Tag Archives: deadlift

Muscle Confusion

The theory that an individual requires large amounts of different exercises in order to continue to gain strength and skill is a fallacy.  In truth the body only requires a few core exercises along with a skillyfully planned manipulation of three variables.  weight, density, volume.

Weight is varied through different means, but typically through a cycling of the weights from light to heavy and back again.  Each time reaching a peak or personal best, then lowering the weight and working your way back up again past the  initial PR.  

Density is varied through how quickly you work through a workout.  Density is varied through the amount of time you rest between workouts.

Volume is how many times you list a particular weight.  

Muscle confusion does not require a constant changing of exercises.  All this does is ensure that you become semi-good at lots of things.  If your goal is greater strength you should focus on a few exercises and vary them as above.  

Example:

I love kettlebells.  It is difficult to vary the weight of a kettlebell when there are such large jumps between.  Therefore I vary density and volume.  On a typical three day a week workout plan you may have a heavy, light and medium day.  All days use the same weight kettlebell, however the volume of the exercise changes.  Therefore if I am doing kettlebell clean and presses, my heavy day will be 75 presses/side total, my light day will be 30, and my medium day will be 50.  These are one through russian ladders as pavel tsatsouline discusses in his book Enter The Kettlebell.  Once i work up to the overall numbers I then attempt to condense those movements into a shorter period of time.  Therefore, constantly changing density and volume.

If I am doing a free weight exercise you may follow the above principles, however you also have the ability to change the weight regularly.  This is done through cycling your workout.  Starting out light and working to a PR, then dropping the weight and working back up to a new PR.  Pavel also discusses this in Power to the People.  

So, in truth, you don’t need a thousand exercises fixing each tiny little thing that is wrong with your body.  You need a few great exercises that work your entire body.  You also don’t need to worry about “muscle confusion” as the trainers attempt to sell you their product.

Just pick a few good exercises and work hard on them.  Progress will show up.

My exercises that I have chosen are the deadlift, kettlebell clean and press, swings, snatches and Turkish Getups.  

Check out the links at the top of this page for more information on these exercises and cycling of your workout.  There is also a lot of info about food and wellness.

The Deadlift

One of the greatest exercises available to you is the deadlift.  This exercise requires the individual to lift a static weight upwards off of the ground until you are standing.  This exercise works an astonishing amount of muscle group in the body.  In fact the only portion of the body that is not sufficiently worked in this exercise are the pressing muscles, these muscles are worked through a pressing movement which should be incorporated into your exercise routine.  

While many claim the squat as the king of exercises I would disagree.  The deadlift is the true measure of strength and has great usefullness.  The ability to pick an item up off of the ground while using the entire body is both functional and a great test of strength.  Everyone must pick things up. It is rare that one must hold an item on ones shoulder and simply bend ones legs.

The deadlift is an extremely safe exercise that may be performed without a spotter as well.  This is extremely important when choosing exercises.  Proper form is critical to the health of the body and the ability to perform this exercise without a spotter increases the opportunities for performing the exercise.  It is not the weight of the lift that is dangerous it is the form of the lifter that causes injury.  Therefore you should always maintain tension throughout your body during the lift.  

The deadlift strengthens the legs and the entire posterior chain.  The deadlift has the ability to build massive backs with regular practice.

An old school deadlift workout might consist of 5 sets of 5 for size.  Other options are two sets of 5 with a weight that is 90% of your max on the first and the second being 80% of your max for strength.  You may also work your deadlift through a ladder routine as well.  In order to achieve “muscle confusion” you must change up the intensity of rep ranges of your exercises not the exercise itself. However you should maintain  consistent program for at least 4 months to maximize the potential of that program.

Therefore you should buy an olympic weight set and start deadlifting.  You’ll be happier because of it.  I know that I am.

Things to remember when deadlifting.

1. Approach the bar with the intention of completing the lift.

2. Sit backwards into a chair instead of bending your knees as in a squat.  Tense your body as you move into your starting position.

3. Maintain a straight back and the natural arch in your back.  Keep your head up.

4. Lock your shoulders into place.

5. Grip the bar with straight arms.

6. Pull the bar from the floor by pushing with your feet.

7. Stay on your heals as you lift and let your arms hang.  Do not pull with your arms.

8. Stand up straight, do not hyperextend your back.

9. Let the bar and yourself move quickly to the ground by sitting back in order to get your knees out of the way.  The lift ends at the top of the movement.  Your risk of injury increases greatly when lowering the bar slowly.

My Current Workout in Brief

After completing the 10,000 swing challenge I have settled into a great workout routine.  I am able to exercise my entire body with heavy weights and intense cardio in as little at 45 minutes per workout performed 3 times a week.  It is incredible in terms of amount of work per minute.  Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time working out individual muscles in order to increase the size of the muscle, I choose to work out my entire body in order to develop strength throughout my body.  I will go into more detail in upcoming posts.

I am currently performing the Kettlebell Getup, Bent Press with a kettlebell, Deadlift and kettlebell swings/snatches.

The getup is performed for 1 set as a warmup.  I stop before I lose form.

