Building a Better You – Book Release

Kind reader, my long time friend Jeremy Vincent and I have written a book and it is up on Amazon. The book is a self-help book that we wrote collaboratively over the past 3 years. Jeremy has his doctorate in psychology and wrote extensively on different parts of mental skills training and psychology. I wrote sections on training, nutrition, and recovery. Here is the link to the book:

https://www.amazon.com/Building-Better-You-Fulfilling-Overcoming/dp/1547167866/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1505836207&sr=8-2&keywords=building+a+better+you

If you have the money please feel free to buy a copy. The goal here was to write this book in general, not to get rich. Here is a portion that I wrote that didn’t make the final edition since the book was already well over 200 single spaced pages (and is 8×10):

Popular diets (pros and cons)

This section will discuss a variety of different popular diets and the advantages and disadvantages of each essentially serving as a primer. Before embarking on major dietary change be sure to go to a medical professional and get their clearance before you try these. Some can be very drastic nutritional changes which can have consequences on your health if you aren’t doing this with medical supervision until you fully understand the basics of the diet. You can try any of these, but you don’t necessarily need to try any of them. If your current diet is getting you the results that you want, then change nothing and keep doing what you are doing. Be sure to also get a blood panel and body composition testing performed before you start so you can measure the diet for its effectiveness on your health and not just on your cognition and feelings of well-being. Good luck and remember to experiment with these diets accordingly for at least a month if not longer so you can really see if there are any changes that do occur.

Atkins

This diet was popularized in the in the 1990s, but the original text was written in the 1970s where its later edition was written in 2002. The basics of this diet is to eat a very low carbohydrate diet with an acclimation period of no carbohydrates followed by a low carbohydrate lifestyle after that point. The diet can be effective, but any diet that doesn’t allow for certain macronutrients, can lead to issues with food choices that can have health consequences. It is a diet that one of the author’s has experimented with (Mike), but is not a large fan of it. The lack of carbohydrates will make a number of sporting activities much more difficult to compete in.

Paleo

This diet was popularized by the writings of both Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf. The diet requires the avoidance of any types of processed foods such as grains and abstention of any foods that are more recently made (not eaten by Paleolithic man). There are a few cognitive flaws in this argument, but the key with this diet is your food choices by the nature of the beast must be of much higher quality. No pizza, beer, hot wings, bologna, etc. is allowed since those foods are not “paleo”. However, any vegetable (save legumes) is acceptable, along with any type of fruit or meat that is not processed. Within that scope, meats must come from quality sources that were fed their natural diet (grass-fed beef, as opposed to corn-fed antibiotic loaded cows). This diet can be effective, but like anything else it is more about quantity of calories than anything else. You can go over in the calories in this diet like any other, but this diet does have the advantage of typically allowing you to have more than adequate amounts of your vitamins and minerals and coming from good sources.

South beach

This is another popular diet with the goal of weight loss (fat loss). The way this diet aims to do so is through glucose control and only being allowed to eat certain foods. The way to control glucose in this diet is through high fiber/low GI carbohydrates, which is a good way to start off for just about anyone. However, when it comes to labelling certain fats as “good” or “bad” it seems to lose a bit of the plot. Since the diet doesn’t put a cap of caloric intake it can be easy to exceed how many calories you should actually be taking in, but the diet does suggest a workout program with it. This diet might be a sensible choice for you if you like a simple plan that allows you to work within a point system, but the writers of this book are not large fans of the diet.

Mediterranean

This diet was popularized by the longevity of the individuals from the area where they ate in this style. The diet is set to eat lots of fruits and vegetables along with quality meat, healthy fats, and dairy. The goal is to avoid unhealthy desserts and fat sources. This diet is structured mostly around the healthier food choices with some portion control. This can be a good diet for folks, but aiming for more optimization of macronutrients will have better effects on performance than you would get from this diet, but it has some solid healthy food choices like some of the previous diets discussed (mayo clinic).

Slow Carb

This diet plan was popularized by Tim Ferriss, the author of the four hour body (among others). The goal here is to make sure that your carbohydrate choices are low GI carbs and by doing so it will help you lose weight by maintaining the feelings of fullness and to help you make better nutritional choices throughout the day. By utilizing low GI carbohydrate sources you are not going to spike blood sugar levels which can have positive effects on not only controlling blood sugar, but also in the partitioning of nutrients throughout the body. This is a good qualitative diet where you can follow your sources accordingly, but in order to optimize lean body mass and sports performance you will also want to take in some fast digesting carbohydrate post workout to expedite recovery. You also get to have a cheat day each week which can be very useful as a means to giving yourself a mental reprieve.

Ketogenic diet

This diet is traditionally super high fat (approximately 80% of your daily calories) and low carb and protein (together make up the final 20% of the diet) recently this has become a very popular type of diet to partake in. What occurs when the body goes low carbohydrate you simply don’t have as much glucose for the body to use, which just so happens to be the preferentially energy source for a number of tissues in the body (like the brain). Over a long enough period of time the body will start making ketone bodies due to the increased metabolism of fatty acids (they are a byproduct of this process). These ketones will then go in the blood stream and be utilized as energy by the brain and other tissues.

This type of diet (specifically the ketones) has been shown to have a positive effect on cognitive functioning in older adults with Alzheimer’s specifically folks that with the APOe4 genotype (Henderson 2009). This diet has also been recently related to decreased symptomology of individuals with Parkinson’s disease (VanItallie 2005, Gasior 2008). There are also possible positive effects on a wide variety of cognitive functioning from mitochondrial biogenesis (more cellular factories for energy production) to resistance from oxidative stress.

Originally this diet was utilized as a means to help control drug resistant seizures for people to great success (people who had drug resistant seizures had less events while on this diet over half the time). It has since been utilized for a number of other health problems, and has potential advantages with avoiding diseases like diabetes since the body doesn’t have to worry about carbohydrate meal control. It is strict and requires a great degree of planning and discipline initially.

