Sunday, December 8, 2013

When Your Fat Is My Business

The effects of second hand cigarette smoke, unpleasant to be around no doubt (cigar and pipe smoke smell far better) are horribly exaggerated urban myths, accepted as fact, and have become the standard method of showing respect to your fellow American.  I can't recall a time in the past 10 years where someone didn't apologize for errant cigarette smoke getting in my face. 

Second, unless you live in the city, nobody runs down skateboarders anymore.  Seriously, you city-dwellers, and just plain people who live in Florida, are seriously rude fuckers!  So, since you live in the city, you're not loading chicken feed into a car so I don't have to help with that imaginary scenario.

Third, covering my mouth to prevent the spread of germs?  Don't you mean:  please appease my chronic OCD and germphobia? 

What am I talking about? 



Written by her...
I'm usually enthralled by a well-written article that I almost totally disagree with some original thought put to it.  It is a legitimate question if others fat is anyone else's business than the person carrying it.  It's an interesting point that we tend to treat other fat people as though they have some sort of obligation to not be fat.
So, do I care about your health or do I just think you're gross?  Good questions that I'll get to, eventually.  What I really love about this extremely well-written article is the assertion that her, or anyone else's fatness is nobody's business except the people whose limbs rub together excessively from normal, daily movement. 
Theoretically, that should be true too.  After all, I don't live in S.E Smith's body.  I'm not married to her or interact with her in any capacity beyond reading her material on the internet.  So, since she has no physical footprint in my life, I should have nothing to say about whether or not she's fat, healthy, or simply disgusting to look or not.  After all, I don't have to buy her food, have sex with her, or pay her medial bills if her obesity costs her more money than my fit-oriented lifestyle. 
Wait, I sense a problem...
There is another person who I genuinely don't care at all whether they're fat or not too. 
He has mentioned in the past that he doesn't have health insurance of any kind.  In fact, he's commented before that he's so fabulously wealthy that if he needs medical care, he simply pays out of pocket.  So, as far as I'm concerned, I have no real issue that he's fat either.  He pays for his food and his fatness alike.  It's of no impact on my life. 

So, do I care about you health?  Kind of.  I mean, I don't wish strangers who don't do evil any ill.  If You're fat and causing yourself harm, then I wish you'd get to a point where you're not damaging yourself  Do I think fat is gross?  It can be, but even that depends.  I've never complained about a woman carrying an extra 20-30 lbs in her boobs and butt, that's for sure (I'll refrain from the too-easy excuse to post T&A.  For now).  From your photos and your description, I don't find your fat composition particularly attractive, that's for sure.
I doubt Smith is as fabulously wealthy as Rush but I'm guessing that she's not.  Since she's not, I doubt that she pays all of her medical expenses out of pocket.  In other words, she may have health insurance for that.  That's the problem I have with her notion that her fat isn't anyone's business.  If she has insurance, and she needs more medical attention for her obesity, then guess what?  HER WEIGHT IS OTHER PEOPLE'S BUSINESS.   Simply put, insurance is like a lottery:  everyone pays in, a few draw out.  If more people draw, more people have to pay.  So, if bipedals of her ilk need more medical attention because they're fat then we all end up paying for that.  The notion that fat and health do have relevance.  We know that fat people are more unhealthy.  The simple fact is they are usually more of a burden.  So, we do have grounds to be pissed because fat people cost society money. 

Once again, except Rush's.  Rush pays for his lard, kitchen table to hospital visits to trips to the pharmacy (at least he paid for his Oxys instead of stealing them).  If people like S.E Smith can't afford to do that then they better accept the fact that we're going to fat-judge.  After all, your medical bills are making an impact in my life.  Furthermore, as the government gets more involved, this will only accelerate.  Just sayin'.

So, yes, you do have a right to be fat, much like you have a right to live your life as you see fit.  There might be a good reason why right and responsibility alliterate:  they're connected.  If you're going to live fat, then you need to take full financial responsibility for being fat.  If you can't pay like Rush pays, then maybe there's a lesson there.  After all, your rights end where others begin and if you can't afford to pay for your medical bills, in full, then I guess you shouldn't be fat. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Concluding, "The Fitness Industry is Dead"

While I've not really directly addressed many key points in this article and opted to say what I think are the reasons why the industry itself is dead in the sense its ineffective, I think that the article itself is great because it's a  much needed sense of introspection for anyone involved in this subculture.  There are no shortage of rants out there about why the McFitness industry sucks but not a whole lot of the root problems.  This author had his thoughts well-laid out why things don't work.  I don't agree and I have mine. 

In the past two entries, I've identified my two, large problems:  lack of good information and far-less than ideal people disseminating it.  There is a third and final problem that I see with the industry and I've pondered this problem for quite some time how to word it properly:  the people that the fitness industry is selling to.   I wonder how this industry will continue to exist in the larger culture it's part of. 

Oddly enough, my two favorite blogs to read about strength training are intensely different from one-another.  The first is Chaos and Pain.  The Second is Body Tribe.   The latter does about a good of a job reaching out to the 85% discussed in the last entry as anyone in the subculture.  The former generally could care less if they come along or fall off a cliff...their choice. 

I can see the logic of both points of view and how neither will particularly work well to get people moving properly.  While the inspiration of this article delves into the psychological aspects of how to get people physically right, I generally disregard such a direction.  Yes, people have emotional issues that hold them back from being better movers.  Still, people long ago had these issues and they didn't become diseased, eating-disordered sloths because they weren't happy.  Clearly something has changed and that change is that people become this way because they can.  I said it in the first entry and it probably explains most of why the fitness industry doesn't work:  the larger culture sabotages it.  Our societies give people the option to remain weak, lazy, dumb to the facts, and they don't have to listen to what us 15% say about getting moving.  If you're reading this then chances are that you are the aforementioned 15% and you're here because you want to be here. 

Am I the only one who despise that these were even thought up?
Let's face the grim reality:  like I mentioned before, we've figured out how to live long and unhealthy.  We've mastered drugs and surgery to the point were we can keep a body that should die from lack of proper function alive with our health care system.  If you HAD no other choice but to lose the unhealthy weight and move in a manner that keeps your body strong and healthy then you'd do so.  If the 20th century had a list of bad notions, near the top of that piece of paper would be the idea that if we moved less, we'd be happier.  In theory, it sounded like a good idea if you consider that humankind spent most of the previous 10,000 years abusively laboring ourselves to death.  Sitting down most of the time must have seemed like a pretty good idea circa 1900.  It clearly wasn't. 
Yeah, I bet they would have opted for a desk job too!

What's also happened to people that makes getting them to accept fitness is another larger issue that we may have all noticed but not really been able to put into words.  With things like this, we have to be open-minded to all sources of information so that we can find the right way to put this into words.  I happened to find it while researching knife fighting on Youtube.  Even if you have no interest in the subject, just scroll ahead to 12.10 and pay attention...