The Bent Press and Deadlift are performed for two sets of 5.  Increasing the weight regularly until I reach a max.  At that time I drop the weight down and increase it once again surpassing that previous max.  There is more information on this in previous posts as well as in Power to the People

After I perform these movements I do my swings or snatches.  On Monday I do 20 minutes of swings with a medium weight (53lb) kettlebell.  On Wednesday I do snatches with a light weight (44lb) kettlebell for 10 min and on Friday I perform swings with a heavy (62lb) kettlebell for 15 minutes.

Here are a few quick videos of each of the movements and then I’ll talk more about them in future posts.  

 

Updated workout and reasonings

I have determined that I should change my workout slightly over the summer. I am going to mix my favorite parts of Enter the Kettlebell and Power to the People together. My intentions are to create a routine that will allow continued advancement in strength, small gains in size (I do not want to be a russian bear) and approach my workouts with a same but different approach. To do this I will start by dropping my weight on the dead lift down a bit in order to continue practicing my form.

I will use a three day a week routine where I will perform the following:

1. getups for 5 minutes (great core strength builder)

2. kettlebell clean and military press (sets of 5)

3. Dead lift (sets of 5)

4. cardio 5 days a week
I will determine the length of the cardio by using 6 sided dice. Two dice rolled for swings ad snatches and three dice rolled or sprints and the steady state run. (swings/snatches/sprints/steady state upwards of 3 mile run max)

I will perform these using a heavy, light, medium style routine that would resemble the Enter the Kettlebell Russian Kettlebell Challenge routine that I have performed previously with great success. I will modify it however because of time constraints. I will not perform the ladders that are described in Enter the Kettlebell.

On all days I will perform 5 minutes of getups and variable cardio.

On the heavy days (Monday) I will perform as many sets of 5 reps of clean and military press starting with my heavy kettlebell and working down as needed. I will lift as heavy as possible but will not start a set with a kettlebell that I will not be able to finish that set with. I currently own an 62, 53 and 44 pound kettlebells. My girlfriend has a 22 pound kettlebell and a 15 pound kettlebell that I am able to supplement my kettlebells with as well. If you are performing military press with free weights then you are able to use the power to the people style of progressive loading with more precision than you are able to with kettlebells.

I will also perform 5 sets of 5 reps of dead lift. This will start with the typical Power to the People sets. 1 starting set, 1 set that is 10% less than the first. Then as many sets that are possible with good form at 10% less than the second set. Therefore if we are using 100 pounds as the initial set then it will look like this. 100, 90, 80, 80, 80…and so on.

Light days (Wednesday) will be similar but with less sets. It will be clean and military press for two sets only this time. I will also complete dead lift for two sets of 5. Similar to the heavy days first two sets, with additional weight added due to the cycling of the weights.

The medium day (Friday) will also be similar to the first day. Here I will use less sets than the heavy day, but more sets than the light day. I will perform three sets of kettlebell clean and military press. Starting heavy and working down as needed. I will also perform three sets of the dead lift in similar fashion as to the heavy day.

workout example:

All days – 5 min. getups to start. variable cardio (mix of swings, snatches, sprints and steady state upwards of 3 mile) to finish

Heavy Day:

Kettlebell clean and press:

1st set: 62 pounds (5 reps)

2nd set: 53 pounds (5 reps)

3rd set to ?: 44 pounds (5 reps)

complete as many sets with 30-90 sec rest between sets while completing all five reps with good form

Dead lift:

1st set: 100 pounds (5 reps)

2nd set: 90 pounds (5 reps)

3rd set to ?: 80 pounds (5 reps)

complete as many sets with 30-90 sec rest between sets while completing all five reps with good form

Light Day:

Kettlebell Clean and Press:

1st set: 62 pounds (5 reps)

2nd set: 53 pounds (5 reps)

Dead lift:

1st set: 102.5 pounds (5 reps)

2nd set: 92.5 pounds (5 reps)

Medium Day:

Kettlebell Clean and Press:

1st set: 62 pounds (5 reps)

2nd set: 53 pounds (5 reps)

3rd set: 53 pounds (5 reps)

Dead Lift:

1st set: 105 pounds (5 reps)

2nd set: 95 pounds (5 reps)

3rd set: 85 pounds (5 reps)

The next week you would continue to add weight to the dead lift as above. Once you reach a point where you are unable to perform 5 reps at the heaviest weight then you would drop the weight down and work your way back up to a new max. The presses are a little different in that kettlebells make large jumps in weight. As stated above you may use typical free weights to more precisely approximate the Power to the People style of progressive resistance.

https://thenaturaladvantage.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/cycling-your-workout-the-key-to-continued-improvement/

My goal is to be able to dead lift 400 pounds and to be able to strictly military press the kettlebell closest to half of my body weight by the end of 2013. I feel as though both of these goals are very attainable.

The reasoning behind the design of this workout is that I wish to gain strength while gaining a small amount of size only. I have proven that you can gain strength without gaining size by performing two heavy sets of 5. The flip side is gaining size. This is done by placing the body under a heavy load as much as possible. Typical workouts to gain size are a simple but heavy 5 sets of 5 reps. This workout will allow me to both cycle my workouts by weight, as well as cycle them by workout density. I will go from working very heavy with many sets to working only a couple of sets.

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