Bench Assault Delta – A training program for Masochists

I really don’t want to do this program, but that is part of the reason I should. When I worked at Missouri State one of the strength coaches introduced me to a program known as the “bench assault”. This is a twelve week program of bench pressing heavy for reps twice per week with lots of volume afterwards. Throughout the years I did this program with friends maybe once a year or every other year. This is a hard program that not only helps create great progress, but crushing soreness and possible injuries if you don’t take not only the program seriously, but the recovery from it. I’m about to start this up again with a friend of mine along with whomever else wants to join us. We will send each other emails to hold one another accountable, and may god have mercy on our souls.

Here is the program link.

Now when you read the sheet on the google doc feel free to print it out or save it and change your numbers accordingly.

Notes:

The columns are each week, the center number is the weight that you lift. The number to the right of that is the reps that you do in that set. Any time things are listed as for example 10×20 that means 10 sets of 20 reps. Each week has two days of lifting and you should take at least 48 hours between each workout.

Still train your lower body as you normally would and be sure to squat the day before you bench press since the pec and shoulder soreness makes it very hard to get a bar on your back the day after doing this. Don’t do any other upper body work other than the optional day listed on the program. If you don’t get all of the reps on a given day for your first set on that exercise you must repeat it. Take the heavy weights seriously. The weights you pick for week one are meant to be a weight that you know you can do for 12 clean repetitions, not one that you hope you can do for 12. Be sure to go for long walks and do some light cardio most days to help with recovery and stretch out your upper body after training and on your days off.

You add or subtract the weights you are lifting from the loads you handled in the previous workout. If you start off with a weight that is less than 150lbs. then only make half of that jump (add 5 instead of 10). You have to sleep more than 8 hours each night on this program. If you can’t do that, don’t do this program.

I’ve made a number of changes to the original program to make this a bit friendlier on the body (read less brutal). Modify the exercises as you need to, but still follow the basic progression. If you give it a go let me know how it works out for you, and understand that this truly is an assault. Thanks as always for reading and have a nice day.

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Better Living through Chemistry: Recovery from Injury

This is a brief post that I will elaborate on more soon, but if you have suffered a tendon, ligament, or connective tissue injury here are a few supplements that I have used to help with recovery and have seen some science showing its efficacy:

Protein- specifically collagen based protein. This is not an excuse to eat copious amounts of jello, but eating the gelatin from animal bones can help with soft tissue recovery. You can use higher levels the specific amino acids you find in collagen can also be used (glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine).

Biosil – this was suggested to me by Jamie Lewis and does work, helps with connective tissue recovery and the funny part is it also improves your skin and hair when you use it.

Magnesium and calcium – both minerals can help with recovery in their own way. Make sure you are at or above the daily RDA and space out their dosages.

Vitamin D, C, and K – can also all help with recovery and make sure you are above the RDA here also to help with this recovery.

Potentially help:

Fish Oil – to help bring down inflammation.

Curcumin – To also help bring down inflammation.

Summary

Here is a quick list of supplements that you can use to help recover after injury, but time is always the big key. Make sure you aren’t doing more damage and listen to your body when recovering from injury. Good luck and as always thanks for reading.

Float on – Float chambers review

Over the thanksgiving holiday my sister was kind enough to get a float for my wife and I. Now a float is laying inside of a chamber or room with about 9 inches of water that has so much Epsom salts in them that anyone can float them. The water is kept at a temperature so that you are completely comfortable not feeling too warm or cold (93 degrees Fahrenheit typically). The room is dark and has no sound after an initial relaxation period. This is a very different experience since for the first time (potentially since birth) you are conscious in a room with nearly no sensory input. There is no noise, no real sense of your own body weight, no real sensation of temperature and no visual inputs. You are left alone with your thoughts and the silence. You become quite aware of your heart beat and other body processes. Typically a float lasts 60-90 minutes.

How it went for me.

After taking a nice shower and getting in the chamber with ear plugs in my ears to keep from getting any salt water in them (used foam plugs but if I do this in the future I would buy your own silicon plugs and wear them). I entered the chamber and relaxed in there. After a little music played and I turned the lights off I was in complete silence. This was different, but very relaxing. I did slide around a bit in the chamber and my low back felt like it decompressed a bit which was nice. I’ve been consistently meditating for the past 9 months or so to help with the post concussive symptoms which has definitely helped me, so I spent the first who knows how long just meditating (which felt quite productive). Then my mind just wandered and I relaxed. I did need to take a break to use the bathroom at one point, probably shouldn’t have been so well hydrated beforehand if I do this in the future. It seemed like I was in there forever and I didn’t have any crazy mind altering experience inside, but after I left I was so relaxed I kept wanting to fall asleep. This calm seemed to stay with me for a number of hours later on in the day. The other nice occurrence is I ran in to an athlete I coached when she was at SLU which was fun.

