Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Lesser-known Advantages of Bodyweight Training

If readers have been stopping by and been a bit disappointed by the lack of purity in the content of my bodyweight-based blog since I jumped into the deep end of the strongman pool, I'd advise you to buy a gallon of distilled water...and shove it. 

Okay, maybe there is a bit of a point there.  I don't do a full-blown bodyweight blog any more than I train BW-only.  As I've branched out I still don't forget my roots.  Those have to be into some grounds of practicality and a strength trainer can't get any more practical than a BW training. 
This blog has always been about acknowledging that training has to mold around the rest of your life.  Getting strong can only encroach on your job, family, sleep and porn time so much. 

So, BW has a lot of advantages dealing with the pragmatism to any strength trainer.  The question is what are those advantages?  I do have three in mind that you may not realize. I'll start out with  performance-oriented one, moving to the less obvious, life molding shit. 

Need mid-section strength? You need BW
Filed under things I wished I'd saved a link to years ago was a video or picture of Derek Poundstone doing ab wheel rollouts (on his knees) .  While those athletes will likely make mountains out of mole hills debating the usefulness of direct ab work, those who agree you need some ab work will probably end up doing something BW-oriented. 

Why that is so is actually pretty simple:  the best ab work is BW stuff.  Even better is that pretty much the solid majority of all basic BW movements demand some sort of strong abdominal activation to complete.   If reach down into the toilet bowl that is T-Nation and can stomach pulling out a Bret Contreras article, he did an interesting test on abdominal activation during popular ab exercises.  The ab wheel and pull-ups topped the list. 

Never one to back away from sounding like an expert that I'm not (all while never being shy about admitting that I'm not),  I think that a large part of the reason why BW ab exercises are so fucking good for strength is that they're all largely about contracting the abs to hold the back in place during execution.  That simple cue is the basis of using abs in just about every, single lift done. 

Bodyweight is the most House Friendly Strength Training
Not too long ago, I crossed going to Iron Sport Gym off my bucket list of places that I wished to go in the USA.  This place exceeded all of my lofty expectations of how awesome it would be with its stunningly low quantity of cardio equipment, squat cages that filled up before the few token pieces of cardio equipment, and the crotchety owner Steve Pulcinella.  It's simply about as perfect of a set-up place as I'd expect any real strength sports-oriented gym to be, complete with the ability, even the expectation I daresay, of moving huge ass weights while making grunting noises and dropping shit like a fucking boss, if needs be. 

That's how a gym should be.  That's not the rest of the world.  The rest of the world, such as your home, probably expects a bit more courtesy with the noise you make, the equipment you use, and where you use it.  Few things rile a wife up more than dropping an axle loaded with plates on the basement floor, shaking the walls a bit, and making the toddler asleep above wake up abruptly. 

For this reason, bodyweight is ideal.  Since your weight is your body, it doesn't need to be loaded onto anything and it's not like you're going to drop it on the floor.  A body doesn't have a distinct metallic clank every time its used either.  This makes it well-suited for training in places where you kind of have to accommodate the peace and quiet of other people. 

Bodyweight is More Time Efficient
Since my training became mostly weights, I'm constantly plagued with the sense that I'm just not getting very much at all done.  The more you need to change weights and equipment, the longer the whole training process takes.  Strongman is even worse.  Most strongman gyms have an event day on a weekend, largely because it's such a pain in the ass to drag out so much equipment and train.  The process goes quicker when there's a few more hands on deck. 

That's the elegance of training without weights or equipment.  With no weight and equipment changes, a lot more volume can be packed into a shorter time period.  Lots of strength training deals with the notion of building a strong base.  A fundamental of that initial base strength is the capability to do a lot of work.  I can't really find a better way to get that injecting a healthy dose of bodyweight.  One of my favorite BW routines involved a simple superset of pull-ups and handstand push-ups.  I managed to put well over 100 of each in 40 minutes.  

So, if this recently-rare entry into my blog hopefully imparts on you as you push away from you keyboard is that despite the world full of toys to get strong with, the places you have to do them, and the ways that you can use them, BW has some intensely pragmatic and useful benefits that even a n00b strongman like myself can still appreciate. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

So-and-so said this and this is what I think again: Is Nick turning into a grumpy, old man?

Yes, I'm back to blogging.  Apologies for the long, long layoff.  Someone commented that I better have a good excuse.  Well, I was lazy and I had no desire to remove my writers block.  Here's one I started writing but never finished up about 8 months ago...

