Something Fishy or Should I take Fish Oil?

Intro

On occasion I will have a friend or family member ask me about taking fish oil. Now this is a good supplement to add to your diet in certain situations. However, there are big differences in quality and effectiveness of the fish oil depending on what kind you buy, how it was manufactured, and how you store it. My goal here is to just put together a simple primer on why you might want to take fish oil and what to look for in a good fish oil (hint you pay for quality here like other areas of life).

Why

In the human body and your diet there is a class of fats known as poly unsaturated fatty acids. These fats have multiple double bonds (hence “Poly”) which causes them to bend in certain ways. This bending influences how they are going to function in the body. If you count the carbons (that is what a fatty acid chain is, just carbon linked together) starting from the end that doesn’t have oxygen on it (omega) the first double bound you come to is what type of fatty acid it is. If your first double bond comes up just after the third carbon you have an omega three fatty acid, if your first double bond comes up just after the sixth carbon you have an omega six fatty acid. This goes on and on accordingly. Now aside from where the first double bond shows up you have differences in the length of these fatty acids, some might be chains of 20 carbons in a row others might be only 16 in a row (and many more variations from here).

The ratio of our omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid intake in the body is important for inflammation and overall health (science). The problem here is that most processed foods and grain fed meats are higher in the omega 6 fatty acids (also your vegetable oils). So we want to balance this out by either eating foods that have a higher amount of omega 3 (like wild salmon) or if obviously those higher tier food choices are prohibitively expensive we supplement.

Buying your fish oil

There are a lot of options in the store that you can get. The key is don’t just buy the first fish oil supplement you see or the one on sale. The goal here is to first look at how many omega 3s are in each serving. This is where “double strength” capsules can be useful. Some supplements are less than 10% omega three fatty acids (the rest of the fat is different monos, omega 6s, and even potentially saturated). So look at how many grams or milligrams are in each serving of the supplement you are looking at. Your goal will be to take in at least a gram of omega three fatty acids each day and that amount increases with your size and caloric intake (tend to take in more omega 6s with more calories in the diet).

There isn’t a large difference between buying the liquid or the capsules. Essentially the two will be flavored differently in the liquid form which can make it more palatable for some folks. Emulsified fish oils tend to taste even better but won’t make a big difference on the yield of the fatty acids. Also, higher quality fish oils will pull out the mercury and other “toxins”. Aim to pick fish lower on the food chain when given an option. Finally if the fish oil says that it is processed in nitrogen or an oxygen free environment that is a good thing, since those conditions don’t allow for the fish oil to become rancid when it is being processed.

The next part on the label you will notice is the EPA and DHA servings. These are two very important omega 3 fatty acids that have slightly different effects in the body. Though EPA can convert in to DHA. Look at the total dosages of each of the omega three fatty acids to see which it happens to have more of. Here is a quick breakdown of what the differences are between EPA and DHA:

EPA

Eicosapentaenoic acid is the omega three that is important in inflammation signaling, neurological function, and even endothelial function. It seems to help with avoiding the development of plaques in your arteries along with helping for normal cognitive development.

DHA

Docosahexaenoic acid is the omega three that is important in the nervous system, specifically being a big part of what makes myelin (the insulation to make your nerves fire faster). By getting in adequate amounts of this you can help your nervous system and there seems to be some evidence that supplementing with it can decrease the risk of concussion and speed the recovery from one.

ALA

Another fatty acid that I haven’t brought up yet is ALA (alpha linolenic acid). ALA is the basic omega three fatty acid that your body then converts in to EPA. This is the form you find in plant based omega three fatty acid supplements or foods. This isn’t a bad thing, but doesn’t have the same positive effects and the conversion of ALA in to EPA is not that efficient (also depends on your genetics to a certain extent).

Basics of fish oil supplements

When you buy a fish oil supplement after reading the label you want check a few things. First make sure that the supplement isn’t cloudy. If the fish oil is cloudy that can often mean that it is starting to go rancid (these fats breakdown relatively easily), which in turn causes the supplement to not have the positive effect that it is hoped to have had. You can buy the oil or capsules, but there is really no big differences between the two choices as long as you are buying quality. Finally, if the fish oil smells off it has definitely started to go rancid and you need to throw it out (you can crack a fish oil capsule smell that too to check).