Would I suggest this for others?

I would suggest about anyone give this a try. Definitely follow the recommendations and be sure to not have any cuts or open wounds since that water is incredibly salty. They do filter and clean the heck out of that water afterwards so don’t be afraid of it being gross from the previous occupants. It is a strange but relaxing experience that if you have the opportunity I would suggest giving it a shot to see how your react to it.

(Un)Broken: 90% combat effective…

The movie Soldier with Kurt Russell has a throwaway line part of the way through talking about how a guy who just had an eye ripped out is now only 90% combat effective since he has no depth perception (feel free to comment the link if you find it). This statement has stayed with me and I apply it to my training. At points you are going to be injured and because of that you are going to have to stop training certain body parts or movement patterns. Some folks will then use this as a rationale to not train at all. I’m a proponent of training everything else if there is no risk of damaging the injured portion further. Let’s get in to why you want to do this:

Gaining back muscle

When you are cleared for full training again if you need to gain a large amount of muscle back throughout your body it will take far longer than if you only need to bring up one or two muscle groups. The body has a finite amount of recovery capacity and will only be able to put on *maybe* a pound of lean mass per week. If you need to gain 10 pounds instead of just 2 it will take you 5 times longer to get back to where you were. So staying in shape here helps greatly

Gaining back function

The body works as a unit. Each limb and muscle is important, and it adapts to the demands placed upon it. If all of your body has adapted to very little work it will be hard to get your function back since you can’t tolerate that much work, and you need to recondition your entire body instead of just one body part. If your cardiovascular system is in good condition you can deliver more blood and nutrients to your entire body which in turn allows them to not only perform better, but to recover faster.

Systemic effects

When you train hard your body releases higher levels of hormones like growth hormone than you have at rest. These hormones in turn help increase your recovery of not just what you trained, but your entire body. There is also limited (and sometimes conflicting research) that there is carryover of training from one side of the body to the other. Meaning if you train one leg the other leg seems to have some positive effects, but not as great as it would have had if it trained. So doing hard work that pushes the rest of your body can help expedite the recovery of the tissues you injured.

Summary

Getting hurt sucks, if you train long enough it will happen. What you can control is the degree to which it effects your life. As soon as I was cleared to train after my shoulder surgery I was pulling a sled and riding the bike to keep some strength and work capacity in my lower body while the upper body was shut down. It gives you something to do to push yourself and a means to help enhance your recovery. Always listen to your body, but when you can start doing something to help maintain the rest of your body while another part starts to play catch up.

Two a day training programs (logic behind them)

My sister is looking to start training twice per day due to training before work doesn’t give her enough time to do all the training she wants to do. So she is looking to split up her training to twice per day. This requires setting up the training so that she hits the heavy and high power training before doing the hypertrophy and conditioning work later on in the day. Her basic training program goes as follows with the morning and afternoon session listed:

Monday – Squat

For the morning session do your heavy squats and then hit some abs and good mornings or your heavy supplemental exercise after. For your afternoon training session hit some lunges, abs, and then condition by doing sprints. For your heavy work just do sets of 8 or less for a total of 3-5 work sets and on the abs always do sets of 10 reps or more. For abs choose between planks, sit ups, hanging leg raises, side planks, or side bends. For your supplemental movements do sets of 6-10 reps and load them up for a total of 2-4 work sets and for the accessory movements in the afternoon do sets of 10-20 reps for 3-5 work sets. This holds true for all of the other days.

Tuesday – Military Press

Morning session will be military press work and doing pull ups as a supplemental exercise. Then in the afternoon hit your arm work and maybe some lateral raises along with band pull aparts. Go for a long walk for some conditioning if you want.

Wednesday – Deadlift

In the morning hit your heavy deadlifts and then hit some abs and Bulgarian split squats. In the afternoon hit some kettlebell swings, abs and then either bike sprints, rower sprints, or occlusion body weight squats.

Thursday – Bench Press

First session will be bench press and heavy dumbbell rows. In the afternoon do bodyweight low rows and push ups for a number of sets. You can then do a nice hike or swim for conditioning.

Friday – Front Squat

Start your day with fronts squats and then hit some abs and Romanian deadlifts. In the second session hit some hip thrusts, abs, and hill sprints or sprint some laps in the pool.

