Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This looks like a job for me..

Thank you to everyone who have been patiently adjusting your schedules and locations and for your understanding during these fun fall weeks when we welcome the students, programs, bands, athletes, events, construction, grand openings, closures, and surely a few other things I'm forgetting.


Last week I wrote about pull ups being a good developer for the arm flexors as an expression of the body's intent to elevate relative to a fixed bar overhead. Hopefully it was clear how the sequential chain of events works and the subsequent development of this chain of events. Again, hand strength is where it starts (if you can't even hold your body, you can't pull it.. much like a heavy dead lift) and then scapular stability, followed by scapular mobility, and finishing with the latismus dorsi doing most of the work and your biceps helping out in what little way they can relative to the bigger muscles at work.

This week I'll discuss the DIP as a developer of the arm extensors. Arm (elbow) extension happens when you decide that you want a little more space between your self and an object that is close to you. You're going to push something.

Push ups and the countless varieties of them are a fantastic way to develop that. The problem is that most people can either do way too many push ups or not nearly enough to stimulate the stress needed to facilitate any development. If you can do 40+ push ups repeatedly, then very likely your body is no longer accommodating the stress with physiological adaptation. The push up is mush like running in the sense that if you're good at it and it's fairly easy then you're just beating a dead horse, much like I am right now. On the other hand, if you can barely do 2 or 3 without dragging your hips on the ground, then the limiting factors are too great to overcome and the stress in the movers isn't enough of an issue for the body to respond against. So it's disregarded by the body as just another challenge that's too hard.

Enter "dips". Here's an example of the beginning of the dipping progression:

I searched for a solid 15 minutes and this was the best I could find. This is a great exercise for elbow extension but a lot of the movement is generated at the shoulder and chest and finished by the triceps. So if you feel other things burning, there's a good reason for it.

Next we move to the parallel bars:

Not a bad video. Again, stay tight in the torso. This is where scapular stability and mobility come into play. So make sure you follow the same progressions as with pull ups.

- First practice "support" where you just dangle for a good 30 seconds to a minute with nice hollow posture with your shoulder blades pulled together and down so your head and chest are high. Pull the elbows back and avoid flaring them out. No chicken wings! Keep your hips under your shoulders and you can bend your knees.

- Then move to "negatives" where you will ride the dip all the way down as slowly as you can. You can even have someone gently pull on your hips to "help". You must maintain the torso rigidity and the shoulder placement the entire time. So keep the blades and elbows back. Hold hollow.

- Once you can do them. Do them with some gusto. Avoid doing them slowly so do sets of only a few that are fast. Try to get a good 50 - 100 a week.

- If you can do 12+ then you might want to put a belt with some weights on. Or get some rings and do them on a set of rings.

Watch this:

Notice how tightly he hold the "hollow" position through out the entire movement.

A little Controversy

I love controversy! I enjoy every minute of it. I like instigating it. I like fueling it. I like playing devil's advocate. I find it so interesting. And, at the end of the day, when everyone puts out their flames, I feel like learning takes place and things ultimately improve for the positive.

So here we go: Read as many or as few of these links and do with the information what ever your little heart desires.

Ready? Go!
- Noakes wrote the book "Lore of Running." It was all the rage a few years ago but I threw it down after I read the nutrition section. It was status quo so I discounted the rest of it and tossed it away. His new advice is to tear the nutrition section out of the book. I may have to finish reading it now.

- Before you light your computer on fire, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Potatoes and yams are wonderful sources of starch (just peel them well). I eat massive amounts of them as I PERSONALLY function very well with them; BUT if I needed to shed a few pounds for various reasons, then I would consider reducing the amount of potatoes I was consuming.
- Those of you counting your calories, I suggest you find something better to obsess over. Quality over quantity. And, if you think you're smarter than millions of years of development and you opt for a "low fat" or modified variety of something that didn't come that way from nature, well, you're probably wrong. Stop being wrong.
- Not all "good" things are good for YOU as an individual. Especially things that ferment. Maybe if humans had ruminant stomachs. Jus' sayin'.

- Don't mess with how your body deals with fructose. Yes, high-fructose syrups are devastating to your liver.
- Check who pays for studies and don't take advice from people who stand to gain from you taking that advice.

- Keep in mind: the USDA (invested in AGRICULTURE) writes the federal diet guidelines. What if it was the USDI (ice cream)? What would the guidelines look like then? 8 servings of ice cream per day? SWEET!
- I had to search what the word "glycosylation" meant. Seems like it means "to bind to a carbohydrate molecule". This is a bit above my pay grade, but pretty interesting.
- Long-winded article that merely says "GO BACK TO THE SOURCE!" Eat from the source. Stop buying into hype and eating junk that scrambles your metabolic circuitry and eat real food. You stand only to gain from this approach.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Armed and Dangerous.


