Tout dans la vie est une question d'équilibre d'où la nécessité de garder un esprit sain dans un corps sain.


Everything in life is a matter of balance therefore one needs to keep a healthy mind in a healthy body.


E. do REGO

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Body Weight Training for Maximal Strength

Posted on June 26, 2012
Question: Chad, is it possible to replace traditional barbell and dumbbell lifts with exercises using nothing but rings and parallettes? How does that fit into a full-body workout? Thanks, JB

CW Answer: Yes JB, it’s not only possible, it’s ideal. Even though exercises with rings and parallettes don’t require external loading, you can build just as much strength and muscle as you can with iron, no matter how heavy that iron is. In fact, if you know which exercises to do, you can break through hypertrophy plateaus and achieve newfound muscularity with exercises on the rings and parallettes.

You only need to look at the muscular development of the Olympic gymnasts who specialize in the rings events to know how powerful those exercises are for muscle growth. Every single guy has an upper body that most of us would commit a felony to possess.

A typical retort I hear when I mention the muscularity of the rings gymnasts is something like this: “Yeah, but they’ve been doing those exercises for 10 years!”

Well, I know many guys who’ve been lifting weights for more than 10 years and their upper body looks nothing like those gymnasts. If I could turn back the clock I would’ve started training my upper body on the rings 10 years ago and I’d have a lot more muscle than I do now.

So the question is: How do you incorporate exercises with rings and parallettes?

1. Choose High-Tension Exercises: When most people think of maximal strength development, they only think of lifting heavy loads. Even though that’s certainly a way to build maximal strength, the essential factor is tension not load.

I’ll use the rings handstand push-up as an example. Most fit guys can only perform a few partial reps of this exercise. And if they can do a full range of motion handstand push-up from the rings, they can’t do many. Therefore, that rings handstand push-up is building maximal strength even though there’s no iron.

For maximal strength development, the key is to choose exercises that can’t be performed for more than 10 continuous seconds. This could be a muscle-up, front lever, back lever, handstand push-up or any other body weight exercise. When you follow that rule, you’ll always build maximal strength while achieving maximum recruitment of the high-threshold motor units.

2. Train with Sufficient Volume: To promote hypertrophy, the volume of each exercise must be sufficient. Even though there’s little research to reference with regard to volume and hypertrophy, my empirical data demonstrates that at least five sets is necessary to elicit a strong hypertrophy response. One or two sets of any exercise, no matter how much load or tension, won’t make your muscles grow. You can’t go wrong with 5-10 sets.

3. Perform a Full-Body Circuit: When an exercise mandates high levels of muscle tension (e.g., rings handstand push-up), you need at least three minutes of recovery before you repeat that exercise. Although, this doesn’t mean you should sit around for three minutes. By placing your rings and parallette exercises in a full body circuit you can get at least three minutes of recovery while keeping your workouts relatively brief.

Here’s a circuit that works well for a relatively fit guy:

1A Handstand push-up from rings for 3 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1B Box jump for 3 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1C L-sit hold for 10 seconds
Rest 30 seconds
1D Dumbbell single-leg deadlift for 3 reps, each leg
Rest 30 seconds, repeat 1A-1D 4-9 more times

Between the rest periods and the time it takes you to finish those four exercises, you’ll have three minutes of recovery before repeating an exercise. Of course, the options are endless when it comes to exercise selection or the number of exercises you have in a circuit. The above is just an example.

The trick with rings exercises is that many of them don’t fall perfectly within a “push” or “pull” category. That’s one of the reasons why I started my Rings and Power tour. In that 2-day seminar you’ll learn how to program all of the rings, parallettes, and body weight exercises into the ultimate power and muscle-building system.

To find out how to reserve a spot in the Rings and Power seminar, go to this link.

Stay Focused,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fillers: Pairing Strength with Mobility

I grew up in powerlifting gyms and played football into my early twenties. As reluctant as I am to admit it, this upbringing trained me to be a meathead.
I'll give you an example of my problem solving logic as a nineteen year-old. Every problem could be solved by getting stronger.
Can't squat deep? You're weak. Get stronger.
Low back hurt? Stop being soft. Get stronger.
Can't pick up chicks? It's because they think you're a pussy. Stop wearing your t-shirts tucked in. And get stronger.
Over the past few years, however, I've changed my focus a bit.
I'm still a big strength advocate, and I think toughness is something most people could use more of. But after some time, education, and experience, I've found there's a lot more to getting stronger than stacking plates and hitting more reps. Clean movement is just as important for continually gaining strength.

Fillers: An Introduction

A few years back I was reading an Alwyn Cosgrove article when something clicked. He explained that making a distinction between strength and mobility training is pointless. They're inseparably paired, each contributing to the other.
Around the same time, I was reading Eric Cressey's programming and noticed the mobilizations he used during rest periods. He, and several other established coaches, called them .
These days, the term 'filler' is part of training vernacular. Back then, however, I was blown away. What a great idea! Fill time, keep sessions dense, and feel better.
At that point, though, I didn't understand how to pair the right lifts with the right mobilizations. And I didn't understand the dramatic effect mobility has on improving strength.
Observation, experimentation, learning more about biomechanics, and reading up on the nervous system gave me the insight to develop a pairing process.

A Match Made in Rehab

Pairing Strength with Mobility
Matching mobilizations with activation exercises started in sports rehab and has been adapted to fit in the strength world.
I've made friends with chiropractors that specialize in rehab – not just cracking necks and cashing checks. When they describe their treatment process to me it usually goes as follows:
That, of course, is my summary, most likely grossly over generalized. But it offers a simple template that we can apply for our own purpose – building mobility into our strength training sessions to add training density and improve big lift performance.
The treatment template above works from broad correction to narrow correction. That's how we can apply mobility exercises to serve as active rest between sets of strength exercises. Applying a specific mobilization will be narrow, but will improve our overall movement for a given strength movement.
Three principles will guide our mobility exercise selection for each strength lift:
  • Improving sequencing
  • Improving patterning
  • Alleviating tension created by the strength exercise

Improving Sequencing

Muscles work in 'force couples' around a joint – agonists and antagonists, extensors in contrast to flexors, and vice versa. This arrangement allows for full joint range of motion with stability, but it can be limiting when trying to generate as much force as possible.
A tight, or short, antagonist limits the function of the agonist for a given movement. Not only will the tension in the antagonist limit joint range of motion, it'll also divert neural drive away from the agonist. Recruited before the agonist, synergists are bumped from the supporting cast to the main roles.
Relaxing the antagonist while improving its extensibility will improve sequencing and function of the agonist for a given movement.

Improving Joint Positioning and Patterning

Pairing Strength with Mobility
I use the Joint-by-Joint approach to picture joint movement during lifts. If you're unfamiliar, it is the system of understanding mobility and stability developed by Gray Cook and Mike Boyle.
Here's a quick and dirty synopsis:
That's simple enough. We give joints that require mobility more range of motion while improving the stability of joints that move less. By doing so, we can better position our bodies at the beginning of the lift and through its completion. You move better within a given lift and put more weight on the bar.
However, you won't perform optimally if you can't put your body in good positions. The key is matching the right mobilizations with the right lifts to improve specific function.

Alleviating Tension

Joint and segmental stability require a lot of tension. During the lift this is good – it means that you're tight enough in the right places. Unfortunately, this tension can hang around even after the given lift, or session, is over.
Include drills that alleviate the tension during heavy lifts and you won't have to buy slip on shoes and look like Herman Munster when you turn in your chair.