Summary

So with training twice per day, here is the basic breakdown of how I would lay things out in order to enhance performance. Now this program is not designed to focus on any one attribute, but just to help you get in better shape overall. If your goal is size, strength, body composition, etc. you will have to change up the programming accordingly, but the idea of doing your heavy work first and conditioning at the very end will always make the sessions run a bit better each day. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions please just let me know.

New Years Resolution club: Basics of setting up a diet

With the New Year there will always be folks trying to lose weight. I hope they are successful and this post is aimed at helping them set up the basics of how to change their diet to lose some weight. I could shameless plug the book my friend Jeremy and wrote here, but look it up if you want, otherwise just use this as a primer.

Priority one: Total calories taken in

This is where the battle is won or lost. Figure out how many calories you take in each day (suing something like MyFitnessPal or otherwise can be a good start). A simple way to do this is track your calories for a week and see how your body weight changes (in pounds). Take how much it changes over the week and multiply that number by 500 and that is how many calories you were above or below your needs each day. Your goal with weight loss is to keep yourself in a 250-500 calorie deficit each day. Follow this for two weeks or a month charting your weight loss and when you start to see less weight lost go ahead and decrease your calories again another 100-300 and run it again. If you find the amount of calories you are taking in is less thank your bodyweight (weight in pounds) multiplied by 10 you need to just maintain that weight for a little while and increase your calories to give your metabolism a break. The type of calories you take in here doesn’t matter if you just want to lose weight. You could eat nothing but Oreos and lose weight as long as you don’t take in enough calories and you would lose lean mass like crazy on that plan (don’t do that, it is a horrible decision).

Priority two: total protein taken in (macronutrient ratios)

Once you have the total amount of calories you want to take in each day it is time to figure out how many of those calories are going to come in from protein, carbs, and fats. Your goal for protein should be 1-1.25g of protein per pound of body mass to help preserve muscle mass. Fat should be .3g per pound of body mass, and carbs should be set at least .75 grams per pound of body weight. You should have some discretion calories from this point so you can put them in to the macronutrients however you prefer. You can look at the nutrition facts on foods you eat along with using apps that help you track your macros and just follow that to help you stay on track. Also, if you are trying to gain weight you can drop your protein intake down to .75-1g of protein per pound of body mass each day and increase the carbs and fats accordingly.

Priority three: nutrient composition

Now that you have an idea of the calories you are looking to get in and the macros they are in, we can start to look for higher qualities in those areas. For example animal protein is a better source than getting your protein in through only bread. Eating potatoes are a better source of carbohydrates than jelly beans. Make better choices here and you will likely get better outcomes, use some common sense for this (chicken breast is a better choice than fried chicken).

Priority four: nutrient timing

This is when you take in different nutrients and is relatively simple. Aim to get in protein throughout the day in generally normal boluses. This means take in 20 or more grams of protein with each meal with three meals per day (you can go a higher number here, but that isn’t necessary). Then take in carbohydrates specifically around your workouts (before, during, and after). Finally, take in fats the other points in the day when you are not taking in carbs since it slows down digestion of carbs.

Priority five: supplements (maybe)

If you are looking to help with weight loss you can look in to an ECA stack (ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin). This might help you lose a bit more weight if everything else is in order, but is not necessary. There are a number of other supplements that might help a bit here, but do your own research and look in to examine.com as a good reference here.

Side note: micronutrients

This is not getting in to the importance of different vitamins and minerals for long term health. This is an acute and simple method for setting up a diet to help you lose weight and learn what to track and follow. Make sure you are getting enough of your vitamins and minerals, especially over the long term in your life.

Summary

There are a lot of factors that go in to weight loss. Start off with the simple concepts and then work your way in to the minutia. Remember it first starts with caloric balance and then worry about your macronutrients. I hope this helps and if you have any questions please put them in a comment below.

ACSM central states presentation – Body Weight exercises

Recently my graduate student and I were able to give a presentation on performing body weight exercises with fitness groups to help get people in shape and help them have some fun while doing it. We have some videos on line with how to perform the exercises, but I wanted to spend a bit of time writing on it and showing the logic and math of how we program this to have a positive training effect.

Fun with math

Every time you lift your body you lift the weight of what you move (your limbs, torso, etc). This is pretty straight forward. Now in movements like a body weight squat you are moving most of your body so on average each time you do a body weight squat you are lifting about 88% of your bodyweight. This adds up quickly, for example when I do a squat with 225lbs. on my back weighing about 210 each time I do that movement I move about 400 total pounds (bar plus me (aka system mass)). If someone weighs 450lbs. and squats through the same range of motion they are having to produce the about same amount of force to lift the weight as I do. The key difference is I get to set the bar down after the set. For those folks it stays built in. Think about the forces they have to tolerate when doing a lunge or step up.