Linking that sort of pervasive, cultural restlessness explains a lot of things wrong.  So, our world largely relies on distraction from the problem at hand.  That's probably why too many need some sort of constant feed of entertainment to get through the day.  Relative to the discussion I've articulated, it explains why gyms these days just don't get things done. 
Look at most modern gyms and you'll see a massive collection of machines and they all tell you how to move.  You don't really have to think about the moves you want to do, how to set up your body posture properly, how to execute.  All you have to do is sit a chair, adjust some padding, and let hinges dictate your movement pattern.   While you're moving, they give you televisions and music to move to.  The fitness industry has just continued to extrapolate on the lack of imagination and continues to feed the restlessness.
I may have identified a cause for that...
I'd be willing to bet big money that promoting a break from that would net more results.  Good work in a gym is time spent in our own world, deep in introspection, and often times being creative with what we're doing.  If the fitness clubs as we know them are nothing more than another conformist distraction, then like every other chunk of bullshit entertainment, people won't stick by it for very long. 
You could say that's the fault of the fitness industry itself.   The industry as we know it in the USA had the misfortune of coming of age in the same time period where we really took getting fat and restless into double-overdrive.  So, were they simply catering to a demand? 
Personally, I just have a hard time buying it.  I'm going to venture into the usually murky waters of personal experience.  That can be troublesome since personal experience is too often devoid of objective introspection.  People aren't known for looking at personal experience and saying, "I did that wrong", nearly as much as they should. 
In my case, I tried the gym world when I was a teenager.  I used Cybex machines and running stuff.  I didn't stick with any of it.  I wanted strength but I wasn't getting answers that I wanted.  So, I went out and I looked for it.  I didn't stop until I found it either.  If people demanded the truth out of the fitness industry, someone would provide it.   They wouldn't accept being stuck. 
Of course, I don't expect the fitness industry to actually go the way of the buggy-making business just yet.  I just don't expect it to suddenly become truly effective any time soon.  These past three entries represent my reasoning as to why don't think it will.  Ultimately, the first two won't get solved until the bigger problems with the society that the gym rat world inhabits gets repaired and demands better out of the business.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

If You haven't thought go go narrow, you've failed. Here's why...

Dave Tate said it, I didn't.  I'm no expert so theoretically, I have no credibility.  After all, I'm just a modestly above-average strong 30-something with a humble blog and a handful of fans and I don't train people for a living.  Tate's an expert for sure.  He's so expert-ish that his presence, or absence, from T-Nation is a critical element of making that place a worthwhile place to gather information.  It was there that he said something that I pretty much knew in the back of my mind without realizing it:  powerlifting (and probably most other lifting in general, for that matter) is about shortening the distance you have to move a weight as much as possible to make the lift count as complete. 

That's a kind of rule of thumb that I see a lot lately.  Since August, I've needed to join a gym to get my broken body to a stationary bike as part of rehabbing my knee after my ACL reconstruction.  This is, by far, the longest I've worked out in a gym in over 14 years.  So, I've traded in my solitary training existence for spending more time in a gym.  As a result, I've seen much more training styles first-hand than I have since my teenage years when I had less than a clue about what the fuck I was doing. 

It was kind of like landing on Mars, as much for me as it was probably for them.  They seemed as astonished that I would think to do close-grip pull-ups off of ropes as I was astonished about how few different ways they do pull-ups.  The rope-thing was a novelty but what drew a lot of attention was doing close-grip pull-ups (oddly enough).  Apparently this never entered anyone's mind. 

Regardless of whether you're pulling or pushing with the upper body, the wider you spread your hands apart, the easier the pull or the push becomes.  There's two reasons for this.  The first is that spreading the hands wide de-emphasizes the smaller, weaker arm muscles in favor of the bigger muscles of the upper body.  Then, there's the second reason that Dave Tate brought up and that as you spread the hands farther apart, the distance to complete the rep shortens up. 

I'll use the handstand push-up as an example here... and a jack-in-the-box. 

Here's a wide HSPU...

Now, putting the hands almost under the shoulders...


Like I said, this applies to Push-ups, Pull-ups, and rowing movements.   What this information is useful for depends on what you want to do with it.  It doesn't just have applications to moving as much weight as possible for the shortest possible distance.  That approach works great if you've got lots of iron to play with.  Maybe you do.  Then again if you're reading this article then chances are you're like me:  looking for ways to goose the most work out of a limited equipment supply.  You can change the level of difficulty with one movement by just a simple change in hand placement.  You can also change the focus of the movement from an upper body workout to a more arms-oriented one with this approach.   This is how I use Handstand push-ups to strengthen my shoulders one day and my arms at a later point in the week. 

Going for that extra ROM may pay off dividends may also pay off for that one other, pesky detail that too many people who like go get strong don't really want to think much about:  their health.  Since Dave Tate makes things more legitimate, I'll defer to his words yet again: 

Here's the deal. Powerlifting is about finding the shortest range of motion possible.[see?]
Look at the bench press. If your setup and arch is sound, it's a very short (albeit very safe) range of motion.
Bodybuilding, in the purest sense, is the opposite. The most effective movements generally take the muscles through the longest range of motion.
I realized that I hadn't done any full range of motion work for years, and if I were to regain my "functional mobility" this would be where to start.
This isn't to say that I love bodybuilding but it goes to show that ROM is a use it or lose it proposition.  Losing it will ultimately break you down.  That close-handed HSPU variation easily slices the amount of reps I can do as opposed to the wider-stanced one.  BW guys tend to look at their reps the same way that powerlifters look at their poundage:  keep the number high.  The consequences of that ego trip hurts after a while.  Even Tate admitted that (Read the rest of the article, not to mention all of the others, for that matter). 

I hope that these ideas and concepts aren't new to my readers' minds.  This shouldn't be most strength trainer's equivalent of the the discovery of Vulcanized Rubber (found by accident and never capitalized on by Charles Goodyear).  If that's the case, then feel free to self-flagellate as needed.  Otherwise, ditch any notions about getting creative, not giving as shit about your body, or caring about keeping your rep count high.   Moving the hands closer together here and there is as simple as dropping rubber on a stove so do it more often. 


Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Fitness Industry is Dead 2.2

In the first installment of my reaction to rebooted Body's article, "The Health and Fitness Industry is Dead (and that includes you Paleo),"  I took a contrary opinion that while there is good information out there not being acted on by the general public, there is a lot more really bad information being acted on by most of the general public.  While getting good information out there is a key first step to making a viable health and fitness industry that actually succeeds at making people healthy and fit, it's just a bullet in a gun that's not being fired.  Someone has to pull the trigger and get it out into the world. 

The author makes one, key error in information delivery:  he assumes that the information is being properly disseminated.  I don't think it is, and I can see where he would think so.  My friend Chip Conrad's comments on this article on Facebook is what brought it to my attention.  His comment was eye-opening.  Here is a piece of it:

Roughly 15% of our culture is involved in movement to some degree. That's 85% not doing much in the way of being physically human. Why the fitness industry is 'dead' is because there is little geared towards addressing the 85% successfully. The 15% talks, posts and tweets amongst ourselves quite well, but there isn't a strong outreach program to that 85%...

