Tag Archives: workout

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 Turkish Getup

The ketttlebell getup is a fine exercise that I use on a regular basis as my first exercise of the day.  This is my first exercise because it is a slow griding pressing movement that awakens every muscle fiber of my body.  I typically do only one set until I begin to lose form.  Depending on the weight I am using that day it may be 7 or 8 reps per side or only a couple. You can easily set a timer to 5 minutes and work through as many as you can in that time.  Do not rush through them though.  The most important portion of this exercise is simply being under the weight and developing that tension.  MMA and wrestlers love this exercise for the amount of constant effort it takes to perform.  Either way it is a great pressing movement which has the reputation of rehabbing injured shoulders and increasing total body strength.  It is an exercise that requires focus from the ground up and back down.  It is one of my favorite exercises.  

In this exercise you begin the movement by laying on the ground and safely retrieving the kettlebell and pressing it upwards away from your chest.  You then begin the movement of standing up while holding the kettlebell above you at all times.  This movement requires sharp focus as you move throughout your bodily planes while maintaing the kettlebell above you.  I have seen strict guidelines to the performance of this exercise and I’ve seen others say that you simply get up however you are able.  Either way is effective in my book as long as it is done safely.  

The getup trains the movement of standing up from a lying position.  This is a movement that is a daily action of nearly all individuals.  According to Dr. Mercola the sitting-rising testis a great indicator of your health.  “Those who scored the lowest, requiring the most assistance to sit and rise from the floor, were 6.5 times more likely to die during the study period than those who scored the highest.” http://www.mercola.com

During this exercise you must remember the following:

1. Focus on the bell the entire time

2. Maintain muscular tension throughout the exercise.  From the beginning to end.

3. Keep your wrist straight.

4. Maintain your shoulder in the pocket.  Maintain a vertical arm throughout the movement.

5. Do not rush the movement.

This has been a great exercise for me to perform at the beginning of my workouts. I would highly suggest checking it out.  It can be done with a straight bar as well.  Try it and practice and I promise that you’ll love it.  

Here is a video demonstrating the turkish getup.

The Natural Advantages’ Brochure (updated brochure)

I have been working on the issue of health and wellness for several years now. This is a breakdown of everything that I have found to be important in brief. This is a brochure outlining how to be healthy. I hope this is helpful in your fight to remain healthy. Feel free to share this with anyone that you’d like.

Natural Advantage Brochure version 2 PDF.pdf

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.

10 Steps to Health and Wellness

10 Steps to Health and Wellness

1. Focus

2. Eat only what you can kill and grow

3. Eat one primary meal a day

4. Use purposeful movements as the basis of your workout

5. Lift heavy, with muscular tension and cycle your workouts

6. Never lift to failure

7. Practice an active stretching technique such as yoga

8. Cardio should be high intensity interval training primarily

9. Rest

10. Do not take yourself to seriously

1. Focus

Focus is the key to a successful workout. You must maintain a strong focus in order to implement everything that is required to move heavy objects. It is important to remember why you are performing these exercises as well as to remember how to perform them. Focus will help you to lift heavier (visualizing the movement before the exercise has shown to increase strength) as well as it will keep you safe by keeping you aware of what your body is telling you.

2. Eat only what you can kill and grow

Essentially this reminds you to eat only real food. Real food comes from the ground. Real food comes naturally to us. Real food is your fruits and vegetables and your meats. Meats must be raised properly (organic and grass fed for beef). It is critical to the body to eat real food. While grains are real food it is important to remember that mechanization has allowed us the ability to eat a significantly larger portion of grains than we would normally eat. It is clear that if you eat real food, with a small amount of grains at the most, then you will be healthy. I do not believe it is necessary to focus on nutrition from a western standpoint where food is broken down to its individual parts. Real food promotes real health.

For more information go to:

https://thenaturaladvantage.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/31/

3. Eat one primary meal a day

This is key for two reasons. One is insulin regulation and the other is detoxification. By eating one meal a day you force your body to use the energy that it has more effectively. Will you be hungry? Yes, to some extent, but you will be surprised at how easy this is to implement. You should also remember that predators are geared to work at their best while they are hungry. This is shown throughout the animal kingdom as the predator hunts its prey. Only when the predator is hungry does it hunt and this is when the predator must be at its fittest. It’s very survival is dependent on this.

