Monday, April 30, 2012

Too easy?

Ever feel like life is getting too easy or that you might be getting too strong? Perhaps a dose of reality is in store.

Those hollow rocks are rough, but you should be able to do them for a good 30 seconds to a minute. So if you can't, I suggest you work on that. If they get a bit easy, there's a solutions.

Enter the AB WHEEL:

hopefully this isn't a new image for you. It's simply a wheel with a handle as the axle.

Here's a video of how to use it, more or less.

You can really see the hollow position coming into play dynamically. As the guy move through the motion, he has to hold his abdomen really tight and pull the wheel back using upper body rather than just rolling the hips back. Notice when he demonstrates a poor execution how his belly drops and his lumbar dumps into his belly and the whole thing falls apart.

These things are dirt cheap so don't go trying to make one of your own, trust me on this.

Just make sure you have something under your knees.

Combine it with the back/hip extension supplementary work and you're looking at a pretty bulletproof mid line. Add in some grip training and some sprinting/jump-roping and you're about to go beast-mode.

Don't forget reminding your mind that life isn't too bad either. Keep the mind strong. Read "Mind Gym". If you already read it once, read it again; you probably forgot something important.

Here's a pretty decent write-up of mental strength with references from some of the worlds toughest and most resilient individuals.

(I would skip down to the part where the actual SEALs contribute.)


Monday, April 23, 2012

PR!? How did that happen?

Note: Make sure you're enrolled and squared away with the membership this week. If you need help, walk over to the cashiering desk and they'll take care of you. Read: $$$

Weather: Just a reminder, if it rains this week, then we will suspend any outdoor activities, but you'll be able to come inside the Wooden Center or KREC and do your own thing or jump in on IFT. You know the drill.

A few newer people have asked whether we share the workouts and for help with their own workouts. No, we do not make our workouts public. A lot of reasons for that and I'll save you all the boredom of it, but we just don't. You all have journals and you can easily track your own workouts. As far as your own workouts go: I used to put up a workout a week, but they got repetitive and often I find that it's too much for most people, yet they're doing them out of obligation and eating into the next day's training session. So for those that want to do something extra, go for it, you know how to put workouts together by now and a lot of the sessions have groups that meet up on off days to exercise. Just make sure you're listening to your body. If you feel tired and wasted, REST. If you feel like you can fly, go big. Any fluff in between if just a tiresome waste of your time. Go for a pleasant walk instead and call it a day. The key is to enjoy the things you spend your precious time on.

Method, Madness, PR, Why..

Last week we dead lifted. A day that many look forward to and others dread. That day, when all you have to do is grab a bar that weighs a little too much and stand up tall with it, elicits quite a bit of anxiety in most of us. In one sense, you think: what can possibly go wrong; in reality, those that have gone heavy and have experience that deep dark hole where you feel lucky to be alive know the feeling and want to avoid it at all costs. But the glory of the PR (personal record) doesn't come without a price to pay. And that one lift, the one single attempt, is the culmination of weeks upon weeks of invested training, so there's quitea a bit of interest in it.

So everyone went after it. We warmed into the heavy weights and then hit it with all our might. We held on tight to the bar and kept pushing the ground away from it. Our faces tensed up and some even let out a mighty roar (loosely stated). The will was relentless and letting go would mean losing it all and that's just unacceptable. Bam. Finished. You're standing tall and still holding it. You look around and everyone has their jaw dropped. Well done! You PRed. You're feeling quite victorious. As well you should. Progress is no easy task.

A number of people then asked about how that's possible since we don't really dead lift that much. This is a very valid question that we consider during programming but don't really expose much. The concept is called "transferrence". It literaly means transferring skills and strengths to bigger "things". So a lot of little things we do end up stacking together and amalgumating into bigger, more compound strengths and skill sets. Over several weeks, we have many opportunities to develop very useful strengths and skills to then apply into the subsequent workouts. It's like a snowball.

Think about something as simple as jumping. Jumping seems pretty straight-forward, but how does an individual get better at jumping? You could try to overload a jump but if you go too far past your work-capacity, you're just going to tire yourself quicker than usual or snap an achilles tendon. Bad news either way. So, with some smart coaching, you decide to break the jump down into it's parts. Hip extension/leg power; great, let's train it. Power cleans, kettlebell swings, plyo depth drops, jumping lunges, jumping slam ball, push press. Sweet, eay peasy. Wait, how do I get better at those things though? Well, lets' take the clean and kettlebell swing. Those depend very heavily on hip strength and back strength and how quickly you can apply those strengths. So how do we get at those? Well, the squat is always the big daddy king of them all and the dead lift is close behind (but we can't dead lift often because of neurological issues) so let's do more of those. But wait, how do you go about putting a heavier bar on your shoulders? Well pullups, pushups, dips, and pressing will help that. Don't forget about the hand strength needed to even think about holding onto a heavier bar or a kettlebell. Hand-hangs and farmer carries help those. Lets not neglect the massive amounts of midline stability needed for any progressions in structural overload. After all of these things, the most important part of them all is actually having the energy resources and the nutrition to develop and recover. So food and sleep and rest are imperative.