I get the impression that the author thinks that the 85% who watch the Biggest Loser, work out at YouFit-Golds-Planetfitness, and think their Nikes make or break their fitness levels know much about Weston A. Price, Paleo, Crossfit, Mark Sisson, or  make a distinction between weightlifting and weight training.  Sure, some of these terms are seeping into public gym knowledge but the 85% don't know what they're really all about.  As far as I'm concerned, I agree that as part of that 15%, we don't do a great job with getting the word out to the other 85%. 

The most obvious explanation involves ego and self-interests.  Chip said it before too:  we are kind of like an underground movement and we enjoy the fact that we're underground.  There is certain amount of elitism that we all enjoy to varying degrees.  I see it when I go to the gym.  People congregate based on what they enjoy doing (general weight loss-fitness, powerlifters, pseudo-bodybuilders), not regularly interacting with one another.  I've not had much contact with Crossfitters because I don't actively seek out Crossfitters.  Crossfitters,  in return, rarely visit my blog.  The one time I can confirm that someone from RKC commented here it was to tell me that I couldn't properly snatch with an Ironmaster Kettlebell.  We have our cliques and often times, that's exactly where we stay.  Things clearly haven't changed much since high school for too much of the fitness world. 

Then, when we do reach out, I see issues about the accessibility of style of strength training that's being put forth.  Is it really something that people want to do?  Is it something that they can do?  As far as I'm concerned, no better example of this exists than bodybuilding.  Of all of the competing strength training interests out there, no other has so happily embraced the extreme of their clique quite like they have.  Author Randy Roach said it best:  bodybuilding has come full-circle.  75 years ago, they were considered freaks.  They fought their way into mainstream consciousness and acceptance only migrate back to freak show status.  Lots of kids get into sports idolizing they way that their favorite athlete does what they do.  Who really wants to look like this...
Anyone want striations on their glutes?

Then there's yet another problem with the marketing.  Simply put:  things move in trends with the fitness industry.  Crossfit may be approaching its raging peak of popularity right now.  Eventually, they'll reach a point of saturation and they'll descend out of the limelight and into the realm of parody.  It happened with aerobics, bodybuilding, etc.  The problem with that is that people need to keep moving far longer than that.  What kind of faith can the fitness industry instill in the aforementioned 85% when it keep changing it's collective mind about what the 85% needs to do to get fit? 

You don't see either of these guys much anymore.  Did Crossfit really think they were going to get people rushing to join with this kind of shit? 

While we're on the subject of trends, let's address the diet issue.  There is no other example of where the health and fitness industry has squandered goodwill and public faith with schizophrenic-like changes in advice than when it comes to diet.  Rather than admitting to the somewhat complicated nature of how the body either gains or looses fat, or gains muscle, the health and fitness industry has happily moves along with new diets that has the following narrative:
  1. Guaranteed to do what they say it will do.
  2. No other will work.
  3. That the last one was wrong. 
The problem all along is that there is always an exception to the rule.  Take Paleo Dieting for example.  I can't speak for the rest of you but I admit that it seems awfully strange to demonize bread, rice and dairy when many strong, healthy cultures have consumed all of these since farming began.  Frankly, they were all instrumental in humans making the jump from hunter-gathering tribal existence to civil societies!  Now it'll make you sick and kill you if you eat it?   I'm guessing it will be  matter of time before we laugh at this one much the way we now laugh at Weight Watchers. 

That's the issue with how the health and fitness industry has shot itself in the foot for the past half-century. With the infighting and constant reliance on trends as part of their business models, they succeed in making themselves into a joke for the remaining 10.5 months after New Years wears off and the Superbowl sabotages everyone's good intentions.  If the 85% are going to get fit and healthy, then the 15% has to come up with a way to get them eating right and moving properly for more than a couple of seasons.  That is, if that's the priority for us here, and sometimes I question if we even REALLY care.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How Simple Can It Be and Still Work?

Don't you love those questions where people ask, "deadlift vs squat?"  Are you as mentally stimulated as I am when someone brings ups a question starting with, "if you could only do x exercises..?"  Are you excited to answer questions about programming, sets and reps, etc?  Do you eagerly await answering any kind of questions dealing with training percentages? 

Yeah, me too.  Hypothetical questions are only remotely interesting when you are pondering things that you really can't do.  Otherwise, they're a ridiculous and wasteful trip down rhetorical lane that you don't need to bother with. Squat vs. Deadlift?  You can do them both, you know.  In the same workout, even in the same move (Zercher lift, anyone?)  Do you really need me to tell you how many times to do that?  Do you realize how far into professional athletics you have to wander before percentages even become extremely relevant to your training?  A better question still is do these people get exactly how much time they waste by their paralysis by analysis? 

In the past half-decade, I've generally succeeded in not turning this blog into a reliable supply of rants and raving that most strength training blogs descend into so I don't plan on starting now.  I also try to look what seems like wasted rhetoric and ask the question if there's something to these questions:  a hidden call for help disguised as tomfoolery and general dumb-ass behavior.  When I see most of the questions, I can't help but wonder if the real questioned being asked is, "How simple can I make training to obtain awesome?"
I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am that I can do these again!
Most of us already know that the answer is, "surprisingly simple."  For those of you who don't, allow me to elaborate on how simple this can be with one example:  my pre ACL-tear upper body workout.   It was pretty simple:  handstand push-ups and Pull-ups (usually neutral grip, no particular reason why).  As far as I'm concerned, there is no better yin to the pull-up's yang than the handstand push-up.  They're practically the same motion except one is a pull and the other is a push.  People smarter than myself have told me that this is a fantastic way to avoid muscle imbalances or tightness.   Lastly, there is a lot of work to be done with both of these movements before you can file them away as excessively strengthy- endurancy. 

Maybe I resorted doing these because the handles just kind of stick out there.  It's still a good pull-up variation
Okay, so you can get lots of upper body strengthening with these two moves, practically covering all of the bases for the upper body musculature.  Now what?  Oh, yeah, only thing more annoying than the questions about narrowing down exercises:  sets and reps.  Numbers and training percentages conversations make my mind go blank and get sleepy faster than excessive whiskey consumption.   I do have a favorite way to arrange these movements though, and I blogged about it too briefly once before:  superset pyramids.  I've been an upper body push-pull superset junkie for years.  I decided to merge in pyramid work simply because there are so many good things going on all in this style of rep scheme.
  1. the beginning is warm-up
  2. You eventually get to a max set of reps
  3. the descent is drop setting
  4. It can increase your total reps
  5. It's also a great way to get a shitload of volume
That's a lot of ground covered.  Since I have an aversion to excessive rest between sets, I've always been a fan of the push-pull superset.  Generally,  my pull-up and HSPU's numbers are practically dead even.   So, I can merge supersetting with pyramids on both and not crap out on one before the other.  A my choice rep scheme of Pull-ups and HSPU's used to look like this...

