Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cardio is a DIrty Word

I f*cking hate cardio. I really do. Always have. I had crippling asthma as a child so running around for long periods of time was less happy go lucky and fun than it was potentially fatal. Seriously. I have very, very few fond memories of my childhood that involve intense physical activity and as a result by the time I discovered the sports I did like my body had pretty much already decided it was only going to engage in short bouts of activity. Unless the activity was playing video games and consuming hot pockets, in which case I was a marathon level athlete.


I'm going to get straight to the point. In most cases, steady state cardio is f*cking garbage. What is steady state? It's exactly what it sounds like. Same intensity (speed and/or resistance) for the duration of your workout. So yes, I'm sorry, I know you don't want to hear it but that 5k jog you do 3 days a week at the same speed? Probably a waste of your time.

Yes. I know you've seen results. No, I'm not telling you that it does absolutely nothing. What I'm telling you is that your time would, beyond any shadow of a doubt, be better spent doing other things.

Think about it like this. Your body wants to be efficient, in fact, your body is biologically driven to accomplish things in the most energy efficient manner available. Why do most people do cardio? To lose weight, more specifically, to lose fat. The reason your body retains fat in the first place is as a way of maintaining fuel reserves. Once again, it's your bodies biological imperative to maintain the highest level of fuel reserves possible just in case sh*t gets real and you need to fight a bunch of zombies while running from a burning building and carrying no fewer than seven children. Or, you know, something like that.

What I'm saying is that when you do steady state cardio, you are training your body to burn its fuel more efficiently. I know that sounds good, but it's not. If your goal is fat loss it's actually rather bad. The more steady state cardio you do, the more work your body can squeeze out of every fat calorie. That's why when you first started running or biking or swimming you lost weight so quickly. Then your metabolic processes caught up to your activity, and now you're stuck. Used to take you 500 calories to run a mile. Now your body has it down to such a fine science that it can hoof the same distance with half the calories.

What's that mean? Well, you can double the duration of your exercise bout to make up for the efficiency but that's a long, dark road to go down. Eventually you'll be that guy in the corner on the treadmill who runs for 2 hours every day and looks the same today as he did two months ago. Oh, and by the way? He's still fat.

Not only is steady state cardio not the most efficient mode of fat loss, it's actually detrimental to the rest of your training efforts. If you are trying to build muscle, steady state cardio will short circuit your gains. We have these things called signaling pathways that are the biochemical blueprints/maps for all of our physiological processes. Turns out the resistance training pathway and the aerobic training pathway cross over and cancel each other out. What this means is that if you mix them you won't get the full benefits of either. Aerobic exercise activates a cascade of hormones that leave you looking kind of soft and fragile. I'll be honest, I find marathoner's incredibly impressive but I have less than zero desire to look like one of them.

In addition long term steady state cardio is responsible for a plethora of overuse injuries, particularly running. Hip flexor tendonitis, shin splints, stress fractures etc. are all the result of repeated bouts of doing the same damn thing for way too long.

So, what do you do? Metabolic Conditioning, or intervals. Interval training is basically combining a work interval with a rest interval. It can be anything from a 30 second sprint coupled with a minute of jogging to 20 seconds of burpees with 10 seconds of standing still. There's a pretty significant body of research that demonstrates this kind of training burns significantly more calories than steady state. It also contributes to the optimal hormonal environment that will transform you into a muscle building, weight throwing, steel eating beast where steady state will pretty much do the opposite. There's plenty of different  ways to put these things together but I'll give you two of my favorites.

HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training
The purpose of this is to choose a work interval and go all out. THat means that if you're running, your work interval should be an all out sprint. THe rest interval is whatever you need to feel recharged enough to push through another work interval. Again, if you're running, you might want to start by sprinting/walking and then work up to a jogging rest. Try this:

5 min jog/warm up
30s sprint
1:00 jog
repeat 6-10 times
5-min cooldown

I usually do sprints at 10-11mph and use about a 6mph jog as my rest. If you're not in great cardio shape I would start out a little bit slower. A word of advice, while you do want to increase your intensity/amount of work with every workout only increase the speed of one thing at a time. I.e, if you increased the speed of your sprint, do not also increase your active rest pace in the same workout. The same can be said of duration. Don't increase the duration of your sprint and decrease the duration of your rest in the same workout.. Your workouts should be hard and fast, but your progress should remain slow and steady.

Every minute on the minute 10 minutes
12 squats
9 push ups
6 burpees

Grab yourself a timer and get going. All you have to do is watch. Every time it ticks a new minute, you go through the circuit. This can get rough as you get tired because the longer it takes you to complete the work, the less rest you get. There'es a minute between the start of each set. No exceptions. This type of metabolic conditioning is particularly beneficial for people gym-goers who's main focus is building muscle because you're basically doing circuit training. Try this, do your entire weight workout and then when you're done give this met con a shot as a finisher.

There's plenty of other alternatives out there to long term steady state cardio. Most of them are faster, more effective, and in my opinion immensely more fun which begs the question, why are you still doing this sh*t?

Note: It is worth mentioning that there is a very specific and necessary purpose for steady state and that is competition. If you play a sport that involves long term steady state cardio, then you're going to have to do some of it to train. You can't learn to run a marathon by only doing sprints. It just doesn't work that way. That being said, if you aren't a cross country athlete or signing up for adventure races by the dozens you can most likely skip out on this stuff. Your metabolic pathways (and probably your joints) will thank you.

Good luck and good lifting.


Today's Workout:


Yesterday I set a new Squat PR. Today I'm doing nothing because my knees are sore. Wah.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Training to Failure - Why it's exactly what it sounds like

I remember reading an article back in school. There was some up and coming fitness guru who ran a facility that was half strength training and half research. Granted, the types of research they did usually involved slapping electrodes to people and shocking the f*ck out of them while they were working out to elicit increased motor recruitment or something along those lines. In hindsight, I can tell you several things that are wrong with this picture but at the time when I was 19 it seemed edgy, new and scientific. I totally fell into the trap.

One of the things this guy was advocating at the time was training to muscular failure; working out until your body is quite literally not capable of going any more. His argument was that it's the easiest predictor of the proper intensity. You should be able to do x number of sets and x number of reps, and if you don't reach failure, you didn't use enough weight. Basically what he's saying is that if you can complete every rep of every set with perfect form, you need to increase your intensity in some way which I don't totally disagree with. The problem was that his theory was not, in his mind, open to any kind of interpretation. If you were lifting, you should be training to failure.

So I did. I trained to failure on every exercise and initially I saw some great improvements. I tried to tell all my workout buddies about it, tried to push them into my mode of thinking but they mostly shrugged it off. I told myself it was because they weren't hardcore enough to train to failure. Maybe they were just smarter than I was at the time. The reality, as usual, probably falls somewhere in between.