Exercises like push-ups have you lifting about 65% of your bodyweight with that load increasing if you elevate your feet and decreasing if you do them from your knees or with your hands elevated. This goes on and on for each exercise. This can help with progressing exercises like pull ups (since you are moving 95%+ of your own body weight) where you can know your body weight and add external loads to give you a training max to work off of.

Once you get an idea of the loads that need to be overcome when you are doing bodyweight exercises you can get an idea of how stressful this will be on the person and what you can do to progress them accordingly to the individual. Since you need minimal equipment for bodyweight work this is a great choice for anyone, but we don’t want to make this a maximal effort program where they are consistently only get one rep per set. I have friends that when they work with bariatric individuals they start them off on the leg press since it can be set lighter than their own bodyweight.

How to program

Aim to keep your sets and reps in the strength to conditioning range (5 or more). So if we want to get stronger with the movement we can start with 5 sets of 3-8 reps aiming to add more total reps each training session. If your goal is muscle size looking more in the 3-5 sets of as many reps as you can do with the goal of being between 5-20 reps per set. Finally if you just want to have better endurance look at sets of 15 and above repetitions or simply give yourself a high number of total reps to perform (over 50) divided up however you need to. Now for exercises like box jumps, clapping push-ups or pull ups keeping your reps below 5 each set and aiming for about 10-25 total reps per session will help you keep your quality of work high and net you the changes you are looking for (training power not endurance).

Summary

The body is a barbell and some of them are loaded heavier than others. When working with yourself or others keep in mind the load built in that needs to be moved along with the range of motion that it is being moved for. Body weight exercises are a great choice in any training program, and you should conquer your own bodyweight with basic movements before you start adding in external loads (specifically heavy ones). Go find a playground or monkey bars somewhere and progress your bodyweight training like you would any other workout. I’m attaching a link to the slides I presented along with some of the exercises we demoed to give you some ideas of partner based exercises you can do to make a training program more difficult. Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions please let me know.

The Darryl

Hill sprints have been a long and tumultuous relationship of mine. I enjoy what they do for my health and performance, but the process is often painful and annoying. So getting friends to join you with running hills is always a great way to make this more enjoyable. Finding a way to make a game out of the hills makes them more enjoyable and is an easy way to autopilot how much work you are going to do.  Here is the example of one such workout.

The set up

When I was working on my PhD at Kansas there were a surprising amount of good hills to sprint in the town. Specifically, there was a hill that was only about 100 yards from the building that I worked in that was about 75 yards long with the last 25 being much steeper. One day two of my friends joined me for the hill sprints and we decided we would do these sprints according to the trees dotting the hill. This would work as a pyramid where we would start with the longest sprint walk back to the tree one closer to the hill top and repeat until we did the shortest distance then start working our way back down until we made it to the longest sprint one more time.

campanile hill
Google maps of the hill with the distance reported.

When you do the hill sprints this way the fatigue and recovery ratio stacks to make the first half worse, but the second half due to that previous fatigue does not feel much better. I do like how this counts the number of sprints for you. We did this entire series and turns out Darryl puked and so this method was then named. You can do the same thing on a football field where you start with sprinting 100 yards then walk back 90, sprint 90 and so on.

To this day I sometimes use golf balls or other simple objects to help me count and give me general distances of how many sprints I have done. I even like to use a pitch counter or baseball clicker to count.

Summary

Sprinting is always going to be a good form of conditioning for anyone that is able to. The advantage of running hills is it is easier on your joints and muscles than running on flat ground or downhill. The key is to walk back each time and take extra breaks if you need them. Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions about how to set this up just let me know.

Side bends for love handles

An old student of mine contacted me about leaning up specifically reducing the “love handles” and I thought a quick post on this would be useful. Overall spot reduction is mostly a myth (if it happens it only does so to a very small degree). Wearing waist trimmers or doing endless side bends will not decrease this. What you have here is body fat and losing body fat in general will decrease their size.

