Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Home Gym Ideas

Check this out. Start small. Think big. You can do it.

Via Ross Training.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Link Theory Vol. 5

Hey, I'm back--it's been a crazy couple of weeks, and I'll tell you all about it over the next few posts. For now, I want to talk about some online tools that can help you with your weight loss.

I've talked about fitday.com over and over again. Let me try to sell it to you a different way. This is how Jason Statham talks about it in a Men's Health Article here:

2. If it goes down your throat, record it on paper. "This is the bible," Statham says, holding up a black hardbound journal. He writes down everything he swallows, including water (he tries to drink 1 1/2 gallons a day -- that'll keep you feeling full). "Writing everything down makes it impossible for you to muck it up," he says.
This physique is the result:

More tips on achieving the Jason Statham physique here and his 2006 workout here. He's really come along since he added in weight training, hasn't he? You can read more on how I use fitday here and here.

One useful way that I've found to track my weight and bodyfat percentage over time is at physicsdiet.com. This site takes a moving average of your weight, so that odd day where you weigh 6 lbs more than you did yesterday doesn't frustrate you quite so badly, and the day where you weigh 3 lbs less than you did yesterday is taken a bit more in stride. This is an important concept for anyone who is losing weight, but this is absolutely critical for people who are on Cyclical Ketogenic Diets (like the Men's Health TNT Diet--which I highly recommend) because their weight will vary not only with their fat mass, but also with how many carbs they ate during their carb-up.

physicsdiet.com borrows its important concepts from the Hacker's Diet which explains how and why the graphs work, as well as a geek-friendly way to lose weight. This is a full length diet book, with an engineer's approach to weight loss. It is definitely geek-friendly, but it shouldn't be too intimidating to complete laymen either. I recommend reading it, even if I think the representation of the human body as a black box to be overly simplified.

I have to shout out to Google Docs as well, since I use a docs spreadsheet to record and calculate bodyfat percentage, waist measurement, and weight alongside the physics diet site. This way I don't have to keep track of USB keys or software incompatibilities if I'm traveling. It's very convienient, and for excel users, pretty intuitive.

If you're looking for new ways to make your kettlebell workouts the "same... but different," check out the kettlebell workout generator.

Lyle McDonald talks about genetic limits and realistic goals in this excellent post.

Gary Taubes is back with another talk. He's changed up his slides and presentation again, and the short Q&A at the end is refreshing. I'm still hoping I can see a presentation of his where he isn't rushed through the last slides.

I think I'll wrap things up with this link about process visualization via The Simple Dollar. This reminds me of this article on how Allen Iverson applied Psycho-Cybernetics which talks in detail about this kind of process visualization.

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Training Movies

Sometimes I'm not feeling quite up to training. Another advantage of the home gym? Movies. Here are some of my favorites to get pumped up to train-I throw one of these on and it's like a Pavlovian response.

I like the opening to The Big Hit (full video posted here) (From about 3:34-4:40).

300-reminds me of Gym Jones

Predator ("Dillon! You son of a bitch.")

Rocky IV features some of the best training montages ever put to film. Don't try to bring your Karate Kids, Footloose, or even your Rocky III against these bad boys:

A good training movie has certain characteristics: muscle, music, and a steely-eyed determination to keep going beyond the limits of good sense or sanity. A good training movie is on the edge between awesome and stupid.

Therefore, many selections with Stallone, virtually everything that's not (intentionally) a comedy with Schwarzenegger, and Jean-Claude Van Damme are favorites. I like anything with a training montage, regardless of how ridiculous (see the Rocky IV video above). Blade 1-3 (especially one and three) are also good.

My favorite lately has been "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" which gives you something to think about while pumping you up.

I find that my endurance for the one-hand snatch goes up when I'm watching a training montage. I wish I was lying, but they're just too awesome to resist.

