Monday, December 3, 2012

Learning Alone in the Internet Jungle

I recall several years ago when I used to post pretty regularly on's forum, I got challenged by a guy named Andy Patterson (aka:  The Fucker) to a conditioning challenge called Demolition Day.  That particular year's challenge was called the Magic 200.  It was pretty simple:  Take Ross Enemait's Magic 50 workout and multiply it by four.  Not one to back down from a challenge from a guy who sports the goofiest chrome dome that I've ever seen on all internets, I took him up on it. 

There was just one problem:  I had never done a one-armed snatch.  I didn't know how. 

A quick internet search led me to another, fellow blogger acquaintance, Sally Moss.  She had a great description of how to do this movement.  It's still there, along with a bunch of other good tutorials. 

I'll be the first to admit it:  learning movements off the internet sucks.  It's not easy to find people who know what they're doing and can show it to you it ways that you can understand.  Just try looking up how to bent press.  That's a fucking nightmare right there...and certainly don't go to the abominable (WARNING:  dont' click that link!) to find out.  That move is the epitome of the problem we face when we isolated garage gorillas try to get back to the gold old days of strength training. 

It can be done though.  I paid close attention, practiced and completed the challenge.  Even when I had the opportunity to go to an EXTREME HARDCORE gym where my one-arm snatch was critiqued by someone who knows more than I do about it than I do, I was surprised that there was so little to clean up in the first place. 

Once again, I'm not claiming to be an expert and anyone who dares call me that will be subject to flogging upon my meeting them but I do have my guidelines that I'm about to impart on you on what has helped me learn some of the more loopy and obscure strength stuff out there when I have marginal-to-non-existent contact with the larger gym universe. 
This is the video I most credit for helping me learn how to bent press, BTW

1.  Find Good Material To Learn From
The best teachers are those who can break down movements to the fewest, important directions to get the exercise done right.  Without anyone to be there to critique what you're doing, the fewer things you have to keep in mind the better you'll learn.  Good learning material also has good, if odd, cues to get the move right.  My friend Chip gave one of the most bizarre set of cues for doing a deadlift right not too long ago:  Crush your armpit trolls and squeeze your sphincter.  Strange, but it works.  I'm not kidding...look it up!  I've also noticed that well-known, good teachers who record seminars are often training gold.  I would imagine if you're going to teach a group of people effectively and quickly, you need to be able to refine your directions down to the most basic elements. 

2.  For God's Sake, TAKE IT EASY!
I hope this one is far more obvious than the first tip.  Don't go for the biggest chunk of weight or the hardest variation on the move right from the get-go.  Take things easy.  Very easy.  Take long breaks between attempts.  Shelve the workout musice for now.  Put the movement you're trying to learn at the beginning of your work out, treat it like practice, and don't try to get some of that muscle soreness that we all crave from our work outs.  I started bent pressing with a 35 lbs kettlebell back in Summer, 2010.  I can now bent press a 111 lbs kettlebell.  Patience pays off.  It's not a coincidence that impatience alliterates with injury.  We need to accept the fact that learning alone usually takes longer.  It's the drawback to being a loner. 

3.  Pay Close Attention to Where You're failing
One thing that I try to do when move a bit past the point of practice and more towards working out is I try to pay attention to what my form is when I start and where it is when I finish.  Something's going to be worse than when I started.  Whatever that something is will tell me where I'm weak.  Figuring this out also gives me feedback as to what I need to improve with execution or what I need to strengthen.  

Certainly don't ever miss an opportunity to get "professional" help.  After all, every major book and video that you can dig up on the topic at hand will warn you ahead of time that that what you're about do something that could kill you to death if you're being an idiot so you should find someone way smarter (with lots of acronyms after their name) than you to show you how to do it.   It's still a good idea though.  So, never turn that up.  Otherwise, you're left to your own intelligence, patience and observation powers to learn how to move in strong ways.  It's entirely doable though. 

So, if you have no choice, go and do it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

For The Love of Bent Press III: Two-Hands Anyhow my Bodyweight

A little over a year ago, I started expanding my Ironmaster set by picking up a second handle. The first thing I tried with two kettlebells was doing a two hands anyhow with a 65 lbs and a 55 lbs KB. It was the start of a "lift" that I fell in love with ever since and beginning on that modest incursion into two hands anyhow lifting, the goal that floated around in the back of my mind was to be able to do my bodyweight (175 lbs, or 180, depending on how much ice cream I eat) in this lift.

It's been a slow climb but I can now confidently do 176 lbs (111 lbs on one KB, 65 lbs on the other). Calling this pile of movements a lift is a misnomer since it's actually three or four lifts into one. They all have the same basic core move: bent pressing one weight heavier than the other. What kinds of weights lifted, how the first weight gets to the starting position, how the second weight is lifted, and if how the weights get put down can change. My Two Hands Anyhow looked like this:

1. Clean the 111 lbs 'bell.
2. Bent Press it, grab the second 'bell.
3. Curl it up to a racked position.
4. Press it overhead.
5. Bringing the 65 lb'er down to the ground via partial windmill.
6. Carefully lower the big guy with two hands to the ground.

While I have a natural attraction to the odd when it comes to working out, I learned a lot from this whole excursion into Two Hands Anyhow excellence.

First and foremost, the bent press got rid of any lingering doubt of dropping the first weight. Looking at the bottom of a pack of iron that weighs as much as a petite woman will either force most to get over it or get your skull stoved in. I did. It'll also make you bilk every ounce of strength you have on that side of your body.  I enjoy these kind of do-or-die challenges in my training.   
My right-hand bent press isn't as pretty in video

Second thing that I absolutely had to get better at if I was going to bent press any kettlebell over 85 lbs was cleaning and racking the KB properly. I got into the habit of having a wide stance when I was using a sandbag to bent press. That wide stance played hell with heavier KB's. I just couldn't pop that bitch up enough to get it into a good rack position with my feet so wide. My poor wrist and elbows paid the price. Good, focused practice made permanent and I got that under control.
Not the most fun part of the lift
The biggest carry-over benefit I got from this 15 month journey came from pressing the second weight overhead. When you've already got a skull-crushing quantity of metal in an overhead position, you can only press another 65 lbs one way: THE RIGHT WAY! No leaning forward, backward or to the sides. Otherwise, you risk dropping the first weight. Not fun.
I feel like Arthur Saxon already!
Most people I've seen bent press don't bother to put down the weights. They simply drop them. I opted to partially windmill the second, lighter weight. Windmilling when the bottom hand has a weight actually makes the exercise easier. So, it was good practice to getting the quantity of iron I can windmill up. When I traveling by car, I usually brought only one kettlebell. So, a common practice on those trips was to substitute a bent press/windmill for my Two Hands Anyhow work. I don't think this would have been possible had I not thrown in the windmill move into my Two Hands Anyhow.
So, there's been some practicality to doing this for so long but really, this is just a fun way to lift weights. As long as I've had the equipment, I've done this lift twice a week since pretty regularly since that first stab at the two hands anyhow back in late-January, 2011. It's easily my favorite lift and now that I've maxed out the capacity of my Ironmaster Kettlebells on the bent press, I'm looking forward to trying out bent pressing on a barbell.   