A Grand Interplay

The grand interplay between strength and mobility is facilitated by several factors: joint range of motion, joint positioning, patterning, and sequencing. These qualities are inseparable – they affect each other at all times, improving or impairing performance for each lift.
For example, poor thoracic mobility while squatting mars hip positioning. Sequencing is skewed, the wrong muscles fire at the wrong time, and the squatting task is unevenly distributed. Performance on a given lift is both affected acutely and over time because of sub-par mobility. Tragically, the story ends with a lot of shoulda-coulda-wouldas.
To avoid this, address joint limiting factors between sets of your big movements. Below is a chart that I put together to help with predictable limiting factors for each movement.
MovementLimiting Factors
SquatAnkle dorsiflexion, thoracic spine mobility, hip mobility, anterior core strength
BenchUpper-back strength/scapular stability, anterior hip mobility/hip stability, shoulder stability
Conventional DeadliftThoracic spine mobility, hip mobility, hamstring extensibility
Overhead PressThoracic spine mobility, shoulder stability, shoulder mobility, core stability
These are typical limiting factors – you may have one or more, you may have none. This is where training partners and taping your lifts come in handy. If you don't have access to a camera and lift alone, it's easiest to address them all.

Make the Match

Based on the potential limitations of each lift, and in the spirit of hoisting superior iron, here are solid strategies for adding mobility fillers to the big four lifts. Remember, the goal is performance. Pre-habilitation is great, and necessary, .


Pairing Strength with Mobility
Since the deadlift is all about starting strength, pre-lift positioning is big for promoting a successful lift. Check the chart above and you'll find thoracic spine mobility listed first as a limiting factor.
Poor t-spine mobility devastates positioning, so train thoracic movement frequently before and between sets. Here's how.

T-Spine Strategy:

  • Train t-spine mobility, extension and rotation
  • Before starting deadlift sets, train t-spine extension using bench t-spine extension mobilizations.
  • As a filler during your deadlift sets, train thoracic extension with rotation. The quadruped extension rotation series works well to meet this end.
Train extension before pulling to prepare for a neutral set-up. I like to avoid stretching the lats during deadlift sets – even if the stretch is active, I'd rather not take the chance and lose lat tightness. That's why we use extension rotations as the filler during sets.
We also want the glutes to fire like a cannon. Screaming tight hip flexors limit glute recruitment, so we'll use active  to quiet them down.
Hit sets of five to eight between all of your deadlift sets. If you have a side that doesn't extend and rotate as well, do more reps on that side.


The squat is a tricky vixen. Since the movement starts with full-body eccentric movement and reverses into a strong concentric movement, the mobility and stability needs change constantly. It's not as simple as grabbing a bar and standing up with it.
Though the squat starts with top-down movement, I like to insert fillers starting from the ground and moving up.

Ankle Strategy

Poor ankle dorsiflexion turns a squat into a grotesque good morning hybrid. It's always the first limiting factor I address during squatting. Active mobilizations, such as ankle rocks and wall mobilizations, work well as fillers because weight bearing is required. But I also like to pull the ankle into dorsiflexion while it's relaxed.
Pick a dorsiflexion move and hit five to eight reps between each squat set.

Avoiding the Knee Cave

Caving knees turn a powerful squat into something resembling the Carlton dance. Limited glute strength is a big player, but poor adductor extensibility also plays a role.
Pushing the knees out while 'spreading the floor' tracks the knees while creating tension and recruiting the posterior chain. As you sink into the squat, tight adductors will pull the knees in, causing them to cave. I use two strategies to avoid the knee cave.
  • Simply foam roll your adductors between squat sets, as it's often enough to calm those bad boys down enough for your knees to track well and get better drive.
Sometimes, however, rolling isn't enough and mobilization is warranted. You need a great adductor mobilization drill. Here's one I picked up from Steve Maxwell. It trains adductor length and internal rotation simultaneously.

Bench Press

Pairing Strength with Mobility
Most great benchers have a great arch. It looks like the bench is the only thing stopping them from rolling completely into a circle. I've worked for years, training myself to arch this way, but it just won't happen. Scoliosis is a mean bitch.
An impressive arch requires spinal extension out the wazoo. But it also requires something many lifters forget, namely glute drive. This is especially true for those of us without an impressively mobile spine.
Benching with rigid glutes facilitates your arch by giving you better leg drive. As a result, you'll set up higher on your shoulders. Activated glutes also keep you stable on the bench.
For these reasons, I like to include glute activation in between sets of bench, especially when a lifter is learning to arch.
Typically, I use lateral activation drills or glute bridging variations. See the videos below.
Upper-back tightness necessary for heavy bench efforts locks up the t-spine. To perform well on squat and deadlift efforts, you have to keep your t-spine moving freely about.
Including thoracic mobility drills between bench sets is the best strategy I've found to keep heavy bench training from affecting squat and deadlift training. The drills included during the deadlift section work well, but standing thoracic mobilizations are great in concert with glute activation drills because they alleviate tension in the lower back.

Overhead Press

Pairing Strength with Mobility
The rest between overhead pressing sets is free time. Rather than spend it updating your Facebook status about your latest PR attempt (you know who you are), this is a great time to address mobility and stability weaknesses that can pay dividends in the rest of your training.
If you press at the beginning of the week, use t-spine mobility drills and glute activation exercises as your fillers. T-spine drills keep your scapulae moving well, and glute activation sets anchor your hips and core so you can press with optimal force.


Mobility fillers help improve patterning, improve sequencing, and keep unnecessary tension from affecting future lifts. Pairing strength with mobility is a no brainer – even for this meathead.

Monday, June 18, 2012

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped
It's that time of year, when even the most anti-cosmetic guy thinks a little bit less about his lifting totals and a little bit more about how he looks in his spandex lifting suit.
If that just made you throw up in your mouth, or made you want to punch me in the face, you don't have to keep reading.
Then again, maybe maintaining your functional lean muscle mass and strength while dropping some non-functional fat will allow you to perform better in a lower weight class, thus giving you a competitive advantage.
At the very least, it could help you improve your health profile, prolong your career – and maybe even your life – if that type of insignificant stuff matters to you? Unless of course, you're still just a teenager at heart that thinks immortality awaits everyone.
We're  fighting an uphill battle in Y2K America. Every human being shares a common problem, and current statistics prove only a very small percentage are able to overcome it.

Fat Loss Nemesis

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped
Your biggest enemy in the war against body fat may be the one that you're not even aware of – it is , or more accurately, your internal instincts.
Make no mistake about it – human beings are preprogrammed to overeat.
There was no portion control for most of our existence. When you had access to food, you ate it, and stocked energy reserves to prepare for times when you didn't have access to it.
Going crazy at an all-you-can-eat buffet is not weakness or a cheap way to bulk up. It's simply a survival instinct. That may be cool during the off-season, but it's a liability when trying to cut the fat.
In an environment where resources are limited, and food is real and scarce, this natural tendency to overeat leads to survival.
In an environment with unlimited access to highly refined, fake foods, it leads to chronic overeating, and the health and body fat struggles associated with living on the wrong side of excess.
I don't care what the ADA says the arbitrary serving size of a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles is (3/4 cup), human instinct dictates it's the whole damn box.
When you combine the natural evolutionary instinct to overeat with the following:
  • Refined foods that have weak effects on the hormones that regulate appetite and energy intake.
  • Unlimited access to those foods (The 5 AM mocha and muffin run to the 3 AM post-drinking taco truck stop).
You have yourself one big, modern problem – an obese country with biomarkers of health that resemble the zombie apocalypse in an episode of The Walking Dead.
When analyzing the root causes of this problem, it becomes clear there are two different ways you can lose fat and get on the right side of the energy balance equation.

