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.