I would suggest trying a low carb diet for a solid two weeks (takes a bit to get in to ketosis without the use of supplements) to see how your body reacts. Partially as an experiment in mental toughness so be sure to plan other major life modifications or events during this time period. At the end of the two weeks your body should have started to adapt (some folks needs longer) and from there you can make the decision to keep it up. There is a lot of exciting research going on in this area which is going to be worth following.

Intermittent fasting

The basic concept for this diet is to eat food only within certain time windows. This can be done in a variety of ways and there was a great presentation and articles online available by Jon Berardi about his experiments with intermittent fasting on himself and some of his clients. What you are really exploiting here is by abstaining from food (with the added assumption that you are also training), you will likely not be getting in enough calories to gain weight, much less maintain it. Arguably, there might be some advantages to avoiding food for periods of time which allows your body to undergo a process known as autophagy.

This process is where your body naturally “cleans house” or you could say feeds upon itself since no other calories are coming in. Yes, you will lose some muscle, but there is perhaps an advantage to longer fasts where the body has the opportunity to purge precancerous cells and other factors that should not still be floating along in the body.

I’m not the biggest proponent of this diet, but for some people and their schedule (especially college aged males) this diet might work well. This is where you set a time window and only eat within it. This diet is not for people who have busy schedules and have to interact with people (can’t get away with being hangry). By having consistent eating you can control your mood better. This is one to perhaps play with if you are in the point in your life where it is possible to do so without negative social and lifestyle repercussions. Also recent research seems to show that simply limiting the window of which you eat to twelve hours most days of the week has positive effects on health.

Fasting

Taking the intermittent part out, and now you have straight up fasting. This is avoiding food or drink for a few days (maybe even a week or more). This is going to cause even further autophagy (cleaning up your cells (in theory)), and obviously be more stressful on the body. You still need to monitor your hydration and other health metrics (blood glucose, ketones, etc.) so this is not for the weekend warrior or otherwise. You can put yourself at a huge amount of health risk by doing this unsupervised and with little controls, but it is possible to do.

This isn’t a rapid weight loss strategy for getting ripped or lean, this is something you do for the (possible) positive health effects and/or the mental toughness aspects to it. If you have a life that requires you to be busy and productive (and tolerant of others) this is not for you. If you are very active and plan on training while not eating this again is not for you. If you are trying to get as muscular as humanly possible (with or without drugs) this is not for you. Be sure to use this method if you only are hoping for the first two reasons covered in this paragraph.

IIFYMs (If it fits your macros)

This is a diet for college students or douche bags. Most likely both. The goal here is to not care about the quality of the calories you are taking in (think 100 grams of carbs from pixie sticks compared to sweet potatoes), just making sure that you get in your daily goals of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. This is a good short-term diet plan for folks that don’t care about long-term health and otherwise. So if you are young (and dumb or lazy) this just might be the plan for you, but eating like an asshole will eventually catch up to you. This does require time and who knows science might be at a point in the future when this comes back to bite you, to unf#$% the situation you put yourself in. Think it is safe to see our thoughts on this one. YOLO.

In all reality this diet might be a good choice if you are just getting in to counting your macronutrients and then with time start to get those macros in from better sources. By learning how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats you need in a day in order to cause the body compositional changes you want. With time learning nutrient timing and enhancing the composition of the nutrients in your diet will lead to even better performance changes, so this could be the place to start. At the end of the day this is a good short-term strategy for your diet especially when you are looking to change your body composition with the least amount of mental work required.

Blood Type Diet

This is a diet based around the concept that thanks to your genetics you need to eat appropriately for your individual needs. This foundational concept is completely correct, unfortunately is it incorrectly applied. The basic is that due to your blood type you need to eat accordingly for health and longevity. Seeing as how your blood type is only one trait (actually your blood type is more than this, but this diet is based upon just your ABO genotype (really more phenotype)) you aren’t getting the whole information. This chapter has already highlighted a number of genetic traits which can influence how your body handles or might need more or less of certain nutrients. This diet program is inappropriate since it doesn’t get in to the nuances of a wide variety of genetic traits (over 20,000) that makes up an individual. This diet is incorrect, but someone could actually do this correctly and this diet would be called the Genotype diet (I think I’m going to copy right this ahead of time to make that paper).

Gene Type Diet

Well it already has been written (damnit). This one is misguided in over application of certain concepts, but at least it isn’t as bat shit crazy as the blood type diet. The key again is to eat according to what your genetic traits predispose you to. As you have already noticed from our talk on vitamins, minerals, and certain macronutrient subsets there are certain genetic traits that you may or may not have that effect how well you metabolize/utilize those parts of your diet. The mistakes here are the over application of these ideas and losing sight of the effects of calories in to calories out. Learning about your genetics can be useful, but aside from reading our previous recommendations, I suggest that you take some time on occasion to self-study instead of believing everything that someone who is directly profiting from tells you.

Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me. Also if you buy a copy I will gleefully sign it.

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Hot Boxing Myself, Experiments with Sauna Use

 

After reading up on the myriad of positive effects of sauna use on overall health, I decided to give it a go. The first real sauna session I did with my sister at a local golds gym and by the end of a session that was just 12 minutes long my heart rate had risen to 150 beats per minute (bpm). At this point I figured why not try to make this practice a bit more regular and see what if any positive effects on my health I could have.

My reasons for trying it:

Heat shock protein activation. Activation of these proteins allow for some cellular housekeeping to occur where misfolded proteins are then folded correctly or dismantled. Proteins when made in the body need to fold correctly in order for those proteins to have their normal function. Proteins fold due to reasons like the charge (positive or negative), their relationship to water (hydrophobic or hydrophilic), and a few other interactions. When folded properly, proteins can have their typical function. When they aren’t at best they are wasting cellular resources to be made and at worst causing some dysfunction. Due to what is known as cardiac drift your heart rate increases as you sweat more which in turn causes a training effect to occur on the heart. With those applications in mind the goal was to use this to help with the atrophy of my right arm after shoulder surgery along with help my brain in general since I’m still having a few residual effects from my concussion from last year.