Once you buy fish oil supplements due yourself a favor and store them in the fridge. This tends to keep down the “fish burps” and helps the supplement stay good for longer. You can try to mix this in with shakes and such, but don’t use it for cooking since the heat can cause it to break down and change.

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If you live in Alaska and catch fish all the time you don’t need to buy fish oil.

Summary

There are a few components to keep in mind when looking at fish oil supplementation. If you are already eating a diet that is high in quality meat sources that have adequate amounts of omega threes don’t worry about supplementation. But if you are on a budget, investing in a decent fish oil can be worth your money especially if you happen to participate in a number of sports and activities that cause inflammation, have a risk for concussion, or just want to have better health in general. This is a supplement that I suggest nearly everyone takes.

References

http://advances.nutrition.org/content/3/1/1.full

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/1/5.short

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230003001004

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043661899904954

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2004.00552.x/full

Getting paid to walk (short post)

So one of my hobbies I picked up since getting a severe concussion is to go on a nice long walk. I try to do this once each day. It seems to help clear my head and tends to make it so I have less issues with my brain on that day, which is always very nice. I do this in the mornings or evenings, but it either way I get it in. There are a number of reasons that I walk, but mostly I’m doing it for the money.

Making that Paper

When walking I come across a penny, nickel, and occasionally a dime or quarter. In fact I find change when walking at about a rate of one coin per week (did the math). So in about a year of long walks I can figure I make about $3.65 (average coin I find being between nickel and a dime). With good compounding interest and another 50+ years of this I figure I might make a grand total of $500.00. We will see what inflation brings there, since that might eat in to it. As you can tell this is a great part time job for me to have. Ok, so the real uses for all this walking comes in other areas.

walking for money
Woot, making that paper!!!

The gains in health

Turns out walking is a very simple form of exercise where you can get some positive effects on not only cardiovascular health, but mental. It can seemingly have positive effect on cognition, idea generation, and problem solving (science). Exercise in general has a positive effect on cognitive function and low intensity work can have these positive effects without additional risks that higher intensity exercise can have and doesn’t leave you fatigued. Walking enough steps has also been related to improving insulin sensitivity. This is important for avoiding things like type 2 diabetes. It can help lower your blood pressure and your resting heart rate. Overall, walking can help improve a number of different parts of your health

Summary

Take a walk. It is a simple and cheap way to get in some light recovery work that will help you not only burn calories, but feel better. It helps improve your heath and helps avoid some chronic diseases of living that can occur. So once again go take a walk and pay yourself with good health. Thank for taking a moment to read this short one, but I wanted to share how I’ve been enjoying this.

Pec and Labrum Repair Saga: part 1

So after trying to rehab for six months the only thing left to do was get my pec reattached and labrum repaired since I had fully peaked out on how much my pec was going to handle. Furthermore my labrum, which I injured back in the day when cheering at Kansas went downhill very quickly. I was lucky enough to get hooked up with some shoulder specialists in Lexington to do the repair, after an MRI and physical examinations confirmed what had occurred it was time to get the surgery scheduled.

The week and night before

The week before the surgery I went hard in the paint with training since I knew I would be taking some time off afterwards. Along with getting a few supplements to help with recovery in the house, I met with other folks that have went through things like this and their advice on this. The sleep the night before was definitely not the best since I was obviously a bit nervous. I finished up my eating and drinking by 11pm.

Surgery morning

Rising up, back on the street. Took my time, took my chances. We got up somewhat early since I was supposed to be in by 8am to get taken back and prepped. The surgery center was pretty quiet and empty when we walked in. I was taken back after not too long and then went and got an IV put in that they missed on the first try.

Anesthesiologist

While on the bed I got to meet my anesthesiologist where I learned about how I would be trached and how I might wake in a huge amount of pain needing a nerve block in my shoulder. That was exciting to hear about. He was very pleasant and nice which I enjoyed while laying on the bed.

