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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Planks

Nick Nilsson recently published an article over on Charles Staley's website about adding resistance to side planks.

Weighted Side Planks

It's a simple but effective description of how to use a dumbbell to weight your side planks if you don't have a vest - or if your weighted vest just doesn't let you set a high enough load.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More Food Rules

Here are two good interviews/Q&As with Michael Pollan, discussing his "Food Rules" book.


Here is a Q&A at Epicurious

Here is another at Woman's Day. Nice to see a newsstand magazine talking about non-industrial food.

Sorry to hit the same topic twice in a row, but food is that important. You can't out-train a bad diet, and you won't outlive one if you don't out grow it, either.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: Food Rules



by Michael Pollan
Published 2009
140 pages

Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, has written a pocket-sized guide to eating.


The book consists of a short intro followed by 64 food rules. The author calls them "policies" more than rules - guidelines you can follow when you decide what to eat, not hard-and-fast prescriptions (or proscriptions) of behavior. It's really just an expansion of his seven-word advice from his previous books - "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

The rules are easy to remember, and often overlap. Ones like "Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce" and Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry" and a few others all advise you against processed foods. Ones about limiting meat consumption vs. plant consumption abound as well, often overlapping. This isn't by mistake - the idea is that a few of the rules will "stick" so they throw a bunch of them at you so you don't miss the redundantly explained message.

There is almost nothing in the way of scientific discussion. No citations. Very few nutritional terms (protein, fats, carbs, etc.) and the ones that are there are accompanied by some plain-language arguments for the food rules in question. It's just a short series of rules, some requiring no explanation to understand and follow, that you can use to base your eating around.

The book is really excellent stuff. It's short and punchy. The advice is spot-on for eating for health. The one caveat I'd add to the whole thing is that if you're looking to eat as an athlete, with excess calories for weight gain and optimal protein consumption and other things like that . . . this isn't the only book you'll want to read. This is a generic set of rules for eating healthy food in moderation for everyday life. You won't find a way to maximize your muscle gain or fat loss. But if you're at a basic loss on how to eat and what to buy, this will get you going in the right direction.

Rating:
Content: 5 out of 5. Concise and incisive and right on target for healthy eating.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well written and laid out of ease of use.

Overall: Read it. Borrow it or pick up a copy. Leave it around where your friends with diet issues will see it and browse through it. It's not and end-all be-all book on eating, nor on eating for strength, but it's enough to help change someone's diet for the better.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Odd Kettlebell Lifts

The article Kettlebell Grip Strength by Adam Signoretta includes a few very challenging exercises for your grip using a kettlebell.

My favorite of the ones he discusses is the towel deadlift. You can easily do that one with a dumbell or weight plates as well if you lack a kettlebell. Just insert the towel through the plate holes, or double-wrap it around the dumbbell's handle. Either will work just fine, and it's a good way to work up the grip strength required for towel pullups.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When to train to failure

Andy aka Jungledoc asked about this article on the EXRX forums, so I searched for it. I realized I'd never kept a link to it either, nor discussed it here.

The Thib System — Fatigue and Best Exercises - Basic Principles Behind My Updated Training Philosophy by Christian Thibaudeau

The article's look at when to train to failure is really valuable. Scroll down to "Principle #1: The Point of Fatigue Induction is Exercise Dependant" [sic - it should be dependent]

It has a chart outline what exercises work best taken to failure, and when to stop those that don't respond well.

This shouldn't be taken as true for all people in all situations. There are situations where you'll want to either avoid failure or induce failure, contrary to the chart's recommendations. But it's a very good starting point. And unless you know why you'll want to, say, take pullups to past-failure this session, you're better off cross-referencing on the chart and following those recommendations.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Density Training

On another forum, someone mentioned a training concept I hadn't thought about in a while - density training.

The post is pretty brief and speaks for itself. But just in case its server goes bye-bye, here's a short summary. In density training, you do a lot of reps in an ever-decreasing amount of time in order to increase your maximum reps for that weight/exercise. You plan to do a total amount of reps equal to twice your goal maximum, and break it into smaller chunks. You do those chunks every minute on the minute. So if you want to do 20 pullups, you do 40 total in the form of 20 sets of 2 over 20 minutes. If you wanted 15, it would be 30 for 15 x 2 for 15 minutes. As you progress, you start to increase the reps (to, say, 13 x 3) and decrease the total time (still 1 minute rests, for 13 minutes total). Then 10 x 4 for 10 minutes, 8 x 5 for 8 minutes, 7 x 6 for 7 minutes, etc. until you get to 4 x 10 for 4 minutes...by which point you should be able to knock off 20 in one set.