Fast Loss Strategy #1 – The Food Choices Route

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped
I don't want to beat a dead horse. I'd rather indulge my inner Francophone and eat it. I mean, look at the nutrition analysis and essential fatty acid profile of 1 pound of raw horsemeat:
But alas, horsemeat is not available in my city yet. I'd have to pull up stakes and move to Quebec and kick it with Coach Thibaudeau. Sadly, that would also require swapping my striped Hotskinz unitard for a throwback Quebec Nordiques jersey. Sorry Thibs, not going to happen.
For now, I'll have to settle for kicking that dead horse one more time.
Improving your food choices is the healthiest and easiest (after a rough transition phase) way to lose fat. It's also the most sustainable approach for the long-term.
If you hate counting calories, calculating macronutrient percentages, measuring and tracking foods, etc., your  choice is to start making better food choices. It's way too instinctual and easy to overeat refined foods.
It's much harder to overeat real foods. I'd argue it's almost impossible. Without any tracking or measuring, I've had female clients struggle to eat 1200 calories a day and male clients had a similar problem getting 2000 calories a day when cutting out all refined foods, and only eating real, natural foods.
They couldn't believe how so much food volume led to so few total calories. That's the beauty of real food.
Here's the thing: fat boys like to eat (they used to call me Baby Sumo, so I'm not trying to be a jerk).
A client of mine called me last night complaining about having to eat too much for dinner. What was on the menu?
It was 3/4 pound of top round steak and 2 pounds of potatoes. Remember, my overall approach is to eat lighter during the day and eat the majority of calories and carbs at night – which allows us, at least once a day, to satisfy that natural urge to feast like a beast.
That's a crap-load of food to eat; yet it's still less than 1500 calories. No late night, starvation-induced binges here.
This guy couldn't lose weight when he was on his ketogenic, unlimited fat diet pouring oils on everything. Why?
Refined oils are much easier to overeat than real food, so he was always in a caloric surplus despite treating carbs like rat poison.
On his new plan, he's lost 50 pounds.

Simple Eating Templates

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped
  • If you're sedentary, eat like a caveman: animal proteins, vegetables, whole fruits, whole food fats (nuts, shredded coconut, avocado), and muddy pond water.
  • If you're active, follow the patterns of a Japanese village-style diet, which simply means adding in some low sugar, gluten-free starches to the above caveman diet to support anaerobic training: sweet potatoes, potatoes, or rice.
Now I'm sure I'm going to get some nit-picker saying something like epidemiological research shows no culture has a universal diet and food intake varies across geographical locations, etc. My response?
  • When was the last time you got laid? Seriously? And Palmela Handerson doesn't count.
  • "Themed" approaches to eating aren't meant to be 100% historically accurate dogmatic scrolls. They're simply educational tools to give people simple templates to remember.
The bottom line is that emphasizing lean proteins, vegetables, whole fruits, whole food fats, and a select few starch foods if you strength train is good advice regardless of historical era or geographical location.

Fat Loss Method #2 – The Portion Control Route

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped
Here's the tough love reality: That's why people are always shocked, or even offended, when I give my honest opinion about certain food choices.
They suck.
If I didn't list it, I don't like it. And the list is relatively small. But remember, I'm not the be-all-end-all of nutrition. To paraphrase the Dude, well, that's just my opinion, man.
And for a lot of people, a full-blown real-foods diet may seem too restrictive or extreme.
There are some people out there who just don't want to eat better, despite their knowledge of the health effects of food. It's mind blowing to me. But I get it at some level – refined foods and sugar have drug-like effects. Like any addict, we scour the earth for justifications for including them into our plans.
Some people just aren't going to give up their cereals, wheat bread sandwiches, fruit juices, high n-6 cooking oils and salad dressings, pastas, etc., no matter what. Fair enough.

Fake Foods and Real Instinct Don't Mix

If you think you can take an instinctual approach to eating while making less-than-ideal food choices, you're in for a rude, belly fat awakening. See beaches and poolsides everywhere.
Because it's so easy to overeat refined foods, you'll have to do the ol' measuring, calorie counting, macro-calculating, and tracking thing if you have any real shot at dropping a visually significant amount of body fat.
My ears are already ringing from all the complaints.
Quit whining. Damn, am I talking to a T-Man or my Auntie? If you don't want to eat real foods, you're going to have to measure your fake foods.
I like to make fat loss as easy as possible for people, but you can't be completely lazy and expect to achieve goals. If you refuse to fight one battle, you're going to have to fight another one. You can't win a war from the sideline.
Besides, all it really takes is one extra step. If you're on a carb-based diet, is it backbreaking to pour your cereal or pasta into a measuring cup first instead of directly into a bowl?
If you're on a low carb, fat-based diet, how hard is it to pour salad dressing into a tablespoon measurer instead of directly onto the salad, or count out twenty-four almonds?
I'll even help you. I have two nuts for you right here for you to get started with.
For most foods, especially the energy nutrients (added fats or carbs) that are the most important to measure, it takes an extra 10 seconds to get an exact measurement, instead of just winging it.

Portion Precision Tactics

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped
Here are some thoughts about how to implement this process in the real world. It's not as hard or inconvenient as you think:
  • Buy a couple sets of measuring cups (1/4 cup to 1 cup) and teaspoon/tablespoon measures.
  • Use measuring cups as serving spoons instead of traditional serving utensils, particularly for starch foods and added fats like nuts.
There's no need to weigh your meats, poultry, and fish on a scale. Simply buy these foods one pound (16 oz.) at a time and cut them up according to your dietary needs.
If you're supposed to be eating 3 oz. servings cut into 5 pieces, 4 oz. servings = 4 pieces, 5 oz. servings = 3 pieces, 8 oz. servings = 2 pieces. It doesn't have to be exact; we just want the right range. Food scales seem a bit excessive to me.
  • Pour oils, dressings, and condiments into teaspoon or tablespoon measures before cooking or topping food.
  • When you don't have access to measuring cups and spoons, like eating at a friend's or at a restaurant, you'll have to eyeball portion sizes.
4-6 ounces of meat, poultry, or fish is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. 1 cup of starch is about the size of a closed fist or a baseball. 2 tablespoons of dressing is about 2 spoonfuls, or about 1/2 of most of the cups they use for the "dressing on the side."
  • No need to measure non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, lettuce, spinach, onions, etc.) unless they're cooked in butter or oil. Plain vegetables are pretty much free foods that can be eaten in unlimited amounts.

Halftime Report

The first half summary is really simple. To lose fat you can either:
  1. Make better food choices.
  2. Start measuring your crappy food choices.
For health, and overall ease of the program, I prefer route #1. You're always going to be hungry trying to diet on refined foods, and your biomarkers of health probably aren't going to be great either.

The Lethal Combination – The Only Get Ripped Method

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped
Now all of that's for losing some fat – a relatively easy process, right? The problem is with summer coming up, the approaches to just lose some fat start to get marketed as effective approaches to get ripped. I respectfully disagree with that.
Getting ripped is a whole different ballgame in a completely different stadium than just trying to lose some fat and get healthier. It's an athletic endeavor that needs to be treated as such.
The only way I know of for most people to achieve this higher-level goal is to combine fat loss strategies #1 and #2. You must make good choices  measure/track your food intake so you consistently hit targeted calorie and macronutrient numbers.
 fat loss nutrition is all about details – portions and ratios. It's about a well thought-out plan based on science that gives our body exactly what it needs without any excess.
Why do you think there are serving sizes and measuring cups in your Surge® Recovery containers? Because the people that use Surge® are most likely advanced athletes with more advanced goals, not just average goals.
And advanced goals require way more details and precision.