Knocked out

After long enough my surgeon came in to say it was go time and I was carted off. Nothing like being wheeled to a room where you see all the tools about to be used on you and then hearing your pulse quicken (from the monitors) as they start to put the numbing agents and then the knock out juice in your veins. Very strange… Then I time traveled forward.

Waking up

I can’t tell you the defining moment of when I woke up, but I did wake up and I was sore. Honestly it was  nothing too bad. I had a huge pack of bandages on my shoulder and my brace for my shoulder and arm was strapped to me in the sling.

Pain scales are stupid

So remember how I said I don’t remember waking up, that’s because I was up for a bit and have no memory of it. Aside from asking for my wife as the first thing I did, I was a real pain in the backside. They kept asking me to rate my pain on a scale from 1-10. I told them that pain scales are a dumb and abstract method to rate discomfort. How do we compare the pain that one person is experiencing to another? Can you make direct comparisons? Needless to say I was a pain… to them.

Trached

While they did the work on me I was sedated enough that they needed to put in a trachiometry so machines could breathe for me. I don’t remember it going in or out, but my throat was a little sore and taking a deep breathe felt weird like I had bronchitis or something. This happens to some folks and just a heads up to others that might go through this.

The sling

The sling itself is interesting, keeping my arm internally rotated with a 90 degree bend at the elbow. A solid bar wrapped in foam with a belt keeps it strapped to my rib cage and then another strap keeps my hand up that loops over one side of my neck. I also had a little foam grip to hold that started to smell after a few days since turns out my hand likes to sweat.

Nausea

The put me on Percocet (aka perkies), these did not make me perky. Instead it made me nauseous, nothing like dry heaving and feeling rough when you have an arm brace on so you can’t get in a comfortable puking position. Thankfully, this was only the night this happened (I stopped taking them that night). After getting off the perkies I had no more issues with this. We switched to acetaminophen and ibuprofen mix for about a day then no more pain drugs at all.

Sleeping (well kinda)

Due to the brace I could only sleep inclined on my back. We used a ramp pillow for me to lay on the bed and then used a number of pillows to prop up my elbow and keep me from rolling over to the other side. I would wake up a number of times throughout the night, then move around a bit and fall back asleep. The good news is each night this gets a bit better.

staples in the arm
Here is how I looked four days after when I got to shower and take off my bandages.

Summary

This is enough for how things started off for now. I tried typing a lot of this with one hand directly after surgery and boy howdy was my typing horrible. I’m currently one month post operation and doing rehab which is progressing well. The next post will be about what I really did after the first few days. I hope this helps for anyone that might go through a surgery like this and feel free to share it with anyone you know that might be about to go through a procedure like this.

Post edit: I went through and fixed my spelling and grammar throughout since there were a large number of mistake initially.

The Bodyweight Program

I’ve written a bit before about how the body is a barbell and some folks barbells are loaded a bit heavier than others. The nice thing about doing bodyweight training is it is always available to you. You don’t need special equipment (but that does add in more options), and you don’t need special places for it. Really all you need is gravity and breathable air. However, since we can’t just add weight to the bar we have to do different things to make the program more challenging and to progress it accordingly with time. My goal here is to offer up some basic programming and then after that give you some progressions on how you can just focus on bodyweight training if that is all you have available.

Programming

Since you are working with bodyweight how you can improve your performance is to add in volume by increasing the number of sets or reps. There are ways you can change the leverage of an exercise in order to make it harder for progression. For now figure when you can do a set of 12 reps with no issues of technique breaking down then progress to the harder version of the exercise. You can also invest in something like a weight vest to easily be able to add weight to the movement (or you can gain weight, but this will be much harder to accomplish). Below is a basic programing that you can use with bodyweight to help yourself improve with time.

Week Sets Reps Total reps
1 5 5 25
2 5 6 30
3 6 5 30
4 6 6 36
5 5 7 35
6 4 8 32
7 3 9 27
8 3 10 30

 

Now this progression might be a bit too aggressive for most, but just an idea of how you can go about this. Aim to add a rep to each set each week, another set, or at the least increase your total number of reps performed each week. Play around with this and find out what level of progression works best for you and your body.

