Happy New Year, I know most of you were hoping that I would get the 2013 blog world started off right by listing and analyzing the top 5 Ke$ha songs. As groundbreaking and informative as that sounds, we’ll save that for later.
I decided on New Year’s Day to test myself and see where I stood in regard to my strength levels. Here are the results
Push Press with One Clean with an 88. 3 left, 3 right. Clean once, press 3 times. I did this twice. My left shoulder has been cranky lately. Went for a strict press, alas, didn’t budge.
Double 70 Military Press 5 reps These felt good. I went for 6 but couldn’t quite move it.
Double 55 Military Press 11 reps This felt light, really light to tell you the truth. Didn’t go for 12. Rep 11 was a little slow left 1 in the tank.
55 lb snatch, one hand switch. 26 left, 26 right in 2:29. My 55′s handles are pretty thick as well as slick, no matter how much chalk I use on my fingers. The grip wasn’t gone but fatiguing. I didn’t feel like losing it off the fingers and hitting the floor. Had, maybe one rep, or two on each side. The funny thing was my wind was fine.
I also did kettlebell metabolic conditioning over Christmas week. Using 45′s I did 3 of Pat Flynn’s complexes from his Birth of a Hero E-book.
The Great Destroyer Complex
Double Swing x10, Double Snatch x 10, Double Clean and Press x 10, Squat x 10, Pushup on Bells x 10, Double Row x 10. I own this complex, as soon as I got through the clean and press, I knew I had it. The step up from this is doing 15 reps of everything and is called Mah Fah Kah. Say it out, it will make sense. I might try that with 45′s tomorrow. There are 3 complexes in this book which I feel are much tougher than the Great Destroyer.
I also did a 12 minute complex where you don’t put the bell down until the 11th minute when you do a pushup in between each swing. This one is definitely tougher. Finally I did the Flynn Man Maker. His name, not mine, which is a chain. What you do is one rep of one movement, then go to the another movement. Do that 5 times, add another exercise, do that 5 times, add two more exercises, do that 5 times add one more. I rested between layers. It’s hard because your moving your body as well as the bells. Here is an example
Double Clean, Squat x 1 do this 5 times
Double Clean, Squat, Military Press x 1 do this 5 times
Double Clean, Squat, Military Press, Pushup on Bells, Renegade Row x 1, do this 5 times
Double Clean, Squat, Military Press, Pushup, Renegade Row, Double Swing x 1 5 times.
Not as simple as it looks, especially if you are using heavy enough bells.
I only went to the gym once over Christmas break. My left shoulder was ornery from back squats. The reaching back for the bar really irked the back of my left shoulder. Since then I’ve been doing some flexibility work to increase the range of motion. I went back into the gym on Thursday and felt great. I squatted 265 for 5 sets of 5, deadlifted 255 for 5 sets of 5 with an overhand grip. Did 175 lbs on the bench for 5 sets of 5 and sprinkled in 21 sets of 3 pullups between sets of the other 3 exercises. My shoulder felt good.
Now is a great time to evaluate your workouts from the past year. Are you making gains? Or is it same old same old? Here are 11 reasons why you are not succeeding and how to breakthrough
11. Exercise Attention Deficit Disorder
You’re in the gym doing this program for the last two weeks making good gains, and then you see the homoerotic pornography dressed up as Muscle and Fitness on the newsstand. In there is some article titled “6 Weeks to a Bigger Bench” so you switch workouts. Three chest sessions in 3 days,and now you can’t lift your arms over your head because you’re not juicing so you have to switch to another workout. So much and so forth. Here is something I learned over the past 3 years. Do a program, and no matter what, stick with it for 4 weeks. Everything works for 4-6 weeks. If not, then switch. If it is working, stay with it or switch. What’s one month of your life? You’re not going to lose every gain you’ve made in one month. Every year there is a workout challenge with the kettlebell. One getup each side for whatever date it is, and 7000 swings. It’s unbelievable to me how many people start it and quit, around December 19th. I did it last year and quit the getups on the 28th, due to a staph infection in my right knee, but finished the swings. My wife has completed it twice in 3 years. The tone in her arms and abs after doing 31 getups on December 31st is fantastic. She did run as well, but kept her strength program simple. Simple, but not easy.
10. Lack Progression
Have you set a goal for yourself? Are you challenging yourself? For example, do you try to do an extra rep each time? do you up the weight? If you run, do you try to do 3 miles faster this time than the last? This is called progression. The key to success in fitness is to keep challenging yourself. Sure, there will be days when you feel great, then days when you won’t. You don’t have to make gains every time, but, are you consistently moving up each month? Or you can’t even remember last week’s workout? And the reason you can’t is because you…
9. Don’t keep a workout journal
If you run a business, you have an accountant keep the books. Otherwise, how do you know if you’re successful or not? Same with fitness. You need to measure what you are doing in order to progress. You can also put in, your weight, hours of sleep, mood, etc. For example, while doing Escalated Density Training, I remember in the spring of 2011, getting 30 double 70 military presses in 20 minutes. I remember that for me at the time, that was a big number. When I did it again in the fall of 2011, my first day, I did 32 reps and at the end of 4 weeks, I did 39. Measuring can tell you what works and whether you are improving or not. You can do it online, or as I’ve been doing for over 2 years, on a steno pad. Both sides of paper almost full!
8. Too Much Cardio
The key to burning fat is build muscle. The more muscle you have or try to obtain, the easier it is to burn fat. Many people go in to the gym, get on the treadmill, or elliptical machine for an hour and call it a day. You think, “wow, great workout!” Right? Wrong! Cardio, while good for the heart, does not build muscles. After a certain amount of time, it becomes counter productive because the body releases cortisol, which will keep you fat. The scale may be moving in the right direction, but the body fat percentage may go up. We’ve all seen runners who do 35 miles a week with a spare tire around there waist. This is why.