(that would be 147 reps of both HSPU's and Pullups)

Did I get results?  Sadly, as always, I'm terrible with tracking progress with pictures.  At the beginning of the year, I resolved to plunge back into mass gaining.  I had hoped to take myself from the dismally-low 172 lbs (stress is a bitch) up to a more acceptable (to me) 200 lbs.  Doing this workout Mondays and Fridays I jumped up to 185 lbs by the time I tore my ACL.  So, this part of the plan was working out just fine.  Next year, I suppose...

 So, it really can be as simple as choosing the right two movements and a well thought out rep scheme.  Good planning and complicated/complex planning are not the same thing.  All you have to do to is quit ruminating over what to do on the internet, pick your poison, and attack it with some seriousness and intensity. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eat Organs and Reverse Your Push-ups

As much as I find strength training interesting, I'm not always interested in talking about it with other people.  Originality in the world of weights may have died a long time ago but that doesn't give everyone a reason to have the same four or five reasons for lifting weights, getting their routines from a cultish mothership web site, or doing anything resembling a fitness class.  I enjoy being at least a little bit different and I have a severe aversion to following other people's programs. 

While I could care less about taking other people's marching orders, I do spend some time reading what other people are up to and using my blog to react to what I see out there.   As luck would have it, life has dropped two interesting ideas in my lap that I felt compelled to share with the world. 

Reversed-Hand Push-ups
I've seen these around for years, tried them once or twice, and then discarded them.  They were the wrong combination of not particularly challenging and uncomfortable on my wrists and elbows.  In other words,  they were just nothing more than another piece of high-rep nonsense that plagues BW training.  That is until I read this article about reverse-grip bench pressing.  For some reason, I wondered if I could use a couple of the cues given in a reverse grip push-up.  So, using a seam in my driveway as a guide, I set my hands up so the seam passed diagonally through my hands, much like the bar does in the picture below with my hands just past shoulder width and  about the same point as my solar plexus.

While this was more comfortable than previous attempts at reverse grip push-ups, it still wasn't very challenging. So, I decided some more weight was in the order.  I opted to throw one of my sandbags (about 50 lbs) around my neck and upper back.  Now, I was onto something.  I enjoyed the weighted reverse hand push-up immensely, doing 15-20 reps per set.  

It definitely solicits gets more pectoral recruitment.  Try this right now:  put your hands straight out in front of you like you're pushing someone.  Now, turn your hands upside down.  Notice the difference in the contraction of your pecs?  There's also no forgetting about using the Lats when pushing-up.  Like the reverse grip bench, this reverse hand push-up is also easier on the shoulders.  That may be due to that increase in lat contraction that you felt when you turned your hands upside down.  It also gives the biceps more eccentric contraction work too.   It seems to dovetail nicely with my standing overhead press work...when I could do standing overhead press work. 

Eating Organs
One thing that didn't change for nearly a millennia was the rich and affluent had a bad habit of eschewing healthier, more nutrition dense foods.  They, in turn, ate the junk food.  The Romans grew rye but the rich and royal favored wheat and left the more nutritionally-sound rye to the poor people.  Those were the same old days where they killed an animal they ate everything but the squeal.  So, it strikes me as odd that when we fast-forward to the 21st century, I had to go to a Yelp-$$ (barely, I can't get out of El Gaucho Inca without spending $100 for two people) restaurant to eat calf thymus glands and pancreas (aka sweetbreads) . 

Yeah, that's a mistake that we don't eat organ meat like our ancestors did because, generally-speaking, offal is more protein-dense than muscle meats.  That's just the start.  After I fell in love with sweetbreads, I stumbled across this article on T-Nation.  Who knew that organ meat could have that kind of micronutrient content?   Most organ meats totally kick muscle meats ass in micronutrient content.  That's why there are cultures that can subsist on almost nothing else but meat and not suffer the diseases that we associate with not eating enough fruits and vegetables.  If you think about it, that all make sense.  Most micronutrients are supporting some kind of organ function.  So, it only makes sense that they're concentrated more in the organs than in the muscles.

Maybe Jack Lalanne, Joe Gold and Armand Tanny were on to something when they would raid slaughterhouses looking for cows blood to drink.  Yeah, I've also ate cow's blood (in blood sausage).  If you care to take a break from looking up porn or celebrity gossip, check out the protein content, and the price, of cows blood.  I doubt you'll find a cheaper protein out there.  I'm even a fan of the Scottish dish known as Haggis.  If burly men who invented throwing telephone poles for fun eat it with pride then maybe there's a lesson for the rest of us to learn. 

So, sweetbreads are awesome.  I'm not the fan of liver that TC Louma is.  If you want an organ meat that has a similar texture to the muscle-meat you're used to then try heart (just don't cook it past medium).   Best of all, these nutrition powerhouses (are you sick of that phrase yet?) are cheap since they're barely considered good enough for dog food by some people's standards.  Their loss. 

Anticuchos:  Grilled beef heart.  That green sauce kicks ass too!
If you've ever driven in a crowded parking lot and pondered why people follow the next five cars in front of them, knowing they won't get the first available spot then you've got an idea of how I feel about our subculture.  Yeah, we all move in between the same lines and we all want to arrive at a good spot but we don't need to follow everyone else to get there.  We can take a turn away from where everyone else is going.  Who knows, we might even find what we're looking for quicker.   In other words, we don't all need to bench press and subsist on chicken breast and protein powder.

A special thanks to my lovely wife, Melissa,
for the gracious help with the video and photography!

Monday, September 30, 2013

The fitness Industry Is Dead?

(It is a long article though) 
In case some of you use Facebook to keep up with what I'm up to, then chances are, you saw me mention that there are too many interesting things out there and I just can't get enough time to blog about them as life unfolds before me.  The link above was one such article, posted by a friend.  It's long but worth the read.  If you haven't sunk your eyes into it, then click above and then we'll talk...
The title alone is catchy, in a disappointedly-haunted sort of way, but it's probably true.  The fitness industry has clearly not worked.  For the past 40 years of the existence in the USA of reasonably-mainstream health and fitness clubs, diet trends, the supplement business, and gym equipment in the population has become a baffling story of living longer in the most unhealthy manner possible.  Sure, we can expect to live to 80 but things are getting to the point where our youth is considered finished off by the time we now hit 25 since we're so fat and sick all the time.  The health and fitness industry as most of us know it has existed in this puzzling time period and done nothing to make people live long and healthy simultaneously. 