Training to failure is just like any other modality, it's a tool for your tool belt but you can't use a hammer for every task. Training to failure on every set, every time you go into the gym is a great way to get overuse injuries by overtaxing your body and not giving it a proper rest interval. It's also a great way to short circuit your progress. Now, don't get me wrong, I think I've made it pretty clear that when it comes to fitness intensity really matters. I'm not saying otherwise. What I'm saying is that you can keep your metabolic engine at a really high rpm without redlining the damn thing for an hour straight. Would you do that to your car?  No, you wouldn't, so why would you do it to something you can't replace every couple of years?

It's list time ladies and gents.

Why Training to Failure is BAD:
1)CNS fatigue - If your goal is to become as strong as possible, you need your nervous system in tip top shape in addition to your muscles and joints. Maximal lifts or max effort exercises fatigue the nervous system in a way that takes several days to recover. Most strength gurus do not advocate going for a max on any big lift more than once a week. That doesn't mean if you maxed your deadlift monday you can max your bench on wednesday. It means you get one max per week, and a lot of these guys would say even doing one per week might be too much.
I understand that if your main goal is strength this may seem discouraging or frustrating but you can increase your 1RM by doing sub maximal lifts. In fact, in a lot of ways it's more effective in addition to being less dangerous. Going for a max lift when your body doesn't have the energy is a great way to shred your joints and put yourself out of the gym for months, not just a few days.

2) Reinforcing improper motor patterns - I addressed this a little bit with my article on form. Every exercise has an ideal movement pattern. Now, these movement patterns are somewhat different person to person because all of our bodies are unique, but I am a firm believer that there is an optimal, if not ideal movement pattern for every exercise for every body. If you are constantly lifting to failure, you are constantly in a state of fatigue. In addition to the primary movers being fatigued, the secondary stabilizers required for any of the big lifts are going to be fatigued as well. I don't really care if you can get all the way down on a squat and then re rack the bar with 300lbs. If you can't maintain good posture, your lower back is rounded and your chest is pointing at the ground the whole time you are using too much weight. No, I don't care that your legs are strong enough to lift it and that going down in weight won't "stress" them adequately. Don't be a meathead. You can only make up for poor form with raw strength for so long before you either stop making progress, hurt yourself or both.

3) Overtraining - Overtraining is one of those things that, to be completely honest, I'm not really sure the scientific community has pinned down. There are several different modes of thought on the subject and a lot of them are pretty different. On top of this there's also people who just seem to disprove all the scientific "knowledge" we have about it by training more than should be humanly possible and still making gains.
All I would say is that you need to listen to your body to know if you are overtrained or not. If you are always waking up sore and your joints never seem to stop hurting, stop working out or lower your intensity. If you aren't making the progress you used to but you're still doing two a days and sprinting until you vomit every time you go in, seriously, chill the f*ck out. It's easy to get carried away with all the fitness crazies out there yelling at you to go harder and faster but take my word for it, that's not always better. If you are training to failure on every set of every exercise of every workout, you are probably over training. Stop. Stop it right now. You are working too hard to be short circuiting your own progress. A little rest goes a long way.

So I've gotten to this point and realized that a lot of this seems like a re-hash of my entry on proper technique. In a way it is, but it's coming from a different angle. Muscular failure compromises technique, compromising technique compromises your progress and can ultimately compromise your health. The reality is that a lot of this fitness stuff really isn't that complex and it's all extremely interrelated.

So what's the take home? Killing yourself in the gym is good from time to time, but don't do it every workout. Strength and power are only two of the facets of what defines fitness. Mobility, flexibility, coordination and agility are all just as important and if you're training as hard as you possibly can sprinting and jumping and lifting weights, you're probably missing out on some of the finer points. Take it down a notch. Go stretch or maybe even swap out a workout for a sport. Your joints will thank you, and so will your gains.

As always, good luck and good lifting.


Today's Workout:

Dynamic Warm-up/Jump Rope - 15 min

Clean and Jerk 5x3
Front Squat 5x5
Parallel Grip Chin Up 5x5
Dips 5xAMRAP

FRISBEE. Frisbeefrisbeefrisbee. Today my metcon is pretending to be a dog and playing fetch until i fall over. Fetching to failure....wait...wait a minute...what was I just saying?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

F*ck Breakfast

I'm not much of a morning person. Unfortunately working in the fitness industry you kind of have to be. Clients want to work out at ungodly hours, sometimes as early as 5 a.m. Now, when you're a hardcore type A corporate CEO who gets 3 hours of free time a week, I get it. You have to do what you can when you can. Still. I tend to hate the mornings.

In addition to hating mornings my family has some genetic stomach issues. It's nothing serious but my mother, my sister and I all have issues with certain things. My mother and my sister are far worse than I am, which I attribute to a childhood that required me to take piles of prescription drugs every day. I could be totally wrong, but I am a pretty firm believer that the amount of stomach turning prescription compounds I had to take significantly increased my tolerance to queasiness. Even so, I am somewhat of a picky eater at times and it can take my stomach a while after I wake up to become comfortable with the idea of actually eating something.

Between these two things I have a confession to make. I f*cking hate breakfast.

That is not to say I hate breakfast food, because I don't.  I love eggs, love omelettes. I can't get enough of breakfast sausage and bacon and all that good stuff. I love fruit and even the occasional bowl of oatmeal, although i find oatmeal a little boring and no, I don't really care about its purported health benefits.

But Bob, you say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Every fitness guru and diet plan I've ever read has talked about how starting off your day with a big, healthy breakfast primes your metabolism and cognitive functions throughout the day! If you don't eat breakfast you're setting yourself up to fail!

Look, I've heard this stuff too. As a result I've spent the last couple of years forcing myself to choke down food far earlier in the AM hours than I or my GI tract are really comfortable with. No more. I've been reading a lot lately about how the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is not only a myth, but a potentially damaging piece of fitness industry bullsh*t that may have significant and deleterious effects on our health.

As it turns out, most of the studies that cite breakfast leading to weight loss are misleading. In general, if you front load your calorie intake towards the earlier hours of the day you WILL lose weight. The problem is that it isn't the weight you want to lose. In most of these studies what's happening is that the groups that eat a large breakfast lose significantly more muscle mass. So, while the non breakfast group may not have lost as much overall weight, they lost significantly more fat mass while MAINTAINING their hard earned muscle mass.

The reasons for this go back to one of my favorite subjects, an optimal hormonal environment. As it turns out, the hormones that lead to fat burning (cortisol and glucagon) peak in the early morning hours, right before we wake up. Most of the negative, weight gaining effects of cortisol have to do with the interaction of cortisol and insulin. When your cortisol levels are elevated and you consume a high glycemic index food, like fruit or cereal, your insulin levels spike. The combination of cortisol and insulin leads to fat gain. When cortisol is elevated in the absence of insulin, it actually leads to the release of free fatty acids (FFAs) and their use as fuel. Basically, your body is in extreme fat burning mode when you wake up but as soon as you put some food in your stomach, you cause an insulin surge which shuts down all the fat burning processes.

