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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Tricking the Body

Joel Jamieson of 8 Weeks Out was recently interviewed on the Dangerously Hardcore podcast.

The whole interview is interesting, especially since it's looking at conditioning and heart rate-based training with an eye to bodybuilding. That's an unusual angle, since bodybuilding and figure modeling isn't something you might immediately associated with endurance and conditioning.

During part 2 of the interview, around 22:45 in, Joel rather eloquently points out that the goal of the human body is survival - mostly immediate survival. Building muscle, increasing endurance, decreasing body fat, etc. - the body isn't as concerned with that as you. He then says you need to trick the body into doing these things.

I disagree with the wording in that one part. I don't think "trick" is the right word.

In my opinion, you can't really "trick" the body. Whatever stimulus you think you're giving it, the body understands on a level that you do not what the sum total of stimulus it's getting, the sum total of support your giving it in terms of recovery, food, sleep, etc. You can't trick it, because it "knows" the game and the rules and what's happening in play beyond a level that you consciously do.

Rather, you have to convince it to change. Your body will respond to your demands - I want bigger muscles, I want to lose body fat, I want to run faster for longer. However, it won't do so in the absence of measured, consistent, and appropriate stimulus. Faced with continued stress, it will adapt to it. Your goal is to give it the stress it would need to adapt in that manner.

To get bigger muscles, you need to give your body enough exercise of the right type to provoke a need for larger muscles. You need to feed it enough, and rest it enough, to let that adaptation happen.

However you can't overpower your need for survival. If you simply lift heavy every single day, never resting, your body will eventually break down, not give in and get bigger. But if you lift heavy when you're ready to do so, eat appropriately, and rest sufficiently, and repeat this often, your body will respond. It has to - it will adapt.

I think the term "trick" makes it sound like your can fool your body into doing something. You can't, you just have to give it the need to adapt (training stimulus) and the tools to do so (food, sleep, time off).

But remember what Joel Jamieson says there about survival - your body's goals aren't so easily disregarded, and if you push too hard without recovering, it's going to act in self-preservation. That self-preservation isn't going to get you where you want to go.

Oh, if you're wondering (this comes up on the podcast) - Yuri Gagarin was the first human being in space.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shoulder Injuring Exercises

Critical Bench, a powerlifting site, put up a series of videos by Rick Kaselj about potentially shoulder-damaging exercises.

Five Worst Shoulder Exercises

It's a good look at the:

- the one-arm dumbbell row

- the dumbbell shoulder press

- the behind-the-neck pulldown

- the bench dip


- the upright row

For all of these, the video clearly explains what the problem is, and if it's fixable. The one-arm dumbbell row, for example, can be a shoulder killer done poorly and perfectly shoulder safe done correctly. Others just aren't a good idea for some populations, and at least one ("spoiler" alert, the upright row) is just bad for everyone.

Thanks to Rick Kaselj for the videos, and Critical Bench for putting them up!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Prowler Push EDT

This is something I've started doing myself, and doing with my clients:

EDT (Escalating Density Training) Prowler Pushes.

How to do it.

Set a timer for 15 minutes.

Load the Prowler with a moderately difficulty weight (say 75-80% of your heaviest trips).

Push the Prowler, high handles only, for as many one-way trips as you can get in 15 minutes.

Next workout, beat that number by 20%. If you can, raise the added weight on the Prowler by 20%.

Continue for 2-3 two week cycles.

Why do this?

Three reasons:

- Cardio. The EDT method forces you to shorten rest and maximize your number of trips. This means you will spend most of that 15 minutes working, and forcing your aerobic system to feed your muscles with oxygen.

- Full-body. This is a full-body exercise that is technically simple and remains technically simple and easy to execute correctly when you get tired. Not only that, but it's a single leg exercise - one leg is the prime mover on each step.

- Low DOMS. Because it's all concentric motions, and you're never lowering or slowing the weight down, you will get tired but not cripplingly sore from doing this.
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