Try it out. You'll see.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Analyzing "Eat Fat and Grow Slim" Part One: Foreward

One of my most consistently popular posts is this one where I have linked to"Eat Fat and Grow Slim" by Richard Mackarness, M.B.,B.S. in .pdf and html. Since I think the basic message of this book remains cogent and important, it's worth revisiting. However, the book is 50 years old at this point, and deserves to have some mention of the advances that have been made in nutritional science. I'll be presenting my commentary in italics after the paragraphs.


by Sir Heneage Ogilvie, KBE, DM, M CH, FRCS
Consultant Surgeon, Guy's Hospital; Editor of 'The Practitioner';
Late: Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons

THE STATISTICIAN looks on nutrition as a mater of calories, and on obesity as a question of upset caloric equilibrium. A calorie is a unit of heat, a unit of potential energy, but not a unit of nutrition. Prison governors, school superintendents, dictators whether of a nation or of a small community, talk in calories to prove that they are feeding their charges or their victims adequately. Fellows of the Royal Society, and doctors with political leanings, talk in calories as if the human body were a machine requiring a certain amount of fuel to enable it to do a certain amount of work.

A motor-car needs calories, and we give it calories in the form of petrol. If we give it good petrol it will do good work for quite a long time. But even a Rolls-Royce cannot find its own fuel. It cannot separate motor spirit and lubricating oil from the crude mixture brought by a tanker from the wells of Kuwait. It cannot clean its own pipes, clear its own choked jets, grind its own valves, re-line its own bearings when they are worn, and replace defective parts as they need renewal. The body can do all these things. but the body is not a machine, and to do them it needs food not fuel.

What he's getting at is that proteins and fats are not just calories, but also serve vital maintenance functions.

There are three kinds of food: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. All of these provide calories; the fats 9.3 calories per gramme, the proteins and the carbohydrates 4.1 each. But the carbohydrates provide calories and nothing else.

They have none of the essential elements to build up or to repair the tissues of the body. A man given carbohydrates alone, however liberally, would starve to death on calories, While he was dying he would break down his own proteins to provide materials for the repair of his key organs. He would use what calories were needed to provide energy, and he would lay down the carbohydrate surplus to his caloric requirements as fat.

I love the phrase "starve to death on calories" as this is exactly what happens. Note that the problem that he describes is literally what is happening to the poor in our current situation (in the US). Because of corn subsidies, corn and corn products (which are mostly carbohydrate foods) are cheaper than any other foods. Things like cola, chips, cookies, and other baked goodies that are extremely rich in carbohydrate (yet deficient in proteins) are cheaper than wholesome, quality foods. As we'll talk about later, too many carbohydrates have a disturbing effect on human metabolism, and fat cells will shunt away the nutrients from the rest of the body and into the fat cells on a high-carbohydrate diet. People with obesity are literally "starving to death on calories".

Proteins are the essential food of the body. They provide not merely carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, calcium and iron, chlorine and iodine, but those trace elements such as boron, manganese, zinc, copper, and cobalt that are essential to life. They provide many prefabricated molecules that the body is unable to build up from simple elements.

By "prefabricated elements" he's talking, I assume, about essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of much of your bodily tissue. These can only be obtained by eating proteins, not by any amount of fat, alcohol, or carbohydrate.

Fat is the caloric reserve material of nature. The whale stores fat in his subcutaneous layers against the rigours of life at the Pole, the camel stores it in his hump against hard times in the desert, the African sheep stores it in his tail and his buttocks against the day when even the parched grass shall have withered away. But fats are more than stores of reserve caloric material. They are heat insulators, they are fillers of dead spaces, and they are facilitators of movement in rigid compartments such as the orbit, the pelvis, and the capsules of joints. They are also essential building materials. Animal fats contain three groups of
substances: the neutral fats which are chiefly energy providers, the lipids containing phosphorus that enter into most tissues and bulk largely in the brain and the central nervous system, and the sterols that are the basis of most hormones.

My comments would be too detailed to go into here. For a current look at fat science, check out Lyle McDonald's summary here and here.

The body must have proteins and animal fats. It has no need for carbohydrates, and, given the two essential foodstuffs, it can get all the calories it needs from them.

No argument here.