In addition to your body being a fat burning furnace when you first wake up, there is evidence that working out in a fasted state significantly increases the utilization of fat as a fuel source. What this means is that if you work out instead of eating breakfast you are seriously increasing your bodies natural ability to burn some fat. Having done it I can tell you it is fairly miserable but you get used to it. Plus, as soon as you start to see your abs you sort of stop caring that you're a little out of it. Besides, far as I'm concerned no one should be on top of their mental game at 7a.m. Those people are just weird.

I feel like I should also address the studies that claim eating breakfast enhances cognitive performance. In all the studies I looked at, the subjects were malnourished prior to entering the study. In other words, breakfast only enhances cognitive function if your diet is already severely lacking in other areas. THis basically means that if you eat a well balanced diet and drink enough water on a day to basis it is unlikely that eating breakfast every day has any measurable effect on your cognition or mental performance.

The take home from all of this is pretty simple. If your main goal is fat loss, skip breakfast and if you're really ambitious replace it with a workout. That being said, if you are a morning person and you love your breakfast, just try to keep it to predominantly low glycemic index foods meaning as few simple carbs as possible. There's also some research that says that the amino acid leucine which is an essential amino acid (and therefore found in most animal protein) also causes an insulin spike, but it is not as significant as the spike that results from eating simple carbohydrates. I would not go so far as to say that we should all stop eating breakfast I simply wanted to relay the message to those people out there like me who hate doing it. You're free from the bonds of breakfast, at least until someone publishes a study that proves all of this stuff wrong too.

Hooray, science.

Nice day outside, hope you guys get to enjoy it. Good luck and good lifting.


Today's Workout:
Dynamic Warm Up:
Jump Rope/Dynamic Stretches - 15 min
Shoulder mobility work/thoracic mobility work with a lacrosse ball - 5-10min
(exercises can be found here)

Overhead Press 5-5-5 complex 3-5x (first complex increase weight every set, then after the third set reduce the weight to what you used for your second set, rest, and begin the second complex in the same manner until you've completed all 5 complexes or you are too fatigued to continue)

Barbell Complex:
Deadlift-Hang Clean-Push Jerk-Clean and Jerk (115lbs)
200m sprint
5 rounds for time

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Power of Plyometrics

Plyometrics. Plyos. Today I want to talk about plyos.

I love plyometrics. I always have. Plyos highlight one of my main fascinations with the human body; the specificity with which it reacts to training stimuli. When you're doing plyos correctly, you're not training your muscles in the traditional sense. You are specifically training a reflex. That's right. You are intentionally sensitizing and desensitizing a set of neurological patterns, the end result of which is that you become more explosive. It let's you jump higher and hit harder without actually adding a significant amount of muscle mass. Plus, you get to jump around and throw sh*t which is highly entertaining. 

First of all, there seems to be some confusion amongst the general public about what 'plyometric' means. You ask most people in the gym and they'll say, "jumping." This isn't wrong but it's not exactly right either. Almost all plyometric exercises for the lower body involve jumping of some kind but there are also exercises that involve jumping that aren't plyometric.  Time for a quick physiology lesson.

Inside our muscles we have sensory receptors called muscle spindles. When your muscle is stretched to a certain point, these muscle spindles pick up on it. They initiate the "stretch reflex" which causes the muscle to contract and shorten. This series of physiological events is referred to as the stretch shortening cycle. Brilliant, I know.

There are basically two things in our musculo-skeletal system capable of doing mechanical work. One of them is your muscles, which generate mechanical energy through contraction. In addition to the muscles themselves your tendons are also capable of doing a small amount of work. While they don't technically contract they are capable of storing mechanical energy when stretched, sort of like a rubber band, and this energy can be used if the muscle is contracted fast enough after the initial stretch. The elastic energy dissipates fairly quickly under constant tension. 

Plyometrics increase your muscles' ability to produce force by training these two very specific components of your physiology. So, what then is a plyometric exercise? A plyometric exercise is one that trains the sensitization of the stretch reflex and increases the strength of the "series elastic component" (translation:stretchy stuff) of your muscles. 

What does that mean for you? Well, that really depends on what it is you're trying to do. Specificity, remember? Plyometrics are great for increasing explosiveness in athletes and particularly in increasing vertical jump height. They've also been shown to be effective in strengthening the musculotendinous junction, which has both rehabilitative and preventative implications. This is likely due to the large eccentric component of any jumping exercise. 

If you want to incorporate plyos into your routine because you want to jump higher, further safeguard your joints or just for something new to try, here's how. 
General guideline for plyometrics is 25-40 ground contacts per session. For all intensive purposes, a ground contact is a repetition. Research suggests that you get the most benefit from plyos performed at the end of a training session. The mechanism has been attributed to increased motor neuron recruitment/ post activation potentiation, but last I checked they still weren't exactly sure why this was the case. All I would say is make sure you are thoroughly warmed up before doing any plyometric exercise. In terms of volume per week the guideline is 100 or fewer ground contacts per week for a beginner, 125 for a moderate athlete and 140 for an advanced athlete. These can be broken down any number of ways but you should avoid doing plyometrics more than two days in a row and more than four days a week. 

In addition, in order for all exercises to be TRULY plyometric the idea is to perform them as quickly as possible after the eccentric (lowering) phase. In other words, jump as fast and hard as you can after hitting the ground. Also, try to land quietly...like a ninja. This way you ensure you're absorbing the impact properly which means you can use more of the stored energy and you're preventing damage to your joints. 

Sample Plyometric Workout: (these are all designed to be added at the end of a workout)

Day 1
Depth Jumps 3x5
Drop Jumps 2x5
Skater hops 3x5 (each leg)

Day 2
Box Hops 4x6

Day 3
Single Leg Hopping 4x5 each leg
Lateral Hurdle Jumps 3x6 

Just be careful. I encourage everyone to try them out but you should have a solid base of fitness before you do any plyometrics. They are a really good way to hurt yourself if you do them incorrectly. Now get out there and go jump over some sh*t. 


Today's Workout:

Jump Rope/Dynamic Warm-up - 15 min.

Power clean

3-3-2-2-2-1-1-1-1 135,145,155,165,175,185,195,195,195


145 3 reps every minute on the minute 5 min

Jumps Rope/Dynamic Warm-up - 15 min

Crossfit Hero WOD from 4/23
Run 800 meters
then two rounds of:
50 burpees
40 pull ups
30 one legged squats
20 kettlebell swings (1.5 pood)
10 handstand push ups
then run 800 meters

Monday, April 15, 2013

When Sh*t Gets Real

It's all a little surreal. I was just talking to my sister when it happened. She lives right outside Boston so she asked me if I'd heard.

