it comes to the bulk thing, I didn't win the genetic lottery like fatso here did. Winning that lottery is much like every other lottery that people win: they piss it all away because they're fucking stupid and unfocused. Blowing the fortunes of this lottery is just as pathetic as blowing any of the other ones. Besides, credibility and respect in this subculture is built more on accomplishing what's deemed unobtainable to you rather than maximizing your blessings. If anything, squandering away your gifts, or not developing them to their fullest, is repugnant!
People like this are wasting valuable time, typing up their worthless bullshit stuff. Time that they could use to actually train enough be as great as they pretend to be. If they actually took just 30 serious minutes of training then, who knows, they might not have to waste those keystrokes and every one's time, pretending to be awesome.
You might have something worthwhile to contribute!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I like the comparison of art and strength training for a lot of reasons. It applies, even demands, a sense of personal expression and some originality. Thinking about it like that, maybe that's why people are so intrigued by the old-timers like Paul Anderson, Arthur Saxon and Joseph Greenstein: they were trail-blazers. They started lifting, or otherwise expressing strength, in ways that were very unique. I find it far more fascinating to see a guy squatting 55 gallon drums of dirt while standing in a hole that it came from than seeing which McStrength athlete just deadpress-squatted 5,000 lbs.
As you can see, it also gets the chicks too!
Asshole-blogger Jamie Lewis as the inspiration behind me writing this post, especially when he threw this quote up from Fritz Perls: "I am not in this world to live up to other people's expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine." So, why do too many people go out to the gym, or their respective place of muscle-worship, trying to be like someone else, taking their goals as their own? Real training is about fusing the body and spirit with intense, severe movements. Your soul and your body combined are as different from the next person are as snowflakes falling from the sky. How could the same, exact exercise glue even begin to work the same? Why do we wonder how people can quit on their goals so easily when they get to a certain point? It's the body-soul equivalent of putting aluminum foil in place of a fuse! Stop looking, wishing, and wanting to be something that you're not and find a set of goals that moves you. Optimize yourself and quit molding your routine to make you like someone else. Find things that few, if any, dare to try. Most of all, do it for yourself. Don't turn the whole experience into a repetitive game of follow the leader. ...This might seem hypocritical coming from a guy who took up a challenge named after a famous bodybuilder but like I said, there's not a whole lot left to innovate and in a world dry of originality. It doesn't take much to stand apart. My 100-rep, 1/2 BW squat set (Steve Reeves challenge) is moving along quite well. I'm down to three sets, two-25 rep sets and one-50 rep set. I decided to give myself a break and switch to back-squatting half my BW (which would be about 87 lbs) rather than front-squat it. It's a bit easier on the shoulders but still plenty difficult to blow me away as a finisher.
My more-original 3" rope climb is on the shelf. Actually, it's in the truck, in Sacramento. I won't get it back until mid-April. In the meantime, I'm just plugging away on the grip training stuff. HARD! I don't do a pull-up or a chin-up that doesn't require me to grip anything less than 2" thick. I even cooked up a single-hand deadlift with my sandbag that's pretty fun. My fingers told me that trying to grip the bag was a bad idea so after some trial-and-error, I found a good fit for me: I attach a softball to my sandbag with an eye-bolt and a carabiner. Five reps on each hand make me happy, in a hard way!
You've been reading long enough now. Go find something cool and different to make yourself sweat!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
So, what do I do?
Okay, this is all build-up. I've done sandbag get up work for quite a while before I bought my latest bag. I've modified my form a few times. Actually, I took the words of a semi-wise man to heart and not gotten terribly stuck on the form of the get-up. Why complicate things? Put a weight in your hand(s) and get up. So, after screwing around with this a little, keeping in mind the low ceiling thing, I came up with my way to do them and to the best of my knowledge, HIGHLY UNIQUE
No, really! I liked it enough to share here.
I start out with the bag laying on me, half of the weight on my stomach, the other half over my shoulder (don't get too fussy and precise here) . I wrap an arm around the bag and hug it close to my body. Like this...