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Letters to Myself

A while ago, Jim Wendler (as always) wrote a very good article for T-Nation:  A Letter To My Younger Self.   It got me thinking about what I'd love to tell myself, relative to training, when I was a teenager.  If you look down the livespill comments, someone asked him what he'd tell his future, old bastard self.  That was kind of interesting too.  So, I figured I'd follow suit, writing two letters to my former and future self...

Dear Young Justin,

First of all, you need to stop being such a procrastinator with your homework, especially the English and literature essays.  Write them on time and stop doing the all-nighter papers.  There's no reason that you need to fail this class three years in a row, GODDAMMIT!  Don't wait 15 years for it to sink in that you write pretty damn good and you might have blown some opportunities just because you were being a lazy, little shit who didn't want to do work in a class you should have fucking aced! 

How do I know this?  Well, because I'm you, 17 years later.  I'm going to tell you a few things that you should be doing to make life a bit easier, more enjoyable, and certainly more fulfilling. 

I know you're looking in a mirror, all 5'8" and 130 lbs of you wondering when you're going to get dad's massive bulk and freakish strength.  I've got some bad news for you:  it's not going to come as naturally to you as it did him.  If you want to look like you should be taken seriously and be strong enough to pound the shit out of someone when they don't, you need to take things into your own hands. 

First, start eating.  A LOT!  Eat a pile of steak, eggs, and nuts to compliment all of that milk you're drinking.  You know that protein powder you're eating instead?  Stop bothering with that.  It's all shit that would have been thrown away had someone not thought to put a steroid junkie on the cover of a container filled with it in the first place. 

In a short time, Mom and Dad are going to get a membership to that fitness club so you can go.  You're going to start doing the machines and running a lot.  Don't bother with either.  They won't help you as much as you want to be helped.  You're going to see a bunch of kids from school you don't like doing stuff with barbells and dumbbells that you're going to want to dismiss because you're such an independent-minded loner.  This time, that's a mistake.  Figure out how to do what they're doing. 

That would be a better start to working out but don't do just this.  You already goof off and do some push-ups and pull-ups.  Keep doing them.  As strong as you get and as many exercises as you try, you'll never regret any of the work you do with these two movements. 

Next, don't stop doing sports just because you got a job.  Keep doing lacrosse.  You have time to work later.  You won't have time for lacrosse when you're an adult.  Also, there's an obscure little school in Burlington teaching this martial art called Brazilian Jui Jitsu.  Start taking classes in that IMMEDIATELY!  Trust me, this will be a life-changing moment for you when you go. 

Also, stop being so awkward with girls.  You might be a skinny fuck but you're still not bad looking and there's actually a few girls that like you that you think you don't have a chance with.  Don't bother With Chandra.  She's nothing but a tease that's using you.  Besides, someday you're going to be even better looking than you could possibly imagine (if you eat big and train hard) and she's going to look like a bloated beach ball. 

I do have to give you some credit:  you don't drink, smoke or do drugs.  Bravo!  Keep it up.  you're going to thank yourself for that later.  You'll also thank yourself for not blowing your money too. 

Above all, don't forget this:  There will a girl you meet online.  Above all, DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH HER!    Yes, she's got big boobs and she's great in bed but just remember the 4 F's of dating:  find her, feel her, fuck her, and forget her. 
This is where she ends up after you're done with her...

Now, to my future self...

Dear Older Justin,

Hi!  Remember me?  I'm you at nearly 32 years old.  You know what made us so awesome?  Right around the time most of our peers were turning 30 the had expended most of their youth on pointless shit, and were bitching and moaning because they were getting old.  Well, they were getting old and they weren't doing a fucking thing about it except doing all the same, stupid shit that they did when they were young and they just accepted that they were going continue getting fat, grey, wrinkly, weak and broken down.

Well, you didn't.  Actually, you cleaned things up even more and got serious about getting more awesome as you got older.  You'd train even after the hardest work days.  You'd insist on finding healthy food no matter how much of a pain in the ass you made of yourself.   You were also curious enough and demanded to know the truth about what the right way to live clean and strong. 

What I'm most concerned with is if you kept all of this up?  Is your fire still lit?  I hope you've remained as stubborn as ever about eating healthy food.  I hope you still have the energy to train hard and effectively as often as possible.  I hope you learned from my mistakes about not getting enough good rest a few years back. 

Most of all, I hope you passed that on to Henry (and any other children you have now).  For all I know, 20 years old is considered middle age now.  Lord knows, that whole notion of 30 being old was ridiculous enough.   I hope you're not pretending you're healthy by taking god-only-knows what kind of hideous drugs they've come up with at this point.  Don't give up like everyone else did, and don't let your kids see you giving up either. 

He didn't.  Don't you either!
Best of luck to both of you,

Justin_P, 31.75 years old. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Below the Bar? What a Shitty Title!

If you're reading this page, I'm guessing that your thoughts about the modern industrial fitness complex are somewhat similar to mine:  they vary between nausea and pyromania.   They have a pile of bizarre ideas that don't do much in the way of getting strong or healthy.  The only thing that they do well is drain your wallet.  Just in case you forgot how stupid they can be and you needed a reminder, The New York Times just recently provided one for you:  Why Women Can't Do Pull-ups.

Somehow managed.  Great Blog, BTW!
We have to state the obvious:  women generally aren't as strong as men.  Men have more muscle, shorter connective tissue, and better levers for doing most things strength-related.  So, the article got that part right.  I do recall something from my couple of months of reading (and re-reading) books on anatomy (pre-baby days, when I had time to read and re-read stuff):  levers are designed to be either powerful or precise.  So, if a body doesn't have the inherent, raw power to pull itself up to the bar, then it's capable of more precise, coordinated manner to generate the force needed. 
In other words, if women, weak men, or tall-big men with poor leverage want to do pull-ups, they need to PRACTICE!   It's completely unknown to me what modified pull-ups, back and biceps exercises that they did in this story to produce the positively lackluster results but I'd venture to guess it wasn't nearly enough pull-up practice and progressions.  I'm certainly at a loss as to what a bunch of muscle-wasting cardio is going to help with. 
Genetic Freak?  Or just persistently smart  about the way she does things?  Either way, a nice and fun person!
Maybe that's what so many good trainers are getting at when they refer to focusing on movements and not muscles.  While most of us think about how great the pull-up is for the lats and the biceps, the fact is that's involving a whole lot more than just two types of human meat to successfully pull off the movement.  Were we to try to construct a routine based on strengthening every muscle doing some work to get over the bar we'd be left with an unwieldy-long workout that wouldn't produce the same results if we had just stuck to doing pull-up progressions. 
I could keep going on and on about how bad this article sucks, provoking ourselves to the point of projectile vomiting and firebombing but let's leave it at this:  it is entirely possible for all us, men and women alike, to do pull-ups with some proficiency.  We just have to stop treating this movement like a muscle-specific strengthener and spend some more time getting to know it better.  We're all going to vary on how fast we accomplish that goal but it's still doable.    