How to live long and unhealthy simultaneously. 
So, something has to change.  The questions are obviously what and how.
While this article was thought-provoking, and will probably end up inspiring at least two or three other blog entries of mine, like any good conversation material I don't think it was all quite right.  While there is three-quarters of a century worth of information out there for us to reference about eating, exercising and being healthy it's not all correct.  In fact, most of it is horribly wrong.  Furthermore, the right information isn't in the hands of the people who could use it the most.  
There are large swaths of the health and fitness industry that still believe in calorie counting as best way to maintain a healthy body weight.  There are people who still think that cardio is the best form of exercising.   You can still find medical professionals that will tell you squatting is bad for your knees.  Others still hold onto an idea that was "proven" by feeding a rabbit (which is rarely used in any animal testing to simulate human beings) a high cholesterol diet even though said animal is strictly herbivorous.  Women still buy the notion that weight training will make them bulky.  The Shake weight saw the light of day as a legitimate fitness tool instead of as parody of infomercial exercise gear. 
Furthermore, the people who ought to know this stuff...don't.  Just like it's not hard to find people to give you bad information about exercising and eating, it's not any harder to find a health professional that doesn't have a clue about how to find complete health fitness.  Too many doctors believe the bullshit I mentioned above.  Or, how you can go to a hospital and be fed food as healthy as what you might find at Golden Corral.  Lots of people who do know about eating right don't really know or care how to properly exercise.  The exercise people often questionable diet advice and don't really care about being healthy.  The unfortunate truth about the history of modern medicine and the modern health and fitness movement is that they've rarely played well, working contrary to one-another rather than together.  Even those two factions have their sub-groups that bicker amongst each other. 
The publication known as Physical Culture[Bernarr Macfadden's magazine] an outstanding example of the money that is to be made from catering to ignorance and furnishing a contact between the quack and his victims...
The student of journalism is always suspicious o a slogan of this type whether applied to magazine or newspapers, for he knows that usually those publications that boast that are prepared for people who think they are actually edited for morons.  
 American Medical Association Bulletin, 1923
I've regularly thought that part of my education was faulty since there wasn't, at least, one semester devoted to learning about the human body and how to take care of it properly.  Then again, since information out there is so jumbled, incorrect and contradictory what good would it have done for me to take such a class anyway? 

The fitness industry doesn't get results that people want see because they continue to pass around bad information on how to get to a stronger, healthier place.  You don't get results when you have bogus facts to start out with.   If this doesn't get cleaned up then they can look forward to a continued descent into a parody rather than a useful reason for people to spend their money.  I agree with the article that getting the information right isn't enough but as far as I'm concerned, it's the first place to start.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Falling back in love with my Sternocleidomastoids

I swear to whatever gods are up there and/or in another dimension that as soon as I get this knee back to normal, I'm going to squat every, single day for a long, long time.  I don't care what kind of squat or how much I can handle I'm going to pull a Johnny Broz and not let a day pass without some sort of hips-back action.  That's how tired I am of looking down at my left leg while doing PT and realizing that it's only a matter of time before my neck is thicker than my left leg.  Of course, this isn't just from the months-long inaction of my left leg.  It's also the results of my weeks-long, re-kindled craze for training my neck. 

This wasn't a wholly original idea of mine.  Jamie Lewis did two, timely blog entries (here and here) about neck training a couple of months ago.  I realized then that this was a body part that I could work out while not putting any strain whatsoever on my bum knee.  What I find both fascinating, bizarre, and unfortunate about neck work is how common it used to be.  You don't need to do an extensive search on the website to find a picture of some old-time strongman with a massive neck.  A bit more reading and you'll find out how they did that.  It was considered to be an essential part of strength training from the late 1800's until, at least, the 1930's. 
Obviously didn't skip neck training...
Since those times, neck training has fallen past the point of underground training into the realm of what even a lot of "hardcore trainers" consider borderline-insane.  The only groups of people that I know of that make an effort to train the neck with any frequency are boxers, wrestlers, and Navy SEALS.  In other words,  only a small group of people who regularly run the risk of getting their head or necks fucked up on a regular basis.   The biggest risk the average gym rat has of hurting their necks is by looking at a piece of ass to their left too fast and even then, their necks are likely so weak that even that could do some damage. 

The Navy SEAL explanation, as I heard it years ago, for the importance of neck training was pretty simple:  the neck carries your head...which protects your mind.  You may not be punched in the head regularly or wearing a heavy helmet on your head for HALO jumps but that doesn't mean that you have no business making your neck muscles strong.  The neck is part of your spine and since when do we think it's a good idea to neglect the spine?   You can also increase the size of your upper traps if you start neck training, if you're into that sort of thing. 

So, neck training is as neglected as it is important.  How do we train the neck? 

The Rules
Regardless of whether or not you grab iron or elect to do BW training with your neck, there are rules that apply equally to both.  The first thing about the neck is that it has to be warmed up.  The neck could easily be the most susceptible body part to injury.  Still, there is no need for a rocket-science 20 minute warm up procedure.  Just gently turn your head a few times in the directions that you plan to move it when you train.   The next rule is high repetitions.  You have to do a lot of volume with neck training to see results.  The movements are very short and doing low reps won't stimulate shit, even with a really heavy weight.  Think 15+ reps per set...or 30+ seconds of work.   The final rule is slower, controlled reps.   Remember The Bodyweight Files most fundamental mathematical equation here:  SPEED-CONTROL=INJURY

Bodyweight Neck Training
Believe it or not, Matt Furey probably gave the best BW neck training advice and nobody really noticed.  I can't blame everyone for that either.  Furey made millions off telling people that the wrestlers bridge could strengthen the spine like no other exercise while improve sexual function, curing foot cancer and eradicate fish herpes outbreaks.  What more could you possibly need if you had a pencil neck, a flaccid prick and a disorder that only animals with gills get?  Yes, my first foray into neck training was the wrestlers bridge but from the neck training standpoint, I think that there are two other options that work better. 
The first involved getting into a headstand with your feet against the wall.  From there, use the hands only to maintain balance while you roll your chin to your chest and back.  Then, roll the head side to side so each ear touches, or almost touches, the shoulders.  Some kind of padding on the floor really helps on this one.  While the forward and backward rolling does yield results, I skip it because I have a weird, egg-shaped head that makes this maneuver painful and leaves a bunch of redness on my scalp.  I mainly stick to the side-side movement.  This is a training effect that's hard to pull off with any other neck training. 

The second one that I liked was what I call the straight bridge ( I forgot what Furey called it).  Instead of resting on your feet and forehead, you grab two chairs, place less than the length of your body apart, and lay down with your feet/ankles on one chair and your head resting on the other, keeping your body as straight as possible for as long as you can.  This is absolutely brutal on the entire spinal musculature, including the neck.  Even 30 seconds of this will get your attention like no other iso-hold could. 

The Weighted Stuff
I opted to buy a neck harness when I was getting ready for my surgery.  There's not too much to explain.  Sit down while leaning forward with your back straight, start with the chin to the chest and carefully lift the weight until you're looking upwards.  Like I said above, do a lot of these per set... and lots of sets.  Again, under control. 

The second piece of harness lifting that I like to do is what's generally called neck crunches or curls.  You'll be lying down with the weights hanging behind your head (you may need to hold the harness in place with your hands to keep it from slipping off.  Just don't use your hands to pull the weight!) off from a bench.  You might be able to get away with a bed if you're not lifting much weight (less than 40 lbs...which may be okay since you won't use as much as you do with the first harness exercise).  From that position, bring your chin to your chest and back down.  You'll know when you're doing this one right because you'll feel like something's going to rip off your collar bone.  Do it wrong and it'll feel more like an ab exercise.  