Don't Follow the Exceptions to the Rule

Many fitness professionals proclaim that you don't need to count calories or macronutrients to get ripped. Really? Those are generally the ones who are:
  1. Blessed with great genetics, and could do whatever they want and would still be in shape.
  2. The drug enhanced, that still have to work hard, but have a lot more leeway than the average dude.
  3. Have never been ripped. Trust me, there are plenty of fitness experts, dieticians, and PhD types who write about getting ripped because they know it sells well, but have never successfully gone through the process themselves.
Theory is different from real world application and results. What looks good on the chalkboard doesn't always end up looking good in the streets.
I'm not interested in theory or opinion. I'm interested in real world results. And if you look at the diet plans of the most ripped people on the planet – bodybuilders – you'll see that they all measure their food. Whether they're as natural as grass-fed beef or a Salisbury steak TV Dinner is irrelevant.
Eight ounces of this, 1 cup of that, 2 tbsp., etc., are used for the good food choices that make up the bulk of their diet. If you're serious about reaching elite leanness, follow their example.
Saying you can't learn anything from bodybuilders is just as ignorant as saying you should learn everythingfrom them.
Because of the negative association with the extreme chemical experiments that have become bodybuilding, the industry as a whole seems to have this subconscious need to dissociate from anything related to its core principles. Anything even remotely resembling old school bodybuilding methods gets blasted. This is ridiculous.
The truth is, measuring food is a bodybuilding habit that will serve you well in your get-shredded efforts.

Arguments Against Purely Instinctual Eating

We've used caveman, village, and farmer-style eating as templates to help people lose fat. But these demographics were eating simply to survive.
Modern athletes are eating and training for much more than just the fulfillment of the general life cycle. They're trying to reach the pinnacle of physique development, and "get ripped."
If you want to reach peak condition and ultra-low body fat percentages, then certain sports nutrition principles must creep their way into a 100% natural or instinctual eating plan.
And sports nutrition is all about numbers, calculations, and details.
Look, I get it. I have a genetically elite colleague who is about as honest as it gets, and he always says to me, "People don't get it Nate, I could do anything and be ripped. I don't need to measure anything, especially doughnuts. But that's not what I recommend to other people."
While we'd all like to dream that could be us, and a lot of us use those 'exceptions to the rule' as examples of why we don't need to do certain things, the reality is, it's not.

Simple Summer Shredding Tips

2 Ways to Lose Fat, Only 1 Way to Get Ripped
I'd rather go outside and look at some bikini babes than continue writing, so let's wrap this thing up.
Debate could go on forever about what the best plan is to get ripped. Who cares? It all needs to be tested and refined in the real world, for  personally, anyway.
Here's a decent starting point, assuming you strength train 3 or more days a week:
  1. 12 calories/pound of lean body mass.
  2. 1-1.5 grams of protein/pound of lean body mass.
  3. 20% calories dietary fat mostly as byproduct of protein sources and maybe some Flameout™.
  4. Remaining calories to carbs.
  5. Have a cheat meal/re-feed meal once a week.
  6. Choose the meal frequency pattern that's most functional and sustainable for you.
  7. Aside from your peri-workout nutrition, I think the easiest plan is to eat lighter during the day and eat the majority of calories and carbs at night.
  8. Try measuring your foods and making sure you're consistently hitting the above recommendations before you think you need some crazy, triple-carb rotating, ketogenic cycling diet to get ripped.
Chances are you just need to be better with the basics.
Until next time, enjoy your summer loving! It happens so fast.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

30 Seconds to Leanness

Sprinting for Leanness
by Mike T Nelson – 6/12/2012

Every time you turn around, there's a new diet plan based on a hormone. While there's some merit to all this madness, most of the plans fail to completely understand their respective physiological underpinnings. The body isn't a simple, linear, straightforward machine – it's complex and redundant at almost every turn.

This article will reveal some new research on the hormone leptin to provide some simple actions for you to take to help you get leaner. Just because the physiology is messy doesn't mean your actions need to be complicated!

First, here's a short crash course on this important hormone.

Leptin 101

Leptin was discovered by Ingalls and friends in the early 1950's (Ingalls, AM, et al 1950). Fast forward to the early 90's when it was "rediscovered", and many were predicting it would be the biggest weight loss breakthrough ever.

It's a hormone that is released primarily by fat cells (adipocytes) and works to regulate appetite, body fat mass, and basal metabolic rate.

Until just a few years ago, researchers thought that fat cells sat on their collective butts all day and were only a storage place for unsightly body fat.

We know now that those pesky fat cells are very metabolically active, releasing and receiving a myriad of messenger hormones, one of which is leptin.

How Does Leptin Work?

Sprinting for Leanness
Leptin travels up to the brain where it acts on receptors in the hypothalamus to inhibit appetite.

More leptin in your brain = less food intake.

This is great news for anyone looking to get leaner, since more leptin means you'll be less likely to prowl your kitchen at 3 AM in search of leftover birthday cake. Leptin is your body's way of putting the brakes on fat gain by decreasing appetite.

The chronic level of leptin you have is also a rough measure of the amount of fat you have on your body. Many things can affect leptin as shown in the table below:

Factors promoting leptin secretion

Excess energy stored as fat (obesity)
Inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor and Interleukin-6 (acute effect)
Factors inhibiting leptin secretion

Low energy states with decreased fat stores (leanness)
Catecholamines and adrenergic agonists
Thyroid hormones
Peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor-agonists
Inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor (prolonged effect)

Leptin Super Mouse to the Rescue!

Researchers lead by Zhang,Y in the mid-1990s did a series of mouse experiments to show that mice with messed up leptin (ob/ob mouse) became fat little fury bastards (Zhang, Y et al. 1994).

Their metabolic rate was lower, they didn't move as much, and they ate tons of mouse chow.

The catch was that this mouse ob/ob (think double obese) didn't make any leptin at all.

To make the mouse lean, they injected it with leptin, and voila – a thin mouse again!

The researchers all joined hands, sang Kumbaya, and went out for tasty adult beverages while taking turns patting each other on the back for single-handedly solving the obesity problems. We just need to inject humans with leptin and poof, thin humans, and more visually appealing shopping experiences at Walmart.

The problem was it didn't work.

Researchers measured blood levels of leptin in obese humans and found that leptin levels were sky high!

That wasn't supposed to happen. Leptin levels were expected to be low since the humans were fat. As leptin increases, it signals that the body has enough fat, so we would expect low leptin levels in obese populations.

As you recall, when injected with leptin (thus increasing the level), the mice in the studies got thinner.

But these obese humans already had high levels of leptin. Injecting more leptin was like pissing in the ocean to try to raise the water level.

Leptin 201: The Receptor

It appeared that the receptor for leptin is out of joint. The receptor isn't telling the brain that leptin is high. Tons of leptin, but the silly brain can't tell since the receptor is as broke as Terrell Owens.

Why it Matters

Sprinting for Leanness

We already know that sprint training is a great way to burn fat, but it may have another benefit.

A study done by Guerra et al. in 2011 looked at sprints as a leptin signaling mimetic.

Unlike most research, this study used a group of T Nation style humans who were pretty lean (about 15% body fat) and young (23 years old). They split them into two groups: a fasting group, and a glucose group where they ingested 75 grams of glucose one hour before sprints.

Both groups did one Wingate bike sprint for only 30 seconds.