On the other hand, 6'3", 275 lbs with long arms=disadvantage??

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some Shit Deserves to be Extinct, Martin

Despite the piles of crap that have a tendency to accumulate there, I still like reading articles on T-Nation.  The only ones that I truly value to any degree are usually written by Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, and Dan John.  In other words, if they have to post an abbreviation-ridden description of who they are, chances are pretty good that I don't find a whole lot noteworthy in what they're saying.

That rule still held solid when some guy named Martin Rooney posted an article that popped up on my Facebook wall telling me how to train like a man... for the 7th time.  Apparently, training like a man involved using a shitload of furniture and machinery that was only good for one or two lifts and, of course, these are going extinct because of ellipticals, kettlebells, ropes, and spinning classes.

Okay, I like the Roman Chair.  That one should stay put in every gym, as far as I (a blogger who pollutes the  whole gym scene) am concerned.  The rest of the real estate-wasting stuff, well, why is anyone surprised that some machine that was the latest fitness trend 40 years ago got moved out in favor of yet another trendy pile of shiny new junk?

Call me crazy but anything designed to be used for only one or two exercises isn't going to last very long.  Exercises do come and go.  Too many people are going to follow what the latest strength hero who bursts onto the scene does to get his strength.  When someone engineers a gym toy around today's muscle idol, don't be surprised when it fades away with that lunk.  It's a never ending cycle.

Something that can be used for lots of different exercises justifiably both has a better chance and deserves to survive.  Call my crazy but that's the stuff worth populating a gym space with.  Were I to spend my money, my time and my effort on equipment I'd much rather have ropes, kettlebells and suspension straps in my place of muscle and mind.  It worked so well for building big, strong bodies many years before we were convinced that powerful bodies were built like cheap cars with machinery. 

My Thoughts on Lance Armstrong

It must be both rewarding and annoying at the same time that after so many years, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) finally skewered Lance Armstrong for doping in his Tour De France.  After rising above all of the dirty athletes to become the most dominant dirty athlete the TDF has ever known, they still couldn't seem to produce the magical positive test to prove that he was a drug users all along.  Still, they can use their odd power to say that he was.  It seems to me like such a hollow victory. 

Yes, I firmly believe that Lance Armstrong used drugs to produce his record seven straight Tour De France victories.  I have less evidence than the USADA has but since I'm just a puke with a computer and a blog address, I'm not burdened with any particular requirements to prove what I think.  I just have the ability to connect the dots.  Ironically, this isn't too far away from what the USADA has. 

We can all agree that the Tour is a bike race, the most prestigious bike race in the world.  There are other titles it has.  One might be the most obvious example of a doped-to-the-gills sports events there is.  Another title could also be a voluntary foray into a chronic wasting disease without dying...unless you used performance enhancing drugs.  The simple truth about the TDF is that the speed of which the competitors race over such a distance and for the period of time they do it in would kill even the best non-chemically enhanced endurance athletes from muscle destruction alone.  These competitors couldn't possibly do it without drugs.  Their bodies would give out like a cancer or HIV patient.  So, a seven-time winner would have to be doing something to rise above and take the title. 

Another oddity about Lance Armstrong is his height and weight.  When we read that he was 5'9 and 160 lbs at his peak, we don't think anything of it because it's so extra-average for an American Man.  By professional cylists' standards, he might as well be Lou Ferrigno.  Most of these guys on bikes are mighty midgets, most being 5'3"-5'5" and barely over 130 lbs.  The extra size should put him at a disadvantage since most smaller people with less muscle mass to deliver oxygen to should render him in the bottom of the pack rather than a record-breaking run as king.  Something odd was going on...

Going back to alternative titles to give to the Tour, a third title would be the longest-running, doped-up sporting event ever.  Indeed, people have been cheating by taking things to win this race almost as long as the race has existed.  To my knowledge, the earliest use of arsenic as a performance enhancer in sports was used in the Tour back in the early 1900's.  Apparently, before it kills you, it gives your much-beloved, muscle-moving ATP quite a kick into overdrive.

So, taken into account that Lance Armstrong produced unheard of dominance in a race ridden with PED's for nearly as long as the race has existed, it's hard not to reason that he wasn't dirty as the rest of them were.  Perhaps the flagrancy of his dominance and the fact that he couldn't be caught after all of the blood n' piss samples were in after the race was just too much for the powers-that-be to tolerate.   Something had to be done. 

What we can take away from this is that in the world of professional sports, there are few clean miracles left out there.  We shouldn't burden ourselves with dreams of being just like these people unless we're ready to scour the Earth for the best in muscle-enhancing drugs to do get there.  This is just another reminder that these people take bodies that most of us don't done have and fill them with substances we probably (and hopefully) don't want to take.  That's not a path worth going down. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


One of the greatest sins in my book is the disregard, and even contempt, that I see out there for any sort of exercises that are single-limbed in approach.  I know where it comes from too:  you just can't move the same amount of weight with one one limb that you can move with two.  In the world of weights where the most iron moved is the sole measure of value, a unilateral move is just shit. 

I take a different viewpoint.  As I've said before, weight is simply a means to increasing the difficulty of the movement.  If the movement needs a lot of weight to make it hard then isn't the movement itself a little too easy?  A movement that requires less weight to be considered very difficult is actually a more efficient use of the weight available to you. Those of you blessed with piles of iron obviously don't see the value in this.  In a way, you're kind of the strength training version of pampered house pets.  Welcome to the jungle!  Out here, we learn how to make the most of the least.  Unilateral work is the way we can do that. 

Ben Bruno wrote a pretty good article over at T-Nation where he described his year-long experiment with training his lower body, one leg at a time.  Apparently, he did this in response to a back injury.  The single-legged approach was more kind to his back.  I've heard this approach parroted by a couple of sports-based strength trainers.  I can't comment on it since I don't have an injured back and I haven't done a lot of the work he described but he obviously learned how to get some serious leg training within his limitations.  Iron junkies might balk at the notion but it still worked very well. 

This guy seemingly never takes the weighted vest off... allegedly not even for sex. 

My experience with unilateral leg training for the past few months has been pretty simple:  Pistols.  Honestly, I suck at them.  Granted I suck a lot less now than I sucked in January when I admitted to myself that the fact that I look like a fool while attempting these was simply unacceptable to a guy who runs a "bodyweight blog."  Still, I admitted it and I think that's a lot of people's problem with these:  they don't want to admit that they don't do these because they can't do these.  Pistols have a way of telling the mind a story of a trainee who spends too much time sitting down, getting tight and stiff and then spends their precious gym time lying to themselves that there's something wrong with muscles in and around the hips that don't impress girls too much.  So, they ignore them, throwing them into the trash heap of, "they're just a trick".  I decided to take a giant shit on this scenario and get my ass to the grass on one leg. 

When we move to single-limb, upstairs version, we come to one of my favorite ways to train the upper body, as well as another reason why unilateral work is so awesome:  it's a great, great way to strength train under time constraints.  Just simply blast one limb, doing a movement until you're exhausted.  All you've got to do is break long enough to catch your breath (a little) and then do the other side.  It's possible to get a lot of work in a very short period of time training like this. 