However, it is important to understand that directly under that fat you have muscle. These muscles in particular are your internal and external obliques. These aid in core stability, rotation, and leaning side to side. Powerlifters and strongmen/women increase the size and strength of these muscles to help keep them safe and stable when lifting very heavy weights. What this does is increase their size which in turn thickens up your waist (not massively though). So as someone that is training for aesthetics you want to not hypertrophy these muscles, but maintain their function. A great choice here is a simple side plank done for time. Weighted side bends and large volumes of lateral ab exercises will only help hypertrophy these muscles just like occurs with any other type of training.  Think about doing side planks 1-3 times per week for 1-3 max time holds. Also lift up your top foot if this gets to be too easy and push your hips forward towards your toes, not letting them sink backwards so your rectus abdominis (abs on the front) start to take some or most of the work.

Transverse abdominis

Another muscle under all of your abs is the transverse abdominis which functions like a natural weight belt. Practicing “sucking it in” might help improve this muscles function which in turn can decrease your waist size if that muscle is under trained, nut more importantly help with your core stability and health. Do this two to three times per week for 10 total holds of 5-6 seconds after fully exhaling a breath.

Harsh Genetics

Part of your waist size is caused by your genetics, specifically the width of your rib cage and then you hips underneath them. If you have wider hips than your rib cage or both are quite broad you are going to have a larger waist then someone who has narrow hips. The only thing you can do here is pick better parents.

Summary

Sadly spot reduction is a myth, but cleaning up your diet and losing body fat will do the work for losing your love handles. Side bends and vacuums might help a bit with your waist size, but are not major effectors here. Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions please let me know.

Sharing is Caring – Gym Etiquette

Often times these days I find myself training at the student rec center on campus since the athletic weight room is closed or completely filled with the athletes (which is good thing for the coaches in both cases). Since I find myself in a student rec center I now get to share a platform with students. This is not a bad thing, worst case scenario we don’t talk to each other and best case scenario we enjoy a conversation and help each other out. I’ve been lifting for over a decade now and have developed the confidence to train with anyone (well nearly anyone). I often notice students standing around waiting to use one piece of equipment or another. Here is my basic advice for working with others:

Ask to work in

Sounds simple, but lots of people just wait until someone is completely finished. I for one when squatting take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to get through all my sets. Most of that time is spent trying to catch my breath and talking myself in to doing another set of squats. With all of that dead time where the bar is simply resting in the rack, just ask a person if you can work in with them. Now keep in mind changing the height of where the bar is in the rack is not that feasible, but you can still work with someone that is close to the same height as yourself. The people that might snub you because you want to work in are not the people you want to train around anyways. If they say they just have “2 sets left” while sitting around ask someone on another rack if you can join them. If they are occupying the only rack then offer to switch the weights to what you need and then back to their weight while they rest. If that doesn’t work, at least you did something other than stand around and will hopefully encourage them to wrap things up.

Split the platform

This works well if you are on a platform where there is a squat rack on one side and an Olympic lifting platform on the other. You can do a set of squats while someone is deadlifting and vice versa. The key here is simply the spacing between the two and making sure that one person is working while the other is resting (especially if one of you is doing Olympic lifts). You can even have two bars on a platform with different weights you just need to roll them in and out of position for whomever needs the weight for their set.

Start with something else

If you aren’t training directly for a competition of some sort (powerlifting, strongman, Olympic lifting) then you can start with some of your assistance exercises like your lunges, abs work, back extensions etc. and then circle round back to where you wanted to start. This change from the usual can be a stimulus to switch things up for your body on occasion and will save that coveted resources of time that you would otherwise be wasting.

Avoid the rush

If you happen to train at a gym that is just crazy busy at certain points of the day, perhaps it is time to start training in the morning, over your lunch hour, or later at night. Try to figure out which times on which days what equipment is busy. In America there is an unknown holiday amongst the bros that you bench press on Monday. So if you want to avoid the rush, bench press on Tuesday and squat on Monday. Pay attention to what doesn’t have a lot of people trying to use it and try to use that equipment during those times.

Bonus point: weight left on the bar

When in doubt if you see weight left on the bar ask someone adjacent to it if they know if someone is done using it. Often if someone has a few plates on each side of the bar it is there for a purpose: to be lifted by that individual once they return from the bathroom, getting a drink, etc. or that person is a jerk that doesn’t clean up their weights. Better to be safe than sorry here and not run afoul of other people that are equally busy as yourself and are trying to get some work in.

Summary

Overall gyms are trying to stay in business. If they built enough platforms and racks so that each person had their own they would either go out of business or training there would become far too expensive. Just be nice, ask to work in or share equipment with other people and you will often find they are human being just like you. Don’t be a jerk about it, but be confident and assertive when asking to join other people. Who knows, at the end you could make a new friend or training partner. Thanks as always for reading and have a nice day.