Here's part of that fun: hug that fucker close tight enough so none of the sand can slide down to the bottom of the bag. Now, start getting up. Chances are, you'll need to thrust the hips upward to get up.
When I get up, I try to stand up STRAIGHT. Sometimes I do, sometimes I get tired...
Now, I may have sounded like a form nazi with bag placement when I got started but this is where I gets fun. If you squeezed hard enough and got up smoothly, then that sand is still over the shoulder. Good bicep work isn't it? Now, as you reverse and lay back down, that weight is going to sit on the neck. So, you'll have to keep the neck really stiff to hold it in place. When you lay down, chances are you'll eventually be breathing hard and that other half of the sand on your stomach is going to get heavy as you try to breathe. It's just more incentive to get your ass moving.
That's the way that I like to do get-ups with the sandbag. Like I said earlier, there's no wrong or right way. This just happens to be my way. Don't ever get stuck on specifics. Find a way to work around and get a good workout!
Monday, March 14, 2011
So, here goes another edition of shooting my mouth off...
-I'm sick of hearing about "Soviet Training Secrets!" You want to really know what their secret for making some of the most powerful humans alive? They looted the most, and the most useful, steroid information from the Germans in the aftermath of WWII. That's it! It sure as hell wasn't Kettlebells!
-Speaking of Kettlebells, here I am at one of the Bodytribe Kettlebell workshops...That's a shitty smile because it's fake. Holding this thing in a rack position was really, fucking uncomfortable. The handle's too damn short! Were KB handles always this short or are they getting that way so you can do more reps? If so, I take this as yet another sign that kettlebells are starting to get hopelessly "gamey" Why swing endlessly five minutes on end? This is the same high-rep bullshit that dogs BW training.
-Find a strength training fanatic blog. Read it often. I don't think that I'm a fanatic, but I find fantatics' writing highly motivating!Fanatic? Possibly... she's still awesome!
-The perception of lack of stature from being short often times gets filed under the reasons that men turn to building muscle. I wonder if women do the same. I've noticed that a lot of the women that I know of who take strength training seriously are pretty short...I think I'm just looking for reasons to post pics of buff women at this point...
-Superfood is bullshit! It's a marketing term. Superfoods don't exist!!!! Look it up... apples and cherries have as much nutritional value as pomegranate and acai! Hello marketing!
-Along the same lines, I'm sick of hearing about plant foods that are "loaded with protein." "PACKED FULL OF PROTEIN!" Compare most of them to 4-6 ounces of chicken or steak. Some will come close. A couple might surpass. Then again, look at the PER (protein efficiency ratio)...
-Anyone who talks about mass-gaining and barely ever mentions diet is utterly ignorant. Eating counts for more than the movements. It's better to screw it up in the gym a little now and then and get it right in the kitchen. Frankly, mass-gain should alway start with what you're eating and not how you're exercising!
-Ever think of training, in part, as preventative maintenance? I think the few that dare to use the term "funk-SHUN-al strength" anymore screw up. Sports and and manual labor have the potential to be abusive on the body. Training ought to strengthen us up not just to do our thing but to withstand the rigors of that thing. Best exercise I found for heavy shoveling work? Ab wheel roll-outs. I never have a sore back from shoveling since I started doing ab wheel roll-outs.
-You can't buy fitness! How many people go out there and buy tons of shit to work out with and the only thing they lose is money and the only thing that they build is a pile of junk in their basement or garage that they never, fucking use? Getting a good workout is as much mental as it is physical so it's not about what you can lay your hands on.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Well, that wasn't the only thing that got me thinking. While probably not planned, it still coincided with an article from Wild Gorillaman. Like Allyson, Gorilla and others, I'm a big fan of the ladies that do real strength training. I don't view it as a man's thing and I'm (just barely) smart enough about training to know that the whole, "heavy weight lifting makes women bulky , manly, and ugly," is the zombie-like myth of the physical culture world: It's a blood-spewing, puss-covered thing that just won't die!