Oh, and training on one arm can be brutally difficult!

We began with the wonders of unilateral training's ability to make great training with a limited amount of weight to move.  A deeper exploration reveals that there is a lot of other benefits to this approach to progressive strength training.  They than work around injury to get stronger and expose weaknesses in need of strengthening just as well as they can serve as a means to make what's strong even stronger.  That kind of approach deserves more recognition than it's currently getting.  Don't make the same error of not realizing a good thing when you see it. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Modern" Gyms third world countries

I've got an interesting question for my readers:  how many times to you hear about something pathetically wrong often but never actually see it for yourself?  Then, when you see it, you're still shocked in spite of knowing it was like that all along?  I'm talking about that feeling you get when you hear that third world countries can be real shitholes that make you appreciate what you have but it never really sinks in until you're actually there to see and smell how bad it really sucks.   Wow, it really was true all along!  Learning about it doesn't replace the shock of actually seeing it, does it? 

On a much less serious level, I've had that kind of shock that I still can't get over when I step into the local fitness club to take my son for infant swimming lessons.  I've been to this place before and I know that they're all a sad excuse for a place to get fit.  Up until this point, it's been a long, long time.    I've spent far more of my time tearing through all kinds of weird BW variations, sandbag work, and truck pushing in countless sewer plants, parking lots, hotel rooms, truck stops, farmers fields and my own basement.  So, when I arrive to get my son accustomed to swimming, I pretty much feel like I've landed on Mars.

As I watch the people waddle around in clothing of various levels of... FUCKING-GROSS-TIGHT... It strikes me like a Halloween party.  It's a place where everyone shows up, dresses up like athletes, and play-pretends that they're getting in shape. 
Let's pretend we're punching!  What bullshit!  Punches need to be thrown with extreme violence, even if it's just at the air!

 This isn't a criticism of playing or using a little bit of imagination when training.  I think that the way lots of people train is boring as hell and could use a little creative thought.  Put that into how you get into shape, not into pretending that you're getting there. 

As I continue to try to breathe some artificial respiration into the oxygen-starved brain of the modern fitness industrial complex, I can't understand how so many shaved apes never notice how bad their overall posture sucks.  Considering that most of these places have enough mirrors to start a fun house, and that most of the people going to the gyms spend way too much time walking around naked, I'm struck that they never notice that their bodies are starting to look like the a weeping pine tree.

The people in the cycling classes seem to be the worst culprits, for obvious reasons.  The people who use the weight room aren't far behind. These people are easy to spot:  rounded shoulders, perfect pecs and abs, and skinny legs.  I might be dipping my toes in the dirty pond of broscience but I'm of the opinion that the mark of a good workout should result in you naturally standing and walking with good posture.  Too many people wreck their bodies by sitting slouched over.  That shouldn't be replicated in any place devoted to health. 

Why is it  ALWAYS the people you NEVER want to see naked in the gym the ones you end up seeing?

As my cranial pressure-release valve slowly begins to sputter rather than roar, I now realize that I'm probably telling everyone about things that they already know... and despise.  I appreciate you bearing with me.  If you're not one of those people then I urge you to take a really objective look around your McFitness make-believe health club.  These places have everything backwards.  Instead of doing body/soul-challenging,  interesting and inventive work that gets results, most everyone there is engaged in a bad fantasy world of doing unimaginative, brain-dead motion that doesn't do jack-shit towards moving anyone closer to great health, strength, or even a half-decent looking body.  You've smelled the stink of this pile of trash. 

It's time to move on. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Supersetting Pyramids

Between bouncing around various welfare-ravaged shithole towns in New Hampshire, raising a child, keeping a wife happy, and desperately trying to make more money than I shell out in both work and life I've realized something: 

I haven't posted here in over two months. 

Thank you for hanging around.  As I've darted around the Northeast United States, I've managed to keep some semblance of training going.  Necessity of trying to put together something that satisfies my urge for intense muscle-grinding burn in a unique manner is still alive and well.  Recently, it manifested itself in a quick routine that worked so well that I thought I'd share it with the masses.

I love supersetting with the upper body.  I've made that clear in the past.  I've a few other ways to organize a workout in the past, including pyramids.  I didn't like those so much.  I know it's not right but I feel like excessive rest when training is procrastinating.  Then, it hit me:  why not combine supersetting with pyramids? 

So, here's my idea:  I picked an upper body push and an upper body pull exercise and do a superset, adding a rep to each new set until I got to the point where I couldn't add another rep of either the push or the pull.  Then, I just worked my way back down.  Since I didn't have much time to work out, I selected Diamond Handstand Push-ups and Thick-bar, Close-Grip Chin-ups, knowing that the rep count on these two wouldn't go very high. 

I managed to get to 8 reps before my triceps just couldn't grind anymore. 

So, that worked out to 64 reps of each movement, 128 reps in roughly 15 minutes.  That certainly qualifies as good work in a limited amount of time in my book! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

You Keep Asking. Here it is: How I put together my routine

That kind of puzzles me too.  I'm not sure why people are so interested in how I put together my routines.  I do have a few protocols for putting them together but it's not like I've built revolutionary quantities of muscle mass lately or done amazing things to be picked apart on a Youtube video by the ass-monkey experts using my current programming guidelines.  If you want to know what I do, then get ready to be blown away.  Right.  Now...


Profound and innovative? Pretty much like everything else that gets written out there about strength training.  I do have some things that I keep in mind when I decide how I'm going to put together my routines.  There's probably considerations that we never see in any of the strength sports programming out there that I take very seriously.  I'm sure they're things that you have to cope with too.  Items like time constraints, being able to go work the next day and perform normally.  Having limited, or even no access to a gym or specific equipment.  It's easy to program strength training when you have minimal commitments to anything else but yourself.  With that kind of life, you can afford to mold your life to your training.  For the rest of us, life happens and it's not quite so easy and the training molds more to the rest of our life. With an infant son, my training is, more than ever, all about getting a good workout under a time constraint.  30-40 minutes to myself, when I'm at home, is a luxurious amount of workout time.  I can get more than that...if I'm traveling.  So, then I work with limited equipment issues.   No matter what I do, I do have a labor-intensive job so whatever I do working out can't drain me to the point were I move slow and painfully the next day. 

Monday, Wednesday and Friday are my upper body days.  Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are for the lower regions.  Sunday is my goof-off day and I do whatever I feel like doing.  I try to work out everyday.  It doesn't always happen, but I get a B+ for effort.  As long as I moderate, picking easy and hard days, training every day hasn't been a problem for me.  Things get grey when I try to work out twice a day, every day.  That taxes the amount of recovery I'm capable of with 4-6 hours of sleep. 