Pretty simple, but also pretty brutal, and the recommendation is only to do this twice a week.

If you really need to hit a specific number of reps, this looks like a good way to go for it. The principle is pretty sound - do more in less time, but never hit those failure reps that stop the workout cold.

This is a bit different than Charles Staley's similarly-named Escalating Density Training (EDT) system. In EDT you set a specific time and complete as many reps as you can in that time; here you are aiming to manipulate your number of reps done per set over a decreasing amount of time.

It is also different "my" total rep count approach. There you increase your individual set reps by maxing out on the final set and re-calculating earlier sets for the next workout, thus pushing up the total volume without really extending the overall time.

I think all three have merit, depending on how you want to approach your workout - reps per set with a fixed volume? Density training. Time-dependent, with increasing volume and fatigue management within that time? EDT. Rep-dependent, with increasing volume and max rep tests every session? Total rep count. All different ways to approach the same goal - all three methods are aimed at getting a lot of quality repetitions done in a short amount of time in order to improve your strength-endurance.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dan Hardy at DeFranco's Training

For the past two weeks and for the rest of this week, Dan Hardy is training at DeFranco's Training in Wyckoff, NJ, for his upcoming bout against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 111.

You can see some of Hardy's training here in Part II of UFC Primetime on SpikeTV.

You can also a behind the scenes video of Hardy's training on Joe DeFranco's Youtube page:



And no, I'm not sure why he's doing that last exercise that way. I'll ask when I get a chance, though.

Enjoy!

Full disclosure: I also train at DeFranco's, although I haven't been there when Dan Hardy has been training.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: Fitness Made Simple



Fitness Made Simple
by John Basedow with Tom McGrath
Published 2008
276 pages

At long last, we get to review a book by self-described "fitness celebrity" John Basedow. You've probably seen his Fitness Made Simple commercials everywhere on late-night and daytime TV. Well, now there is book to go with them.


The book starts with the usual sales pitch, with endorsements from people who'd used the system successfully. It's a little more unusual (and very motivational speaker-y) in that it also traces the rise from out-of-shape-and-unknown to "fitness celebrity" of the author. Interesting for a few minutes, but you'll quickly want to get on to the core of the book.

Fitness Made Simple, like its logo, is based on a triangle - one leg of the triangle is exercise, one diet, and one supplements. The book is basically broken into three sections, one per leg of the triangle.

The diet section is above-average for these books. It's got the usual advice not to dump on any one macronutrient, it emphasizes eating more often and better quality food instead of dieting down, and it doesn't demand total compliance for you to reach any success. In short, the diet plan is fine. It comes with recipes and a basic meal plan to get you started. But it repeats the maddening "good fats" and "bad fats" advice that comes up so often - good fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, bad fats are saturated and trans fats. But then it says you need to have 1/3 of your fats from from each poly, mono, and saturated fats, and no trans fats. Okay, so if saturated fats are bad, why do they get equal dietary billing? Why do you need them at all? The fact is, they aren't bad, they just are easy to get in foods . . . so it makes sense to ensure a steady intake and be aware that you don't need to add extra. But lumping something that makes up 1/3 of your fat intake at most in with one that needs to be kept to zero at most makes no sense.

The exercise section covers both warmups and the actual exercises, as well as the overall workout plan, you'll be doing on this program. The warmups are a mix of dynamic and static stretching. Only a few seem problematic (low back stretching, for example) and a number are quite good. It's not a bad warmup, but it misses some of the more recent additions such as foam rolling/soft tissue work.

The workouts are all purely bodybuilding based. You lift weights three times a week, doing chest/back, shoulders/arms, and legs. You do abs four times a week on the days you don't lift, and 4-5 days of cardio (one is marked optional). The weight lifting is all 3 sets of 8-12 reps, with the 10th rep meant to be a challenging weight. You lift slowly, none of this jerky explosive lifting, and lower the weight slowly. For each workout, you get an assortment of lifts you can choose from - you are meant to pick a few (legs says four, for example) and do them for your 3 x 8-12 and change it up next time. Most of the exercises are good ones - pushups, bench pressing, barbell squats, chinups, rows. But a lot of not-so-good-ones are in there as well - leg extensions, smith machine squats, stiff-legged deadlifts done with a rounded back (it says to keep the back straight, but it doesn't show that at all).