To be uncomfortable. It sounds funny, but putting yourself through occasional distress makes other stress in life seem easier and more manageable. This is due to the endorphin/dystrophin signaling in the brain and well, why not. At worst this is making me a more heat adapted individual and slightly tougher.

Experimentation

After the initial run at Gold’s gym I was lucky enough to borrow a sauna chair from a family member. This was interesting since it was a sauna where when you sit inside your head is exposed. I found after the first time inside that I really didn’t seem to get that hot since I had both my head and my hands exposed. So the next time I wore a beanie while inside to keep my head hot along with kept my hands inside of the sauna chair. This seems to be the sweat spot (get it, not sweet spot). Further the chair takes a few minutes to heat up, so aiming to be exposed to 20 minutes of heat required me to actually be in the chair for 25 minutes. Also wearing a hat kept from my sweat running down my face as much making things a bit more uncomfortable.

After finishing the sauna I found that it was important for me to relax for a few moments before hoping out and getting on with my day. I also would take a cool (not cold) shower afterwards which felt nice and relaxing before typically heading to bed.

Some of the research utilizes sessions that last for an hour and I’m not on that level. Also, I’m doing these sessions as a one off, not doing repeated bouts yet. I might work up to repeated bouts, but I’m not there right now.

Nonsense claims of sauna use

Some folks will claim that saunas help them lose body fat. This is not the truth. It does slightly increase your metabolic rate, specifically through the increased heart rate, but the basic use of things like brown fat for thermogenesis (heat production) does not occur. What you are doing is using less calories. Since your body is constantly trying to keep your body temperature around 98.6 degrees if you make the temperature higher than that your body sweats to lose some heat, but that requires little energy. If you are however in a 40 degree room your body will work much harder to keep your temperature up so you can avoid hypothermia, but not many people want to do something like that.

Sweating out toxins. This might have some truth with this is a major clearance methodology for things like BPA, but this has not been really observed too much by science as a real methods for removing negative contents from the body.

Notes for Caution When Using

Dehydration and heat illness are very real risks of using saunas. If you are an athlete that already sweats extensively due to their practice schedule this is likely to cut in to your own recovery, not bolster it. The electrolyte depletion that you can get from doing that can cause not only a decline in performance, but massive cramping. As you become habituated to the sweating in the sauna your body will actually lose less electrolytes and because of this you won’t be having as great of issues with cramps (though there is still a risk here).

Additionally the changing from hot to cold temperature can cause some hard constricting and dilation of blood vessels which has in at least one case lead to a heart attack. This is a stressful thing to do to your body so don’t just dive in day one.

Summary

After doing this for a little over a month straight it seems this had a positive effect on my post concussive symptoms, so I will keep this up. Now to be honest, this wasn’t the most well controlled study, but I have come to like the experience in the sauna and it helps me relax in general at the end of the day. Will I ever buy/build a sauna in my house, maybe. Either way I found this to be enjoyable and it is a nice way to finish up a hard workout (I also tend to train later on in the day) or relax a bit before bed. If you get a chance try using a sauna yourself, start with a lower amount of time you are in the sauna and build up slowly. If you have issues with cramping or dehydration this is not a good choice for you to use. If in doubt consult your physician and take it from there. As always thanks for reading and have a great day.

Wasted Time Doing Work            

Once again cheerleading is starting up and we just survived camp, well really they just survived camp. I went on vacation to Indy to see and old friend and then to Asheville to relax with family. We are now trying to aim the kids at getting ready for not just the fall season of cheering both football and basketball, but keeping in mind what skills we want to bring to the nationals mat in January. We need to start working towards having better timing, more difficult skills, and being in better shape for the routine. We only get to practice with the kids for about 6 hours each week. What they do outside of practice is something we have no control over, but you can always tell which athletes put in that work and which just do the bare minimum. This post is for the athletes that are doing or want to do more work outside of practice. My advice to them is to not waste their time.

What I mean by not waste their time, is that they spend that time developing the skills that they need to. I really don’t care about how great their back squat is, as long as it is strong enough. This doesn’t mean that they never have to lift if they are strong enough, but that we need to maintain our strength levels. This logic can be applied to endurance, power, technique, etc. Each ability (or skill) has a number of thresholds you need to hit in order to perform it successfully. If one of your basic performance abilities is below the threshold then that will be the limiting factor. When you find this weak point it is time to start programming to develop that limitation. Below are some basic ideas of how to break through those limits and not waste time in your training.

Wasting time examples followed by better investments of that time

Not enough strength

Waste of time Good investment
Doing more cardio Squat, deadlift and press or sprint style work along with heavy sled work
Doing more plyometrics and box jumps Do Olympic lifts and their variations
Stretching more Squat, deadlift and press
High rep low weight training (sets over 12 with pink dumbbells Increase load so that the sets are for 10 or less repetitions
Isolation work when you are limited by one muscle group, instead full movement patterns Start with compound movements and only do these at the end of training
   

 

Not enough power

Waste of time Good investment
Doing more cardio Sprints with long recoveries
Doing more plyometrics and box jumps Decrease the reps and increase the intensity
Stretching more Do full range lifting
High rep low weight training (sets over 12 with pink dumbbells Increase the load and focus on speed during the lifting phase and control lowering it.
Isolation work when you are limited by one muscle group, instead full movement patterns Compound movements
   

 

Not enough endurance

Waste of time Good investment
Doing more cardio Good choice
Doing more plyometrics and box jumps Switch to stair or hill sprints
Stretching more Maybe do something like yoga, MAYBE
High rep low weight training (sets over 12 with pink dumbbells Try out some javorek complexes.
Isolation work when you are limited by one muscle group, instead full movement patterns Compound movements specifically high rep squatting and clean to press work for work capacity.
   