When I do my upper body work on Mondays and Fridays, I superset push and pull movements, doing two or three supersets, each one with more volume than the next.  I've found out that my upper body can do a lot in a short period of time without worrying about over-doing it.  That's one thing that I love about supersetting:  less downtime.  You "rest" by switching to another set of muscles to workout.  It really cuts down on the amount of time spent training. On Wednesday, I do only pushing movements.  These I'll do with more of a conventional sets and reps.  No supersetting here since this day usually amounts to a shoulder day.  There aren't too many push movements that don't hit the shoulders.  So, I allow for some extra rest on these. 

Lower body days aren't done with the same kind of mad dash mentality that my upper body days have.  I've done this in the past and spent a day or two limping around with sore muscles as a result.  This isn't fun if you walk several miles or climb ladders all day (both of which I do a lot).  I recall reading somewhere that Tom Platz used to count out the number of steps he'd have to take daily so he could minimize this walking after abusing his legs with his infamous leg training.  Do you have that kind of capability?  Neither do I.  As it so happens, two of my (ongoing) goals are to get better at pistols and be able to do glute ham raises.  This has been much of my leg training, starting with the pistols in low reps and then moving to some GHR work (lately, 5 partials plus 5 eccentric GHR's to a set, one right after another).   I find that when I'm trying to master new movements, it's better to minimize the whole, "most volume in the least time", approch to training.  So lately, these days aren't as rugged on my body.  This is where I kind of wander off the conventional upper/lower split plantation because I also do some Two-Hands Anyhow work after I finish up with the pistols and the GHR. 

Although I'm trying to master these two lower body moves, I've been known to throw in a heavy squat day once a week for a break.  I like doing belt squats, zerchers, and some squat-press with two kettlebells.   Regardless, I don't forget that my legs have muscles in the front, back and sides. 

Sundays are my blank slate.  You might catch me doing all core work, complexes, deadlifting,  or whatever sounds interesting to me at that particular time. 

This summary and outline is meant to be nothing more than my story about how I do what I do to stay strong with some very real world constraints.  I'm still a huge advocate of getting smart enough at training to put together a routine for yourself.   Nobody else's routine is going to take into consideration all of the little idiosyncrasies of my life.  Maybe that's why I find the inquiries about how I do what I do odd.  Still, there's always something to be learned from other people's methods and hopefully you can find a few of my pointers about routine construction useful. 

A slice of my week working out...

Switch Grip Pull-ups, 8 reps
Diamond Handstand Push-up, 8 reps... repeat 4 times

Decline-fingertip push-ups, 25 reps
Sandbag (87 lbs) rows, 25 rep... repeat 4 times

Pistols, 6 sets 5 reps per leg
Hold bottom position of pistols for 15 seconds, twice each leg
GHR work (described above) 4 sets
Two Hands Anyhow, 3 each side

One-arm push-ups, feet < shoulder-width apart, 3 sets 5 reps each arm
Push-ups with sandbag on my back, 4 sets 10 reps
Handstand push-ups 3 sets 15 reps

Thursday .... somehow I got stuck watching the kid while my wife went shopping with her mother and friends.  Forced day off!

Ladder Pull-ups, 8 each side
One arm push-ups on suspension rig 8 each side ...repeat 5 times

Sandbag clean and press 10 reps
sandbag rows, 20 reps... repeat 3 times

Saturday... same as Tuesday

300 lbs deadlifts, 6 sets 6 reps
150 lbs belt squats 8 sets 8 reps
pull-ups, wide grip 10 sets 10 reps

Friday, May 4, 2012

So, what is practical?

A while back, I mentioned that I'd love to get rid of the hideously over-abused adjective, "functional," in relation to any kind of physical training.  I still think that a far better term for the idea that everyone keeps getting at but uses this increasingly stupid term incorrectly is practical.  As far as I'm concerned, that implies that there's some good sense in doing whatever it is  you're doing. 

That last post zeroed in on that dumb-ass Nautilus Lat machine that worked that piece of meat-real estate without using the hands (oh, GREAT IDEA THERE).  Let's back that out a bit and ask ourselves what's practical to do in the gym that has some carry-over to real life?  That's a huge, loaded question that I'll break down into more posts in the future.  For now, I'm going to zero in on something that's crossing my grey matter at the moment:  rep range. 

What goes on in a gym and what goes on outside of it sometimes conflicts with each other more than it should.  Then again, with many people making a living sitting down most of the time, the practicality gap is understandable.  A lot of people don't make a living with physical labor. 

A little while back, we hired a guy who did a few years in jail and, in my experience, demonstrated the typical jail-house look:  massive upper body with modest (at best) lower body development.  When there was something that needed serious, upper body horsepower/max strength, this guy was impressive, so long as you didn't need to do anything with him afterwards.  He was as worthless as having a pair of tits in a gay bar afterwards.  In other words, he had nothing resembling strength endurance. 

Max Strength rules many places of strength as the undisputed best goal to maximize.  That's a little odd considering so much of what we do outside of the gym has little to do with max strength anyway.  I don't see manual labor as a total strength endurance proposition but the best workers are able to keep up something physically difficult for longer than most. 

While the gym might suffer from lack of carry-over into real life, real life has some carry-over into the gym.  Most of your max effort movement-arrangements are things that you might be able to do now but not later.  Today, maybe, but not tomorrow.  You really don't have total ownership of it if you can't readily duplicate it do you?  Isn't there something satisfying about conquering something to the point of being able to do it repetitively?  What's truly impressive is when you can do something really fucking hard over and over again!  As far as I'm concerned, that kind of mastery of an exercise is what's impressive...

...and practical. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sugar Needs to be Regulated Like a Drug?

Does anyone remember that scene in the Exorcist where Father Merrin tells Father that the demon in Reagan was a liar but would also blend lies with the truth. That's a rare detail from a movie that's also too true in real life. The best lies have a few elements of truth to them. The lie serves to make the truth appear to be something that it's not, like When Reagan started talking like Father Karras' dead mother in order to make him break.
Such as it is with the latest pack of manipulative, power-hungry and wanna-be policy making doctors out of San Francisco who starting the latest charge against sugar in the American Diet. The 60 Minutes Clip all about this is showing up frequently on fellow blogger's web sites. In case you missed it, here it is:

I wouldn't even begin to disagree that the amount of sugar in most people's diet is as appalling as it is dangerous. Where I start to get pissed off and call bullshit is the notion that sugar affects the brain much like cocaine does. Since it acts on the brain the same as cocaine, it should therefore be regulated like a drug. This is the lie blended with the truth.

The whole purpose of the sensation of pleasure in the brain is a measuring stick so that the brain can determine the necessity of whatever it's ingesting, sensing or experiencing. Dopamine release is measured by the brain and then based on the level of release, the brain figures out how much it needs what just triggered the release. Since every cell in the body needs sugar to function, it triggers quite a dopamine release in the brain. Makes sense, right?

We don't need cocaine, or any other drug for that matter, to survive. The problem is that all recreational drugs are fooling our brains by triggering huge releases of dopamine. Cocaine actually goes one farther. The brain normally re-absorbs dopamine. Cocaine delays that up-take, therefore increasing the sense of need in the brain. So, it's incorrect to say that sugar behaves like cocaine. It's more accurate to say that cocaine is imitating sugar (and definetly doing it TOO well!).

