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Real Strength for Real People

Bent press, dead lifts, getups, kettlebell swings/snatches and sprints. That is my workout. Two sets of 5. High intensity cardio. 45 minutes 3 days a week will create real strength for real people while staying lean. Bent press and deadlift for strength and power. Getups, swings and snatches are great for building tension and muscular endurance. With these exercises you will develop lean, wiry and solid muscular development without excessive muscle mass. Lets break it down.

Why do I only perform 2 sets of 5 reps of the bent press and dead lift?

I do this in order to build strength without causing an excessive amount of muscle growth. By performing only two sets of 5, at a heavy weight, you will train for strength. When you lift heavy you create more strength in your muscle fibers in order to assist with the lifting of heavy things. This is important for your daily activities. While you do this you will learn how to build tension in your muscles and how to contract your muscles more effectively. You will also learn irradiation. Irradiation is the phenomenon of the body acting synergistically. If you contract all of your muscles including those that are not directly involved in the lifting action of the the object you will actually increase your overall strength. Therefore if you are performing a side press on the right side and you squeeze all of your muscles including your hand on your left side you will actually lift that item easier.

If you perform more sets at a lighter weight you will experience muscle growth, however you will not have the same strength to go along with it. High sets increase the fluid in the cells of the muscle instead of actually increasing the amount of strength that you have. Therefore if your goal is to build strength and tone without an excessive amount of size then lifting heavy is the answer for you. It is a great formula for both men and women who want a strong toned body. You will not get bulky with this program. Lifting heavy is great for fat loss as well.

If you would like to build size then you should lift as heavy as possible and a lot. The more time under pressure the more benefit you will reap. Pavel Tsatsouline (Power to the People) suggests starting at 80% of your 5 rep max and keep doing sets of 5 with short breaks (30-90 sec) in between. Keep doing these until you have exhausted yourself and you are unable to continue on with good form. Each individual will be different, it might take anywhere from 5-20 sets. Just keep going until you are unable to complete the 5 reps in good form. This also requires eating a lot as well. In a stressful environment for a long period of time the body will shed much of the excess muscle. Therefore I choose to train for strength instead of bulk. It is also healthier to maintain the body at a strong lean weight instead of a bulky mass. You can actually lift heavy with two sets of 5 for a few months and then lift for bulk for a few months as well in order to help cycle the workouts further. However it is up to you to choose.

Another key to successfully training for a lifetime is the use of cycling. Cycling your workout is when you start with a weight that you could easily perform 10 times and you work your way up consistently with that weight performing sets of 5. The first set of 5 is at that weight, the second set would be a weight that is approx. 10 percent less than your first set. You increase the weight of your workout regularly until you are unable to perform 2 sets of 5. With my dead lift I add 2.5 pounds to each side of the bar every workout, with my bent press I add 2.5 pounds to each side every week. When you find your max you will often times you will only do 4 for the first set then maybe on your next workout you can only do two. This is ok. Remember to never lift to failure, if you don’t feel as though you an complete the rep then don’t try it, and then on your next workout choose a weight that is lighter and easier to perform and work your way back up again. Start out low and end high. Every-time you cycle through your weight will get heavier and heavier. As an example we will take the dead lift. My first workout was at 200 pounds, I added 2.5 pounds per side every workout until I got up to 245 pounds. This was my max at that time. After that I dropped the weight down to 215. I cycled through this workout until I hit 270, which was my new max. I then dropped the weight down 245 as my starting point. I am currently in this cycle as of now. As you can see, my new low weight is my old max weight so there has been a steady increase in my overall strength. Even when you are lifting the lighter weights it is imperative that you always lift it as though it was the heaviest one that you could. This allows you to practice your form and also to increase the tension in your muscles.

I perform the getup for 5 reps/side one time. This usually takes several minutes to do and allows me the opportunity to place myself under the weight for a good amount of time.

Why do I perform mostly high intensity cardio as the basis of my cardiovascular workout?

High intensity cardio is the most efficient form of cardiovascular training you can perform. In terms of fat loss it works substantially better than steady state moderate intensity cardio such as jogging. Not only do you lose more fat in a quicker amount of time you also maintain a higher metabolism longer due to the intense workout. When you perform distance style steady state running your body actually stores fat in order to utilize it as energy throughout the run or other endurance event. When you perform high intensity cardio your body is working beyond the aerobic capacity of the body and therefore expends the energy that it has including the fat of your body. One simple way to note this is by looking at olympic athletes. The long distance runners are always skinny but with minimal muscular development and the sprinters are always thin with very good muscular development. This is because long distance running is counterproductive to muscular development. So, the question is, would you rather look like a marathon runner or a sprinter?

How did I choose the exercises?

The exercises that I have chosen are essentially a combination of Pavel Tsoutline Power to the People as well as his kettlebell training philosophy from Enter the Kettlebell. I chose them in order to function as a big push and a big pull. The bent press uses the entire body to push a weight up to the sky. Not only does this work every muscle in the body, primarily the pushing ones, it also trains the body to work together. The same can be said for the dead lift which allows the entire anterior chain to be used primarily in a big pull. Furthermore, the heavier the weight you are using the more tension you will generally produce in your muscles, the dead lift allows for very heavy weights, therefore it also assists in developing strength through training the body to tense your muscles. The getup is a big push as well and the swing is a great cardio exercise that works the posterior chain very well.