The expert on nutrition is not the nutrition expert, but the man who has studied nutrition by the ultimate method of research, the struggle for survival. The Eskimo, living on the ice floes of the North Pole, the Red Indian travelling hard and far over wild lands in hunting or war, the trapper in the Canadian forests, the game hunters in Africa-these men must find food that gives the greatest nutritive value in the smallest bulk. If they cannot find such a diet, their journeys will be limited both in time and in distance, and they will fail in their task. All these men have found that a diet of meat and animal fat alone, with no carbohydrates, with no fruit or vegetables, with no vitamins other than those they get in meat, not merely provides them with all the energy they need, but keeps them in perfect health for months at a time. Seal meat and blubber for the Eskimo, pemmican for the Indian and the trapper, biltong for the hunter, have proved to be the perfect diet both in quality and in bulk.

I don't think a meat-only diet is optimal, though it does make sense to limit fruit and starchy vegetables. We'll talk more about specific recommendations as we get into the body of the book, as they begin to talk about specific recommendations.

Dr. Mackarness's book is timely. It brings the important research work of Kekwick and Pawan into the sphere of everyday medicine, and it shines the torch of common sense into a corner that was becoming obscured with the dust of statistics and the cobwebs of scientific dogma. It bears a message of hope and good cheer to the plump.

And whom among the plump doesn't need a message of hope and good cheer? I'll be back on Wednesday with another post.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Link Theory Vol. 4

Here's what I've been reading this week:

At T-muscle, Chad Waterbury says that you can Add 20 lbs to Your 1RM Today and Eric Cressey gives us the techniques to Master the Deadlift (part one features the basics, part two discusses standard pulls, and part three is about Sumo-style deadlifts).

At Adam Khan's youmeworks, I've been reading his Antivirus for your Mind series: Antivirus for Your Mind, Moment of Truth, Learners will Inherit the Earth, and Can We Avoid Explaining Setbacks Altogether?

Mark's Daily Apple has a look at supermarket "food" with WTF... Where's the Fat?
At Whole Health Source: a couple of posts on Omega-6 vs. Omega-3, Eicosanoids, and Heart Disease: part one, and part two.
Ross at rosstraining.com discusses his version of Simplicity and Specificity.
An article about BPA in plastics.
Finally, take a look at Lance Armstrong's home gym. Looks familiar, huh?

See you on Monday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Barefoot Secrets, Part One

I thought I was the only nut out there who liked to train barefoot, but the more I watch things develop, I'm realizing I'm wrong. More athletes are realizing the benefits of training barefoot every day, deciding to do their daily routines in barefeet or specially designed shoes to mimic barefooting. Of course, this isn't news to these guys.
Why Barefoot?
Why barefoot? Men have worn shoes for thousands of years. Why would you take a step back to the primitive times before shoes? What's the use of that?
Let me draw a comparison for you. Imagine that you have a cast put on your arm at age two or three years. At night, you take the cast off, but during the day, especially when you go out to play, you are to put the cast on. The cast covers the entire arm and a lot of your hand. As you get older, you get bigger and more elaborate casts, designed to "absorb shock" and actually to help you lift things. It's a cushion around your arm. Imagine that as you get older, you wear it playing sports, you wear it lifting weights, you wear it doing calisthenics or doing just your daily chores.
Imagine that you have to wear this thing every day. Now imagine that you are the age that you are now, and you've worn these casts on one or both of your arms since the day you were born. Here's the question.
"What does that arm look like?" I sincerely doubt that it has an Arnold Schwarzenegger, stage-ready bulge to it. More likely, it is pale, zombiesque revenant's arm, a shrunken, stinky, pale fish of an arm.
Which when you think about it, is exactly what's been happening to your feet all of these years. Barefoot training seeks to restore more natural posture, gait, and movement while strengthening the feet and arches--to take the cast off of your feet for at least part of the day.
Barefoot training is another reason people stare at me and a great reason to work out at home. Pulling heavy deadlifts will get you stares. Pulling heavy and barefoot will get you kicked out.
Only Arnold can train heavy deads barefoot at the gym

The principal problem with shoes
The principal problem with shoes isn't that they make your feet sweaty and gross so much as they distort the way that your foot naturally works. By "stabilizing" and "torsion controlling" and padding everything in sight, your body doesn't know what to do with itself. In fact, studies have shown that you put about 12% LESS pressure on your knees when you aren't wearing shoes.
Here's another way of thinking about it. If you were to be doing some very delicate work with your hands, would you wear a pair of thick woolen mittens, work gloves, a thin pair of surgical gloves, or no gloves at all?
Now consider that the human foot has a density of 200,000 nerve endings--most similar, in fact, to the human hand.