So, now that you realize that they're heavily distorting the truth, the question is why? Why would they distort a comparison between sugar (which we need, just not in the quantities and level of refinement that' we're getting) and quite possibly natures most perfect recreational drug? The simple answer would be that they want control. You make up and debate amongst yourselves what they want to do with that kind of regulatory power but the fact remains that they're using blow because it's as illegal as a drug gets. The government has gone to insane lengths to control it with marginal opposition from most decent people. Likening sugar to cocaine sounds like a good way to make people not question the regulation.

That, to me, is a powerful statement about what's going on here. What's also laughable about it is that this is the same medical establishment that has been horribly inadequate in determining what people shouldn't be eating to begin with. They do expensive and extensive studies on the effects of refined sugar to find out something that their ancient Nemesis Bernarr MacFadden told people back in the 1910's. He certainly didn't need to put a human in an MRI and feed them soda to prove that high fructose corn syrup royally sucks! They just weren't paying attention because they fucking hated MacFadden's guts!I think that MaFadden is in his 50's in this picture.
The simple fact is that they've based the medical practice in the USA almost solely on being reactive than proactive. It's not hard to find a doctor who can't even tell you what cholestrol does for the body but can prescribe a host of drugs to bring it down.

Ultimately, I think that half-truths make for half-ass results. Going around distorting the truth about sugar won't amount to people reducing their intakes. Most of us know that cocaine and sugar aren't related to one another because they release lots of dopamine any more than a Prius and a Hummer can both be called similar cars because they burn gasoline. This kind of half-baked thinking just cheapens the argument. Yes, the 1/3 lbs-sugar-per-day habit has got to stop but inviting in the same crooks who helped create the problem in the first place and expecting them to solve it isn't a sound strategy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The attitude is a WASTE!

Philosophy isn't something that I've studied much in my life. I confess to know barely enough to say that I have basic, passing knowledge of the subject. After all, I wasn't planning on working at Starbucks so I didn't feel the need to go to college and major in Philosophy. Still, I do recall Aristotle jotting down some notes years ago that virtue is the middle ground between excess and deficiency.

In this subculture of huge personalities performing so regularly on the theater of excess, we get treated to some pretty outlandish behavior with alarming frequency. On any given blog entry, article, forum visit, and even a real life gym-training experience, we're bound to be treated to someone that thinks that their bad attitudes are somehow beneficial to the cause.

The most obvious, and the one that gets on everyone's nerves with predictable consistency, has got to be those arrogant poseurs. They're the one's who don't miss an opportunity to flash their perfect midsection to the camera after doing handstand push-ups, never let their chest hair grow any more than two days without shaving, and never forget to wipe their spray tan off of their fingernails. It's an overwhelming display of arrogance that can cover up any sort of decent information that such people might actually be able to lend.
Actually written as a parody of gym douchbag antics.

Along those lines of cocky displays of perceived awesomeness are those people who go out of their way to make sure you know how hardcore they really are (this was brilliantly written about here). It's slightly less annoying since there isn't so much pageantry and primping.Still, having the eyeballs treated these kinds of loud proclamations of being bad-ass or being within earshot of the paleo-addicts making an effort to talk loud enough to let everyone in the produce section know how paleo they really are wears thinner than most super models.

Meanwhile, the rest of the animals in zoo suffer from some sort of delusion that being the real deal in all things strength means that they have to be so off-the-chart rude that they make an undersexed rhino look genial. We all know that there's more black and white to this thing that we do than most people want to admit. Since when did that give the gym gorillas the cart blanche to be assholes? What does that end up helping?

Frankly, how much does all of this excessive attitude help? I always thought that most of what I'm complaining about here started out as one, minor tool that people did to motivate themselves. When I get look in a mirror, I want to like what I see. I throw up comic book pictures and listen to heavy metal music as a way to stimulate myself. It's all a shout out to me and not anyone else.

Here's a great saying that applies to all of this: greatness doesn't need to explain itself. We know powerful, motivated people when we see them. People who take the time to shout it out probably aren't either.
I just wanted to throw this out there before I close this rant down: How many women even think guy is good looking despite all of his flaunting? All the GTL and the only women he gets laid by are drunk when they're fucking him!

It's all just a waste of precious time and energy that would be far better spent with training.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I hope you're not buying the latest warning about red meat...

Something had to break me out of my blog-posting draught and there's probably nothing better than a bunch of scientists spreading a rumor that you're going to die too soon if you eat a...

In case you missed it, The Harvard School of Public Health released a study warning Americans that their risk of premature death from what kills most Americans these days (heart attack, cancer) goes up 13% if they eat a serving of unprocessed red meat with any regularity. If an processed red meat product touched their tongues, that number pops up to 20%. If making your brain ache and unable to focus from reading scientific jargon is your idea of entertainment, then here you go. I found this nice article on the topic here. Still, I took one for the team, read the abstract, and you bet I've got a reaction to some Massholes telling me that something people have consumed for centuries without such obvious and detrimental effects to human health is going to now kill me 13% faster.

I'm sure most of us here have heard the phrase, "thoughts become things." If there was anything that leaped out of this information, it was these statements:

Men and women with higher intake of red meat were less likely to be physically active and were more likely to be current smokers, to drink alcohol, and to have a higher body mass index (Table 1). In addition, a higher red meat intake was associated with a higher intake of total energy but lower intakes of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

I can't speak for everyone else but this quote paints a very clear mental picture of someone (and I'll bet we all know someone like this) who revels in the fact that they enjoy not taking good care of themselves. In the United States, the best way to brag about how you're not a health nut is to proclaim that you drink, smoke and eat lots of red meat. If people get their rebellion on like this, then what's the point of eating anything resembling a plant?

So, it's not really surprising that there aren't a lot of people who sit down to a slab of steak and a head of steamed broccoli. It's a style of eating that doesn't fit into the, "I don't give a fuck," eating mentality.

After my aching brain's swelling went down from statistical overload, I came to the conclusion that this study didn't really discover that red meat kills you faster. It's a lifestyle that seems to go hand-in-hand with eating red meat that does people in. By fingering red meat as the culprit to heart attack and cancer, western medicine created a banner food for the "enjoying life" crowd to flock to. Rather than point to the lifestyle, the food is becoming the culprit. Their thought of making red meat bad in the minds of people became too many people's reality.

I don't buy that red meat is bad for humans and I never will. I have an issue with doctors, nutritionists, and other "experts" telling me that something humans have consumed for Milena without the rash of heart attacks that we see today is the source of premature dirt-napping. Some evidence exists that cancer barely even exist until 200-300 years ago. Linking consumption of red meat that's gone back farther than our current cancer and heart attack epidemic just defies any good sense.

I would stretch that to many processed meats as well. If you note in the links I provided, among the processed meats named were salami and bologna. If my memory serves me correctly, these are Italian in origin. Therefore, couldn't these be described as part of the vaunted heart-healthy "Mediterranean Diet?" That becomes kind of hard to explain away, doesn't it?