As a quick refresher as to why that's false, I'll spell it out yet again. To get huge muscles, someone has to eat large quantities of the right food along with some very intense strength training. By large quantities, I mean doubling, or even tripling, your caloric intake, most likely into and beyond the 3,000 calorie per day range. FOR. MONTHS. ON .END. Even if a women did that, it's still very hard to reach man-bulk territory without anabolic steroids. So, it's not just a simple matter of picking up a weight that approaches the triple-digit poundage. It's a complete lifestyle overhaul!
So, is that it? Do we just need to tell the scared gym gals that paragraph I just wrote? End of blog entry?
If that was all that there was to it, then I would have ceased typing by now. I see something else going on though. I still see a problem. This is the article that The Ape-Man wrote. The first two paragraphs really deserve repeating:
Today's Update is spite-fueled, and inspired by The Gorilla's trip through the supermarket checkout last night, where he was confronted by a celebrity gossip magazine with a sickening picture of Gwyneth Paltrow in a bikini on the cover. Thirty seconds of Googling didn't dig up the exact picture, but take The Gorilla's word for it, it was substantially ickier than this one from TMZ.The last line may have a touch too much coarseness but it got my wheels turning: how much drug addicts have influenced what is considered attractive in women. Yes, I'm being serious. At the tail-end of the Victorian Period, the ashen-white skin complexion and heavily-dilated pupils were considered highly attractive. That would explain why prostitution was so popular back then: most soiled doves were drug addicts. Things haven't changed too much, unfortunately. We all know that too many models are the products of a champagne and cocaine diet.
Ladies, aside from the fact that no one in the real world that you're trying to impress is attracted to or impressed by such an appearance the reality is that, contrary to what fad trainers like Tracy Anderson who are cashing in on their 15 minutes will tell you, going after that look doesn't require training a certain way or eating a certain diet. If you want to look that way, just have sex in exchange for heroin and don't eat anything at all. That would be cheaper and less time consuming.
If you read Allyson's article thoroughly, you'd have come across a link containing some information that indicated that women would rather too fat than too muscular. Unlike the origins of the waifish look, I don't need to explain how to make a woman fat.So, the problem that I see with all of this is that we (men AND women) still strive for aesthetic standards that discourages women from any kind of meaningful movements. A woman could look drugged-out skinny or cupcake-"curvy", or anything in the middle, as long as they don't look like they are physically capable of doing, well, anything really.
Now, on a day were women worldwide celebrated the notion of equality, that kind of thinking about the feminine physique is troubling. Those of us who sacrifice sweat at the altar of getting strong know that strength is ultimately about ability. We find out that the stronger that we get, the more capable we feel and better off our lives are. It's easy to understand why women 140 or so years ago weren't encouraged to look physically strong: it was a sign that they worked, and that usually wasn't fashionable. Some of the looks contorted and modified the body to the point where they couldn't do much of anything. That was the point! Probably the most disturbing example of I'm talking about above!
In a world were we're supposed to accept that women are capable and able, why do we only find them good looking if they drain themselves of any obvious signs of either?
No, I'm not talking' about women having big biceps and back muscles here. Many of us know that the those aren't really good signs of strength anyway. How about training that gives someone good, strong posture? Or, doing some upper body exercises that get rid of the all-too-common winged scapula? Perhaps even the ability to squat down, below parallel, to pick something (or someone) off the ground without serious effort?
Wait, this is starting to sound like promoting healthy bodies. Maybe there's a reason for that. Maybe that's what we should be doing to begin with here: promoting real strength training for real health for the sake of being able to do real-life movement. Then, after we've got that mastered, maybe we can all learn to appreciate a healthy, strong body and learn to find it desirable, maybe even attractive.
So, I've become a collector of Bodytribe paraphernalia, and for good reason. It's awesome! The first acquisition was, "Lift With Your Head," along with the T-shirt. The T-shirts awesome too. I swear that I'm at least three times more sexy when I wear it (You're still the only one, Melissa!). The take-out girl at Outback in Sacramento seemed to dig it...