Advice from Glen:  don't get cheap with neck harnesses.  Apparently he's broken two.  I bought a Spuds neck harness and while it's crudely put together, it does seem to hold up to the weight.  My early pictures of my neck training were with 35 lbs.  I'm now up around 75 lbs, training my neck two or three times a week, and it's still doing well.  Also, find a neck harness that doesn't put the lifting straps directly over your ears.  Elite FS's neck harness is wonderful for painfully folding your ears under the tug of the weights.  Spuds goes in front of the ears so the strap just rubs annoyingly on the front of the ears rather than crushing them.   
Yeah, that's a good reason to splurge on a good neck harness...

Another, more indirect option that I've done for months now is doing weighted BW movements (dips, pull-ups, and push-ups) with chains wrapped around the neck.  Prior to getting back into neck training, I did a lot of these with 30 lbs of chains around my neck.   In the past five weeks of neck work, I've put on about a half-inch on my neck, 17" to 17.5".  While my starting point wasn't spectacular, it's hardly pencil-necked for someone around my size (5'10" and 175-180 lbs) .  Putting weights around my neck during BW movements was the prime source of this. 

As I slowly begin the crawl back to normalcy from my ACL reconstruction, I find myself able to do a bit more in the gym every time I show up.  I mentioned to a guy I met at a gym that I take an off-day by training my neck.  He looked at me like I had just shit my pants, reached around, stuck my hand in my ass, and took a taste test. 

There is no good reason to treat the neck like some sort of glass-like appendage on your body.  There's a perfectly good reason why the second-biggest muscle in your back (trapezius, dumb-ass) inserts at the base of the skull, why the sternocleidomastoid muscle (yes, you should know what that one!) is about as thick as a small bunch of pencils on even a skinny-ass human, and why there are a pile of little muscles in the neck that practically rival the shoulders in quantity and obscurity.  That's because, like your shoulders, your neck should be big and strong.  If you have a weak neck and shit yourself when merely thinking of lifting 30 lbs by your neck, then you should consider sticking your hand in your ass and taking a taste.  Or, remedy the problem by getting some neck work done now. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Come on... YOU KNOW THIS!

I won't deny for a moment that the more that you dive into strength training the more things get murky between what is the right proportion between the science of getting stronger and what your intuition says about getting stronger.  Do you base what you do on what sports science says that you should do?  Or, do you just go off how your body feels?   Depending who you go to for training knowledge, the answer to this question can vary with dizzying and mind-boggling proportions, second only to the old question, "what proportion of leanness is diet and exercise?"  

Even so, people often show a remarkable capability for over-complicating questions that should be plenty easy to answer for themselves.  They don't need to ask experts or clog up internet forums with even more worthless information than the useless information that's already there.  The answer to these inquiries should be:  come on, you know this... and possibly a slap in the face to wake up.  There are three, hideously common questions that fall into such a category for me and I'm going to take this gap in time at work to type them out in the vain hopes that they'll never come up again (or at least for a week or so). 

  1. What's the best music to work out to?  Um, what kind of music makes you want to move?  Yeah, it really is that simple.  Don't think for a second there is a style of music that you're not listening to that will increase your gains.  There is no Mozart for physical strength.  Actually, there really isn't a Mozart for mind strength either.  The guy who came up with the theory that Mozart increases brain power admitted it was a very short time duration spike that only works in adults, not children.  Some kind of heavy metal seems to be what motivates a good chunk of my readers, including the author to push harder.  I've also been known to listen to soundtracks from action movies (The Rock and 300 are personal favorites).  My wife is fond of gay nightclub music.  C&C music Factory was created, in part, by a gym rat interesting in creating dance music for the gym too.   Granted I think the latter two suck but whatever works for you, use it! 
  2. Should I workout when I'm sick?  Depends.  Can you move and carry on normal life and still have some energy left in your tank at the end of the day?  Then fucking work out!  Don't go balls to the wall but if you want to move your body in a constructive manner, then do it!  If you can't peel your ass out of bed from fear of vomiting, breaking something, ripping open surgical incisions, or lowering your T-cell count then stay put until you are better.  I've worked out with a torn ACL and common colds and while it's unpleasant, it's doable and it makes me feel mentally better about myself.  As long as I don't hurt myself further or tax my ability to recover, then I just keep doing my thing albeit at a reduced workload. 
  3. How much should I rest between sets?  On the surface, this question seems worthy of a more in-depth answer but peel past the surface, the answer is pretty simple:  as much as you need to get yourself ready for the next set...AND NO MORE THAN THAT!  That varies, depending on what movement you're working and if you're trying to condition or develop max strength.  Obviously, conditioning should be a lower rest period and max strength should have a longer rest period.  Often times, the reasoning for this question has to do with hormone release.  I've heard that studies show rest periods between sets have effects on Testosterone and HGH production/release and I have no interest in spitting them out.  I've heard too many contradictory statements to care about.  I think that your food and your rest after your workout has far more of an impact on both hormones rather than the rest in between your sets ever could.  So, worry more about that.
So, these three really just come down to just quit overthinking things and get to work.  Experiment and see what works best for you.  Most of what you'll learn will come from your own experiences and not what other people have tried.  They did the work and figured out what gives them success.  Now, it's your turn.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cut the bullshit with Swings!

The swing must have reached some sort of horrible Bieber-like point of market over-saturation by now.  I often wonder how many books and certifications can the world possibly be out there for a movement that I learned by myself, out of one book within a few tries with it.  When I got around to having my form checked out by a sort-of real expert on teaching swings, I found out that I was doing it right all along. I didn't need to pay three-figures to find that out. 

Yeah, the swing is useful.  pre-ACL failure, I did swings often.  I have no doubts it's a useful exercise  that was thrown in the dust-bin of lifting history prematurely.  It's a great posterior chain movement.  It's just overhyped, not well-understood, and often horribly performed.  There are lots of things about the swing that just annoy me about the subculture's relationship with the swing that just have to be cleaned up, dried off, and ironed out so hype can be separated from fact. 

First of all, the swing doesn't need to be done with kettlebells.  If you can put a heavy object between your legs, hold it with your hands, then you can swing it.  The first objects I ever swinged with were rocks.  I'm also fond of conventional, two hand of swings with sandbags over kettlebells.  When I kettlebell swing, I usually do it with two KB's.  In fact, the traditional object to swing wasn't even kettlebells.  Back around the turn of the century, 1900, the Olympics featured dumbbell swings.

