Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Reasons vs. Excuses

I think there are reasons, and there are excuses.

A Reason is something you cannot control.

An Excuse is you can control.

Can't squat because you have a broken knee? That's a reason.

Can't squat because you are sore? That's an excuse.

Can't train because your project at work went haywire and you have to stay until after midnight and then be back in the morning? Reason.

Can't train because you had a hard day at work and feel tired? Excuse.

It can be hard to tell the difference sometimes. The test is simple, though - can you do something about it? Will you?

Will you deal with your muscle soreness and go train anyway?

Will you make up for that missed workout the next available time?

Once you've established something is a reason, you can often nibble away at the edges. For example, I do poorly with sprints. I have exercise-induced asthma, so if I push to my physical maximum running or sled pushing or rowing or whatever, I can stop breathing properly and require medication. It can wreck me for days as I recover. But what I can do - and have done - is push back the margin of how much work I can do before triggering an attack. I've learned where that edge is, and push right up to it. I've expanded my range even if I still have to keep a safety margin.

So asthma is a reason, not an excuse. If I just said, well, I can't go hard on my cardio . . . that would be an excuse.

Accept that which is truly limiting you, but question those limitations. Is there a way around it? If you can't control that, find the next closest related thing you can control and take charge of that.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Goaltenders & Eye Exercise

It might seem odd to think of exercises your eyes, but direct training of vision skills has become a real staple in professional ice hockey.

The NHL website has an article about Michael Cordon (Pittsburgh Penguins, formerly Montreal Canadians) and Eddie Lack (Carolina Hurricanes) that discusses eye training.

Sadly, it's a bit light on specifics beyond testing and doing ball and juggling drills, but it's interesting in and of itself as a concept.

Goaltenders pass the eye test

I have to wonder about how much this will eventually spill over into youth sports, and then, into the general population. Improving visual acuity would have benefits for driving, flying, avoiding vehicles, etc., never mind stopping pucks for a living.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Simple Structure for Cardio Exercise

Here is a simple structure for cardiovascular exercise.

Effort Over Time

First, pick a single type of cardio exercise. Jogging, elliptical running, stair climbing, stepper, jumping rope, biking on an air-resistance bike (like the Schwinn AirDyne), etc. Avoid treadmills or other exercise equipment that demands you meet its pace unless you're willing to keep changing the pace as necessary. Avoid equipment that doesn't track anything and on which you cannot easily track distance or effort - such as spin bikes.

Second, set a specific total time to exercise - 10-20 minutes is generally good, but you can even drop as low as 5. This is your total time, including rest, from start to finish.

Third, pick an easy metric for you to track. These can be miles or calories on a bike or elliptical, calories or meters on a rower, skips with a jump rope, steps on a stair climber or stepper (or staircases, on actual stairs) - you get the idea. Easy to track, easily quantifiable.

Finally, each training session do the chosen exercise for the chosen time. Rest as needed, and set the pace at whatever feels good that day. You'll want to push yourself a little bit if you goal is fat loss, improved cardio endurance, or similar benefits - and hold yourself back if your goal is recovery cardio.

Each training session, track your metric. Try to increase it over time. Some training sessions you'll be flying - on those days, push yourself. Cook while the over is hot. Other days, you'll be run down or just can't get into the rhythm or pace - it's fine, just get some work in. Progress will be a wave, not a straight line, pointing towards success.

Readers familiar with Escalating Density Training will recognize similarities in this approach. Unlike EDT, however, it's intended for exercises where the resistance cannot easily be increased - jumping rope, say, or jogging. Or riding an air-resistance bike where resistance always increases and can't be modified directly, only increased by working harder. It's also a single exercise instead of alternating. And finally, it's not aimed at hypertrophy.

How does this work in the real world?

Quite well. I use this with air-resistance stationary bikes (using calories and miles over time), rowers (meters over time), and even running (distance over time). It makes for a good, fixed-duration training session (easier to schedule) and lets you rest as needed which adjusts to off-days, fatigue, especially good days, improvement, etc. It's an easy way to ensure clients get in some cardio, adjust it to their level that day, and see progress over time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What I'm Reading: Anatomy of Strength Training

One of my clients gave me a brand-new copy of this book:

It's a little old - it came out six years ago - but I hadn't seen it. I'm just browsing now, but I intend to take some time and read it in-depth and see what I can use out of it for my clients.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Gear I Like

I've added a new page to the blog - Gear I like. This is all of the training gear I use often. That's either for myself, or myself and my clients.

Where possible I've put a link to, since most of my clients end up going there to take advantage of Prime shipping or a pre-existing customer relationship.

Here is the page:

Recommended Gear

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Direction and Purpose of this Blog

When I first started writing this blog, I posted very often - daily, as a matter of fact. It was a very useful tool for me to review what I knew about training and try to explain it to others.

I went through terms I knew and used, and tried to make them accessible to others.

I dealt with questions I ran into every day training clients, and posted the answers.

I hit the FAQs of training, exercises, and fiendishly persistent myths of training.

However, as my work become more time-consuming and topics for explanation ran a little dry, my posting dropped. First a little (weekdays only), then a lot (several times a week), then precipitously (posting when I had a specific thing to say.)

I've been thinking about the direction of this blog as a result.

I think I have two approaches.

Stay the Course

This means keeping on a slow but steady posting schedule, and keeping the topics as-is. Equipment and book reviews, supplement and food reviews, exercises, basic training terminology, myth-busting, finding resources that are out on other blogs, etc. Keep it impersonal and aimed at beginners, as a source for someone just starting out.

Make it Personal

The other option is to make it more personal. The above topics would be in there. But also, I'd post more about my own workouts. What I'm doing in the gym. What I've done with clients (but with the names filed off). What I'm experimenting with for training and diet. My own goals. Not a training log (I keep mine on paper) but sometimes I'd post examples and details of what I do. Details, basically, that I was hesitant to put out when I was regularly competing in MMA and grappling because nothing anyone learns about me was going to help me more than it hindered me. Plus such details bring the focus onto me more than onto my clients and onto your workouts.

I'm leaning towards the latter, but I recognize that this might not be of interest to people.

If you've got an opinion - stay the course, or make it personal - people put in the comments.
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