So you see? Jumping is simple, but getting better at it is not. Big deal.. Who cares about jumping, right? Well you might not, but if you're paycheck depends on it, you might. Welcome to athletic strength and conditioning. Developing these progressions and programming them for athletes that need to become faster runners or more powerful jumpers or swimmers or throwers is no easy task. But you see the idea here? We take lots of seemingly unrelated and pointless workloads and transfer the developments into much more focussed and precise movements. Think about why a runner should do pushups, and why a hammer thrower might want to squat 500lbs.

So this is what we do in BHIP. We do lots of different things that all somehow culminate into bigger and broader strengths and skills. This is something to think about when involved in performance-based training, which is what BHIP is. There is always a purpose and a method to the madness, and if you can think about it that way, maybe it will help motivate you. A bicep-curl is fun and all but it's only good for just that, unless you're addressing that weak link in a clean when your legs push and your arms get yanked so hard that you can't hold the bar.

This leads me to address some things I saw in the deadlift. Most people had breakdowns in their hand strength, which is pretty expected since we don't get to hold heavy things all day like our hands were designed to do. The other was core strength. Every dead lift should feel like you just held a plank for like 5 minutes. Once the core breaks down, the spine either rounds backwards or forward into the abdomen. This causes a massive power bleed and the whole structure falls apart under load and the legs give out. The bar falls to the ground and makes a loud crashing sound indicative of failure.

No, situps will not address this issue. The situp develops hip FLEXION. The fact that your abs burn just means you have weak abs, not that you're training them. Dead lifting is about hip EXTENSION. I told everyone long ago to start holding the hollow position and I'll remind you again now. Hollow rocks are the key. Then transfering the hollow strength into other skills will develop the midline strength you need for lifting and running and swimming and sitting upright.

Here's the video again:
Check out the progressions he shows as well. Ring a bell?

Read this article:
Good stuff in there. Think about the transference of Laird's training into his sport.

Go do some hollow rocks. Do them till you can't, then do like 50 more.


Monday, April 16, 2012


Welcome to BHIP, on ramp cohort # who knows what. I lost count. This is that fun transitional period where we start making new friends and welcome in new people. So take a minute and introduce yourself to someone new this week.

As always, this is a reminder as to what we're about. STRENGTH. That's it. Pretty simple. Our aim is to increase an individual's work capacity and general physical preparedness with gains in strength. Those gains in strength then trickle down into other aspects of life, which along with proper, performance-oriented nutrition will result in some pretty cool things. Many have experienced it, but it takes focus and commitment.

If your goals are anything other than strength then you may have a hard time with this. You will not reap the same psychological reward as a strength fiend will and as such may find your motivation dwindling fairly quickly. So it may behoove you to start thinking about your strength(s) and addressing them. Turn your weaknesses into strengths; make your strengths enviable; and just be strong in general. No one has ever been deemed "too strong", so there's no reason to stop.

I encourage all new people and even the veterans to go through the blog archives and read some of the older posts. Check out the links. This will give you a pretty good idea as to what we're all about. It's just exercise, but there's a little more method in our madness.

Here's an interesting read: Beer makes men smarter: study.

*Note: no wonder this study was done in Chicago. The Loop is like Disneyland for alcoholics. Entertaining "study" nonetheless.

Monday, April 9, 2012


There will be no session this FRIDAY 4/13. The track is occupied by an event along with Wilson Plaza, Janns Steps, and other places. Instead, you are all welcome to come to the JWC or go check out KREC on Kinross ave. Thanks.

Greatest Hits Album:
So with another on ramp matriculating by the end of this week, we will have a nice influx of new friends to exercise with. Unfortunately they have not had the privilege to follow this blog before and as such have been lacking the vast amounts of information dropped on them. The incoming cohort is going to be in the same excited state that all of you have been in before and will probably want to know a lot of the same things that all of you did. Questions like: "I know this wasn't really a weight-loss program but I didn't lose any weight and I actually gained a couple pounds (but I look and feel better), why and how do I lose weight?" Or: "Why am I more hungry than ever before?" Or: "What can I do on off days?" See where I'm going with this?

I'm not about to start rewriting all of the musings we've already move far past as a group, but it might be fun to compile a sort-of "Greatest Hits Album" of posts or links that you all found especially helpful or that resonated with you. So if you could do that, that would be great and I too will go through and scour through them. This way I can just put together a list of links to the posts in some sort of hierarchical order and we can move forward. Post the links in the comment thread.

Parenting advice:
I saw a billboard yesterday that said something like: "How do I talk to my 13 year old about alcohol?" That made me laugh. The reality is, you don't. There is nothing you can tell a kid that will magically inspire them not to want to do what the others are doing. Absolutely nothing. Not even the threat of a good beating helps. Trust me on this one.