Heard about what?

The explosions, she said. There were explosions at the marathon.

It didn't register. I remember feeling the same way ten years ago when someone told me what happened. A plane did what? What...do you mean? My brain is always searching for the logic in things. Looking for a rational way to assemble the pieces in a system that makes sense. When she told me explosions I assumed electrical equipment, something minor. I figured it wasn't a big deal.

I was wrong.

There wasn't a lot of information at first just a few pictures. Explosions and smoke and people running. Then I saw the one that made it real. It was an empty street. There were no people but the pavement was all wrong. It was dark, covered in something that wasn't supposed to be there. My stomach turned and all I could think was, why? Why would someone do this?

I was angry. I was so angry and so heartbroken. I wanted something, some kind of answer. Who's responsible? How could they do this? I wanted some shred of information that would let me put it in a neat little box that my brain could understand. I wanted to organize it and file it away in a place where it didn't scare me so much, in a place where it didn't hurt so bad.

The truth is that you can't rationalize this sh*t. There's no one why, there's a thousand whys and they all sound like ignorance and hatred. They all sound sad and angry and misunderstood. There's so many answers but no matter what they are or how many they could never add up to a solution that satisfies this. There's no satisfying this.

But there is something.  It's right there in front of us. There's so much fear and anger and sadness but look past that.  You'll see that people were running but they weren't running away.

Sure, some people were scared but so many others, they were running towards the explosions, towards the screams. There was no way any one of them knew what was going on or what they were getting themselves into but I like to think they didn't care. I like to believe they knew people were hurt and needed help and that was the only thing that mattered.

Some people think these events are why we should lose faith in humanity. I disagree. This is when we see our strength. This is when we show our love. Strangers helping strangers because they're in need. People risking their lives because it's what they believe you're supposed to do.

Terrorism thrives on fear. The whole point is to break our spirit and rob us of our faith. If that's what this was, I say they failed. When I look back on what happened today I don't see broken people running scared. I see people doing their best and trying their hardest. In the wake of a horrific tragedy, I see people who refuse to stop fighting. They might be scared but they are together and we are with them in our hearts and minds if not our bodies.

They can hurt us. They can knock us down. They can scar us and scare us but we will stand back up and we will do it together.

We are strong because we are not alone.

Much love to the friends and family of all those involved. My heart goes out to you and I am so sorry for your loss. Stay strong Boston.

Stay strong.

Todays Workout: (Yes. We're still doing this because f*ck the people responsible.)
Run 5k
Foam Roll - quads, hams, glutes, ITB, calves
Active mobility/dynamic stretching
Passive stretching/recovery

Dynamic Warm-Up- 10-15 min
Deadlift - 5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1-1
Power Clean - 5-5-5
Wide Grip Pull Up 3-3-3-3-3
Bench Press 4x8
Bent Over Row - 4x8
Overhead Press - 4x8

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Eat Like A Caveman

I'm sure you've heard of the paleo diet. It's the most recent in an ever changing sea of fad diets and quick fixes that promise to get you lean, toned and healthy if you just follow their simple rules. Here's the thing about this one.

It's actually for real.

Now, I don't actually ascribe to any particular author or practitioner's point of view on the paleo diet but the basics are incredibly simple. If you can't pull it out of the ground or rip it off a dead animal and make it edible with fire, you can't eat it at all. This means a focus on lean animal proteins, lots of fruits and veggies and some nuts and seeds. Pretty straight forward.

I love the paleo diet because it doesn't follow any ridiculous rules or make any psuedo-science based claims about its efficacy. We all know processed food is bad. We all know more natural food sources are good. This is quite literally the heart of the paleo plan.

Now, I'm not going to say I'm full on paleo all the time. It's pretty hard on your social life and unlike some practitioners who claim you should just re-align your friendships with people who are more like you (not terrible advice but a little extreme and short sighted) I think it's healthy to get out and live a little from time to time. Plus, I love my craft beers and I will never let paleo take them away from me.
That being said I think the paleo template is a brilliant one to follow. Trying to stay as close to paleo as possible is a good foundation and you can make alterations as necessary.

It does, however, bear mentioning that if your one goal is to lose fat and get as shredded as possible, paleo might be the next best thing to plastic surgery. Seriously. The people I know who are hardcore paleo are all shredded as f*ck. Some of this is because the paleo lifestyle and hardcore exercise tend to go hand in hand but I've seen hardcore exercisers go from looking fit to cut the f*ck up in a matter of weeks simply by switching to paleo.

There's also a fair amount of evidence that the paleo diet, despite having a serious focus on animal protein, is significantly better for your cardiovascular system than a lot of other diets. Paleo dieters tend to have higher levels of HDL, lower levels of LDL, lower levels of circulating triglycerides and a few other markers of CVD risk. It also promotes that positive hormonal environment I'm always harping on by forcing you to subsist on low glycemic index foods. These are both really good things not just in terms of how you look, but in terms of your overall health.

I saw an article the other day where someone criticized the paleo diet saying that our ancestors probably didn't really eat like that. It then used this and some bullsh*it logical leaps to draw the conclusion that paleo is not good for you.

Give me a break.

I don't advocate paleo because it's how our ancestors survived. Frankly, hilarious cave man clip art aside, I don't really care how they survived. That's not the point. Whether it was called the paleo diet or the meat and veggies diet i would still advocate it because it's good for you. Again, I'm not a doctor and there are people with certain health conditions that require a very specific dietary intake of certain nutrients. If you are one of these people you should consult your health care practitioner before making any major dietary changes.

Oh, and I wish I didn't have to say this but if you interpret the paleo diet as an excuse to eat all red meat all the time and nothing else you have missed the point entirely. Every meal should still be balanced. Eat 4-5 times a day at regular intervals. Try to get a piece of lean protein that's rougly the size of your hand with your fingers curled at the second knuckle (yes this is actually a guideline registered dietitians use because it's fairly instructive) and then fill the rest of your plate with veggies. Fruits are good too but try to keep them to earlier in the day or as a preworkout-fuel snack.

EDIT: I can't believe I forgot to add this in. So, despite what I said literally five sentences ago in the paragraph directly above this, one of the best parts of the paleo diet is the amount of animal fat you can actually consume without suffering any real adverse effects. Again, you should still be shooting for a balanced diet but one of the greatest parts of eating paleo is being able to polish off a quarter lb of bacon at some random time of day because you needed a snack. Yea. You can do that and keep losing weight. It's feckin' crazy and awesome. When you eat this way and have for a while your body simply becomes better at processing the fats and using them as a fuel source so rather than ingesting some bacon and having it screw up your cardiovascular system, make you feel groggy and gain weight, your now finely tuned digestive system takes the fat and preferentially burns it for energy. One of the many, many awesome things about maintaining a positive hormonal environment.

