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. 

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