If you're not familiar with this set up, in short, it's hop on a bike set to a high workload (10% of body weight used here) and pedal like a rabid grizzly bear is chasing you.

What They Found

Subjects had a series of muscle biopsies done over the course of the study and researchers found that a single session of sprint training showed alterations in leptin signaling. The sprints were jacking up leptin that, in theory, should get the waddling Walmart shoppers to start dropping fat.

However, this was not seen in the group that ingested glucose before their sprint. Only the fasted group saw leptin alterations.

It appears insulin may interfere with the leptin signaling to some degree. To quote the researchers directly:

"Altogether, these results indicate that sprint exercise performed under fasting conditions elicits signaling events similar to those described in the rodent skeletal muscle after leptin injections, i.e. sprint exercise under fasting conditions acts as a leptin signaling mimetic in human muscle. However, glucose ingestion before the sprint training exercise blunts this effect." (Guerra et al. 2011)

So it appears that fasted sprint training can pinch hit for leptin.

Do This! A Training Template

Sprinting for Leanness
Hop on a bike and work up to one maximum, all out, pedal-as-hard-as-you-can sprint for 30 seconds.

The tension should be relatively high, but the goal is to keep your pedaling at a fast pace for the entire 30 seconds. If you slowed to a snail pace 20 seconds in, go to a lighter workload.

Make sure this is done in a fasted condition, such as first thing in the morning.

Don't have a bike? While the study didn't look at running, it may elicit the same response as the pathways are very similar.

It sounds ridiculously simple, but my purely anecdotal experience with my athletes shows that this does seem to help speed fat loss.


More leptin is associated with less food intake.
Some may have a leptin receptor issue where it's not responding to the amount of leptin floating around. Unfortunately, science isn't at the point yet where we can easily tell who has a receptor issue, but the more overweight you are, the more prone you are to having broken leptin receptors.
Doing just one sprint in a fasted state works to pinch hit for leptin, putting you on the road to leanness. However, non-fasted training does not have the same effect. So add some sprint training in, but it has to be done in a fasted state.
Fasted sprints can be done any time on a fasting day (where you're not consuming any calories), or done before breakfast. This way it's unlikely to interfere with your normal training session.
While we don't have a long-term study to show how much this will help your body composition, it's simple to add in and there's some very strong data to show it will help.
Sprinting for Leanness
Heck, it only takes literally 30 seconds to do the sprint. Try it out, and let me know what you find.

Questions or comments? Post them in the LiveSpill below.

Selected References

Everard, A., Lazarevic, V., Derrien, M., Girard, M., Muccioli, G. G., Neyrinck, A. M., Cani, P. D. (2011). Responses of gut microbiota and glucose and lipid metabolism to prebiotics in genetic obese and diet-induced leptin-resistant mice. Diabetes, 60(11), 2775-2786. doi:10.2337/db11-0227

Finocchietto PV, Holod S, Barreyro F, Peralta JG, Alippe Y, Giovambattista A, Carreras MC, Poderoso JJ. Defective leptin-AMP-dependent kinase pathway induces nitric oxide release and contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction and obesity in ob/ob mice. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Nov 1;15(9):2395-406. Epub 2011 Jun 28.

Galgani, J. E., Greenway, F. L., Caglayan, S., Wong, M. L., Licinio, J., & Ravussin, E. (2010). Leptin replacement prevents weight loss-induced metabolic adaptation in congenital leptin-deficient patients. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 95(2), 851-855. doi:10.1210/jc.2009-1739

Guerra, B., Olmedillas, H., Guadalupe-Grau, A., Ponce-Gonzalez, J. G., Morales-Alamo, D., Fuentes, T., . . . Calbet, J. A. (2011). Is sprint exercise a leptin signaling mimetic in human skeletal muscle? Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md.: 1985), 111(3), 715-725. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00805.2010

Ho, J. N., Jang, J. Y., Yoon, H. G., Kim, Y., Kim, S., Jun, W., & Lee, J. (2012). Anti-obesity effect of a standardised ethanol extract from curcuma longa L. fermented with aspergillus oryzae in ob/ob mice and primary mouse adipocytes. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, doi:10.1002/jsfa.5592; 10.1002/jsfa.5592

INGALLS, A. M., DICKIE, M. M., & SNELL, G. D. (1950). Obese, a new mutation in the house mouse. The Journal of Heredity, 41(12), 317-318.

Kelesidis, T., Kelesidis, I., Chou, S., & Mantzoros, C. S. (2010). Narrative review: The role of leptin in human physiology: Emerging clinical applications. Annals of Internal Medicine, 152(2), 93-100. doi:10.1059/0003-4819-152-2-201001190-00008

Kowalik, S., & Kedzierski, W. (2011). The effect of interval versus continuous exercise on plasma leptin and ghrelin concentration in young trotters. Polish Journal of Veterinary Sciences, 14(3), 373-378.

Plinta, R., Olszanecka-Glinianowicz, M., Drosdzol-Cop, A., Chudek, J., & Skrzypulec-Plinta, V. (2011). The effect of three-month pre-season preparatory period and short-term exercise on plasma leptin, adiponectin, visfatin and ghrelin levels in young female handball and basketball players. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, doi:10.3275/8014

Wolsk, E., Mygind, H., Grondahl, T. S., Pedersen, B. K., & van Hall, G. (2011). The role of leptin in human lipid and glucose metabolism: The effects of acute recombinant human leptin infusion in young healthy males. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(6), 1533-1544. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.012260

Zhang, Y., Proenca, R., Maffei, M., Barone, M., Leopold, L., & Friedman, J. M. (1994). Positional cloning of the mouse obese gene and its human homologue. Nature, 372(6505), 425-432. doi:10.1038/372425a0

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Health Tips About Bananas You Must Know:

According to a Japanese Scientific Research, full ripe banana with dark patches on yellow skin produces a substance called TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) which has the ability to combat abnormal cells. The more darker patches it has the higher will be its immunity enhancement quality; Hence, the riper the banana the better the anti-cancer quality.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Heavy Lessons

by Charles Staley – 6/04/2012

Heavy Lessons

Those who know me from my seminars or my writings know that I'm a huge proponent of the Olympic lifts.

Sure, I've written about the power lifts, and have coached several powerlifters, but I've never competed in the discipline – until this past April 1st, that is. This article is a summary of my experience, and what I learned from it.

Just to set the stage, back in August of last year, I re-injured my left elbow trying to improve my jerk technique. I had (for unknown reasons) developed some calcification in that elbow, which had gradually reduced both my full flexion and extension in that joint.

So I found myself at a crossroads – I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to clean and jerk again, and at the same time had grown disappointed by my limited progress in the "O lifts" in recent months.

I needed a change, a new challenge.

In September, my friend and client Gene Lawrence (a world champion powerlifter in the master's division) told me about an upcoming raw powerlifting meet: the 100% Raw! Federation's Southwest Regional Championships in Prescott Arizona, which would be held on April 1st, 2012.

I had about six months to prepare, and the competition was only a few hours away from my home, so after some deliberation I decided to enter.

Before I share some of the important lessons I learned from training for and competing in my first powerlifting meet, I'd first like to tell you why it took me so long to finally "pull the trigger" on this adventure.

I had (and still have) an enormous amount of passion for the sport of weightlifting. I worried that dividing my attentions would hamper my efforts in that sport. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I'll share with you shortly.

I felt I wasn't strong enough to avoid complete embarrassment in the powerlifting world. Although I'd deadlifted 500 pounds a few years earlier, my lifetime best squat was about 365 pounds. Furthermore, while I had done a sloppy "touch and go" 300-pound bench press in my mid-thirties, at age 52, I hadn't done any form of bench press in years due to shoulder issues. In fact, on the day I sent in my entry form, I probably wasn't capable of a legal (paused) 200-pound bench.