First things first: check out Justin's post about short shorts. It's a revolution people. Just make sure you have the thighs to fill them out if you choose to partake. Don't go strutting your chopstick legs in some rugby shorts. Here's an example of what you're shooting for (just get a smaller size if you're worried).

Obviously those legs are enormous, so a diet rich in sets of 10-12 heavy front squats and the same with Romanian dead lifts MIGHT get you off to a good start. I suggest you forgo walking in exchange for broad jumping and lunge-walking everywhere now. Also, you're going to want to push your car to work rather than actually driving it. You guys should all start "carpooling" anyway. Just switch off who gets to push and who has to steer. If you need to brake, just run around to the front and slow it down that way. Don't be a mamby pamby and bank on the driver slamming the brakes. That's cheating!

All joking aside, there is a saying: "Hard lives build hard bodies". I believe this to be true. An hour of exercise isn't really going to be helpful if you want to resemble a rugby player. Becoming a ruby player and training to BE a rugby player will help achieve that look. The desire to dominate and impose your will upon your opponents for a mere CHANCE at winning helps drive the athletic physique. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION.


I can't believe I only recently discovered this product:

This stuff is amazing! It's ANTI MONKEY BUTT. Now, before you all bring out your inner child and either get carried away, or offended, this stuff goes on any parts of your body that come in contact with other parts. So if you're totally jacked like I am (sarcastic) your arms and lats spend a lot of time together. This causes moisture to collect and friction to increase. Subsequent irritation and rashes are soon to follow. So a little proactive care can go a long way. It's basically talcum powder and calamine powder in one bottle. Pretty simple, but very effective. I got a bottle at either CVS or Riteaid. Which ever one is across from Trader Joes in Westwood.


After reading last week's post, a female BHIP participant came up to me and asked me a question that nearly brought tears to my eyes. She asked how she could put some more meat on her arm bones to match her sprinter daughters' arms. This topic hits close to the heart for me as I PERSONALLY believe that no one should have to go through life with skinny arms.

Having big arms has a certain suggestive power. Take a look.

Here's a guy who is feared on the football field. Probably looks a bit intimidating off the field as well. I'm not saying it's all about the arms. But they certainly help. Believe it or not, Clay Matthews happens to be quite a heart-throb with the ladies. Dudes like him too because he embodies Thor. Now imagine if he had thin bony arms. Let's just say the Packers would have had a mighty hard time winning the 2010 championship without him and his career banks on his physique quite heavily. So it can be argued that Clay's arms won the 2010 Super Bowl. Yes, my logic is bullet-proof.

The key here is symmetry and proportion. You don't want to be this guy:

His arms serve no other purpose than my amusement.

The moral of this story is functionality. Clay Matthews USES his big arms for a load-imposing and bearing purpose. He has to push his opponent harder than the opponent can withstand. That's why he tends to dominate his plays. Greg Valentino (the bubbly dude) has very little utility in his arms other than advertising steroids, which he has been jailed for a few times.

So let's talk function.. The function of your bicep and triceps muscles is, mainly, to open and close your elbow joint. So the immediate training method would be to go do some curls and triceps extensions. Unfortunately, the frat-boy approach is a misguided one. Your arms flex (close) and extend (open) in harmony with other actions in your body. So if you're pulling something in, you're hopefully going to start with bigger movers like your hips and lats and then finish with your arms; just like a ring-row. Same with pushing. You'll start with your legs perching against the ground and with a violent push and follow-through from the chest you'll finish by pushing your arms open. Think push press, even a push up. So arms express the intentions of the body. And if you have big arms, then that suggests that your body can have even more intentions.. Numsayin'?

Sprinters have big arms because they need to keep their arms in tight while sprinting and hammering their fists. The fists can build up quite a bit of inertia at those speeds.

For our purposes, the best way to develop some well-proportioned arms is through pull ups and dips.

Pull ups are great but very challenging for most people. So take as much time as you need to develop the movement. It may take years, but that doesn't matter, it's about the process and progress. If you can already do pull ups, do more.

Progressing - Pull ups are a product of hand strength (most important), dynamic scapular control, and scapular stability.

- So develop your hands to tolerate the load of your body. Use a chair or something else to help you progress. Use an underhand grip.Stay active. So don't just hang like a dead fish. Actually look strong.

- Develop the scapular retraction. So bring your shoulder blades closer together and open your chest. Hold that position for a few seconds at a time.

- Develop scapular depression. So with your shoulder blades together, pull them down your back towards your hips. You may only get an inch or two. Think about popping your head up higher.

- Add in the pull. After you have a good grasp on all the previous stuff, start pulling your elbows down and in. Make sure your shoulder blades stay in and down. External rotation/retraction/depression. If your shoulder blades break the position, you're not ready to pull yet.