 

Not enough mobility

Waste of time Good investment
Doing more cardio Pick things that slightly challenge mobility like rowing, swimming, and circuit training with full range
Doing more plyometrics and box jumps Stretch between sets
Stretching more Add in some extra tools like foam rollers
High rep low weight training (sets over 12 with pink dumbbells Pick movements like high bar squats, RDLs, and lunges with slightly heavier weights where you work through that full range
Isolation work when you are limited by one muscle group, instead full movement patterns Do full range compound movements
   

 

Not enough technique

Waste of time Good investment
Keep doing the same shitty technique Work on one detail at a time
Try getting stronger instead Get expert coaching
Complain about genetics Find someone who has a different approach
Listen to people with bad technique to start Watch video of your technique and compare it to expert technique
Quit Practice outside of practice
Never do this outside of practice Figure out your basic fault

Summary

So I hope this is a good example of how you can optimize your performance and technique by putting in not only extra work, but focused work that will really make you better. Do take the time to perform the type of work that you enjoy, but don’t forget about thinking critically about your weaknesses and doing your best to attack those weaknesses. Thanks for reading and if you want any advice or elaboration on the points above please leave a comment.

Introduction Phase to Weight Lifting

Right now I am rehabbing my shoulder and I’m aiming to take a good run at Olympic lifting once I can train how I want to. So this is the basic plan of things that I am going to do with my training to progress in Olympic lifting thanks to advice and recommendations that I have been given over the years and now I’m patient enough to start using it. Keep in mind that I am in good overall shape with decent but not great mobility and a solid strength base.

Technique

Olympic lifting involves two competitive lifts; the snatch and then the clean and jerk. In competition the greatest load that you manage on each lift is how you are compared to other lifters in your weight class for who is the winner. These are very high speed and technical movements with heavy loads. You need to optimize your technique as much as possible to not only enhance your performance but also to keep healthy. When you start off, make sure that you are doing everything that you can to refine your technique.

Warming up

For each of these Olympic lifting training sessions I am going to warm up utilizing either the Bergner warm up or Justin Thacker’s warm up progressions. This is going to help with my movement and preparation for the heavier loads. Now I will need to modify these for a while since I am not ready for the full movements much less some of the easier variations for mobilizing. Also I plan on doing a number of warm up sets with a pvc pipe before doing any actual bar movements in training.

Coaching

On the note of optimizing your technique, go get some coaching in these movements. If you live anywhere near civilization you will likely be able to find someone to help you with your technique. Worst case scenario there are people online that can coach you and you can video your lifts and they will give you feedback on your technique. I am a fan of Leo Totten, Justin Thacker, and a few others for their ability to coach and refine technique. Get a good coach that you can trust and move on from there.

Progressions

So as I am getting healthy again on the shoulder where I can do the movements I won’t actually start with the full lifts. Instead I will start with variations on the Olympic lifts and progress then to the main movements. These are progressions I got from Quinn Henoch and a few others. If you are looking to get in to olympic weightlifting these are good progressions to start with for the olympic lifts.

Snatch

Beginning Overhead squat
  Snatch balance
  Drop squat for snatch
  Heaving snatch balance
  Hang snatch with pauses to overhead squat
  Power Snatch to Overhead Squat
End Olympic Snatch

 

Clean

Beginning Front squat
  Front squat with pauses
  High hang power clean to front squat
  Power clean to front squat
End Full clean

 

Jerk

Beginning Strict press with hold overhead
  Push press
  Split jerk position strict press
  Push jerk
End Split jerks

 

Training programming

As I am working my way in to these movements the big key with each is always quality first then quantity. This means to keep the reps low on each set and give myself plenty of rest between each set. By low reps we are talking about sets of 5 reps or less, but doing 5 or more sets. The basic goal will be 25 quality reps over a training session. As far as load is concerned, the goal is to use the heaviest load that I can without having my technique break down. As far as progressing through the exercises, we are looking to have two workouts in a row where I perform the movements with impeccable technique with a load that I find acceptable. Yes, that is muddy, but I’m basing this on feel and aiming to get to loads that are around my bodyweight or above it (especially in the clean) before I am going to start really chasing heavy numbers.

For the rest of my training I will be following my typical upper and lower split but putting these movements in to the beginning of the training program along with programming accessory movements that will enhance performance and range of motion in my joints. If you want a further explanation of this just let me know, but this means simple things like high bar back squatting, extended range of motion split squats, and full range pull ups, rows, and presses.

Summary

So this is my basic program for progressing in to Olympic lifting. Obviously, now I need to put my money where my mouth is once I am cleared. I’ll try to keep you posted on how things go with this training and as always thanks for taking the time to read this.

Science! Dosages Matter

Science! Dosages Matter

I have come across this recently where a number of students have asked me how much I should take of one supplement or another. At the end of the day you want to make sure you understand what the minimal effective dose, normal dose, and safe dose of any supplement or drug you take. Please forward this on to friends that you know take a large number of supplements and/or someone that is having issues with side effects from something they are taking.

Minimal dose

This is the smallest amount of something you can take to have a positive effect. Supplement companies will sometimes put a laundry list of individual ingredients in a supplement, but the amounts of each ingredient is too little to actually have an effect on the body. Take for example caffeine, in the literature the sweet spot for caffeine supplementation (which there is a big genetic component for) is about 3-6mg/kg of body weight. This means that a 100kg guy (dude who weighs 220lbs.) needs to take in 300-600mg of caffeine to get a boost in performance. This would be the equivalent of 2-4 espresso shots depending on how strong you make the expresso.