I wasn't sure I was capable of performing "legal lifts" in powerlifting. First, after several serious knee surgeries, I have very limited flexion in my right knee. I knew I could squat "close" to parallel, but different federations have different depth requirements, and I wasn't certain that I could train at or compete with proper depth in the squat.

Second, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to bench press intensely and consistently enough to prepare for competition due to the aforementioned shoulder problems. In the past, any time I got more than 5-6 workouts into a bench press program, my shoulder would flare up and eventually stop me in my tracks.

Initial Training Approach: Linear Progression
Heavy Lessons

After a short layoff from my usual training in weightlifting, I started my preparation on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 – almost 6 months to the day from the competition. (I started documenting my training right here at T Nation on October 31st, for those of you who might like to reference my training journal).

My initial training approach involved bench pressing and squatting on Mondays and Fridays, and deadlifts every other Wednesday, using a simple "linear progression" approach popularized by Mark Rippetoe here for the bench and squat. I'd work up to a challenging set of 5 on day one, and then 3x5 (with slightly less weight) on the second weekly workout, starting off with very light loads.

On deadlifts, I worked up to a single work set of 5 reps per session (again starting very light). I planned a progression of 5 pounds/session for the bench and squat, and 10 pounds/session on pulls.

Here's what my initial training week looked like:

Power Clean
Squat 1x5
Bench Press 3x5

Snatch variant

Power Clean
Squat 3x5
Bench Press 1x5
Dumbbell Curl


For squat and bench, I paired a 1x5 lift with a 3x5 lift, rather than doing 3x5 for both lifts on the same day. This was for the purpose of evenly distributing workloads.

I haven't listed loading parameters for the Olympic lifts, chins, and curls. That's because I purposely made these decisions intuitively, based on what felt good at the moment. If I felt great on a particular day, I'd try for something big. If not, I didn't stress about it.

I allowed for occasional variety when it came to the non-competition lifts. The Big 3 lifts, however, were set in stone. I think that training programs should have a "compulsory" as well as an "optional" category, meaning that you should be able to discern between tasks that are central to your goal versus drills that are less critical to your core mission. Therefore, you'll see that I eventually dropped curls, skipped chins, and so on. Great programs are characterized by a "flexible structure."

While it may seem excessive to squat twice a week while deadlifting during the same week, keep in mind that volume on Mondays and Wednesdays was fairly low (1x5 for each).

Some readers may notice the complete lack of a general/dynamic warm-up, foam rolling, stretching, and so forth. Personally, I've never experienced much benefit in any of these activities, and decided to finally listen to my inner voice on these issues. That said, if you feel you benefit from any of them, certainly use them.

My plan was to run this progression until I hit a wall (which I knew was inevitable), and then devise a new strategy when that happened.

For quick reference, my first 1x5 workouts featured the following loads:

Bench press: 170 x5
Squat: 225 x5
Deadlift: 340 x5

That should give a sense of how light I started off, although these opening workouts weren't especially easy. I was both embarrassed and nervous on the bench press in particular, given my shoulder history.

That said, I had no pain on those initial workouts, nor did I experience any significant pain or injury during this six-month training period. The only injury I suffered was a moderately-tweaked low back on a 185-pound squat early in the cycle, and a period of 3-4 weeks where I was experiencing moderate left pec discomfort on bench presses. That's it.

Never before have I experienced a pain/injury-free six months of training, and I sure wasn't expecting it to occur at age 52.

Reaching A Plateau On Linear Progression

Heavy Lessons

Right around mid-February, I could sense that my linear progression honeymoon period was coming to an end. It was taking all I had to continue making my 5-10 pound jumps, and an additional concern was that April 1st was coming up fast, and 5's seemed a bit non-specific for hitting big singles in competition.

I had benched 225 x 4 (missed the planned 5th rep) squatted 300 x 5, and pulled 363 x 5, but by this time my discipline had already eroded. I was already "experimenting" (or "pussing out" to be more forthright) by either taking heavy singles, or sometimes going more than 5 reps. Basically I was just sick of 5's. I needed a new approach before I started losing my discipline altogether.

Enter Chad Waterbury

I've known and respected Chad Waterbury for years and asked him if he'd help my with "last minute" peaking strategies. Chad looked at my training journal and told me that in his discussions with people like Franco Columbo and Pavel Tsatsouline, he'd developed a strong affection for a "Medium – Heavy – Medium – Maximum" type of progression.

Medium days were 3 x 3, heavy days were 3 x 2, and maximum days were mock competitions essentially, a chance to evaluate your progress. In terms of progression, each type of workout, when repeated, should be done with slightly more weight.

I immediately implemented Chad's suggestions, and after about 10 days could feel a renewal, physically and psychologically. My numbers started moving dramatically – before I knew it I was hitting 380 on the squat, 465 on the deadlift, and 255 on the bench, and I felt less drained at the same time. I was peaking. Things were coming together.

In my last month of training, I managed to chalk up a 403 squat, a 255 bench, and a 475 deadlift (see the videos below). I simply wanted to hit these numbers (or slightly more if possible) during official competition, when the pressure was on, without getting hurt. I felt ready go, but I had a lot of unknowns ahead of me...

So How'd I Do?

In terms of expectations, I only had a few:

I really wanted a 400 squat and a 500 deadlift, and I didn't want to get hurt in the process. I had no idea what to expect on the bench. But I felt I had to be ready for anything, given that this was my first experience in the sport, and also considering that the warm-up room was scantily equipped and crowded.

I had to be prepared for a rushed and/or incomplete warm-up. I had to be ready for the possibility that my squats might not be deep enough, or that I might not be prepared for the various technical rules I'd face on the bench, including the pause, keeping the feet motionless, and so on. I'd trained for all of this, but you never know exactly what you're up against until it actually happens.

Here's an event-by event breakdown of my meet:


My last warm-up was with 315, which I had to take from a very low position due to the much shorter guys who were sharing the rack with me. Nonetheless, it felt fine and I was confident overall.

I opened with 340, which felt about as heavy as I expected, and much to my relief I got three white lights – my depth was legal.

My second attempt was with 369, and now that I knew my depth would pass muster, I felt energized and confident. I probably could've hit it for a triple if I'd needed to. Three whites.

I went to the administrators' table and asked for 402, one pound less than my PR in training, but I didn't want to get greedy. I would've been super happy to hit 400, but had I tried, say, 415 and missed, I'd be in a bad mood for the rest of the meet.

402 was heavy and slow. I struggled out of the hole, and waited for what felt like an eternity for the head judge to signal me back to the rack. I think my spotters and I got the bar back on the stands about a second before I nearly passed out from pressurizing against that load. Three whites! I was off to a great start – 3 for 3, no red lights.

You can see my 402 attempt below:

Bench Press

My last warm-up backstage was with 205, and it felt uneventful. My first attempt was 225 pounds – a weight I'd hit for 4 reps in training. I smoked it easily for three whites.

Second attempt: 245. This went up okay, but not as well as I'd expected. Somehow my placement on the bench was off – I reasoned that

I needed to be closer to the uprights for my final attempt. Due to the difficulty of this attempt, and also because I was 5 for 5 at this point, I asked for 253 for my final attempt – 2 pounds less than my training PR.