For a guy who comes off as shocking well built, obviously strong as shit, and generally pretty spry, Nick McKinless certainly came off as a grumpy, old bastard.
Fuck it! Stop listening to the gifted, young people!
- Anyone under 35 has an advantage.
- Anyone gifted has an immense advantage.
- Despite body type nuances anyone under 35 can do anything and gain muscle EASIER than anyone over 35 plus.

These are truths.
If you want to get better listen to the coaches and trainers that are still gaining muscle, staying lean, keeping in shape and generally improving. These people are the real teachers.
By all means follow the 'pretty trainers' and the 'gym bunnies with nice butts etc' but for the love of god DO NOT LISTEN TO THEIR ADVICE!!!
In my twenties and thirties I really thought I knew it all. After all I had a 640lbs Deadlift, a 310lbs Bench and a 440lbs Squat. And I was good at some VERY off lifts. Hah! And you thought I was gifted. Nope! The deadlift soon went away once I started hitting the ground as a stuntman.
The point is training is EASY when you are young and gifted. And so you mess your bodies up with bad form, stupid programming, showing off on social media, program hopping and bad recovery methods. Go for it! But I promise you it will catch you up.
Let's see how you all look in your 40's, 50's, 60' and beyond...AND what you can lift.

Theoretically, I should disregard this grouchy-sounding ol' bastard since I'm under the age of 35 (as of this writing) except the guy has done just about everything that can be done to a body in the name of fun and games.  So, I shouldn't disagree with my elders.  Thing is, though, I don't.

We've all watched our favorite highy-paid athletes get to around the age of 30-34 and proceed to degenerate into overpaid and hollowed out versions of their old selves.  Its almost as though a light switch went off and they're just unable to turn it back on.  What happened is pretty much what Nick McKinless is bitching about above.

Being a teens or twenty-something athlete is a grand time.  Your body is still fresh and young, responding with aplomb to practically every stimulus in training that you throw at it with cheerful positivity.  While it feels like no wrong can be done, something happens around the late 20-mid 30's.  The body's new car smell wears off, so to speak.  Abusive movements that a new body was able to shake off with alacrity suddenly create aches and pains.  Or, as in my case, an injury happens that requires surgical repair.  Once cut into, you're never really the same. 

This isn't the end of the line but merely the point in an athletes' life where they are forced to accept that they just can't do anything they please without consequence.  The body still has plenty of life to it but now care and consideration have to be applied to training if they wish to proceed onward at a high level. 

This is why young lifters don't know shit.  Chances are high that at 23, they've never had to adjust to anything in their training.  When your body breaks, that's you really start learning about how to build it back up.   That kind of problem solving with human muscle just can't be duplicated with a mere strength goal built towards with a fresh, young body.  It requires so much more study and care.

I'm pretty sure my ACL tear was such a turning point.  After reconstructive surgery and PT, I had a soda straw for a left leg.  I maintained about a 180-185 lbs weight throughout the whole ordeal, most of it going to my upper body.  Once I re-started training with my legs, I was partially smart.  I used  a lot of sled work since it didn't put to much stress on my knee outside of muscular tension.  I did front squatted variations that forced me to use good squatting form (goblets, zerchers and belt squats).

I didn't do everything right though and proceeded to deadlifting (295 lbs for singles.  Yes life sucked).    Unfortunately, with my leg strength so imbalanced, I'd lock out the right leg first.  Eventually, this caused irritation in my lumbar discs, taking me out of the deadlifting game for a while longer. 

I focused mostly on squatting and quad strength.  this proceeded to bite me in the ass when all of the quad-dominant work gave me IT band pains. 

Then, the disc thing.  Again.  One week before my first strongman competition. 

I eventually realized that I still lacked the  natural hyperextension in my left knee.  That still caused my right leg to lock first.  So, I resorted to hyperextension work on a GHR to force that ligament to hyperextend a bit more naturally.  Of course, the extra spinal erector strength didn't hurt either.  I threw in more unilateral leg work, focusing on trying to focus on the muscular contraction each time I lifted something. 

Take a look at that list of issues from one knee surgery.  In one year's time, I had to figure out a way to bring my lower body strength back up, fix my back, rehabilitate my knee, and even out my leg strength.  I learned about the importance of having natural joint movement back, the importance of unilateral strength training, and working with and around pain.  At the end of it all, I came out stronger than I was before.  That's not a learning curve that can be replicated with a simple strength goal.   Dealing with a fragile body teaches someone the proper balance between strengthening without abusing.  You just don't know that line when you're young, fresh, and have no wear on your body. 
 ...off topic but you should really check this short that Nick made a while back