Optimal dose

Working with the caffeine dosage (3-6mg/kg) earlier this is the amount that you need to take in order to get a solid effect. Be sure to read up on anything that you are either experimenting with or prescribed so that you know how much is really needed for someone like yourself. Just about all supplements that you might take have dosages that matter relative to body mass, but some will just have a general amount of the supplement to take. Be aware that due to differences in physiology there tends to be a range. Some folks naturally need more and others need less. This is due to genetics which can cause you to absorb less or more, metabolize things more efficiently and so on. Experiment with your dosages by starting on the low end of optimal and then working your way up when you are using supplements. When it comes to pharmaceutical aids ask your physician why they recommend a certain amount for you and not more or less.

Upper limit of intake (maximal safe dose)

From our example of the dude that just took 600mg of caffeine because he really wants to ride the lightning, let’s say that there was a mistake and his 50kg (110lbs.) female friend drank the preworkout that was meant for him. Well she just took in 12mg/kg this load will cause some issues with jitters, anxiety, possible insomnia, diarrhea potentiall, and the beginnings of some heart palpations (possibly). Overall you don’t want to take in more caffeine than about 9mg/kg any benefits from caffeine are wasted at this point due to the side effects that come along with it.

Summary

So dosages matter, .3mg/kg of caffeine and you will barely feel anything. 3mg/kg of caffeine and you will be ready to rock. 30mg/kg of caffeine and you can die from it. Read the labels of the things you are consuming and always keep in mind how much of a supplement you are taking in relative to your body weight.

Pec and Labrum Repair Saga: part 3

So more time has passed and rehab is coming along. I thought I would bring up what my training is like along with what are some limitations that I currently still have. The basic goal here is to stay in shape (read: not get too fat), and keep on what muscle I can. Due to issues like keeping my arm out of the way I have had to pick exercises that I can keep my arm in the sling and in a position that it won’t get caught/be bounce off something during the exercise. This has required modifications like not squatting as low initially along with other points I’ll get in to.

Dragging my butt in to shape

Initially my training was essentially just dragging a weighted sled using a belt around my lower waist area and riding and exercise bike. The goal here was to load up the resistance as high as I could safely and just get in some good volume of work. For the sled workout I would just load a plate on the sled and drag it 40-120 yards and then add another plate repeat the walking. This would continue until I couldn’t power walk that distance anymore. I would do this forwards, backwards, and sideways and typically do this three days per week initially. Due to the staples in my shoulder and the sling I wasn’t able to do any real heavy lifting so this helps me mentally.

For the bike work I would either do a moderate resistance on the bike and sprint for 10 seconds and recover for 20-50 seconds before repeating those sprints again. Altogether I would do this for 10 to 20 minutes. The other option would be to put the bike on maximal resistance and pedal at a very slow cadence (20-30) revolutions per minute and do this for 20 minutes. I hated this immensely, but it did make my legs tired and helped me burn off some excess energy.

One armed bandit

Well I still had my one good arm so I was sure as hell going to do something with it. This meant training as hard as I could, but obviously doing every unilaterally which naturally limited how heavy I could go on a variety of movements. Between my pride and lack of time training I only used 25lbs. plates for a few weeks since I only had one arm to put the plates on the bar and 45s were hard to pick up and load with one hand. Also with the brace and bolster on it made sitting super low in the squats not really work well, I would have to hike up my brace on my ribs before each set so I didn’t bounce off my arm and make it move each time in the bottom.

Basic set up

I kept with my general lower/upper six days per week training split, only now I was just doing one arm for the upper body, and most of my lower body work was bodyweight or using a safety squat bar.

Day 1 2 3 4 5 6
Main exercise SSB squat heavy Kb military press SSB squat volume Ground base jammer SSB squat speed Machine bench press
Main exercise two   Single arm pull downs   Chest supported rows   Chest supported rows
Assistance exercise 1 Ssb good morning Dumbbell curls One arm deadlift Hammer curls Glute ham raises Preacher curls
Assistance exercise 2 Crunches Cable triceps Some type of ab exercise Db skull crusher Some type of ab exercise Cable oh triceps
Assistance exercise 3 Sled work Upper back work Sled work Barbell face pulls Sled work Bent over db laterals

 

Rehab

Outside of still working out I was doing therapy for about an hour three days per week. The initial work was all about rolling a ball trying to gain range of motion back along with massage work. Initially I couldn’t even lift my arm above parallel to the floor and had little to no external rotation. Progress was pretty constant, but very slow.

Limitations

The key limitations were load and range of motion. Initially the goal was to do essentially nothing with my arm and then I got to remove the bolster and was only a sling and then that progressed to no sling and try to walk and move like a normal human being. The range of motion slowly improved to where I could do movements that would be parallel to the floor and eventually start working on ranges of motion that were getting to be overhead.

Exercises

The first exercise I was given for my arm was to roll a ball across a table. This was done for high repetitions to just get my arm moving again. Then with time I was doing the same ball rolling only doing so pushing it up a wall. Along with this I was given movements like tracing different angles on the wall with a rolled up towel, some 3lbs. dumbbell rows with dynamic movement, and then other very light high rep kinetic chain movements. Push-ups started with simply leaning on a wall and pressing and then worked their way back to true push-ups on the floor. My least favorite thing to do to get by external rotation in my shoulder was to lay on my back with a hot pad on either side of my shoulder and an ankle weight on my wrist pulling my arm in to external rotation. That was really uncomfortable. This would last for ten minutes and usually get my over ten degrees more in the range of motion for a little bit, but it was quite uncomfortable.

Post op report

Almost three months after surgery I finally got the whole story of what they found and what they did. They were happy with their work on the surgery and I appreciate what they did. So here is the basic break down.

Labrum

Most folks when they tear their labrum have what is called a SLAP tear. This stands for superior labral tear from Anterior to Posterior. What I did was tear not only the superior portion but the entire posterior of it. Overall only about 50% of my labrum was still intact so it was good to hear how my pain and dysfunction was well merited. Luckily there was no arthritis or other issues in the tissue it had simply been torn off the shoulder. They used three anchors to get my labrum back down to the glenoid fossa of my scapula.