It's all aimed at purely cosmetic muscular hypertrophy. If the book mentions getting stronger, aiming for increased power or performance, or increasing your cardiovascular endurance, I'm not seeing it. It's centered on what is going to look good. While there is nothing wrong with looking good, it's not treating as a facet of health but the end-all be-all. All the motivation is how you'll look in the mirror, not any other benefits to training.

The final section is supplements. This might be the oddest section. It's chock full of supplements no one else ever talks about. All, naturally, are aimed at fat loss on a cosmetically significant level (i.e. enough to be noticeable). Some are health-related, such as fish oil and flax, but the ultimate goal is to strip off fat, not so much get a healthy body. This section is pretty weak; it's hard to see how the supplements covered are really going to make a big difference to someone even if the follow the rest of the plan.

Rating:
Content: 2 out of 5. If you're looking for nothing more than cosmetic changes, this isn't a bad plan. But it's not even the best plan out these for that. More fluff than value.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Easy to read, good illustrations, well-laid out. You won't spend a lot of time page flipping, it's put together well.

Overall: Unless you've got nothing else to try, at all, skip this one. There are much better choices than this one out there. Not recommended.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Perfect form on maximal lifts?

As you go up in weight on an exercise, you'll find that it's harder and harder to maintain proper technique. You might lean, bend, wobble, press or pull one side faster than the other, lose stiffness, whatever.

Usually this means that the weight you're working is at or near your current limit for that exercise for those reps. Sometimes it means you're going too heavy.

The ideal is perfect technique on every rep of every exercise, but is that really doable?

Chances are that the first 225-pound deadlift you ever do won't be perfect form, even if a 220 pound one would be if you tried it. If that 225 was, you'd be able to go heavier . . . there must be some reason, some weak point, some technique problem, that is keeping you from pulling 230, 235, 240, etc. and stopping you at 1 x 225. When you iron that out - and iron it out at 225 - you'll be able to go up until the next technique/weak point breakdown.

The reason you work up in weight is not just to practice the technique, but also to get strong enough to handle the heavier weights without having to compensate with bad technique.

The way I've been taught to think about it is that a new weight is a new exercise.

You can't practice your way to a 225-pound deadlift by deadlifting 135 over and over until it's perfect. You can use a lighter weight to practice form, but keep in mind that as the weight goes up something is going to give. You really can't keep perfect form on a maximal rep. It's something, in my opinion, to strive for, but you have to accept that the heaviest rep you ever do won't be the prettiest rep you ever do.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jim Wendler's words of wisdom

More words of wisdom from Jim Wendler are in the Blood and Chalk Vol 4: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights over at T-Muscle (not W/FS):


"• If a fitness expert is a pussy, double whatever his recommendations are.
• If a fitness expert scares the shit out of you, halve whatever his recommendations are."

Heh.

The whole article is good, as usual, but those two gems are perfect on their own.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eating organic vs. non-Organic fruits and veggies

Short and sweet, but useful - Dr. John Berardi on Organic vs. non-Organic fruits and veggies.

Even shorter version - eat locally grown organic veggies whenever possible. Can't go too far wrong with that approach.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back and Biceps

Brett Contreras just had an article published on T-Muscle. He's been hooking himself up to an EEG and doing a variety of exercises to see what muscles get the most activation when you do them,

This week was The Best Back and Biceps Exercises (surprisingly, WFS this time - no "fitness models" in the article).

Not a big surprise, weighted chinups, neutral-grip pullups, and pullups all rated very highly in upper back and biceps development. For the trapezius muscles, rows showed quite well too. Isolation exercises like preacher curls and concentration curls didn't show as well those compound exercises. Some isolation exercises did well, but less than I'd have thought.

So, interesting. The way to a big back and strong arms seems to be through chinups and rows and deadlifts more than lots of curls and pulldowns. Though barbell curls rate well, too, so it's not all compounds at the top. But compound lifts do very well indeed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: The 90-Second Fitness Solution



The 90-second Fitness Solution is a book aimed at women interested in fitness. It is written mostly for beginners and women frustrated by a lack of results or other general dissatisfaction with the gym.

The central idea is pretty interesting. Super-slow training - taking tens of seconds for a single rep - for hypertrophy showed promise but ultimately didn't result in bigger muscles. Most women don't want bigger muscles. Isometric exercising strengthens the muscles only in a short range of motion, but lifting fast and hard across a full range of motion takes more technique and exposed you to acute injuries if the weight is lifted incorrectly. So the author decided to use such super-slow techniques in combination with isometrics. The result? A series of isometric holds designed to increase strength, done slowly enough to avoid hypertrophy and make the technique easier to do.