Well, that's it for today. Happy to take any questions or feel free to leave a comment about some diet you tried and how it played out. As always, good luck and good lifting.


Todays Workout:
Dynamic Warm Up - 10-15 min
45 Thrusters - 95lbs
45 Pull-Ups (working on my butterfly kipping...it's getting there)

Run 5k (because it's too nice to stay inside)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Breaking Plateaus

It's gonna happen eventually. No matter how hard you work, how much effort you put in, at some point you're going to hit a plateau. Might happen in a month, might take you years if you're lucky and diligent with your periodization but it's okay. It happens to the best of us.

Controlled chaos. Induced damage. The entire point of working out is to traumatize your body a little bit. You are deliberately challenging yourself and your physiological systems in the attempt to make them better. The somewhat unfortunate other side of the coin is that means the better you get at something or the easier it becomes, the less it's doing for you.

It's easy to fall into a routine of doing the same thing if you're not careful. Even if you think you're doing all the right things, if you still aren't seeing the progress you're looking for it might be time to change something up a little bit. It doesn't have to be anything gigantic. I'm not telling you to completely re-imagine your entire fitness plan. I just want you to consider tossing in some of the following tweaks or paying attention to certain details. Just give it a shot. You might surprise yourself.

Ideas For Breaking a Plateau
1) Do Sets for Time Rather Than Repetitions
Stop counting reps and instead grab a timer and go for as many as you can in a certain time interval. You may have to lighten the weight a little but don't get carried away. The point is to push yourself. Do 3 sets of 30 seconds on the bench rather than 3 sets of 12 or try 5 sets of 20 seconds of as many pushups as you can. It's harder than you probably think.

If you're looking for a serious change try Tabata intervals. The basic idea is that you do 20 seconds of all out effort and 10 seconds of rest for 8 sets (3:50 seconds total). It works best with multi-joint compound exercises. Think bench presses and squats rather than bicep curls and lat raises.

Here's a nasty workout you can do with just a Pull-up bar and a jump rope.
Sample bodyweight Tabata workout:
Dynamic Warm-Up 10-15min
Tabata Squat
1:00 Jump Rope
Tabata Pull-up (you can substitute in jumping pull ups or an inverted row if the pull ups are too much)
2:00 Jump Rope
Tabata Sit Up
1:00 Jump Rope
Tabata Push Up
2:00 Jump rope
Tabata Burpees
1:00 Jump Rope
Tabata Jump Rope

2) Start Using a Training Log
I'm a huge proponent of data collection. The best way to see what you need to change is having an exact record of everything you've done. It can be tedious at times but if your goal is to try to get stronger you need to make sure you're consistently increasing how much weight you're lifting. If your aim is cardiovascular endurance, you need to make sure you're always either pushing your pace or your volume a bit. It's hard to make sure you're consistently moving forward if you don't have a map of where you've been.

3) Change Your Diet
Even if your goal is not weight loss you may need to pay more attention to your nutrient intake than you think. One of the largest determinants of a positive hormonal environment is what you eat. Without getting into the details too much, the more processed something is, the more likely it is to cause a blood sugar spike which puts your body into storage mode and blunts the response of all those wonderful anabolic hormones. On the flip side, the closer you are to eating clean the easier it is for your bodies to keep all that good stuff coursing through your veins and making you stronger.
You also need to make sure you're fueling yourself properly. It's great that you started doing 2 a days and I respect your drive but you need to recognize that burning another 500-1000 every day requires a serious increase in food intake especially if you're looking to build any kind of muscle.
The average persons idea of what constitutes a large amount of protein is pretty far off from what you probably need. If you're very active (workout intensely 4-5 days a week on top of other daily activities) you should shoot for around 1g of protein per lb of body weight. It sounds like a lot, but if you're taking in a solid source of protein each meal and eating 4-5 times a day (which you should be) it's not terribly hard to hit.

4) Take More Time Off
Rest goes a long way. When I talk to people who can't remember the last day they took off it makes me cringe a little bit. You need to give your body a break sometimes. It's not just to increase your gains, although it can have that effect. It's to keep yourself injury free. If you are active you are going to subject your body to wear and tear. This is normal and healthy. Your body has all sorts of wonderful mechanisms for remaking you better, faster and stronger. The problem is when you never give yourself ample recovery time you are constantly in a cycle of breakdown. You're constantly catabolic. This can lead to inflammation and injury which will only further slow your gains. Wouldn't you rather voluntarily take a day or two off a week than a forced 6 months off for joint surgery and rehab? Because it can take that long. Hopefully you'll just have a minor overuse injury and some good ol' rest and ice will take care of it. Worst case scenario you're so overworked that you compromise your form and do some real damage, the kind that needs surgical repair. That can take anywhere from 3-6 months and if it's your shoulder or your hip there's a good chance you'll never be the same again. These kinds of injuries are more common in actual sports than the gym but the lesson is still the same. Don't be stupid. Get your rest.

These recommendations are mostly for someone who is at least moderately experienced and already has their bases covered. You should be doing some strength training and some type of conditioning along with some exercises for flexibility and mobility. If you're not doing all of this stuff, adding it in could be enough to get you through your plateau all in itself. If all you do is cardio, try a basic strength training program. You'll probably be blown away by the changes you'll see with just 2-3 days a week of total body strength work.

Always try new things. Always keep moving forward. One of the foundational principles of real fitness is the ability to tackle any physical challenge. The best way to stay functionally fit is to keep trying new things, whether it's a attempting a muscle up, dedicating yourself to power lifting for 6 months, or signing up for an ultimate frisbee league. Keep it fresh. Your body and your joints will thank you.


Today's Workout:

Dynamic Warm Up
Jump Rope - 5 min
Squats x10
Single Leg RDL 10x ea
Alternating toe touches 10xea
Leg Swings 10x ea a/p/m/l ea leg
Bridges 10x
Single Leg Bridges 10x ea.
Bird Dogs 10x ea
Push Up 10x
Jump Rope - 2 min

Power Clean 5 (95) 3(115) 1(135) 1(155) (warm-up) 5x5 at 145
Front Squat 5x5 205
Standing Overhead Press 3x5 115

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's All in the Details

Today I want to talk about technique.

It seems to me that the most recent trend in fitness is intensity. You've got P90X and Insanity making people jump up and down while spinning and ripping off pull-ups until they puke. You've got your bootcamps where you pay someone to yell at you and abuse you physically and emotionally over the course of an hour. Then there's CrossFit (my second love) and all of the other derivative fitness programs that preach work out till you vomit or pass out.

I love it. Intensity is king when it comes to improving your fitness. The fitness nut-job in me loves that going hard in the gym is now as cool or cooler than going hard at the bar. That being said, I also used to have a supervisory role in an outpatient orthopedic rehab facility. The number of people who needed some type of joint repair surgery as the result of their weekend warrior lifestyle would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that on average these procedures put you out of commission for three to six months and may permanently alter the functionality of your body.