Which brings us to another interesting point about swing movements.  If you are looking for proof that we've gotten weaker now than we were back then and things aren't what they used to be,then you could easily use swing exercises as proof.  Today, we think of swings as a conditioning exercise (which is just another way of saying that they kind of suck woodpecker eggs and are only good for people who are too weak to lift real weights).  Back 80-120 years ago, they were a max strength movement that ended up with the weight overhead.  John Grimek Routinely would do swings with a 200 lbs dumbbell. 
...or two-hundred pound ones!
In other words, if you're swinging for 5, 10 minutes on end with 500 reps to a set, in all likelihood you really are a weak excuse for what used to be called a man.  I'm not implying that swings always have to be done for low, max strength reps and they have to end with the weight overhead.  I usually do them for 20-30 reps, or 30-60 seconds if I have a timer, with whatever weight makes me want to die by the final moments of my set.  Like I said before, that usually means either a 90 lbs sandbag or two-55 lbs KB's. 

A very poorly known, but highly valuable exercise variation are lateral swings.  These are (were...FUCK!) second-favorite way to swing with a kettlebell.  A video is in the order to explain this one...
What the hell is with that beard?  Whatever... they're doing it right and it's hard to find a good video demonstrating this one.  What passes as a lateral swing on youtube is a complete joke!
Once again, use some serious weight!  If you can do them for what would be considered high reps by any other movement's standards, then use a heavier KB for crying out loud!  This is one swing that I prefer a KB for. 

AGAIN... do these with some serious weight!!  I know I've spend a half-decade on this site telling you that you don't always need big weights to get strong but even I have to admit that you just have to go heavier sometimes to get results.  This is the sometimes.  Swings aren't so damn special that they can fly in the face the fact that once you get well into high rep territory that you need to find a way to make the movement harder.   BW training suffers from this exact problematic line of thinking.   Bodyweight movement-form can be easily modified to become more difficult.   In the case of swings, you'll likely have to add weight.  So, quit pussy-footing around.  I don't have time to devote 10 minutes to one movement, even one set, over and over again.  I don't really have the inclination to either.  There's more to be gained from the swing lifts than what the market is selling with the current dogma. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let's Make a New Rule: If you're going to curl, you'd better press too

There can be little doubt and disagreement that the bicep curl long ago denegreated into the vainest weight training movement in existence.  We've been subjected to a 40 year assault on our eyes where wave after wave of Arnold wannabes re-reading recycled Muscle and Fitness trash articles on how to make huge biceps using god knows how many flavors of curls.  Modern living has only made matters worse by deluging the internets with cell phone self pictures of every Jersey Shore wannabe flexing their biceps on Facebook wall photos. 

Something has to give here.

The answer to this madness, like so may other answers in matters of strength, is to simply look farther back than Arnold, back before gay men got the idea to masquerade as artistic photographers to the bodybuilding world in droves.  Stop when you get back to the 1920's to a guy named Hermann Goerner.  Goerner is one of rare strongmen who was roundly respected by nearly every major figure in the fledgling weight training world of his time.  Finding information (especially reliable information) about the strongmen and weightlifters of those days is tricky.   You almost always find one calling the other a phony.  That didn't seem to exist in regard to the big man with the Htiler Moustache.  Just about anyone who had contact with him considered him to be the strongest man that ever lived. 

He was one of the few strength luminaries not named Doug Heburn who can be excused for an upper-body strength training emphasis.  World War I took its toll on Goerner's body, leaving him with one eye and legs full of metal shards for the rest of his life.  By most accounts, his lift of choice was a combination of biceps curl and press work.  Ususally starting out with 55 lbs kettlebells and moving up incrementally until he got to the 110 lbs ones, he'd swing them overhead, lower them to the shoulder, press them overhead, lower them down, curl them and repeat (he varied between single and double kettlebell work but it almost always was the same basic action:  swing, press, curl).   I haven't implemented the swinging work into my training but I've come to appreciate the curl-press combination immensely. 

...Wait a second!  Swing a 110 lbs kettlebell OVERHEAD? 

In addition to being proof that kettlebell lifting isn't what it used to be, it's also a great way to get some serious upper body work.  If it worked for Goerner, it'll work for you!  This is the way that curling should be done:  with pressing work.  The weight training world is finally beginning to pull it's collective head out of its ass when it comes to neglecting pressing.   Back 110 years ago, if you weren't pressing, or at least putting weight overhead somehow, you just weren't strong.  

How did this press not hurt like a motherfucker?  Perhaps even Russian pot bellies are stronger than American ones!
This movement mixture can be upgraded further by combing another golden oldie with a recent pressing movement that the Russians actually got right.  If you dare say that you got bored with Hermann Goerner's pet lifting, I've got this to slap your stupid ass into eating those heretical words:  Combine Zottman Curls with Sots pressing. 

In other words, do a supinating curl of the weight(s), drop into a deep squat, then press the weight(s )overhead.  Then, stand up and do it all over again.  I use this one when I'm at home, working in my low-ceiling basement with dumbbbells.  Were I to standing press with those, I'd put the weights through the ceiling.  Out of anger, the thought has crossed my mind. 

How to implement these into a workout is totally up to you.  I enjoy pre-written programs about as much as I enjoy the Jersey Shore but I'll share a few ideas anyway.  I normally like to do these in a pyramid set, increasing the weight I press and curl as I decrease the reps.   Then, decrease the weight and increase the reps.  I've also used them as a finisher but if I find out that you're using tiny weights for high reps to tone, well...

Either way, this is a great, old school set of movements that should become more popular and taken more seriously than it is.  I recently found out somewhere that Bert Assirati was a fan of this curl-press movement as well.  Frankly, if two of the biggest, most powerful men to walk Europe in the 1920's were doing this, I think that's more than enough justification for you to do them as well. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bitching about The Summer Heat?

So, it's mostly in the low 90's here in Florida where I've been sentenced to stay for the foreseeable future with 60-80% humidity on any given afternoon.  Inside the garage is even worse.  Since the air conditioning exhaust runs through there too, it makes the already hotter-than-outside garage even more unbearable.  There I am, on the floor of the garage, with my hands squeezed inside the handle of my kettlebell doing Lat Pullovers.  My knuckles grind into one another and my back is picking up all kinds of dirt and dead insects off the floor because I'm sweating so hard as I move the KB through my sets.  I'd prefer to move this whole outfit outside but with my ACL in my left leg barely repaired, I don't chance carrying the large chunk of metal outside.  So, I do this all in the garage, hoping those ants I'm killing aren't the kind that bite and that spider in the corner the size of a my palm stays put. 

This is the first time I've ever written about this.  No, it's not a complaint but a wake-up call.  From one hardened mind to another, I'm sure that you'd love nothing more than to reach through your computer screen and grab those people on the other side who is complaining about how hot the summer is and tell them to shut the hell up and get to working out. 

This is classic a sign of lack of intensity.  Remember what that was when you train?  If you don't you might  need to be spanked with a spiked baseball bat.  That's when you do stuff that takes you past what's physically (and mentally) comfortable in your training.  We should also know that we need to push things past comfortable and into painful when we train.  If you didn't get that, spank yourself again with the studded baseball bat. 