The author gets around the inherent limitation in isometrics (they only strengthen a limited range-of-motion) by a series of paused isometric holds. You'll start with just a pushup top position (a straight-arm plank), but as you go on, you begin lowering yourself 2 inches at a time, holding for 10 seconds, and then another 2, etc. until you reach near-bottom, and then start back up. The goal is 90 seconds per exercise - not 90 seconds total, although the attention-grabbing title implies just that. Each of the exercises is presented in a series of levels, so you know exactly what you have to do for each workout and how to do it.

The book, of course, has a "challenge" in it - the idea that men might think doing 25 pushups is great, but they can't do even one of his. I knocked out a 90-second pushup as described after a pushup/row/lunge circuit recently. It's not hard to do if you're used to long efforts. It's an annoying and typical sales line for fitness books - the brawny bodybuilder gasping in amazement at the sheer strength of someone doing the exercises they proscribe. Sadly, it's true for some people (who are more show than go) but for athletes, it's not much of a challenge.

Within its limitations - this book isn't going to turn you into an athlete - it's got some good stuff. The emphasis on compound exercises, perfect form, and isometric holds to develop postural and supporting muscle endurance is excellent. It's a solid basis for an exercise plan for a woman's home-workout. It certainly seems like it would work - it's hard to say that gaining the ability to do a 90-second straight-arm hang, 90 second wall sit, 90 second semi-isometric pushup and squat, etc. is going to be bad for anyone. It's certainly convinced me to try some of these with more fragile or weak clients who need a basis of static strength before they can move with strength.

But there are limitations - you aren't going to develop a lot of power with a workout like this, which means it's not especially going to help you jump higher, deal with sudden movements (like recovering from a fall), or get you stronger at anything requiring speed. It also emphasizes machine work once you progress to the in-gym phase. It's sad to see someone moving backward from full-body self-supporting exercise to machine-based semi-isometric super-slow lifting.

Perhaps the best section is the diet section. It wholly abandons the food pyramid and goes right to eat real food, and stop worrying about calories. As long as you are eating whole, healthy foods, the authors aren't worried about your diet. They do a good job of showing what you can eat, and providing recipes using their principles.

Rating:
Content: 3 out of 5. It's very thorough in its lifting and eating suggestions, so you really get everything you need. It doesn't miss much of its central topic, but it includes some hyperbolic exaggerations of how well it compares to other ways of exercising. Points off for implying fast lifting is bad.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well-written, well organized, pitched well to its audience. Physically attractive and the exercise examples are very well explained and pictured.

Overall: If a non-athletic person asked me if this book was a good one to follow and try, I'd be fine with that. The "progress" to the gym workout seems more iffy to me. But the basic workout is an excellent start, and the author certainly does address the concerns of female trainees (don't want to get big) while getting them stronger overall. If that sounds like you, read it. Otherwise, the information isn't really aimed at you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Top Three Reasons to Have a Tire

Tire Flips!



Sledgehammer Swings!



Tire Battles!



The nice bit about tires is, if you can haul them away, they are usually available for free . . .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Attention to Detail

As someone who has written and read a fair amount of essays, applications, and resumes, this "Eric Cressey blog post made me smile. It reminded me of the Gary Larson Far Side cartoon with the "School for the Gifted."

All five out of the five are just paying attention to all the steps in the process. Spelling, grammar, easing the path for your hiring, presenting yourself well publically, and talking to the man in charge of you instead of the man in overall charge. Nothing really mind-blowing there, really, but trip up on any of them and you're messing with your chances of success. All of them are controllable. You can't control if the job matches your goals, or if the interviewer likes you or not, or how the market works. But you can control all of the details he mentions.

Okay, so how does this apply to training?. Essentially this boils down to "attention to detail." Your training is only going to be a few hours a week, even if you are dedicated committed to it. There are 168 hours in the week. If you spend 4-5 of them in the gym, that's a fair amount. Pay attention to the details. Master the stuff you can master.

You can't, say, control the rate of muscle growth. But you can control the exercise selection, master the techniques, rest for the proscribed time, use the right load.

You can't control how strong you get. But you can build up a process of getting stronger and put in the work you need.

You can't control how much fat you lose at what speed. But you can control your diet, maximize your energy output, and make sure you're on a fat loss program.