Pec tendon

As soon as I could use my arm the pec still felt odd when I contracted it and also it was asymmetrical to the other side and rolled up when I contracted it. I talked with some coworkers and they assured me it was correct, and honestly the strength function was already better than pre surgery. Still it was odd, so when I followed up with surgeons I found out that I completely tore my sternal attachment of my pec of the bone and then tendon was so frayed it had to then be sutured on to my clavicular pec tendon. This is why it is asymmetrical and feels odd when it contracts, but functionally it should be able to get back to striking distance of being 100%.

Boomstick application

When I went to the NSCA national convention I was lucky enough to get the boomstick by Kabuki strength used on my pec and shoulder. How this works is they use a small ball that you lay on and then apply pressure with the boomstick and have you move your arm in different ways to break up scar tissue and restore the normal sliding tissues of your body. This was an invigorating amount of discomfort (read pain) when applied but immediately gave me gains in range of motion in multiple planes. I highly suggest having this type of therapy used. Thanks again to the guys from Kabuki strength for working with me and giving me feedback on my lifting technique.

Summary

Still fighting my way back one day at a time. Thanks again for all of the help I have gotten from my friends, colleagues, and physicians. Hopefully soon enough I will be back to 100% with training. Worst case scenario competitive powerlifting is out for me and it is time to commit to strongman and maybe even weightlifting.

Pec and Labrum Repair Saga: part 2

After getting my right pec reattached and my right labrum repaired I got to spend some quality time in a shoulder sling with a bolster on. For the first four days I wasn’t allowed to bath or take the brace off at all. This was not a party, but a necessary evil for the healing process.

Following days

Each day I was a bit less sore and slept a bit better. I really didn’t do much at all other than sit around with my arm propped up. I did get to play some old school RPGs which was fun along with working on a few other hobbies of mine. Slowly I started to walk a bit more and more, but the goal was to limit this severely since if I slipped and fell that would really undo all of the work they did. Not to mention any time I just slightly tripped the rapid shifting of my body would send a righteous amount of pain through my shoulder.

Bandages off

On day four I finally got to have my bandages off and take a shower. To say that it took a while and was uncomfortable to have the weight of my arm hanging there is a slight understatement. The hot water beating down on my shoulder felt great though. The stapled parts of my chest and shoulder were a bit gnarly to see, but that was expected. From there I would take a shower about once every other day initially but then things kept getting better and back to my once a day routine which is nice to come back to.

Bowel movements        

Should have put this in the first post of this series, but turns out the pain killers and the drugs they use to knock you out cause you to be constipated. This was not a party, but thankfully after my “movement” on the day after surgery things were back to normal. Be warned though that you do get backed up when on those drugs. Also squatty pottys are a game changer and I could still use mine while in the brace. Other good news is that I could still wipe on my own which was great news for me, my wife, and my graduate assistant.

Supplementation

So in order to make the recovery go as fast as possible I have been using a number of over the counter supplements to expedite healing. This is what I came up with after speaking with friends, colleagues, and researching. Since I’m taking everything at once I can’t really parse what is making the greatest magnitude of effect, I just want this to be over with as soon as possible. So without further ado here is the list along with the amount that I’m taking each day. If you aren’t sure what different things are just let me know and I will explain it more.

Name Dosage Reason
Fish Oil 8 grams or more Anti-inflammation and perhaps speed tendon repair
Magnesium 500mg Helps with muscle relaxation, and I didn’t want any cramping going on after surgery
Zinc 30mg General health, from hormonal production to immune function
Biosil 5-8 drops Helps lay down collagen which is a big part of the tendon repair I’m trying to accomplish
Pantothenic acid 200mg Possible link to tendon strength and recovery
Fenugreek 1g Potentially increasing testosterone to enhance recovery and healing
Protein Powder 50+ grams Building block for tendons and muscle.
Curcumin 1.5 grams Anti-inflammatory

 

Itching

My wounds were closed with staple (and lots of them), after day three they started to itch some. To be fair the staples never really hurt which is nice. Man, that itching though. Turns out that is normal, but I’m not a fan. I was told not to wash it directly or itch it, so it is a bit annoying to say the least.

Staples out

Two weeks and two days after my surgery, we went in for my follow up. They took x-rays of my shoulder and took out all of my staples. Turns out there was a large number of staples in there (over twenty), but the good news is it really didn’t hurt at all to get them out even the ones that had to be dug in to get after and remove. From there I was told it would be time to start the next phase of my recovery. The funny part is my pec tear wound was so puckered up with skin that they actually missed one staple and it wasn’t for a week or two afterwards when the inflammation had come down that you could tell that I still had a staple left that I had to get removed before my skin fully started to grow back over it.

Rehab

Cue the rocky training montage music. Day one was hardcore; checking my range of motion and then having me roll a ball with my hand on top of it. From there some different movement patterns working on getting my scapulas to move correctly. It was obviously very low key, but that was day one. By day there I was doing towel slides in the vein of the karate kid paint the fence. This did allow me to start singing “You’re the best around” while rehabbing which made the folks in the athletic training room either laugh or give me strange looks.

Soreness

Each time after the training I would be sore and my pec tendon would ache. Makes sense since we are making something move that has been essentially immobile for the past few weeks with major incisions being made in my deltoid in order for the scopes to go in there and do the work.

Summary

So things are moving along with rehab and constantly (though slowly) getting better. In the next post I’ll start writing about what I’m doing as far as training goes (still have three other good limbs). Along with anything else that comes up on this rehabilitation journey. I hope this is useful for anyone that might go through something along the same lines as I have and as always thanks for taking the time to read this.