So, since you're already there taking yourself to Intense-town, what difference does it make if the landscape is hot, sticky, humid, dirty, smelly and generally as miserable as the burn in your biceps and upper back while you're there?  You're supposed to be in a zone where you are forcing yourself to disregard the stresses you're putting yourself under and continue working.  The miserable backdrop to this scene is just matches the pain of the action.  This is why I've always loved the gyms with concrete floors, working out in basements and garages, and martial arts schools that are rough around the edges.  Anything to the contrary is Planet Fitness.

Clean, climate-controlled comfort is for bedtime.  If you're bitching about the weather and mitigating training, then you're just doing it wrong. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Resurecting Push-up Cocktails

Prior to letting one of Florida's better orthopedic surgeons do his best on my knee, I had to change up how I worked out my body with a useless leg.  If you've never done anything to injure your leg in a manner that prohibits carrying around weight, you cannot comprehend how bad this sucks for training.  It's not just the fact that you can't (shouldn't...) do leg training.  It also severely inhibits exercise selection because you are also limited by the lack of ability to set up your exercises.  So, it brings any former BW-only trainer far closer to their roots. 

In other words, this wasn't a tremendous problem for me.  I knew I could find ways to train around this.  I just had to reactivate this part of my brain. 

I've discussed this in a past entry:  some people who work out too often with lots of stuff, just the way they like it, pigeon-holing themselves with their training.  If you want to make 72.35% of gym rats wet their pants, cry like babies, and go into bizzare siezures, just take away their bench and watch the ensuing hilarity. 

When it came to my chest workouts, I took another track.  Of all the body parts that will make you look ridiculous for falling in love with one movement to train it, it's got to be the chest.  The pecs can move in so many directions and at so many angles that it's just flat-out stupid or lazy to rely on one movement for training.  Consequently, training the chest with one movement is also incomplete.  You're better off with a few different movements. 

Remember the time crunch thing?  Regardless of whether or not I am in a hurry or not, I still like to do a lot of work in less time.  I don't like resting much when I train.  So, when I tore my ACL, I gravitated to combining differing chest movements in one set.  That way I could satisfy the whole, "different angles, different ways," thing. 

The first combo that I started doing was combining BW flyes with push-ups on my suspension rig.  Both of these were done slowly and going as deep as possible, especially the push-up at the bottom.   By the end of this set, I usually feel like my pectoral muscles are going to tear off my breast plate and run away to find some easier, functional training.  The less-obvious benefit to this set is the ab training.  By the end of the set, it's hard to hold my midsection in place.  Of course, I had to do this all on one foot.  That added to the fun. 

The second combo that I picked up after not doing for a long time was what I loosely called clock push-ups.  I start out by doing some wide, wider than shoulder-width, hand stance push-ups.  Then, I walk my hands to the right three paces the the right (or left, doesn't matter), keep my feet in place, and do another set of hands-shoulder width apart.  Repeat the hand-walking and finish up with hands together.  As the hands get closer together, the range increases, making the push-ups harder as you get further into the set.  This really slashes down on how many push-ups you can do. 

Before I did both of these, I usually threw in some dips on the suspension rig.  I did these for no other reason than I'm humiliated by how much I suck at them.  As an added bonus, it's yet another direction to hit the chest. 

I've read a fair amount of BW training resources.  Blending together two different movements into the same set doesn't come up very often.  That's a mistake we don't have to make.   There are no rule that say that we have to do the same movement in the same set.  So, feel free to change it up. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Iron Addiction III : What happens when you rough it?

One thing that I always get a chuckle out of is listening to guys far too used to being in a fully-equipped gym describing what they'd need if they were forced to train in an environment that wasn't fully equipped.  The list normally starts out simply.  They'd need a barbell.  and a squat cage.  and only 500 lbs (or less, sometimes) of weights.  and maybe some matting.  and some dumbbell handles.  And some chalk.  and make sure the bar is ___ brand.  and a sandbag to be functional.  and a TRX.  And maybe a three kettlebells, just like Pavel recommends. 

Any pic with KK is worth posting.  Awesome for sure but I typed in, "minimalist strength training", to find this.  This isn't...
What's also amusing is how many of these guys are actually pretty respected and have a decent following.  It just goes to show how little experience in the improv-department some people really have.  Welcome to an area where I might actually proclaim myself an actual novice when it comes to strength training.  Having my training environment altered on a regular basis, my equipment access mitigated, modified, and messed with regularly, is what I've dealt with over the years when I travel for work. 

If there is a rule number one to minimalist training, it has to be that you've got to happily embrace BW training.  If your access to a gym is spotty, at best, and your ability to lay your hands on stuff to train with changes, then you've got to have a decent plan on how to make your body your equipment.  There is simply no way around it.  Even as you get very advanced, you can still make a hard workout out of BW alone. 
Luxury!  The possibilities are endless!
Another reason for working with BW is that it does change your outlook about training in an efficient way.  The rest of the strength training universe looks at one movement.  Then, they take the movement and add more weight to it.  The end.    When the stuff (iron)  runs out to make progression, then training suffers.  BW doesn't stick to one movement and one way to do it.  the form changes, usually pretty dramatically as progression becomes necessary.  Why this doesn't happen with weights more often confuses my BW-conditioned brain.  When I see a weighted object, I look for movements to make the weight harder, not more weight to make the same move harder.  It's a mentality switch that guarantees you'll find a workout in compromised environments.

Over the past 10 years of training, I've come to realize that while the challenge to the upper body posed by BW training is nearly limitless, the lower body work isn't quite at open-ended.  So, if those options are exhausted, or some weight is wanted, then you've just got to learn to look around.   This world is full of heavy, awkward stuff you can lift and move.   One thing that I've come to love moving for training is the vehicle I'm driving when I travel.  If you're a training minimalist, you'd better learn to love the sight of random junk piles.  There's an 86% chance that a great workout is in there, waiting for you. 
SON-OFA-BITCH!!  Get my tetanus shot current and let's lift!
Then there's the gear that you can either buy or bring with you.  It's kind of weird how poverty, travel, and time crunch all have the similar solutions when you're trying to train minimally.  When you sense the urge to have some equipment that you planned specifically for your workout, then you should keep a few things in mind.  First, don't bring something that can't be used for many different things.  Subsequently, that's a good rule for buying things.  Finally, make damn sure it doesn't take up a lot of space either.  If there are two such training tools that I find positively indispensable, it's some sort of suspension rig and a sandbag.  These two don't take up a lot of room and don't weigh a whole lot either (empty sandbag and fill it when you get to where you're going.  Duh!).   There is a lot of work that can be done with these two implements.  I can't think of two better items to invest some money in when you've to got to work out while traveling. 
I have this.  It goes everywhere with me.  Get it here

This is just another sign of iron addiction.  When you limit yourself to such a narrow means of training that you can't come up with a workout unless you're standing in a fully-equipped gym, then you're doing it wrong.  There's always a good workout nearby, no matter were you happen to be standing and what your circumstances are.  You've just got to find it.  If you can't find it, then there's a problem.  It's in your head.  

Oh, and this blog entry is too good not to link to, and relevant to what I'm talking about here