What are the benefits of barefoot walking, running, and training?
Barefoot training will give you a better sense of balance, stronger, more injury resistant feet, ankles, and calves, as well as a more grounded sense of posture. Your posture will improve, and making this change can have far-reaching effects throughout your body, from lower back pain to shoulder problems. In short, imbalances start at the foot.
Conversely, this means that balances start at the foot as well. If you have strong feet, you have a strong root, and you can have strong ankles, calves, thighs, hips, low back. These create the core structure for the entire body.
I have another thought-experiment for you: how often do you do work lying on your back? I would say maybe less than 1% of the time. If you're wrestling a lot, maybe slightly more, but for most people, lying on the back is only a very small percentage of their actual performance time. The solution is to do most of your training standing up. That means ending your love affair with the bench press and getting to know standing military presses instead, preferably in your bare feet.
Some people say that they don't ever do anything physical, and that's sadly true for a lot of Americans. We are only recently in the age of "knowledge work" where it is possible to let the body atrophy. Making money in the recent past has mostly meant a lot of back-breaking work. Now, one has to seek out the opportunity for physical play.

I believe it is our responsibility and our honor to embrace our physical selves, and this means being reborn as the pale, sick, weaklings that we truly are. You have to embrace (or at least face) where you are if you want to go somewhere different, and that goes for being overweight, and that goes for building strength or endurance, and it goes for trying out barefooting or reduced shoes. It means taking a risk and doing things that other people aren't doing. It means doing things that other people might think are silly or destructive.

Eventually, embracing the physical means being the person that your friends call when they move because they know you are tireless and strong. It means having the energy to play with your kids, or having the energy to go hiking all day on the weekends, or being vibrant and alive enough to go for a swim, or lift weights, or do some barefoot sprints in your backyard or in the field near your house. It means creating the synaptic facilitation and balance throughout your system, or in plain English, developing the connection between your feet and your entire body.

Later in the series, we'll talk more about specifics: the "what" the "why" and the "how" of barefoot training. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How to Search Craigslist

Recently, I've found myself clicking through craigslist approximately 200 times a day. Between four geographical areas near me and a few items that I'm keeping an eye out for (power rack/squat rack with max weight capacity of 800+ lbs., weight trees, Olympic sets, and 45# and 100# plates) I found myself acting like a chain-smoking Vegas grandma playing the slots, hitting "refresh" on four tabs and praying for the good deals to come up.

Photo by Jeff Kubina

The refresh monster came out after I got beat out on a few deals. Let me explain:

Four 100# Olympic plates, $80 (20 cents a pound). I got the email off and it's already gone.

How about this: bench, Olympic weight set, and 15 pound EZ-curl bar, plus weight tree for $50. I offered this guy $75 just to hold on to it long enough for me to come pick it up!

For context, my local Play-It-Again Sports will buy your equipment at these prices: cash 20 cents a pound, trade at 25 cents a pound. They sell at 69 cents a pound for used weights and 89 cents a pound for new, though depending on the type of weight, you can easily pay up to $3-10 a pound.

How do you make sure you're there for the best deals?

For the last week, I was constantly going back to four local craigslists and trying to find the best deals before anyone else. Frankly, it was exhausting me. There had to be a better way.

There is a better way
I learned this technique from Get Rich Slowly. The trick is using RSS feeds to do your bidding. Don't know what RSS is? Check out the short video below:

Notice my feed icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen

So here's the hack. Go to your local craigslist, and enter the search term that you're interested in. Make sure that you're getting the right results, then scroll to the bottom of the screen and check it out: there's an RSS feed to the lower right.

Now you have a feed of just the search terms that you're interested in. I did this for the four cities nearby and four search terms that I'm interested in, then I cleaned up the names of the feeds in google reader so it's clear where the feed is from and what the search term was. Now, I quickly review my feeds, and I'm done, rather than doing my best imitation of a Vegas grandma.

Let me know how it works out for you in the comments. I'll let you know when I make another purchase.