No bueno.

One of the biggest gripes people have with CrossFit is that it's dangerous. I actually tend to agree, but not for the reason most people think. It seems like the average gym-goer's perception of CrossFit is simply that the choice of exercises and the intensity/load with which they are performed is dangerous in and of itself. This is very, very wrong.

CrossFit can be dangerous due to the highly technical nature of the exercises used. Olympic lifting, power lifting and gymnastics are all very complex, multi-part variable technique activities that require the utmost concern for proper form to avoid injury. When done safely the results and benefits of this kind of stuff are astronomical. Done wrong, it can literally f*ck you up for life.

Any CrossFit Coach worth their salt is aware of this. The instructors in the community tend to be some of the most well informed, humble and helpful individuals I've interacted with in the fitness industry. These guys know their stuff and they want you to be safe. The same can not be said for the average gym trainer or bootcamp instructor. I can not tell you the number of people who would get hurt in bootcamps and then scoff at the thought that their beloved saturday morning fitness massacre was responsible for the deteriorating state of every joint on their body. "You mean to tell me Steve down at the Corp-O-Gym who never graduated high school and has a certificate he bought on a website doesn't really understand how the body works??" I know. I must be crazy.

Biomechanics is not a simple science. Understanding the proper movement of the human body across all planes and in all directions requires more than simply having lifted weights since high school. This doesn't mean every trainer needs a PhD. It just means that as an active person you should take some responsibility and learn what perfect form is for every exercise you do. Just because you're drenched in sweat, breathing heavy and about to pass out does not mean you're getting a good work out. A good trainer can take you to the point right before you break and hold you there for the duration of your session. They can also do this while ensuring every exercise is done perfectly or at the very least in a manner that is not detrimental to the structural integrity of your body.

Injury prevention, while important, is just one of the reasons to focus on form. Here's a list, because apparently people like lists.


1) Prevention of Injury - Yes.

2) Efficacy of exercises - This is one of those things that should be obvious but apparently isn't to most people. Every repetition done with picture perfect form counts exponentially more towards accomplishing your goals than a hundred done poorly. Proper form ensures you are placing the stress on the appropriate parts of your physiology and stimulating them to respond the way you want. You can do as many half squats on your toes as you want, but all it's going to do is stress your knees and ankles and stimulate your patella to snap in half. You can do two hundred half- assed squats and get mediocre results or you can do three sets of five perfect squats with serious weight and see a difference in a matter of weeks. Your call.

3) Development of improper movement patterns - Neurology plays a huge and often undervalued part in exercise. While your skeleton provides the system of levers you need to move and your muscles act as the little engines that move it, your nervous system is sitting in the driver's seat making sure it all goes down the right way. I'm sure you've heard of the term muscle memory. When you do an exercise improperly, you are hardwiring your nervous system to prefer this movement pattern over the correct one. This has implications outside of the gym. Say you do a lot of box jumps, which are a great exercise, but when you do them you always land hard and loud because no one has taught you how to use your body to absorb the shock properly. Now, in addition to the damage you're doing in the gym, you are teaching your body that any time you do something that involves landing like this, this is the way it should be done. This is very bad.

4) Creation of muscular imbalances - Following directly off the heels of the previous reason, improper form can create tightness where it shouldn't be while over strengthening the wrong muscles and under strengthening some of the more important ones. This can be the result of poor form but it can also result from poor program design. Ultimately this all relates back to the prime reason for doing things properly - muscular imbalances and tightness can alter your movement patterns and lead to injury.

5) Daily Functionality - I genuinely believe that one of the main motivations for being fit is to improve the quality of your life. It makes day to day activities easier and lets you engage in things that not everyone may be capable of. Being fit is just one more way to get everything you can out of anything you do. When you perform your workouts with perfect form you achieve the opposite effect of everything described above. You prevent imbalances, you improve your motor patterns and you get the most out of every workout.

You've already gotten past the hardest part. You're up, you're moving, and you're in the gym. Why wouldn't you want to get the most out of all the energy you're putting into it? Take some time, do some research and figure out what perfect form really is. One of the coolest things I've discovered is that I really feel like your body does want to do things correctly. It's almost instinctive. When you do an exercise with complete bio-mechanical perfection, you can feel it. Or, well, I like to think that I can.

You could also hire a trainer to teach you how to do things right. Despite what I said before there are plenty of good trainers out there if you know what to look for. They should have some sort of formal education in the field and ideally a certification from NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) is supposedly a good one too, but the people who I know who have a NSCA-CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) are consistently the most intelligent and well informed in my opinion. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions. If your trainer can't give you an exact, scientifically sound reason as to why you're doing something, it might be time to take your business elsewhere. Would you take a drug from a Dr. who couldn't tell you why you need it? Then why would you let someone with 1/10 the education get away with the same thing? I wouldn't, and neither should you.

Good luck and good lifting.


Today's workout:

Dynamic Warm Up - 10-15 min
-Jump Rope - 5-8 min
-Dynamic Stretching - 5-8 min

Strength Training:

Hang Clean
135 lbs
3 reps EMOM - 6 min

Sprint 200m
5 Pull ups
10 Box Jumps
15 Dips
20 Squats
25 Mountain Climbers
30 Sit Ups

3 rounds for time

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Setting Goals

I've touched on it a handful of times over the last few posts but this one is dedicated entirely to this oh-so-simple but oft forgotten principle. If you want to achieve something real, you need to set some concrete goals. There's a couple of reasons for this.

REASONS: (Yes, angry-shouty caps are required here.)
1) Accountability
It's easy to sign up for a gym membership. Actually going is something quite different. I am a firm believer that in the beginning you should keep your goals simple but specific. "I will go to the gym 3x this week," is something you can accomplish and then be proud of. "I'm going to start going to the gym," is nebulous and doesn't have an expiration date. So many people say they want to start a diet but again, you can always just put it off 'til tomorrow. Don't be that guy. If you want to change your diet tell yourself you're going to go a week, a month, whatever. Start small. Pick something specific, realistic and achievable. Now stick with it. It's hard to stick with something that doesn't really exist.

2) Motivation
I read a book a while back that was a sociological study on the underpinnings of happiness. They looked at a lot of factors but the one running theme was happy people accomplish tasks. It could be anything from cleaning your room to graduating with a PhD but it seems we are happier when we complete tasks with appreciable results. Personally, I couldn't agree more.

You told yourself last week you would go 3x and you did. Take a minute and be proud. Now move on to the next goal. If you've established a routine, set goals within that routine. Last week you went to the gym 3x, this week you're going to go 4x and do two days of strength training and two days of cardio. Again, if you're just beginning, the specifics of how or what you're doing are not nearly as important as getting it done. With every little achievement your confidence will grow. Setting goals will help you feel rewarded.