As parents, your job is to inspire and lead. Chastising and admonishing will work very temporarily. If you want to facilitate some sort of positive "good" behavior or character in your younger generations, you might want to be that way yourself and make it look easy. Parents worry about their kids fitness and weight.. Well, when junior sees his dad scarfing down donuts, twinkies, and doritos, no amount of coercion will prevent him from following in those footsteps. It's inevitable. Your kids see you being a turd and whining and complaining over the most minute and petty things; being lazy and complacent; cutting corners, cheating, shirking work, being malevolent they're probably going to follow in those footsteps.

Kids emulate their leaders/; it's their job. To a kid, a parent is bigger than superman. Every boy talks about how strong and awesome their dad is to the other kids. Boys have to admire their fathers as do girls their mothers. It is up to the parents to personify the characters that they want their kids to grow into. Otherwise, it's a lesson in futility and impending dissapointment for both.

I am lucky, in a way. I grew up in an adversity-forged family of a couple generations of people who are more resilient and withstanding than any other I've met. I'm not going to get into too much detail about this, but my parents and my grandparents had it rough. As a kid, I watched as my parents did the right things and learned from my grandparents about their lives as well. I knew what was right and wrong based on what my elders did, not what they told me. Every time I did something wrong, I knew exactly what I was doing without exception. But at the end of the day, I still had to walk down the path that they paved for me.

So if you want your kids to grow up healthy, hard-working, tenecious, perserverant, unrelenting, and strong. If you want your kids to be success-oriented, to have good work ethic, and excellent, then constant pressure and bribes and punishment might work for a while. Being those things yourself might work better. Especially when it comes to health and "fitness".

Why Runners Should be Rowers

Normal Plasma Cholesterol in an 88-Year-Old Man Who Eats 25 Eggs a Day — Mechanisms of Adaptation

Monday, April 2, 2012

Glute-ham developers are evil.

It's getting warmer. That means hydrate to stay cool and to keep moving. You don't want to have to sit out because you're getting dizzy. If you do start feeling dizzy, flushed, cold sweats, or you actually stop sweating, make sure you let us know immediately. What you don't want to do is start gulping tons of water. You want to cool off first and then drink small amounts of water. Pour water on your head and neck first. Pour some in your mouth, swish it around, and spit it out. It's not thirst that will kill you, it's the heat; and if you start vomiting, you'll just dehydrate even more.

Also, a bunch of people have already asked me about what to do while on vacation.. This may seem like a novel concept to some, but what about enjoying your friggin' vacation!? Adhering to strict personal obligations seems to counter the entire concept of vacationing and traveling to get away from the obligations of normal day-to-day stuff.. Seems like I'm in the minority with that thinking though.

I was glad to see the postitive feedback from the back muscles write-up I did last week. Glad everyone enjoyed the visual aids as well. Female athletes really do help drive the point. Females don't grow big muscles like guys do (I'm refering to competitive sports, not body building/sculpting) and as such don't have the extraneous musculature like a guy athlete would. It would have been hard to explain the value of that specific muscle group if the athletes also had very well-developed shoulders or pecs or other muscles. But they didn't. The olympic pole vaulters are lean and very efficiantly designed. There is no room for spare muscles since it's just more baggage to travel with when flying upside-down over a pole that stands at just shy of 20 feet. So they have to make the most of what they have and need. Thus the value of a big strong back above all else becomes very obvious, especially in their sport. We can even look at swimmers and notice how developed their backs get and how skinny their legs are. You don't want big heavy legs sinking your bottom end; you just want enough muscle to keep kicking. I can keep going on about the erector spinae's value for any and every sport, but I think everyone gets it.

I am a huge fan of the Glute-hamstring developer, or GHD for short and we happen to have 2 of them in the wooden center. Few people know what the machine is let alone how to use it properly, but maybe some of you will like it.

Here's a video of how it is utilized: This is the most challenging movement on it as well.

This variations is probably the most beneficial and doable by most:

Here's a variation to emphasize spinal extension:

And finally, here's a good use of the abmats and a car if you feel like getting a little brave at home:

Note: This peice of equipment is quite advanced and will demoralyze even the best of athletes. So if you get on it and dangle like an ornament, please keep in mind that its incredibly challenging and must be progressed into. Meanwhile, keep building the back muscles in more doable fashions.

You can try holding a bridge for 3 sets of 1 minute on, 1 minute off. You can alternate between bridge and plank for various time intervals. You can do like 15 hip extensions into a bridge and then hold the bridge for 30 seconds. You can add those movements into some high-output sprints, but make sure you do them slowly and controlled instead of you you all do your supermans (looking like flopping fish to crank through them fast). Get creative but stay focussed and purposeful.

Let me know if you have any questions and I'll try to adress them in the comment thread.


I'm out!