These kinds of studies do prove one thing: studies can be made to say just about anything with the right crafting. Either this one had an agenda before it commencement or those who conducted it are unable to figure out the problem when it's staring at them.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

If you're cheating, you're not trying

I heard an interesting, pseudoscentific term a week ago: Blue Monday Using a mathematical equation, someone figured out a way to determine the most miserable day of the year. Certainly January 16, 2012 was a really shitty day for me. Part of this calculation is the elapsed time after failing to meet New Years Resolutions.

You mean, like trying to lose weight? Around this time of year, questions start flying about when it's permissible to eat "cheat meals". The good intentions allegedly reaches it's end with the Super Bowl. It's been alleged that the junk food tradition accompanying the game is a conspiracy to permanently break the most popular New Years Resolution, keeping everyone fat.

So, what do I think about cheat meals?

This topic is getting as stale as asking about the best workout music. The problem is that people turn it into a question of cheating or not cheating. Then, once if becomes affirmed, then it's when and how often. I yawn just thinking about it.

This is actually simpler math than the Blue Monday calculation: addition and subtraction. What should we add? Well, we're going to add junk food. Have you ever considered that there are junk foods that should never be eaten? There's a huge difference between a cheeseburger from here and this...

I've done my best to make a policy of not eating things that contain ingredients that I can't pronounce or identify. When I make a pizza for dinner, I can tell you what's in the crust, the sauce, and even the bacon(yes, I make my own bacon. Pancetta, technically). I can usually drive to the farm where the cheese was made. That's a far cry from pizza like this...I'm too lazy to do a Google search. Can someone tell me what Sodium, that stuff.

So, when we add pizza, cheeseburgers, and similar unhealthy fare to our diets on our designated special days, does that mean that we absolutely have to subtract everything resembling healthy food from our diet for the day as well? Is it a crime against humanity to have a salad with the pizza? Could you bring yourself to throw some diced jalapenos (which have more Vitamin C, by weight, than oranges.) and serve the whole thing on a whole wheat bun? Last time I checked, this was all permissible.

Let's cut the bullshit though. If you did resolve to lose some weight and you're already asking about when you can cheat, you're just setting yourself up for a failure. I could spout off about tips to eat better but the reality is that you need to get stubborn with yourself. Those of us committed to keeping a healthy weight get urges like the rest of humanity. We're just disciplined enough to fight off enough of them to stay healthy. At this point, don't even fucking think about when you can cheat and eat if your resolution is to lean out. You might have to skip the wings at Super Bowl but you'll feel, and look, better for it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Replace Functional. Right idea, wrong word

If you wandered over here from my Facebook page, then you know that I enthusiastically bought "Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors vol II" as soon as I heard it was available for sale. It's been an oddly enthralling read. I've never been interested in bodybuilding but I've deeply enjoyed reading all of the goings-on in the transitional 1970's. Those years are the nearly-sole focus of this 700-plus page book.

You can't talk about those years without bringing up Arthur Jones. The Nautilus story takes up a significant chunk of the book. So, as I was reading about this "sport" that I don't have much interest in during years I wasn't born, I came across a part about how Arthur Jones lamented that his lats were too small. As he saw it, the problem was his hands were holding back his quest to get his Lattisimus Dorsi bigger. So, he set out to make a machine to take his hands out of the equation.

He felt as though he succeeded wildly, proudly proclaiming in all his brashness that he could put "lats on a rake" ... all that was necessary was a machine to take the hands out of the process.

That kind of thinking leaves me with one though...

Maybe, in addition to being a borderline maniac, Arthur Jones was an engineering genius. I run into that all of the time with work. There's lots of civil engineers that are really smart... and impractical as the day is long.

A while back when I decided to start reading about human anatomy, a very common way to describe the Lats was, "the climbing muscle," due to how heavily we all use the lat when we climb shit. So, riddle me this: how on earth do you climb anything if you don't use your hands? Forget the climbing for a second. How much can we do with the lats without the hands?
and this helps with what exactly?

I used a word a minute ago that we don't see too often in muscle training: impractical. I don't think that we use this term enough. Instead, we see exercises referred to as either, "functional," or not. Maybe that's a piss-poor label. Functional exercise is something that helps you achieve a goal. So, any exercise is functional. That's not what we're referring to and lots of people make themselves look silly by using this phrase, even if they're getting at something they're not properly defining.

Impractical is what we're getting at. There are lots of stuff you can do to make big, strong muscles but it's an open question as to whether it's worth doing in the first place. Like I said before, what can you do with your lats with in real life that doesn't require the use of your hands? So, what the hell good is a machine that sets you up to work out in ways you'll never move outside of a gym?

So, it's worth thinking about the way you're moving when you're in your respective gym. A little practicality would be a nice change of pace in people's methods of working out. While you're trying to be practical, dump the mislabeling phenomenon known as "functional training."Owner of some of the best Lats in history. So, maybe there is something practical about building big lats: it drives the babes nuts!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Time and The Place Part III: Joys of Wintertime Training!

I've got a nifty farmer's walk variation I started doing a few months ago. I load up my Ironmaster KB with 100 lbs (or more) of weight. I shoulder a sandbag on one side, grab the kettlebell with the opposite hand and march. Obviously, I've got to alternate sides. So, in between walking around awkwardly, I clean and press the sandbag.

There's just one problem. The only place I can do this GPP is outside. I don't have enough ceiling indoors to put the sandbag overhead and my wife won't let me walk around the house with 190 lbs of weight that I have a tendency to violently drop when throughly exhausted.

She's weird.

So, I go outside... In the blowing snow and rapidly dropping temperatures. Welcome to a traditional Northeastern weather. Then again, it's only a problem if you make it a problem. The fact is that I had no choice and I just had to make things work with the environment that I live. It may be bordering inhospitable but there's upsides to this climate. That is, if you're not weird enough look at the upside of the situation.

One thing that became rapidly apparent when I was walking with big weights in snow is that this is noticeably more difficult. Even six inches made things a lot harder. We all know snow makes a great way to increase resistance to training that requires walking. I never thought to do other stuff beyond snow sprints. I'm now intrigued...Dan John's got something here...

Yeah, it's cold now, and that can be uncomfortable. It can also be best fat-burning environment to train in. One discovery that have fat-fighting doctors and scientists abuzz is the somewhat recent discover of brown fat (brown adipose tissue) in adult human bodies. The quick and dirty explanation of brown fat is that it's a form of tissue that stores and burns calories for no other reason than to regulate body temperature. Normal fat (white adipose tissue) simply stores fat. Muscle tissue gives off heat as a bi-product. Brown fat's product is heat. It's arranged near major veins and it's designed to heat up blood going back to the heart, near the base of the neck and around the kidneys.
Science has known for years that babies have considerable deposits of this stuff because they can't move enough to generate their own heat from their muscles. It was always assumed that it goes away as a human ages into adulthood. In reality, the cells stay there. They never replicate and they never change to anything else. Some dim-witted exPURTS want to come up with a way to chemically stimulate brown fat to burn more fat. I guess they're not terribly worried about the effects of hyperthermia on the heart.