- Drive your elbows all the way down and back behind you. This is the finish. Your neck may now be at the level of the bar. I like to hit my chest to the bar.

- Add speed and only do a few at a time. Slow pull ups are useless unless you're going slow on the way down. So do like 1-7 as long as they're fast and structurally sound. Shoot to do a good 50 a week.

So this is how we develop the body and subsequently the arms. We follow a very specific protocol that will help ensure functionality rather than just having grotesque arms and physiques.

Ok. I'm out of brain juice. I'm out! Have a great week!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Too much muscle?

It's hot again, folks. Make sure you stay hydrated!

Also, make sure you're all squared away with the membership stuff. You don't want to be the one who gets called out because you "forgot" to sign up.

Every week I make these long elaborate lists of things I'd like to write about. I get all excited to write some nonsense about the intricacies of the snatch-grip dead lift or some other irrelevance that I know no one really wants to read about. Then I get a reality check... Someone will utter something to the effect of "I have too much muscle.." or "My these or those are too big or bulky.." Immediately thereafter a record begins to scratch in my brain and I get a strange twitch above my right eye. No one can see it, but it's there. Right above the eyelid.

Here's the interpretation that happens inside MY head: "I'm getting a little more awesome and I'm really concerned about it because I want to keep sucking at life.."

*Side note: I hear this from guys more that girls. Frequently, boys will ask me how they should train at the gym. I reply very simply: train to squat twice your body weight and press your body weight. Their immediate response is usually: "I can't squat.. my legs get too big.." A few years ago I would take time to contest their asinine logic but now I just shrug it off. When they say things like that, I just hear: "I don't want to do anything challenging, I don't have the necessary equipment for that.."

I am too awesome.

No one has ever been deemed too much of anything awesome. Even Michael Jordan had plenty of room for improvement. He knew it better than anyone and that's what made him Michael Jordan.

Our subjective perceptions come from contrast. We compare and contrast things. So relative to another car, mine is either faster or slower, or bigger or smaller. How those perceptions are interpreted is up to me. If I BELIEVE that a good car is big and fast, then I can make a generalization like "My car is better than a smaller, slower car". But there is nothing really concrete about that statement. Only what I believe, and not much more.

So when I hear about how some of you believe that your muscles are too big.. I laugh. Compared to who's!? The average person? Really? You really want to juxtapose yourself against the status quo?

Well, let's evaluate a little further. I googled "average American" and got this:

Now, this isn't necessarily an accurate representation of the true average American but it is significant. It doesn't take too much reasoning to conclude that this family ranks pretty high for numerous risk factors associated with obesity. Thus we necessarily conclude that obesity is unhealthy and the opposite must be healthy: polar contrast.

Let's see that: I typed "anorexia" (a disease) into google..

Yikes. It doesn't take medical school to know without a shadow of a doubt that this is an image of unhealthiness. This is an image of obsessive, compulsive, destructive disease. Yet if you ask this woman what she is doing, she might tell you that she is striving for maximal health based on what she believes to be true about health and fitness.

So without beating the dead horse any longer, here's a few things to contrast against..

Talk to me about your "big" muscles (and how awesome they are) when you're cranking out triples of 225 pounds after a couple months of blowing the gym off.

Here's some more:

Gentlemen, if you aspire to look like this, then you are useless to humanity and should probably be used as a bear snack for my personal team of sled-pulling polar bears.
Something went terribly wrong in this kid's childhood. His parents need a good beating.

It is my personal contention that every human (males especially) should feel this innate, visceral obligation to be an asset.. To something or someone, perhaps. Be able to at least contribute if not impress. If one's goal is to have just enough muscle to not collapse because it's part of an image that they think is desirable, then that individual is selfish beyond my comprehension. I don't care how vocal that person is about ridding the world of plastic bags and saving the ice caps, he's useless. No one listens to anyone who voluntarily chooses to wither away by the age of 30. I digress...

Here's what a real male should aspire to look like:

Magnus Samuelsson (former World's Strongest Man) says hipsters make for decent protein shakes; of which he drinks 5 a day.

Anyway, the point is that the sooner you stop comparing yourself to others or what your skewed imagination believes is good or better and instead focus on achieving positive things, the easier your training will become.

Go put some meat on your bones and walk around with that certain swagger that only a person who can do awesome things can have.


Volume builds bigger muscles. So doing more reps of light weights to "tone" just means your doing light body building. Enjoy.

Bigger muscles have greater contractile potential. Meaning, bigger muscles have the potential to generate more force (especially in women).. Awesome!

Women have at most, 1/10th the testosterone of a (real) male. So without hormonal supplementation, woman generally won't look like dudes. Most boys won't even look like dudes. Bummer.

Testosterone (along with numerous other hormones) is made from cholesterol. Ladies, you need it too. That bears repeating, but I won't.