7. Not Enough Strength Training
Lifting weights helps build muscle. The more muscle you have, the easier it is to burn fat. It helps protect your bones and muscles and helps you with body mechanics. You won’t get bulky, having too much muscle is akin to having too much money.
6. Not Lifting A Heavy Enough Weight
Well congratulations, you’ve made it to the weight room! What did Woody Allen say? “80 % of success is showing up?” Alright, let’s make it 100%. Taking that light weight and doing sets of 12-15 reps is not the best approach to building strength or toning. Once you’ve warmed up and have the form locked. Add weight and try to do between 4-8 reps. Don’t go to failure, leave one rep in the tank.
5. Doing the Wrong Exercises
When you walk into the gym, sometimes you are overwhelmed with the number of machines they have. Or when using kettlebells, the number of exercises you can do. Unless you’re a body builder here are the only exercises you need.
a. Any type of squat or lunge. These will hit your quads, glutes, as well as abs
b. Any type of Deadlift or kettlebell swing. For your hamstrings, upper back, grip/forearms and abs
c. Pullups and Rows for your back and biceps. Can’t do a pullup? Use the assisted pullup machine or bands. Can only do 1 or 2? Do a set of 1 or 2 in between sets of everything else. Your biceps and abs will be sore as well. For rows, do dumbbell, seated, barbell, t-bar.
d. Military Press will give you shoulders like cannonballs and strong triceps. I prefer standing military press using kettlebells. It’s easiest on the shoulder and is a full body press
e. Bench Press. This is a total body movement if done correctly. You should try to drive your feet through the floor while pushing yourself away from the bar. Will also develop your triceps and shoulders. Other great exercises for the chest are Dips and Pushups.
Leave the leg extensions, cable curls, tricep kickbacks to others. Use free weights if at all possible.
You don’t need to workout more than 4-5 days a week max. You get strong on your days off and rest also helps heal those nagging injuries. I notice with rest, I’m less stiff, sore, and stronger. Workouts, in my opinion, should never be over an hour and if you are doing it hard enough, 3 days 45-60 minutes a week is ideal. Or 4-5 at 30-45 minutes
You didn’t pay for two memberships; you paid for one. Yours. Leave the ego in the car. No one cares what you used to bench with your mullet and Hampton Beach 1989 tank top with Mr. Brownstone blaring through the ghetto box. What can you do now? Are you making progress now? For example, Jim Wendler, one of the best powerlifting minds in the country has a book called 5/3/1. The purpose of the book is to help make long term gains in the gym. The exercises are the bench press, deadlift, squat and military press. He recommends doing 4-5 week cycles and basing the weight off 90% of your 1 rep max. After each cycle, up the weight 5 lbs for the presses, and 10 for the squat and deadlift. The key is to make continuous slow and steady progress over the long haul. He is constantly questioned with why 90%? I used to do this weight can I base it off of this? Or how about I base the weights off my true 100% 1- rep max? Sure, you can, but when you plateau in cycle 2, you’re going to either have to go back ward or quit. Ego leads to poor form which leads to injuries. I knew a guy from Marlborough 20 years ago. Good kid, but his father didn’t call him son because he was bright. Strong and well built, he’d walk into the gym, see what everyone else was doing and throw 10lbs. more on. Atrocious form, and numerous times. he’d get stuck. Buried under the bar. It’s amazing he’s still alive.
I wasted 20 years of weightlifting, using the wrong form. I’ll guarantee you 90% of the people in the gym do it wrong. Here’s an advice to the XX chromosome readers in the audience. Don’t feel intimidated about working out in the weight area. Be flattered you’re being admired and realize that most of the guys don’t know what the heck they are doing.
That being said, form is an important key to strength success and prevention of injury. The same as pitching mechanics for a pitcher, grip and golf swing for the golfer, etc. Strength is a skill. For example, do a bench press. Are your feet digging into the floor? Are you squeezing your glutes with your back arched and your butt on the bench? Are you packing your shoulder by flaring your lats and pulling your shoulder into the socket? Are you crush gripping the bar? When you press are you holding your breath or exhaling very little while pressing it up? If not, you’re doing it wrong. Want to make gains, learn the proper form.
You can be a complete animal in the gym and be committed. But if you’re diet is lousy, you’ll never reach your full potential. Here are some tips to clean it up yet, live a little
a. Eliminate sugar.
b. Try to really limit white enriched flour products. Bagels, white bread, pasta, most cereals
c. If you are going to drink save it for the weekends and in moderation. (No more than 3 or 4 a night)
d. Prepare your own meals. Buying lunch is one of the single biggest financial as well as dietary wastes in my opinion. Brown bag it. Everyone has 15 minutes. Try to avoid takeout dinners as well as going out to eat every week. Plan for the whole week.
e. Have a treat once a week. Doughnut, bagel, potato chips, pizza. We’re not robots
f. Fast. a 24 hour fast once or twice a week does wonders. It cleans out the toxins, burns fat, gives your digestive system a break. It’s only skipping two meals. It saves money. Feeling thin and fitting in clothes feels a lot better than that sweet.
g. Workout in a fasted state. Growth Hormone is the key to burning fat. It is highest when you are sleeping, fasting or exercising. By exercising in a fasted state, you are doubling up production.
h. Eat protein as well as fat.
i. Try and get your carbohydrates from natural sources such as fruit.