The book might not have made me sexier to women that I can't/won't touch but it did something that we all need to do before we go to our prospective places of body worship: THINK! This book really made me think about what I'm doing, why I do it, and how I go about doing it. The first part alone could be it's own book, worth the asking price of $22. This kind of thought provocation shouldn't be missed. The second section deals with the lifts. Some are pretty standard. Others are more elderly, lesser-used, and pretty damn funky. All are well-explained. One thing that I have to give kudos to Chip on is the Bent Press. I've read a lot of descriptions on how to do a bent press. None of them described it with enough clarity for me to feel confident trying it on my own. His does, along with the enough of the right pictures to show how it's done.
The Brutal Recess DVD's are pretty easy to sum up. It's done early on in the production: it's Bodytribe's concept that calls for adding both mobility and a sense of creative playfulness into training. Sure, it does that in the two-set DVD's but to leave it at that is like saying a Mercedes is simply a car. Or Earnest Hemingway is simply a writer. This set is a real rarity: a fitness DVD that's actually fun to watch! The level of training creativity is simply off-the charts! Much of the demonstrations of Brutal Recess are done outdoors in very cool locations with some even cooler music! A good way to describe some of what you'll see would be strength music videos! Don't take this as a way of saying that there isn't some good information here. This has some seriously-solid training information. If you're smart, you'll start doing some of this stuff. NOW! It doesn't take very much of this in your workout(by, not very much, I mean less than a week!) to realize that the Brutal Recess concept will make you a stronger, more physically-capable human being.
Oh, and no mullets spandex, or high tops! Here...
If you're reading this blog on a regular basis, then you probably agree with me that that there are a lot of things that are seriously wrong with our subculture. It's one thing to drone on and on about the problems without providing any good alternatives. That's the beauty of Bodytribe's stuff: They provide their customers with great alternatives to the modern gym culture.
Now, I realize that a significant portion of my readers are from Bodytribe and therefore, they live in California. If you're one of those people and you're complaining about how out-of-control your states' debt is and how expensive things like your water bill are, I have a simple explanation as to why it is that way:
SO I CAN BUY MORE STRENGTH TRAINING STUFF!
I made enough money working in California for two months that I was able to buy that Alpha-Strong sandbag I mentioned a few weeks back as well as two more Ironmaster Kettlebell handle and another 128 lbs of weights along with the pins to use them. I haven't been shy about confessing my love for their Kettlebells and the love affair continues. The KB handle starts out at 22.5 lbs. The first weight set brings it up to 57.5 lbs, the second 80 lbs and the final (special order) brings it up to 103 lbs. After playing around with other KB's, I really began to appreciate the the Ironmaster's adjustability even more. Most solid KB's graduate upwards in roughly 5-7 lbs increments, until you get to 53. Then, it abruptly jumps to 70 lbs. With a lot of exercises, it's a pretty big difference.
That's where the Ironmaster really shines. It's allows a far more gradual ascent. I can strict press two-53 lbs pretty easily. 70 lbs is a bit too much (although I can do it). 62 lbs is just right!
Any downsides that I've discovered? Well, kind of. The upside to these KB's is that they're adjustable. The downside is they're adjustable. Anything with moving parts requires some work. After traveling in back of a truck, they do get some dirt in the mechanism. Every once in a while I have to take an old toothbrush and some WD-40 and clean it out or the screw won't tighten properly. That's minor though.
.and these KB's are awesome!
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ironically, we look back to the tail-end of the Victorian era for sources of training information. This was the dawn of weight training in the Western world. Most of us who read training manuals from that era know what most enduring image of strength is...
Arthur Saxon's Two-Hands Anyhow lift(herein known as THA). He set a record of doing a 448 lbs THA at a bodyweight of about 210 lbs. Back in 1900, this was probably the most common challenge to prove your strength. For those of you who don't know what this entailed, it was pretty simple: get as much weight in both hands overhead as possible. The most common way to do this was to bent press a barbell overhead. At the bottom of the bent press, the lifter would grab a kettlebell and curl, or clean, and press the kettlebell overhead, completing the THA. It's a crying-ass shame that this series of lifts got dumped in the trash can of history back in the 1930's, along with prohibition and corsets.