It’s for the Groom: Burning calories a bit faster

So in order for the groom to get in shape for the same wedding he wants to lose some fat, which he is already a lean guy so this is much harder than it would be if he were obese to start. So simply increasing the amount of steady state cardio and other wise is just going to get him stuck on a treadmill for hours and really not make him too much of a happy camper.

My goal is for him to do 3 days of metabolic conditioning and below will be my basic menu of options for him to do. Before each session he needs to take his time warming up in general and then do a lower intensity 2 or 3 sets of the exercise before he goes maximal effort. The reason for this is, maximal sprinting can easily result in injury especially when you get in your thirties and beyond. Listen to your body and focus on high quality work.

So here are some options:

Track workout

Option 1: Run 4 maximal 400 meter sprints. That’s it. This is an idea from Dan John that works well and will chew you to pieces.

Option 2: Sprint 200 yards walk 100 do this for a grand total of 800-1600 total yards and increase your volume by only 100-200 yards each week (this means add a final sprint of only 100 yards on occasion).

Gym workout

Welcome to barbell complexes, you can also do this with dumbbells either way it is horrible. I like the Javorek complex and if you get to the point where you can do this with 50lbs. dumbbells or with over 95 lbs. on the barbell you are going to be pretty jacked. Without setting the barbell down do 6 repetition of each of the following exercises:

High pull

Power snatch

Squat to press

Lunge

RDL

Power snatch

Looks deceivingly simple, but it will definitely tax your body. Do this circuit for up to 5 times taking a few minutes between each effort to let your lungs recover.

Field workout

Start on one side of the field and simply sprint 2/3rds of it and walk the final third. Hit the other baseline and repeat back. Start off by doing this for 10 total reps and build up to 20. Even feel free to do a set of pushups or sit ups on each baseline to get in some more good work.

Hill workout

Sprint up the hill and walk back down. Find a hill that is long enough and steep enough that after only 2 reps you are questioning how you will ever get to ten reps, then build up to where you are doing 20 reps here. Hills are awesome, everyone who can should do hill sprints.

Sled Workout

With a resistance sled that you either push or pull do a sprint with this for 40 yards and then walk 40 yards before you repeat this for 10 total reps. Build up either the number of sprints you are doing or the load that you are pulling. A good starting point for this will be 90lbs. Be sure to get the slack out of the line before you start pulling hard and then keeping your body low along with using good posture when you do this.

Bonus: The Garth – with two other friends push the sled 40 yards and switch from one person to the next going back and forth. Since there is three of you one will always push the sled to another and gives you about a 1:2 work:rest ratio that will slowly eat away at each of you. Do this for either a predetermined number or until one of you pukes (hence why it was named after Garth). If that is too easy for you ask me about the Hurt Locker.

Bike workout

Get on a resistance bike and do sprints for 10 seconds and pedal easy for 20 seconds and repeat for ten minutes. As you get better increase the sprinting time and decrease the rest time to a minimum of 10 seconds of recovery. Be sure to do this entire workout at a moderate but not too high of resistance.

Summary

Aside from working with your diet, here is a few basic conditioning options do help you burn a bit more fat off and do so in a shorter period of time. These are all things that I have done before, and honestly I like the hill, Javorek complex, and sled work the most. Just pick three of them and push them intelligently to help you lose a bit more fat to get ripped for your hitchin’.

It’s for the Bride: Training program to get a bit more jacked in the arms

The goal here is to help out a bride I know to be able to out flex her groom on their wedding day. I can think of nothing more admirable than helping someone do this. So the goal here is to add in some training that is going to help with building some arm size and give some options to do so at home instead of always having to go to the gym.

For each exercise be sure to control the eccentric for a two count or so and even hold the max contraction for a moment at the top of the rep. If you are already doing this movement then just don’t worry about it, if not be sure to add these in. The total volume of quality work (along with your nutrition) is what will give you the changes in your arm size you are looking for. Also feel free to finish each workout with super high rep (100 total reps possibly in just one set) band tricep pressdowns and curls.

Day 1:

Super set 1

Low row curl in to body weight low row 5×10+10

As this gets to be easier aim to be more parallel to the floor and even possibly elevate your feet. Also you do ten reps of the curl and then follow that up with ten reps of the low row.

Dips (bench or free standing) 5×10-20

As soon as you can do a set of 20 add weight to the movement. Learn from my mistake and don’t get cavalier with how you perform this movement. If possible when you add weight do so through chain weight.

Super set 2:

Skull crushers 5×10

Pyramid up in weight, and do this with an EZ bar or even a straight bar

Barbell curls 5×10

Pyramid up in weight, be sure to control this one

Day 2:

Super set 1:

Chin up negatives 6-10×2

Jump up to the top of the chin up then control yourself down. Try and do this as slowly as possible and add in some pauses at different points in the range of motion

Diamond pushups 5×10 or 50 total reps

Make a diamond with your hands and do these pushups full range of motion, be sure to control yourself and progress this movement so that each set of 10 is truly challenging

Super set 2:

Towel curls and partner triceps 3-5 sets of 10 reps

Use your partner (fiancé) to give you manual resistance on the concentric and eccentric of these movements to help give you a challenge on the exercise. Make sure that the resistance is controlled and doesn’t just hit you hard out of nowhere.

Day 3:

Super set 1:

Close grip bench press 5×8

Pyramid up in weight and try to beat your record each time. Take a grip on the barbell that has your pointers on the knurling just outside of the smooth center of the bar.

Underhand grip barbell rows 5×12

Using the same grip width from the bench press only know with your palms up (supinated), grab the barbell and perform a barbell row with it. Make sure to control the weight here and keep a strong posture the entire time.

Super set 2:

Hammer curls 5×10

Be sure to control the weight again and do so through a full range of motion. Use dumbbells here and you can do this straight in front of the body or across your body

French press (aka overhead skull crushers) 5×10

Use a barbell again and standing up or sitting down perform this movement trying to touch the bar behind your head each time and be sure to hold the lockout for just a moment each time.