Or maybe you didn't reach your goal. Maybe you came up a little short. That's fine. Go read my post on standing up and then do it. Get over it. So you let it beat you last time. This time you're not going to. Get a little angry. Let it drive you to do better.

3)Training Specificity
So you've been doing this fitness thing for a while and you're ready to take it to the next level. That's awesome. How are you going to do that? What EXACTLY is it that you want?
The human body has a very specific response to exercise. If you want to get stronger you have to do resistive work. If you want to get faster you have to do speed work. If you want to learn how to do a backflip you're going to need to try some gymnastics because running for thirty minutes three days a week isn't gonna cut it. This may seem painfully obvious but trust me, in practice, it really isn't.

Now as much as I admonish people against picking goals like, "I want a six pack," and such this example is actually useful here. Say you're a guy and you want to look like an action hero. That's cool, me too. You need to pick a goal (or series of goals) specific to that task. Start by being realistic about where you're at. If you look like Captain America pre-super soldier juice then you're biggest issue is packing on some size. That means some serious strength training and a decent calorie surplus from lean protein sources (you need to eat more than you burn for your muscles to grow. Your body needs those leftover calories to use as construction material.)

As to what program you'll use, go back to my post on educating yourself and start with the basic foundation for a 3 day a week strength program. Now within that, set some goals for yourself. Don't worry about how big your guns are or how closely your stomach resembles a civil war era laundry machine, focus on the numbers.

See where you're at with your lifts and set attainable goals like increasing your squat by ten lbs. a week or upping your bench by five lbs. a workout and start chipping away. When your numbers start going up, your physique is going to start showing progress as well. This is also where a training log comes in handy. Data is the foundation of any scientific approach including training. This also gives you something to go back and look at if you aren't hitting the goals you're looking for.

This same principle applies to a heavy person trying to lose weight. Your main focus should be burning extra calories. Specificity, specificity, specificity. Say it with me now...SPE-CI-FI-CI-TY.

I hear a lot of women complain about how their bodies aren't changing the way they want them to. If all you're doing is long term steady state cardio or focusing on burning calories, your body isn't getting the right stimulus to change it's shape. You need to build some muscle for that. Muscle growth requires resistance. Now, you can get that from strength training if you want to go right at it, but you can also get that stimulus from yoga, Pilates or even classical dance training like ballet or modern (have you ever seen the legs on dancers? Because good god damn...).

So let me be clear: working out to burn calories does just that and only that (well it typically also increases your cardiovascular conditioning but that's semi-irrelevant at the moment). If you really want to see your abs or get rid of the fat on your arms, you need to give your body a reason to change. I'm probably going to dedicate an entire article to this subject at a later date.

Yea. Look. I know I'm repeating myself but the reality is that motivation is the cornerstone behind goal setting. You're starting a journey to a better you and by setting goals you're giving yourself a destination. Now you have something to work towards and a pay off to look forward to. That's huge.
I have a friend who likes to sign up for adventure races. (She aslo recently wrote a blog that's a brilliant demonstration/journal on setting and achieving goals: I Can Do Anything for 30 Days) I really like the idea of it being trendy and cool to be a beast and go jump in the mud but races have never really been my thing (not enough heavy lifting....). That being said, these races have motivated her to bust her ass in the gym and get in better shape than she's ever been. She's doing this GoRuck 12hr endurance race this weekend which is boss as hell and I can guarantee you that knowing she's going to have to suffer through 12 hours of grueling punishment at the hands of a bunch of semi-sadistic former military personnel drives her to push herself to her limits. Let's be honest, survival is a pretty important goal. Maybe try that. Sign up for something crazy and train like your life depends on it. Who knows? Someday it might.

So that's all I've got for today. Goals matter. They give us direction and purpose and measurable benchmarks to see where were at. Without real goals you're kind of just fumbling around in the dark and hoping for the best. While that may seem like a great way to spend a Saturday night, it's a tiring and frustrating way to go through life.

So, what did you do to reach your goals today?


Today's Workout:
Dynamic Warm Up 10-15 min
Foam Roller 3-5 min (my legs are still jacked up from Monday)
Crossfit WOD 130402:

All exercises are performed with an olympic barbell loaded to 115lbs
Shoulder Press x10
Overhead Squat x15
Push Press x20
Front Squat x25
Push Jerk x30
Back Squat x35
For Time

Additional Work:
Wide Grip Pull Up x5
Close Grip Pull Up x5
Parallel Grip Pull Up x5
Chin Up x10

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Get Low - The Strength Of Squatting

Despite my conviction and declarative writing style, there are not a lot of fitness facts that are true across the board in all cases. Every body, every joint and every muscle is different. Even so, what I'm about to tell you is possibly one of the very few things that is just not up for debate.

If you want to be strong, you have to squat. No excuses, no exceptions.

That being said, a true squat is one of those things that you just don't see very often in the average gym. Some of it's an educational issue. People just don't know any better. Some of it's a safety problem. Squats, despite being a very natural movement, can be incredibly dangerous and detrimental to your knees, hips, back and even your ankles if you do them incorrectly. Like this guy. 

Once upon a time someone, somewhere started telling people that squats destroy your knees. A decades long game of telephone filtered through numerous misconceptions about how to get strong (most scientific research on strength training is less than 50 years old) lead to the "common knowledge" (read: total horsesh*t) that squats are bad for you, especially if you go low.

I, for one, tend to go with the experts on most things. Who are some of the biggest, strongest athletes pound for pound? Olympic weightlifters. Dan Cantore was an Olympic lifter back in the seventies. This dude competed at 5'4" and 148 lbs. I've dated girls bigger than that.

He set the US record for the clean and jerk at 358lbs. That's more than twice his body weight. This dude didn't even weigh a buck fifty soaking wet and he could take 358lbs from the floor and in two quick movements chuck it up over his head. That's some sh*t right there. 

It would seem, then, that Olympic lifters seem to know something about pound for pound strength. Do they squat?


Do they squat low?

Uh huh.

Do they squat heavy?

You bet your ass. 

They also have surprisingly low incidence of lower extremity injury. In fact, a recent study demonstrates that people who squat heavy have, on average, significantly stronger knees (measured by maximal load and estimated cross sectional area of soft tissue (tendons&ligaments)) than those who don't squat at all. Seriously, just go type "squats and knee integrity" into the google search bar. I'll wait.

You back? You see what I'm saying? Crazy, right?

In addition to these actual scientific studies I'm going to drop some bro-science on you right now. Normally I wouldn't do this because I do believe training scientifically is the best way to go but hear me out. So, there is a demonstrated endocrine (hormonal) response from strength training. It increases circulating levels of Testosterone, HGH and IGF-1 to name a few. These are all anabolic hormones that have the direct effect of increasing lean muscle mass. That being said, the verdict is still out in terms of the direct causal relationship between this endocrine response and muscular hypertrophy(fancy science word for increased cross-sectional area of muscle fibers). In other words, we know your hormones start flowing when you lift weights, but we have yet to prove that this hormone response leads directly to bigger muscles.