It's also the little things. You can put the weights back where they belong so the next person isn't wandering around looking for the 50s because you left them under the bench instead of racking them. You can avoid getting in other people's ways. You can control your hygiene and not be the gym stink monster because you don't wash your gym shorts more than twice a month.

It's all details. Some of them you can control - know which ones they are, and control them. Own the process, in business speak. Just know what is your responsibility to provide, and let your results flow from them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saving your Shoulders

Shoulder injuries aren't uncommon in exercisers. Nor are they uncommon in MMA practitioners. Those both describe me and at least one of my readers, so as soon as I saw this Diesel Crew post I wanted to highlight it.

The Feel Better Immediately Shoulder Combo

If your shoulder or shoulders hurt you, read it and watch the video.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Basics: Types of Goals

There are broadly two types of goals: outcome-oriented goals and process-oriented goals. Both are broadly similar - they are what you aim to accomplish. But they approach it from opposite ends.

A outcome-oriented goal describes what you want to happen. "I will lose 20 pounds this year" or "I will drop to 10% body fat by May 1st" or "I will deadlift 450 pounds" are all examples of outcome-oriented goals. They focus on the results you want to achieve, not the way you achieve them . . . or even if they are realistic.

A process-oriented goal describes a way you want to proceed. "I will eat breakfast every morning" or "I will follow (such-and-such program) for 6 months" or "I will work out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday." It doesn't set a goal based on where you will get, but how you will get there.


Setting Goals. Generally when people ask me about setting goals, I prefer they set some process-oriented goals as well as outcome-oriented goals. Aiming to drop to 200 pounds, and saying you'll do it by working out 2x a week and doing a specific diet change (for example, dessert only on Sundays, more protein and healthy fats), is an example of the kind of mix I like to see.

Why?

The outcome-oriented goals tell you when you've arrived. As they say, if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. You need to know when you've accomplished your goal. However, the downsides of an outcome-oriented goal are that a) it doesn't tell you how to get there and b) it's not always possible to reach the goals you set. It can be tricky to know what a good goal is. For some people, "deadlift 450" might be a never-happen experience, while for others they may get it easily, and you might not know which of those you are.

The process-oriented goals tell you how to get there. If you're committed to following Westside for Skinny Bastards 3 or 5-3-1 or Starting Strength for 3 months, you know what to do. Without an outcome-oriented goal, you don't know if you've achieved what you want to achieve or not. But these goals are easier to implement day-to-day. If you say you are going to eat breakfast every day and you skip it today, you know you're undermining your goal.

The combination is potent. What are you goals, and how to they work together to get you where you want to go, and define the road you'll travel to get there?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: The Rough Guide to Men's Health

This is a partial review - I am only reviewing the workout-related advice contained in this much broader book. It is designed to be a one-stop guide to men's physical and mental health. I'm picking and choosing the workout advice and reviewing it in isolation. Please keep that in mind as you read this blog post.



This book is about men's mental and physical health, by the same Rough Guide folks who bring you those travel books. It's a head to toe guide, but we're focusing on the "In the Gym" chapter that takes up pages 158-181. It's also a British (okay, UK) guide, so expect a lot of discussions of pounds, cycling to the pub, popping down to the chemists, and doing press-ups.

The section starts with the nuts-and-bolts of why you need to exercise. In fact, it makes the case that you are probably unfit now, and getting even to "normal" fitness levels will restore a lot of health.

This section leads right up to my favorite box: "Find the Time" - page 162. " . . . there is no reason at all why you can't make time to work out." Yes, exactly. As Jason Nunn said recently, get started today.

Next up, it tackles the normal objections to training one by one. Expenses. I tried it and didn't like it. I don't have time. It didn't make any difference. And so on. Each is basically a paragraph or two saying, essentially, be patient, get working, find the time.

After this comes the details of working out and its positive (more strength! less fat!) and negative (sweat! injuries!) consequences. This is a good section. A boxed page shows how muscles work. Individual sections discuss your options, choosing a program, and the importance and utility of getting a trainer to show you how to do it all. It also explains how to warm up, proceed to dynamic warmup movements, and skill rehearsal (practice the movements you'll use to train). Then it's the workout, then cooling down. The cooldown involves tapering off (which isn't as useful for weight training as aerobics, but it doesn't mention that) and static stretching to finish it off.

The chapter contains a number of attractive charts, but they might be of somewhat dubious utility. Calories burned per hour of activities (mostly aerobic) - who cares, really? It's not like you'll choose rowing over skiing if you like to ski and hate to row, and "circuit training" and "martial arts" represent some of the extremely broad categories. Which activity is right for you? Got another chart for that, with pros, cons, and expenses. Heart rate, diet, percentage of fluid loss from sweat, etc. There are a number of them. They're attractive and interesting at the very least.