The second reason for this is detoxification of the body. By allowing the body an opportunity to have a controlled fast throughout the day you are giving it a break and allowing it to detoxify itself. In this world of extensive toxicity from our our environments we must allow ourselves the opportunity to detoxify.

For more information go to:

https://thenaturaladvantage.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/timing-of-meals-part-1/

https://thenaturaladvantage.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/the-timing-of-meals-part-2/

4. Use purposeful movements as the basis of your workout

This is important because you should train your body in a way that is helpful to your daily life. What is the point in training your body to lift your lower leg up while you are lying down in order to build a stronger hamstring? What is the use in that? Outside of being a bodybuilder and performing in shows there is no use for an isolated exercise such as this. If you want stronger legs then you should perform exercises that build stronger legs such as the squat or pistol or dead lift. Therefore I have chosen exercises that allow me to perform a strong press and a strong pull. Both of which are full body exercises that mimic daily activities (bent press and dead lift).

For more information go to:

https://thenaturaladvantage.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/real-strength-for-real-people/

5. Lift heavy and cycle your workouts

If it is your goal to become stronger then you must lift heavy and you must cycle your workouts. Lifting heavy allows you the opportunity to develop more muscle fibers and to increase the tension in your muscles. This is very important for building strength. Cycling your workouts is key in order to allow for continued progression throughout a lifetime. If you were able to continuously add weight to your bench press every week then you would be able to perform a 1040 pound bench press after four years of training while starting with 0 pounds your first week. However we know that the max unassisted bench is 715 pounds. This was set by Scott Mendleson in 2005 with only belt and wrist straps. Therefore continuos progressions without cycling is simply impossible.

For more information go to:

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

6. Never lift to failure

Plain and simply you should train for success not failure. Failing at that last rep only promotes failure in the mind. You will not gain any extra benefit from attempting that rep so you should just leave it alone and move on with your day. Do not train for failure, train for success and leave your workout feeling accomplished instead of defeated. You’ll get that rep soon enough.

7. Practice an active stretching technique such as yoga.

Active stretching allows the body to remain flexible and to maintain tension while allowing the muscles the full use of their range of motion. This is critical for the development of the body ensuring the muscle has it’s maximal capability. Without stretching you allow the muscle to tighten up and shorten itself. This can decrease your mobility dramatically.

8. Cardio should be high intensity interval training primarily.

High intensity interval training allows for an extremely effective cardio workout in a short amount of time. It is an extremely good fat burner and it will push your metabolism to a very high rate. When you are performing steady state cardio primarily such as jogging you are training your body to store fat in order to use it on the runs. High intensity interval training does not do this and the differences can be seen easily in the bodies of marathon runners and sprints.

9. Rest

Rest is absolutely critical. If you over exert yourself and continue to push yourself more than you are capable without ample rest then you will decrease the effectiveness of your immune system and you will crash. There is no use in training hard for two months just to get sick. This would set you back to where you started and you will never progress to a high level of fitness.

10. Do not take yourself to seriously

Remember that everyone is on their own path of health and wellness. As long as you are progressing forward and trying your best you are doing well. There is no need to compare yourself to anyone or to fret about missed goals. Reevaluate and continue on. I can assure you that you are progressing just fine if you are able to implement everything above. Furthermore, remember that in a year you will be in a completely different place. Keep your focus on progression instead of perceived stagnation.

Relax and enjoy. Practice getting stronger and keep up the good work. If you fail so be it. Try again.

Cycling your workout: the key to continued improvement

This is the key that I have continued to miss throughout my time in the gym. It was always understood by me that if you wanted to get bigger and stronger then you had to lift heavy and you had to keep increasing the weight. I was never really told that I would plateau. Therefore when it happened it was an unexpected occurrence, and if it did happen then the answer was always to eat more, maybe rest a bit and keep on going. Therefore after about two months I would plateau and I would keep trying to go heavier without any success and this would then lead to over training and becoming generally worn down and ill. I have had times where I have gained 20 pounds in two months only to get sick and to lose it all. The reality of the situation is that if I had known then what I know now then I would have cycled my workout and been able to continue on with great improvement.

What is cycling your workout?

Cycling your workout is when you start your workout progression with a weight that you could perform easily and you continue to increase that weight until it gets to a point where you are no longer able to perform it any longer. At this point instead of becoming frustrated you simply drop that weight down to a lighter weight (but heavier than your previous starting weight) and work your way back up. This time you will find your new max to be heavier than your previous max. Through this cycling you are able to increase your weight over and over again without overtraining.