Way I see it, what they're looking at is that on a cellular level different events are actually starting the process of hypertrophy. I'll buy that. But we also know beyond any shadow of a doubt that illegal performance enhancing drugs, such as pro-hormones, can make you big and jacked. So what I personally believe is happening is that although the endocrine response from strength training may not be the initiator of muscle growth, providing an optimal anabolic environment for your muscles to grow after the process has begun is definitely a positive thing. 

How does this relate to squats? Your legs have some of the largest, most dense muscle on your body. The evidence demonstrates that the endocrine response has a direct relationship to the volume of muscle fiber contracted. In other words, squats make your body produce more anabolic hormones than most other exercises. While I can't say it with scientific conviction, it's pretty likely this is a good thing. 

There's also the effect that squats have on bone density. As we all know resistance training increases bone density in direct relation to the weight lifted. Squats let you lift a f*ckton of weight, therefore they make your bones a f*ckton more dense (them's scientific terms.) Plus, balancing a couple hundred lbs. across your shoulders builds genuine core strength the way your core was designed to be used: as a stabilizer. 

Squats are a foundational movement. We squat all the time for any variety of reasons. Athletes squat. Little kids squat. Hell, in numerous countries in asia they squat to use public restrooms and we're talking everyone, even the elderly. 

Personally I love the back squat. It's just one of those big, powerful, primal movements where you get to push a couple hundred lbs.  and feel like a badass. Lately I've also been focusing on front squats and overhead squats but my shoulder mobility at the moment makes going heavy on the latter somewhat difficult.

So here we go. Quick lesson on how to squat properly. (Like this guy...for the most part)
1. Head up, shoulders back
2. Feet shoulder width apart with a slight turn out (this severity of the turn out or in has more to do with your natural anatomy than any mechanical advantage)
3. Either cross your arms over each other and place your hands on your shoulders with your elbows pointing away from you, or simply hold your arms out straight in front of you as pictured above (Personally i think this provides a more useful counterbalance for when you move your hips backwards. Read on.)
4. Initiate the movement by placing your weight on you heels dropping your hips backwards. DO NOT start by bending your knees or putting your weight on the balls of your feet. (Your knees are going to bend, it's going to happen. The point is that if your squats involve your hips simply moving up and down but they do not move forwards and backwards as well, you're doing it wrong and likely placing an incredible amount of strain/shear force on your patellar tendon)
5. Continue to drop your hips back until your thighs break the plane of parallel with the floor. If you can go all the way down (full range) without restriction or pain, go for it.

Start with your bodyweight until you have the form down and you can knock out 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps in a few minutes. From that point you should progress to weighted variations of which there are an immense amount. Front, back, overhead, goblet, etc. (To Google!) The one thing I would say is that if you have never done a weighted squat before, find a professional or at the very least a knowledgeable friend and make sure you're doing it right. You can f*ck yourself up if you do these wrong. High risk, high reward.

I was going to link a video/images but its incredibly hard to find one that I actually agree with. I guess I'll have to make my own....until then. I'm going to leave you with some wisdom:

Today's Workout - Rest Day - Hence my intense verbosity. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Standing Up

Failure is a b*tch.

It's not about being a sore loser. That's the not the kind of failure I'm talking about. You guys know what I'm referring to. That feeling of knowing you tried your hardest, did your best, left it all on the mat and still, still you were found wanting. The kind of painful, visceral defeat that you can feel in your f*cking bones. It happens to all of us. Inevitably you're going to be left feeling like today you just weren't good enough.

What about tomorrow?

Every time you fall you can learn something from it. Every time. Maybe your preparation wasn't on point. Maybe you picked the wrong opportunity or the wrong time. Those are the easy ones. You see where you could've been better and you improve. Unfortunately there's also going to be a time where you did every single thing perfectly. You had every variable and every facet of your plan calculated out and it still didn't go your way. There's a lesson there too; maybe the hardest one.

You failed, but you aren't broken. You're human. Failure is a part of who we are. What matters is what you do with it. Every loss is a chance to learn and change as long as we're willing to take a magnifying glass to ourselves. We all think we're self aware but I've got news for you.

A lot of you probably don't know yourselves as well as you think.

Just for the sake of relevance I'm going to tie in the principal of specificity here. Any real training program needs to have a specific goal. I'm not talking about "I want to look like (insert jacked/ripped/insanely hot celebrity here," or, "I want a six pack." It's not because I don't think you're allowed to want that sh*t (you are) it's because in terms of progress and making a plan those are incredibly hard to quantify.

If your goal is sheer weight loss, plain and simple, it's pretty straightforward. It's just math. You can use this  to calculate your daily calorie needs (BMR + Activity) and this to calculate your calorie intake. 1 lb of fat = 3500 calories. From here it's all PEMDAS, baby. You want to lose 10 lbs? thats 35,000 calories. If you can create a calorie deficit of 500 calories/ day it'll take you about 70 days. If you can create a deficit of 1,000 calories/day you chop that number in half. See how easy that is? Yay, math.

If your goal is to significantly alter the appearance of your body, pick numerical, measurable benchmarks rather than physical ones. Trying to get your squat numbers to a certain value or running a mile in under a certain time is something you can train for. If there's a specific body type you want to emulate, figure out what that person does and do the f*ck out of it. It's hard to get a dancer's body without dancing and almost impossible to get the physique of a fighter without taking a few shots to the face.

Even within this, focus on the activity and steadily improving your ability rather than the physical pay off at the end. You can measure the number of routines you've gone through and the number of punches you've thrown and chip away at making yourself better. Six pack abs may or may not ever happen, but if you focus on the activity and making steady, measurable progress it's a hell of a lot more likely. It'll also give you something quantifiable to focus on if it doesn't work. It's hard to fix a problem when you can't pinpoint where it started.

If you want to seriously improve your level of fitness you need to have a plan. If you're getting started, sometimes just having a plan is more important than the specifics. If you're trying to take it to the next level, you need to be honest and laser focused about what your goals are to set yourself up to succeed. If you're not getting where you want, maybe you need to go back to the drawing board.

That's one of the best things about failure. Every time it happens you get a chance to start over, free and clear. Failing forces you to go back, throws you down at the drawing board's feet and says, "ok buddy, what now?" The answer is pretty simple.

Stand up. Keep moving. Becoming Invincible isn't about never failing. It's about never staying down.

Besides, everyone loves a come back.

Good luck, good training and happy spring, everyone.


Today's workout:
Dynamic Warm-up - 10-15 min.

FRAN (because I haven't in a while.)
95 lb Thruster (front squat into a push press)
Pull Up
For Time

Power Cleans:
3x Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) 6 minutes

Front Squat

My legs are going to hate me tomorrow.