The "hotel room workout" (pg. 245) is an example of the short-and-sweet boxed advice it features. Press ups (also known as pushups to us Colonials), lunges, donkey kicks, and crunches. And that's it. The upside is that they do tell you how to do them. The downside is isn't clear how to program them - no mention of reps, sets, rounds, whatever. So...is 10 of each okay? 100? Should I do 5s and keep going until I drop? Who knows? That's what I mean by the advice. It's good but very general. It's not enough to go on even for a total beginner. That's really the only downside to the book. You get enough to say "Gee, I better learn more!" but not much more than that. One can only hope they proceed next to Starting Strength . . . but it seems that they'd be just as likely to head to the nautilus machines or just grab some expensive running shoes.

Rating:
Overall: 3 out of 5. The content is good, but limited, and it does repeat some of the same pedantic "weights for strength, aerboics for fat loss" advice.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Short attention spans are required here - not a page goes by without boxed-out text, bold print, pictures, etc. That makes it attractive and helpful but it can mean a lot of flipping to get everything, as a box interrupts your train of thought! Some odd spelling errors (biigist?) creep in too, odd in a well-edited large-publisher book like this.

Overall: As a workout guidebook, it doesn't make the grade. But, considering it for what it is - a health guide - it does give you enough to get started, outlines your options pretty well, and gets you pointed in the right direction.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sushi for Strength

T-Muscle has just put out a new article with some things you can try in the gym. They're pretty interesting, although many of them are basic stuff you should know - like how to structure a warmups or the utility of one-arm explosive lifting.

My favorite is Joe DeFranco's advice on loading up on sushi for improved performance.

Six Dirty Tricks

Fun stuff.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Man-Maker

For people who think the renegade row isn't enough, there is also this variation:

The Man-Maker - scroll down until you see the pictures.

It combines a burpee, renegade row (itself a combination pushup, row, and plank), and a clean and push press. Pretty much hits your whole body in one go. No, it's not something you can go heavy on, but if you want a short, hard workout, try doing a bunch of these. The article mentions racing to 30 reps. You can also do them for time, just seeing how many good reps you can get in.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No more crunches?

A friend of mine posted a link to this on a forum we both read:

The Man Who Wants to Kill Crunches

It's an article about Dr. Stuart McGill's no-crunches approach. It's written for a mass audience, not exercise professionals, so it's fairly basic. But if you've never encountered the idea of dropping crunches, take a look.

Me, I'm curious about what that Yoga instructor did to change the sun salutation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Link Recommendation: Rebuilding Yourself with Complexes

Occasionally I get reminded about an older article. In this case, it was prompted by an email from the publishing website. But this is a very good article about complexes.

Rebuild Yourself with Complexes by Dan John.

It's a fairly quick read, and it's got the usual sage advice of Dan John. Such as "...many of the exercises will be fairly familiar to all of you. If you don't know how to do a lift, don't do it."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Renegade Rows/Lunge Circuit or Finisher

Twice so far I have used this quick circuit - actually just a superset of unrelated muscle groups - when I'm unable to get to MMA class. I still want a workout, but nothing too complicated or featuring too much maximal effort. Snow may stop me getting to the school but not hitting my weights at home!

5 rounds of:
10 renegade rows
15 alternating reverse lunges per leg
1 minute rest between rounds


I've blogged about renegade rows before.
The lunges are done alternating legs, so you get 30 reps in but each leg gets to rest while the other works for one rep. Your lungs don't get any rest.

This one is easy to scale up, too. Here are just a few of my ideas for how I'll scale this up next time:

- use heavier dumbbells for the renegade rows, or use kettlebells.
- add a vest to make the pushups and reverse lunges harder.
- use the dumbbells from the rows for the lunges, or keep another pair handy to load them up.
- shorten the rest.
- use thick-handled dumbbells to make the rows harder on the forearms.
- use an aerobic step for the pushups and rows to make them harder, and lunge backwards off the step for additional range-of-motion.

Or mix them up.

This isn't meant as a heavy, maximum effort workout. But it should get your blood flowing. This can easily be used for 3 rounds or so as a finisher after another workout.

I'm not claiming to be the originator of this one. I'm sure someone else has done it before. It just seemed like a logical combination - renegade rows for push, pull, and abdominal stability, and lunges for unilateral leg strength.
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