The latter were bad ideas from their inception. The bent press is as good as it ever was. I know because after I picked up my second kettlebell set-up from Ironmaster, I've been playing around with this more and more. It's so much fun because there really isn't anything else out there quite like it. It's all about slow, steady control the whole time that you perform it. Nothing can be rushed. Everything must be smooth. It's almost like ballet... with iron and sweat.
It's also murder on just about every muscle that you've got. This is definitely a full-body experience!
I just started doing this very recently so my level of expertise isn't any more grand than the 130 lbs of weight that I'm putting overhead. I started with a 75 lbs kettlebell (At the first draft of this article, I was using two KB's. Currently, I'm using a sandbag and kettlebell combination since I left one KB back in CA) cleaning it up to a rack position. Once I've done that, I bent press it, reaching down to grab a 55 lbs kettlebell waiting near my foot. That's really important: make sure you put the weight near the inside of your foot. You don't want to be searching around with that much weight above your head, unless you like testing your Lat-tension!
Low ceiling. Sucks!
Anyway, I've done both curling the second kettlebell and cleaning it before pressing overhead. I think that both have their advantages and disadvantages. Curling feels a little smoother with the first, heavier weight overhead, but it definitely is harder to get up to a racked position. It's far easier to clean it there but like I said, that makes it harder to control the big guy overhead! Experiment: do it both ways. Just for fun, I like to throw in a windmill action to put one of the weights down too.
I'd like it if someone, somewhere, would start throwing this back into a lifting competitions again. Some ideas are too good to forget in the sands of time. In the meantime, try this one out sometime. We may not be able to achieve Arthur Saxon-like poundages but there's still lots of good work to be had in this old lift.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
However, I'm going to do just that!
I thought of something a while ago. Something that I've never seen, heard or even remotely alluded to ever with strength training. It happened as I read through John Jesse's book, "Encyclopedia of Wrestling and Physical Conditioning." I saw exercises for, among other things, rings and chest expanders. Then, it hit me: what if these two had a baby? What would it look like?
Well, it might look like this...
I'm getting to the point in my training where I can spread my rings out quite a ways apart and still knock out 15 dips without much of a problem. That's usually my cue to look for ways to increase the difficulty. The ring dips (or any other suspension rig) make the dip much harder for several reasons, chiefly the extra work that the pectoralis majors have to do. A quick run down of of the action of the Pec-major...
...has four actions which are primarily responsible for movement of the shoulder joint. The first action is flexion of the humerus[upper arm bone], as in throwing a ball side-arm, and in lifting a child. Secondly, it adducts[moving towards the center line] the humerus, as when flapping the arms. Thirdly, it rotates the humerus medially[rotation towards the mid-line of the body], as occurs when arm-wrestling. Finally it aids in deep inspiration, as in taking a deep breath before jumping in a pool. The pectoralis major is also responsible for keeping the arm attached to the trunk of the body.
Fixed bar dips don't require the pec-major muscle to keep adducting the arm bone nearly as much as the suspension trainer will since they don't move. By adding the spring into the suspension trainer, the spring pulls the arms away from the center line. Now, the pecs have to work harder still. I've tried these a few times and they cut my reps down by a third! More specifically, I struggled (and sometimes failed) to get 10 reps on this set-up.
The key to making these work properly is the placement of the rig. They have to be farther than shoulder-width apart. If they're not, then the weight of the body compresses the springs and there is no pulling-away action for the pecs to resist. Another important key is to find a very strong, extension-type spring. After some searching I found these springs at Lowes (I saw them at Home Depot as well) used for porch swings. They're rated for 300 lbs. If they're too light, then your BW will simply stretch the spring without offering resistance. To sweeten the deal, these springs only cost about $10.00, well worth the investment as far as I'm concerned.
I haven't tried this out yet with push-ups but I'm sure that they'll also make push-ups a lot harder too.
I thought I'd pass this along in case anyone out there is looking for a cheap way to make pushing exercises on suspension gear harder.