As I positioned myself on the bench, I remembered the positioning error I wanted to correct, and moved a bit closer to the uprights. Two fifty three went up with ease – the adjustment paid off better than I'd anticipated. On the bench, I again went 3 for 3, and no red lights. My only small regret is that I was probably good for 260, which would've been a new PR. That's what the next meet is for I guess.

You can see my 253 attempt below:


Heavy Lessons

By this point in the day I was pretty wiped out, and my low back and hamstrings were toasted from the heavy squats. One of the unknowns I knew I'd be facing today was that I'd never maxed out my squat and deadlift on the same day.

There was a war going on in my head: a struggle between wanting to play it safe and hit 500, and the desire to get a new PR, say 510 or so. At this point I'd gone 6 for 6 with no red lights, so I decided to commit to a "perfect meet" – going 9 for 9, no red lights, and at least meeting (if not exceeding) training PR's.

My last warm-up in back was with 405. It was clear that I could've hit at least 5 reps with that, so I felt ready for my 440 opener. After I set that down, I was warned by the head judge to lower the bar with more control, which took me by surprise, but nonetheless, I earned three whites for my effort, and asked for 469 for my second attempt, which I handled successfully. The trick of course, is to optimally bridge the gap between my second attempt and my goal for my final lift, which was 501.

Walking out to that 501-pound barbell, I had confidence that I'd already hit that weight before in the past, but also felt pressure that until this point I'd been running a perfect meet. To say that I was determined to make this lift would be a gross understatement.

Internally, I'd worked myself into such a frenzy of effort that I honestly don't remember feeling the bar in my hands. As I began pulling, I felt relief that I at least got the weight moving upward, but it felt significantly heavier than I expected. I kept pulling, however, knowing that my deadlifts usually move faster than what it feels like.

As the bar passed my knees, I thought, "Okay, I'm home free now," but my improved leverage was offset by the mounting fatigue. The pull was a grind from start to finish. Finally, I locked it out, and remembering my earlier admonition from the head judge, did my best to lower the bar under maximum control. Hands on knees, I looked back at the scoreboard – three whites! A perfect meet!

In summary, the only change I would've made would've been to take a heavier final bench attempt, but as the old saying goes, hindsight is 20-20. I felt I'd performed a perfect meet, but what I learned from the experience was far more valuable than winning my first powerlfting meet (oh, did I forget to mention that detail?).

Lessons Learned

Injury Avoidance: I had virtually no pain during this 6-month training cycle, despite performing nearly every "challenging" lift in the book (squats, deadlifts, bench presses, two Olympic lifts, rows, and chins) hard and often. There are three plausible explanations for my injury-free experience.

First, I started well below my abilities. Second, I progressed very gradually – only 5-10 pounds per session. Third, I didn't do any "junk" work, which limited my overall wear and tear.

I didn't do accessory single-joint lifts, nor did I perform "advanced" techniques like eccentrics, plyometrics, chains/bands, partials, or forced reps. I simply did super-basic exercises using tried-and true programming principles, and I did it consistently and progressively.

I never took a single ibuprofen, never iced anything, and I never missed a single workout or failed to hit my numbers because of pain or injury. In short, my training was remarkably low-tech and the only thing exciting about it was that I got bigger, stronger, faster, and leaner; and I did it without injuring myself in the process.

A note about bench pressing: I noted that my traditional experiences with all forms of bench pressing were characterized by shoulder pain and injury. I can attribute my sudden good fortune to only one thing: since September 28th, all of my benches have been done with a pause, as is required in competition.

I believe this pause helps mitigate the high tensions that occur when the shoulder is at its weakest position (when the bar touches the chest). If you're having issues with your shoulders when you press, put your ego aside and implement the pause – it took me until age 52 to figure that out, so consider this a head start!

Body Composition: Body comp has never been my strong suit. When my focus was primarily on the Olympic lifts, things like squats, presses, and pulls received only cursory attention – by the time I got to squats, I often had nothing left in the tank.

But by putting my primary focus on "big" multi-joint movements done for higher volumes and longer time-under-tensions than what I was used to, lo and behold, I actually started developing a physique. And while I've never particularly cared much about aesthetics, I have to admit it's fun to at least look like I spend time in the gym.

Improved Olympic Lifts: Perhaps the most pleasant outcome occurred as I gradually started reintroducing power snatches and clean and jerks into my prep. Not only did I discover that I could still perform a workable clean and jerk despite my elbow issues, but in late April – after just five sessions and not having performed a single C&J for more than 6 months – I reached 95% of my best C&J ever, despite weighing significantly less and having not practiced that lift in months. I also reached 98% of my best snatch, after only a handful of sessions on that lift as well.

An even more remarkable surprise was that, for years, both snatches and jerks have been problematic on my shoulders, particularly my left shoulder. Remarkably, I found that suddenly, I'm performing very heavy snatches and jerks completely pain free.

This was one of the most gratifying things I've experienced in my entire training career. I attribute this to the 6-month break away from these lifts that allowed my old shoulder injuries to heal, but I also believe that bench pressing contributed to my overall shoulder integrity. Furthermore, I became much stronger as a whole, which certainly contributed to my shoulder health and integrity.

Prologue: What I'm Up To Now...

Heavy Lessons

My current goal is to be ready to do either a powerlifting meet or a weightlifting meet at short notice, any time of the year, while continuing to improve my body comp and staying injury-free at the same time. In other words, I want to be a bit more well-rounded as I get older, and I'm having a lot of fun getting stronger in my 50's without nursing injuries in the process.

The take-home lesson is, there's lots for all of us to learn, even if we're well-known experts who've been training for decades. I humbly hope that this story has inspired you to reach out and seek new challenges for yourself – no matter how good you are, no matter how much you may know, no matter how old you are, there are new heights for all of us to reach.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Effective Training for Busy Men

by Jim Wendler – 5/30/2012

From November to mid-January I have a lot on my plate. With my family spread out from Colorado, New Jersey, Texas, and Illinois, I have a lot of traveling to do. Thanksgiving and Christmas are spent in different states and we travel an ungodly amount during these three months.

I am not a big fan of traveling – I'm a creature of habit. I love my bed, my room, my weight room, and my couch. Couple that with the busiest time of year for business, and my training time is always compromised.

I'm not alone. Any small business owner has a super busy season, usually around the holidays. Growing up, my father was a track/field and football coach and his time was always limited during these seasons. Maybe your children's activities reach a peak in the summer and your time is very limited in the gym.

Whatever the case, you have to get your work done, but you have to get your training in, too. Without training, most of us would be a wreck. It gives us some purpose, lets us get out some aggression, helps push our bodies/minds further, and really, it's just in our DNA. While training might not completely define me as a person (I'd like to think that I'm more than just a meathead), it's a huge part of me, and my life. And if you're reading this, it's part of you, too.

The trick to training around a busy or awkward schedule is priorities. Since we aren't going to give up training, it's a priority. But we can't give up our business, our jobs, or our children for more days in the weight room. Still, success can still be had – you just have to plan correctly.

During these times, we're going to have two main workouts a week. You can have more if you want (this will be explained later) but when you're busy we'll only commit to doing two big workouts a week. These can be done on any day of the week that you have time. The only suggestion I have is that you have at least one day of rest in between them. We'll call these workouts "Workout A" and Workout B."

Effective Training for Busy Men

Workout A
Bench Press
*Assistance Work

Workout B
* Assistance Work

The workouts and exercises are what I use – feel free to use different ones according to your training and your programming.

I wouldn't do more than two "big" exercises per workout. One of the early lessons I learned in training was to limit the big exercises per day – but strive to have a great workout on these 1 or 2 exercise.