Summary

Congratulations to the couple again, I hope this program will be of some use to you both and we wish you the very best with your new life together. Only use this program for about 2-3 months and then move on to a focus on something else that you want to build.

Tier Zero or Starting From Nothing

Most of the programs I write are for people looking to enhance their performance in one way or another. I realize that the real issue is that most people don’t work out at all. So the goal with this program is to take someone who is literally doing nothing and just get them moving in a way that will work for just about anyone. If you have some major issues like diabetes, heart disease, etc. Then don’t even attempt this and start your training in a full blown cardiac rehab center. If you are healthy and just are completely inactive this is a basic program to get your started and working your way up until you decide what type of training you want to really commit to.

So with that preface we will start with attacking fitness on its three pillars (in my mind): strength, conditioning, and mobility. The goal is to build each pillar at the same time in a low intensity and safe manner. If you think you don’t need the baseline here then don’t bother. If you do have glaring issues in one area then start with that area, and if obviously everything is defunct this is way to start off.

Strength

The body is a barbell and some barbells are loaded heavier than others. To start we will be doing only body weight exercises and progressing them accordingly when you hit certain goal levels you will progress to harder exercises. The key with strength training is you don’t pay for your crimes immediately, instead you find your soreness can come one or two days afterwards, so be tentative at first and then slowly add in more volume. Take a day off between each session and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Crippling soreness helps no one out, especially someone that is just starting to get in to training.

Your initial program will be the same exercises repeated every two days and as you get a good handle on those then it will be time to add in a day two and day three that give you some variety. Once you can get through the bodyweight circuits easily then it is time to start on barbell training and I have a few old programs on this blog you can search around for or just find some from the internet.

Day 1 2 3
Exercise Bodyweight squat to bench Squats Squat jumps
Exercise Wall push up Push up on knees Push ups
Exercise Crunch Sit up v-ups
Exercise Step up (use a stair case and take two at a time) Lunge Walking lunges
Exercise Leg raises on the ground Leg raises on the ground Flutter kicks on floor
Exercise Clam shells Hip thrust on floor Single leg hip thrust
Exercise Superman on floor Body weight low row (knees bent) Body weight low row

Start with a set of 10 on each exercise and then the next workout aim for 12 and so on and so forth. For the bench squats, sit down to a chair that you can orthopedically and stand up, aim to lower the height of the chair that you are sitting down to each week. For the pushups find a height that you can manage to move through a full range of motion with good control for those repetitions. For the step ups a simple stair case where you take them two or three steps at a time and you can use the hand rail to help yourself balance and even assist you if necessary. The idea is a total of 10 reps on each leg to start. The leg raises on the ground are laying on your back and then lift your legs up off the ground using your hip flexors and abs.

Conditioning

This is your ability to do work, and to keep that work out put up for long periods of time. If you have literally been up to nothing any work will be a novel stress on the body. So here again it will be easy to over stress the body. Aim to start with the least stressful forms of exercise. If you have access to a gym start off with biking, elliptical use, or swimming. Make it your goal to initially just be doing 5-10 minutes of work at a low intensity. You should be able to hold a conversation with someone while doing this. If you have the ability to track your heart rate aim for it to only be between 80-120 beats per minute. If you don’t have access to a gym then start off by simply walking. If you have a step counting device of some sort, aim to add in 50-100 steps each day and listen to your body.

If your knees, hips, low back, ankles, etc. are wrecked after a session of walking then figure out how much work that was and cut back 20% then slowly start working your way back up. The goal here is to progress to higher intensity work with time, but with your training aim to add in one extra minute of work (or the greater number of steps) every other day until you are doing half an hour of constant work (or over 10,000 steps per day). Once you get to this point then it is time to start ramping up your intensity. This means simply to work harder during that time period. You can do this by upping the resistance or incline on the exercise machines you are doing, otherwise try to cover a greater distance working in the set period of time. Same basic idea of only increasing by 5-10% each day. You can use a heart rate monitor here again as a way to show your intensity is higher.

Mobility

This is your ability to move your joints through a pain free full range of motion. If you have been living in chair jail for a long period of time you will likely be tight in the hip flexors, hamstrings, calf stretch, upper back, and shoulders along with potentially have a large number of other restrictions throughout the body. The goal to start is to improve your mobility by using stretches that aren’t hard to do and as always listen to your body when you do them. Aim to do this mobility work once every other day, but you can build up to doing this every day if you want to.

Please do some side reading on rolling out muscles with foam rollers and mobility balls to help, but the goal here is to give you a few simple stretches that you can do at home to help you open up your tighter parts of your body. If you don’t need any mobility work then skip this segment or do what you find to be more intense. If the stretches I lay out for you hurt or you don’t feel them stretching then by all means modify them by trying different angles or just simply don’t do them.

Couch stretch/hip flexor stretch

Full squat stretch

Calf stretch (ok, I’m tired of hyperlinking now. Just look up these ideas on your own. Yoga exercises are good choices here especially when you can be passive in the positions.)

Cobra stretch

Shoulder stretch

Pec stretch

Warm up

Before each of these training days do something to warm up. The goal is to get the blood moving and you don’t necessarily need to do anything too fancy and doing a simple round (or two or three) of a less intense version of what you are doing for your training on that day. Another simple warm up circuit is as written here:

Exercise Reps
Arm circles forward and backwards 20
Trunk twists 20
Side bends 20
Hips go forward and go backwards 20
Leg swings front to back 10
Leg swings side to side 10
Elbow bend and straighten 20
Wrist circles 20
Knee bends and straighten 20
Calf raises 20

 

Summary

So here is a simple program to hit all basic areas of fitness for someone who has been inactive for a solid amount of time. I hope that this helps for some readers out there. Please share it accordingly with anyone that you might think it will be useful for. As always thanks for reading and have a great day.