Instead, why not just force brown fat to warm up a cooler body by-YOU GUESSED IT-doing some of your training outdoors in the cold? Don't take this opportunity be be a fucking frozen retard . I like to wear enough clothing so that I feel cold as soon as I step outside but I feel warm after a few minutes. Moisture-wicking clothing, as well as stuff to keep the snow out, is important. If I work out with lots of intensity, I won't stay outside much longer than 40 minutes.

One major consideration when working out, or otherwise living, in the cold climates is hydration. It's very easy to dry out because drinking fluids makes you piss every other second. It's still necessary to drink water. I just do small amounts more often. That way, I don't look like I'm trying to mark my territory.

Yeah, winter time isn't the most comfortable time of year. Yes, training indoors is more comfortable but then again when was strength training about being comfortable? Intelligent strength training happens when you work hard and smart. Doing our thing outdoors can fit into that equation, even if the rest of the world thinks we look nuts while doing it in the snow. We just end up being tougher than the rest and as far as I'm concerned, that's what it's all about.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Working out When Sick

The shots are being administered. The cold remedies are moved front and center of the drug stores. Some of us are coughing and sneezing. Others are wearing masks and running around like SARS just broke out. It's flu season and sooner or later, someone's going to bring up the second-most pointlessly asked question...

"Is it okay to work out when you're sick?"

If you asked me, I'd say...
It depends

You couldn't ask for a more intuitive and though provoking answer, could you? While these people are at it, they might as well ask about the best workout music (that being the most pointless question).

I'll read any book that has words in it. That even includes British Survival Guides. I recall in that book about making sure that if you're in a group survival situation that it's important that every person has a job, no matter how ill or injured they are. The reason for that is to keep boredom at bay. An idle mind with a sick body will kill rapidly and any little thing that can keep someone stimulated and feeling important could be a life saver.

Face the facts: if you sit around and think about how sick you are, chances are good you'll be sick longer. I know that I can only tolerate the monotony of watching TV in my bed clothes while I try desperately to get the taste of cough drops out of my mouth with fizzy, sludgy mixtures of Airborne and orange juice for so long.

Yes, this blog entry came to mind when I thought I might have a cold. I usually go to the doctors just to make sure it's not strep throat (which I used to get a lot when I was a kid). Just being at the doctor's office made me feel sicker even though
the only thing that was bothersome was my throat. Other than that, I was fine. It's one of those times where the more I thought about being sick, the more sick I felt.

If I can work, then I'll work out. I'm not trying to set any records here. Working out is, after all, a controlled breakdown of the body. I'll just do something to keep busy but not bust balls. I'll keep the reps low, rest more between each set, and drink more water than I usually would. I followed this advice with a work out after going to the doctor's office. I felt fine the next day.

The scale of mental health versus physical health need to be carefully evaluated on more serious things than the flu. I'll never forget the sensation of trying to use my CoC's when I had the shingles earlier last year. Sensation is too gentle of a word. For those who've never had them, this is the best description of the pain: Life-threatening electrocution! So, that time, I had to deal with being one with the couch. Use some good sense on more extreme cases of illness.

Sickness and exercise is one of those moments where you need to be honest with yourself. A very modest amount of self reflection should give you the answer to your questions on this one. It doesn't require a key stroke ride to your favorite forum of internet-strength Gods. Chances are, you already know the answer to this question. Act accordingly.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Training Wheels for Real Training

There are a lot of reasons why we all keep strength training. The most universal reasons that we all do it is the soul-moving qualities that come with overcoming hard, physical challenges. We also learn to appreciate the importance of being physically capable. Life just sucks when we're weak and that fact can only be avoided for so long. I could keep going on and on about why it's awesome to pursue physical strength for reasons beyond just the physical realm but smarter, more insightful people have poured over that in countless blog entries all over all of the internets. I do have a question though. It's one that a few of my Friends have taken up the keyboard for answers and action on the question at hand:
Why does real strength training have to be so gender-specific?

Indeed, there are no good answers to this question outside of a really fucked up notion of beauty that claims that any sort of real strength builder strike down the mere identity of women and render them men at the slightest touch of a pull-up bar or a barbbell. Anyone who cares to do some honest research into the topic, beyond Traci Anderson and women's fitness magazines, will realize this.

Now, I freely admit that my opening paragraph should apply equally to both sexes should be free from judgement about how someone will look when they train to excel. It shouldn't matter how a person looks nearly as much as it does...but that's the way that the cards have been dealt. It's the somewhat unfortunate fact of life.

The last time I wrote on this topic, I said the following:

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, that leaves me with one thought. If the notion of promoting a look that looks like strong-health as attractive, then what would someone use? The thought that crossed my mind is: do most people even know what that looks like anymore?

I freely admit that there isn't usually a dramatic difference in how a strong woman and an ordinary woman look. There are tell-tale signs. There are things that you don't usually see on women who do some sort of real strength training. These are things that I don't think most people probably wouldn't find attractive. Using the notion that what's attractive is what's strong and healthy, I think that these are points that we can all agree on.

Let's start easy: the muffin top. While I'll freely admit that this is more diet-related than exercise-related, I've always maintained that good training is the ultimate feedback on how good your diet is. Five rounds of The Magic 50, Girondas 8x8, some a nice super-set of pull-ups and push-ups will tell you that your binge eating the day before was really stupid far faster than walking on any contraption ever would. That ultimately translates to a far better body. Besides, doing workouts like this for a sustained period of time won't allow for lots of body fat. To succeed at this stuff, you have to lean out!

Moving onto an actual show of muscle on a woman, I'd have to single out the skinny thighs. I think that men instinctively show off their upper bodies because they know that's what defines them as powerful men. Women have the power in the legs on a pound-for-pound basis more then men do. It's one of the few places where women can have some muscle definition and show it off without the "man" label. First image found on Google when I typed, "model legs".

So, there's no reason for women's legs to only meet at the knees. It could be said that it's actually incredibly feminine to have this display of strength on a woman!

Another, more subtle problem area that bothers me about women is the winged shouldler blades. How many times do we see this look on women...For some reason, ribs poking out the sides is prime tabloid material for actresses who are to skinny but this one somehow gets a pass. It's still bones sticking out of the skin where they shouldn't be sticking out! Furthermore, it's an unhealthy posture issue that begs for some stronger muscles in the right places.

I cringe to even bring up using attraction as a method of selling strength training to the other sex. Ever-changing notions of beauty have lead generations of women to do some very bizarre, and dangerously unhealthy things to their bodies. The reason why even mention it is that it worked so well for men 120 years ago.

I believe it was Lionel Strongfort who commented that for every person who wanted to be strong like Eugen Sandow, 20 just wanted to look like him. Indeed, if you do a Google Image search of Sandow, you'll find that most of the pictures of him out that exist have him showing off his body more than his lifting prowess. We can argue about the limitations of how much sex appeal should sell strength training all day but it's hard to deny that it works and it certainly has it's place. If anything, it's like training wheels: Something that gets you started on the road to better things. Things like the stuff I described at the beginning of this entry.