These are the bread and butter. No one, no matter who you are, can have a great workout on 4 or 5 exercises per day. You may think you're having one, but something will be compromised. As I've said many times before, I'd rather do one thing great than five things average. Multitasking goals and too many exercises is like trying to talk on two phones at once – everything gets confused.

Because you're only training two times a week, you have to make these workouts count. Make sure your mind is focused on the bar on your back and not the business you left behind. Surely you can clear your mind for 60 minutes, two times a week, for something as important (to you) as your training. You should go in focused and leave satisfied.

Assistance work on these days is largely going to be based on two things: how much time you have for the workout and how long until your next workout. For example, if you have only 45 minutes to train you may have to keep the assistance work down to 1-3 exercises. If you have more time, go wild.

If you know your next workout is going to be only 2 days away, give yourself a little break on the volume of assistance work. You don't want to make yourself sore doing assistance work if it's going to compromise your big lifts the next workout.

Really, that's just common sense. It would be like stuffing your face at Taco Bell before you go to a 5 star prime rib restaurant. If you know your next workout is going to be 5 days away, go nuts and beat yourself up a bit on the assistance work.

If you're like me and like to train at your "home base" or like to train on good equipment (competition benches, Texas Squat/Deadlift bars, etc.), make sure you schedule these workouts accordingly.

For example, if I'm on the road for a long period of time (two weeks), I make it a habit to find a good gym close by. If I can get two good workouts there during the week, perfect. Most times, these gyms are hard to find and you may have to travel a lot to get there. This way you only have to commit to going to these gyms twice a week, get a good workout in and not screw up your training cycle.

Unfortunately, most people like to train 3-4 times/week, even during the busy times and when they travel. This is a reality for people that work on the road a lot and find themselves in a different city every week or even every day.

What I did for years is have an optional weight workout that can be done in basically any gym. If I couldn't make it to a good gym (or couldn't find one), I didn't want to have to bench on an 8" wide bench, pull with multisided plates, or squat with a flimsy bar. All that would do is lead to a screwed up workout and extra frustration that I don't need on the road. No thanks.

Instead I did these workouts, which are largely assistance based.

Effective Training for Busy Men

Workout C-1

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Leg Press or Hack Squat 5-7 10-20
B Machine Press (any kind) 5-7 10-20
C Standing DB Press 5 10
D Row Machine (any kind) 5 10-20
E Face Pulls 3  
F Triceps Pushdowns 3  
This workout (or any variation of it) can be done if you know you're not going to have access to a good gym during travel time or during your vacation (really though – don't worry about it and take the damn vacation)!

The logic behind it is, I'd rather pump myself up with a bunch of machines than try to lift maximally on sub-par equipment.

If you're not traveling and still have time to do an extra workout during the week (provided that you've done both Workout A and Workout B), you can amend Workout C to look something like this:

Workout C-2

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Safety-Bar Squat Good Morning 3-5 10
B DB Bench Press 5  
C Bulgarian Split Squats 3  
D Dumbbell Rows 3  
E Rear Laterals 3  
Essentially it's a bunch of assistance exercises for the upper and lower body – you can choose anything you want. Again, "Workout C" isn't mandatory but simply a way to get another workout in if you have time. Just remember that the main workouts, A and B, are priority. Get those in first.

Weekend Only Training

Effective Training for Busy Men

I get a lot of emails from people who only have time to train the two days of the weekend. For them I propose a modified program, which is what I've used when I get very busy and continue to use as the base of my training.

Because you're training two days in a row, we separate the days into a lower body day and an upper body day. The assistance work on both days is fairly high volume with big exercises.

Week One

Workout A (Saturday)

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Squat – Heavy work  
B Safety Bar Squat 5 10
C Stiff Leg Deadlift 5 10
Workout B (Sunday)

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Bench Press – Heavy work (superset this with chins)  
B Press 5 10
C Rows 5 10
Week Two

Workout A (Saturday)

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Deadlift – Heavy work  
B Safety Bar Squat 5 10
C Stiff Leg Deadlift 5 10
Workout B (Sunday)

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Press – Heavy work (superset with rows)  
B Bench Press 5 10
C Chins 5 10
You're free to choose whatever assistance exercises you want but keep them high volume and "big" – front squats, leg press, dumbbell bench press, different kinds of rows, incline press, etc.

Daily Habits

Effective Training for Busy Men

Nothing is more powerful than habit, and this can work in both positive and negative ways. Since we all have control over our habits (despite what the world may have you believe, we're in control of our lives) let's do something positive.

If you're on a busy schedule, a short mobility session each morning is something that can be easily squeezed in. The old saying, "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away," should be changed to, "Be physical every day to keep death at bay."

A short 10 minute mobility session will do wonders for your body and mind and allow you to stay with the habit of doing something physical everyday. I highly recommend doing something like the Defranco Agile 8, an abbreviated Parisi warm-up (check out the Parisi Warm-up DVD), some bodyweight calisthenics, or whatever you choose.

Whenever I travel, I always bring my Travel Rehab kit. (No it doesn't contain methadone.) I have a sawed-down PVC pipe that fits in my bag, an average band (from EFS), and a lacrosse ball.

Here's a sample mobility program that I use:

PVC pipe – IT band, 100 rolls per leg
Lacrosse ball – piriformis, about 2 min/side
Bodyweight squat – 10-20 reps
Leg swings (front to back) – 10-20 reps
Side lunge – 10-20 reps
One-leg squat – 10-20 reps
Mountain climbers (big strides and hold each rep) – 10-20 reps
Groiners – 10-20 reps
Rollback hamstrings – 10-20 reps
Hip circles (fire hydrants) – 10-20 reps
Shoudler dislocates with band – 10-20 reps
Bent knee hip lift – 10-20 reps

This can all be done in about 20 minutes or so and gets me ready for the day. It can be done in limited space and in any hotel room. You don't have to be explosive on any of these exercises and don't force the range of motion if you're feeling really tight or sore. This is not (at least I hope not) a workout; this is you getting your body ready for the day.

You can't talk about something like "habits" without mentioning food. We all know diets fail. When a diet (a good, smart diet) becomes a habit, then it can succeed. There's a huge difference.

When you're a busy person, on the road, or always moving, this is one of the first things that goes in the dumper. Like my training, my food habits are pretty simple. At every meal, I have some kind of protein (always chicken, beef, or eggs), some kind of carb (rice, potato or oatmeal), and some kind of vegetable.

I do this 4 times a day and it can easily be done no matter where you are or where you eat. If I'm hungry, I just eat another meal. If I want to gain weight, the portions increase. If I need to lose weight, the portions decrease. Keeping the meals simple and basic allows for a ton of flexibility. Don't over think this.

Train, Don't Exercise

Effective Training for Busy Men

Training is one of our priorities – you wouldn't be reading T Nation or this article if you were just a weekend warrior or into "fitness." You're into training, and training is not "exercise."

In Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe defines training as a "physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to achieve that goal." We aren't "exercisers" or "fitness hipsters." Our training each day has purpose and meaning towards a bigger and more defined picture.

We don't randomly select things and strive "for a good sweat" or try to fit square exercises into round goals. We train. And those who train and are getting a bit older have a myriad of responsibilities. We have to prioritize our training around much of our life so that we can achieve those long-term training goals.

Life doesn't just throw us curveballs – it throws Niekro-scuffed knuckleballs with a bit of Gaylord Perry lube, and we all know where those are going to land. But if you plan your training accordingly, those incidents won't harm your training goals or your life outside the gym.

That's the key – the balance between maintaining a cutthroat attitude towards your training goals and your life. You plan. You execute.