Three weeks ago, I joined the new gym in my office park. It’s $25 a month and in the building next my office. They did a nice job with it. There are dumbbell sets up to 75 lbs, a smith machine, a leg press machine, cable/pull-up station and all the other wonderful Nautilus type machines as well treadmills, sally (I mean elliptical) machines, life cycles and stairmasters. There is also a nice empty aerobics room that is used for aerobics once a week. They have 4 vinyl kettlebells. They obviously got these on a discount because the weights are a little odd. Usually kettlebells come in 4 kg separations. For example, 8, 12, 16, 20, 28, 32 etc. However these were 14, 18 and 22. Tweener bells you could call them. I decided to bring my own to the gym. I took my 88 and my two 55′s and left them there like I did at my old office gym.
After two weeks, I was told that I couldn’t keep them in the gym. Because the property company didn’t own them, there would be a liability if someone got hurt using them. Typical legal stuff. Now I understand the risk management factor in regard to their reasoning. But if you get hurt trying to use an 88 without any training, it’s your fault period. Believe me, I can do Turkish Get ups with the 70 for sets of 15 alternating hands after each rep. But the 88 absolutely frightens me. I’ve done 8 and 8 on each side. My form is good, but I’m more mentally fatigued than anything when I’m finished.
Anyway, it gave me an excuse to add loaded carries to my workouts as a finisher. I take my two 55′s and while holding them like suitcases, walk with them back to my office. About 75 yards and then put them down, open the door, sack up and walk up to the third floor. It is a fantastic grip and trap builder as well as cardio. Stop doing upright rows (which are terrible for your shoulders because of the positioning) and shrugs do farmers walks instead. Dan John has a great article on loaded carries on the T-nation website.
The highlight of my first 3 weeks at the gym was seeing the single DUMBEST exercise I’ve ever witnessed. Standing on an upside down BOSU ball (that’s the half-moon swiss ball), I saw a guy doing dumbbell curls while balancing himself. Why? What’s the point? I can hear the answer. “Well it will build your core.” I hate that word core. It’s as if the International Federation of Personal Trainers came up with this core concept and it has infested itself into fitness. I’m all for strong abs, glutes, hips and back. But I just don’t see the point of doing circus tricks. Want to build your abs and biceps? Do pullups, even if you can’t do many. Your abs and lats will remind you the next day. Don’t cop-out and do latissimus pulldowns (not lateral). If you can’t do many, do them first. The only way to do more pullups is to do more pullups. I’ve never been great at them, and don’t enjoy them. Why? Because they are really hard. I max out at 10 on a great day but continue to practice and try to improve.
The beginning of fall here in New England has been beautiful for the past week with temperatures in the mid to high 60′s at 7 AM. Instead of dragging my bells from the office over to the gym. I’ve brought them over to the back parking lot about a 20 yard walk from the office door and been doing my workouts outside. It’s great! Fresh air, no crowds, the sun coming up. It’s pretty peaceful. Like Thoreau said in the most boring book ever published, “I never found a better friend than solitude. Today I was facing the picnic table with woods 10 yards behind. Out popped a fawn and it’s mother. Beautiful animals, they weren’t scared and stared at me for about five minutes, ate some vegetation and popped back in.
Currently I am doing a variation of the Russian Bear Program 3 times a week and a Program Minimum workout (TGU’s and Swings/Jumping Rope) 2 times a week. I switch workouts every four weeks and will write a review of the Russian Bear this weekend. Yesterday I was too sore from the RBP to do kettlebells. So I did a conditioning workout in the parking lot. I would jump rope fast for 1 or 2 minutes. Stop the clock and immediately sprint 100 yards and walk back to the picnic table. It ended up being 15 minutes of jumping rope and 10, 100 yard dashes. I was still catching my breath and sweating like crazy when I got out of the shower. It only took 30 minutes.
Switching workouts every four weeks has really worked for me from a mental as well as physical standpoint. Like most people, I possess workout attention deficit disorder. There is always that next program to do which is always the best program. The problem with switching workouts all the time is you can’t measure your progression and results. With four weeks, you know you have a finite number of workouts, either 12 or 16. Your body has the time to adapt and you have enough of a sample to measure the results. You can try different programs and be able to see what works and what doesn’t. Even if something doesn’t work, spending four weeks on it isn’t going to spoil long term goals. You tried it, it didn’t work, move on. Mentally, you will be fresh instead of getting stale. I did Enter The Kettlebell’s Rite of Passage for 12 weeks with a 28kg kettlebell and then did another 10 with a 32kg. First let me say that it is a GREAT program and in full disclosure, I’m going to do it for 4 weeks starting next week. In the book, the Pavel Tsatsouline says that changing to something else is quitting, period. Soviet tough love, plain and simple. But after 22 weeks, i was cooked mentally and it was not only affecting heavy day, but moderate day was becoming tedious as well. Today, a year later, I’m looking forward to doing it. I’ve been doing a lot of double kettlebell work and am welcoming the change of pace of using just one kettlebell. After that, Escalation Density Training with double 70′s. I like to plan in advance!
Stimulating your body with a new program is great, but you need to allow your body time to adapt to measure progression. For me the four-week program is perfect. If you live in a changing climate, get outside and exercise while you can.