As an example we will take my current dead lift workout. When I began this workout I started with a weight of 200 pounds. I have added 2.5 pounds to each side every workout. I perform this 3 times a week, however you could do it upwards of 5 times a week. I continued to improve until I reached a weight of 245 pounds. At this time I had reached my max weight and was only able to perform 4 reps. I then dropped my weight down to 215 and continued to increase my weight in the same manner. This cycle brought me up to a max of 270. A very good increase. I was only able to perform 2 or 3 reps at this weight so I started over. I dropped the weight back down to 245 (my first max) and I have been increasing that weight steadily. I am currently in this cycle and have every reason to believe that I will sail right past my previous max. I’m currently at 280 and have every expectation that I will continue to increase.

I am doing this with my bent press as well except that I am adding 2.5 pounds to each side once a week instead of every workout. You can also do this with your cardio, in fact it is suggested. WIth the cardio you can cycle the time of the workout and the intensity of your workout by tracking your heart rate.

Two great books for more information on this are Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline and The Purposeful Primitive by Marty Gallagher. Power to the People is a great book to get you started and will get you very far and the Purposeful Primitive is a fantastic in depth book with loads of information that will suffice for years of training progressions and success.

I hope that this information helps you out and that you are able to continue to progress in your fitness. I know that it has helped me out tremendously with my current fitness goals.

Introductory Guide to Great Health and Longevity Part 3 (Training Philosophy)

Training Phiosophy

My goal now is to be fitter next year than I am now, and to do that without injury, feeling worn down or getting bored. It should be yours as well. I want to increase my strength and conditioning in a patterned, structured way. I want to train effectively and intelligently and I want to enjoy it. Also, I want to be able to enjoy my time between workouts without pain or complete exhaustion.

In order to do this I have switched almost completely over to kettlebell training. I follow the advice of a trainer named Pavel Tsoutline. His method is that of low rep ladders for slow strength and high rep ballistic movements for cardio and endurance training. This allows you to do as much work as possible while being as fresh as possible. The intention with kettlebells is to build strength and endurance without building an unreasonable amount of size. They will allow you to become stronger while maintaining functionality.

If you would like to use barbells he has a plan for you as well. Two sets of 5. As heavy as you can go while leaving one or two in the hole (i.e.…never going to failure). You must also use some form of cycling. Cycling is when you start out at at weight you can perform fairly easily and increase that weight. You continue to increase this weight until you are unable to perform 2 sets of 5 with a given weight. At this point, instead of getting stuck on a plateau, you drop the weight down to a lighter weight (but heavier than the original starting point). Then you work your way up once again, this time surpassing your previous plateau and continue training. This will allow you to build strength without injuring yourself or overtraining.

I am more interested in training for lifetime fitness and functional strength instead of looks. Here is a great part of an interview with Pavel Tsoutline.

How do you train soldiers differently than civilians? For example, how would the training of a soldier compare to the training of an athlete?

Pavel: Let us use strength as an example. An athlete can afford to be strong due to large muscles but a soldier or a Marine cannot. In wartime and even during exercises muscle rapidly melts away, thanks to malnutrition, sleep deprivation, and stress. A military man must gain strength by retraining his nervous system to contract his, even shrunken, muscles harder.

The above style of neural strength training is ideally done when the trainee is totally fresh. But a soldier must exert himself when he is exhausted. Therefore at least some of the strength practice must be conducted in a state of fatigue, sometimes extreme fatigue. In the Spetsnaz it is an SOP to initiate a new guy by putting him through all sorts of hell and then have him fight a few fresh and experienced guys hand to hand. Applied to neural strength training, you could hump ninety pounds of gear on uneven terrain or go for an ocean swim, and then do your pullups and kettlebell snatches.

To sum with an analogy, an athlete is like a racecar that performs like a clock on a perfect track, with top grade fuel and oil, etc. Pull it out of its ideal environment and you have got a problem. A soldier is a Hummer that will perform under most adverse conditions.

The above is from Girevik Magazine. http://www.powerathletesmag.com/archives/Girevik/First/interview.html

I would much prefer to be the Hummer with a social life than a racecar without one. In fact I just recently ran all over Enchanted Rock (Texas) with a light pack on with my girlfriend and dog at the tail end of a bout of illness without much difficulty. I am very pleased with the efficiency of my workouts. Ill continue to train with kettlebells and will probably add in free weights when I get a chance down the line.