I also chose these exercises for their usefulness in every day life. Everyone must lift things to place them on shelves (bent press) and everyone must pick things up off of the ground (dead lift). The getup trains getting up off of the ground or out of bed (a daily function) and the swing and snatch assists with incredible cardio and great hip flexion. These exercises are designed to give you the most bang for your buck for sure. Does that mean that these are the only exercises that you need to perform? No, not necessarily. You are welcome to perform the side press, or maybe work towards a one arm push up or one arm pull-up. Maybe you want to do one leg squats (pistols) or the bench press. They are all great exercises, just ensure you are using tension.

I don’t believe in isolating muscles. The world doesn’t isolate muscles so why would I train that way. Isolating muscles is only good if your goal is to build a body builders beach body. That isn’t my goal. My goal is to build purposeful strength and it is my opinion that someone who is purposefully strong looks good.

Kettlebell Swings/Snatches and Sprinting

I chose swings and snatches because it is a fantastic cardio workout while working your entire body. I am not interested in training for long distance endurance sports. The heart already beats all day everyday. I am interested in training the heart to be able to function superbly under extreme duress that is unexpected. The swings and snatches do this quite well. They are not the only thing though and If you do not have a kettlebell then you are welcome to perform a set of sprints. Go out and run as hard as you can (look into barefoot running techniques) for 20 seconds and then take the rest of the minute or so off. Do this ten times and you just had yourself a great cardio workout. You’ll be surprised how effective it is.

I am generally opposed to running because it is simply not an effective fat burner compared to other cardio activities as most people perform it as an exercise. There is a great discrepancy between what people believe to be running. When I think of running I think of my time in the Marine Corps where you ran 3 miles as fast as you could and you moved on with your day. There was no lolly gagging along at a slow pace. I was taught how to run by a Marine Corps scout-sniper who believed several things. One was that group runs only trained the slowest person, therefore he made it his goal to drop everyone off of the run and then go back and pick them back up. This kept the Marines motivated and ensured that everyone got a good cardio workout. As we waited for the other to catch up we were performing exercises, usually a fantastically funny sounding a looking exercise called Monkey Fuckers. It’s brutal on the thighs and your lungs as you try not to laugh at what you were doing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22PMO2SvLZk We really did have a damn good time. He also believed that singing cadence was a waste of time. Essentially he believed that if you were able to sing cadence then you were not running fast enough. This is a much different pace of running that what most people do. Most people tend to go out and jog at a slow pace and this is completely ineffective no matter what your local personal trainer tells you is the “fat burning zone.”

I do however believe that there is a primal instinct in us as far as running goes, and I believe that we should exercise that instinct through sprinting. Therefore it is my intention to structure my cardio training as follows. Monday will be a sprint day. I will sprint for 12 minutes total, 6-8 sprints or so of approximately 20-30 seconds. I will then rest and jog back to the start point. This will allow me to actively rest for a minute or so. I will increase the time of the sprints as needed or decrease the rest time. On wednesday I am performing 6 minutes of snatches. All out as hard as I can. Snatches are a beautiful training monster that will send your heart rate flying through the roof. Then on Friday I will perform 9 minutes of swings. They will be done at a high intensity but will generally be a easier than the snatches. This will allow three different forms of cardio throughout the week, as well as some variety in the training. The variety will be both in the type of activity as well as the intensity of it. I will increase the training time and intensity on a regular basis. If you are unable to perform swings/snatches or sprints that is ok. The key is to choose an activity that increases your heart rate and gets you working hard. This may be as simple as walking fast, walking up stairs or jumping rope.

So that has become my answer for for real people that want real strength in a condensed amount of time. Work hard, work effectively, work quickly and move on with your day. If you lift heavy, cycle your workout and perform high intensity cardio you will improve your overall health dramatically and improve your life. In just 45 minutes or less 3 times a week you can quickly transform yourself. Your body will respond to the work that is placed upon it. You will also be able to improve your strength and health without feeling sore or fatigued. There is no need to walk around all day with dead legs because you just squatted 40 times with a moderately heavy weight. There is no use in working out to improve your strength just to become so tired that you can’t do anything else that week. I’m interested in being strong and having a life. Not being strong and sleeping all week.

This method of training allows you to steadily improve your fitness while being able to achieve specific goals. It is important to note that there are many training methods that are effective to a certain point. There are group fitness adventures that will wear you out completely. Nearly all training will provide a base level of fitness at first. However, the question becomes are you able to continue on for a lifetime of improvement? This is where many group fitness plans fail. They fail because their training goal is to make their client tired. This is not an effective training goal. Becoming tired is simply a function of repetition. The question should not be how tired am I, but rather: Have I improved my strength? Have I improved my cardiovascular fitness? The next question is how do you determine this?

With this program you can track your strength easily, you will watch yourself progress through heavier and heavier weights. You can also track your cardiovascular fitness by the amount and intensity of swings/sprints or snatches. You may also purchase a heart rate monitor to track it further as well as taking your resting heart rate. I hope that this information finds you well.

I will have more to come in another post, but until then enjoy your training and enjoy getting fitter.

Two great resources that you should own are “Power to the People” by Pavel Tsatsouline and “The Purposeful Primitive” by Marty Gallagher. They can both be found on Dragondoor.com