Aim to train the movements at least once per week, but with bodyweight don’t be afraid to go up to 4 or 5 times per week. As always follow your body and a simple one day on and one day off programming can work well. Follow your body and how well it recovers to figure out if you want to add in more days of training each week.

Progressions for the upper body pushing

When people think about upper body pushing most people will think about simply doing push ups. This is a great start, but here is a basic table of how things work for progression and regressions.

Push up variations Handstand push up variations Dips
Push ups on knees Pike push ups Bench dips feet on floor
Push ups on toes Pike push ups feet on bench Bench dips feet on bench
Push up feet on bench Kipping Handstand push ups Bar dips partial ROM
Diamond push up Handstand push up partial ROM Bar dips full ROM
One armed push up Handstand push up full ROM Ring dips partial ROM
One arm and one leg push up Handstand push up on paralettes Ring dips full ROM

As always focus on technique and only progress to the next movement once you have conquered the previous. You should be able to google a video of any of these and if you have questions about any of them as always please just leave a comment. Play around with hand placement when you can to get slightly different recruitment patterns and find out what works best for you.

plus size handstand push ups.jpg
Hand stand push up with a weight vest on. Notice the lack of pluralization on the “push up”.

Progressions for the upper body pulling

With the pushing work you need to balance things out to be sure and have enough pulling volume to keep in balance here is the basic progressions to use for pulling exercises.

Pull up variations Low row variations
Jumping pull up Knees bent high level low rows
Pull up negative only Legs straight high level low rows
Iso hold pull up Legs straight low level low rows
Pull ups Feet elevated low level low rows
Pull ups chest to bar Feet elevated low level low rows with iso hold
Pull ups with one arm negative Feet off ground low rows
Muscle ups One arm low rows

Same rules apply on pulling in that you can try different hand placements to have slightly different effects on recruitment and how the exercise will feel. Play around with this to find what feels the best, or just change on occasion to give yourself some more variety.

Progressions for the lower body

This one can be hard to find progression with, but play around with foot placement, tempo, and don’t be afraid to go crazy with the volume and do sets of 20+ repetitions once you get in good enough shape.

Squat Variations Lunge Variations Hip Thrust Variations
High box squat Hands supported on rails lunge Two legged hip thrust
Moderate box squat One hand supported on rail lunge Heels together frog thrust
Low box squat Lunge One legged hip thrust
Bodyweight squat Walking lunge Shoulders elevated hip thrust
Deck squat (can use variation on lateral lunges like this) Shoulders elevated one legged hip thrust
High box single leg squat    
Moderate box single leg squat    
Low box single leg squat    
Single leg squat    
Single leg deck squat    

You can apply the same lunge variation progression to exercises like Bulgarian split squats. Choose what works well for you and your mobility.

Progressions for the “core”

We will apply the same methods that we applied before only now to basic core exercises. Here is a list with some progressions.

Sit up variations Leg raise variations Plank variations
Crunches Knee raise Elbows and knees
Sit up hands on hips Straight leg raise Elbows and toes
Sit up hands on chest Knees to elbows Elbows at forehead level and toes
Sit up hands on head Toes to bar Hands in front of head and toes
Sit up arms over your head   (can apply this to side planks to
V ups   Star side plank
dragon flags
Dragon Flag demo. Yes that isn’t in the table, this is harder than V-Ups

Take and work your way up the ladder when you can. At some point your duration and volume are going to peak out.

Summary

So that is the basics of how to program and progress bodyweight exercises. You can get in good physical condition and moderate levels of strength by just using body weight exercises (especially in the upper body). Don’t be afraid to experiment with different exercises and schemes and use a good bodyweight exercise on each of your training sessions. Nearly all bodyweight exercises can be modified to be easier or harder so play around and program to the level you are at. Now when you get strong enough it is time to look at external loads like barbells, but as a good starting point (and inexpensive one) the body is a barbell so go lift it.

Tracking your program

I recently had a good question about how to track your program. This is an important part of programming success. How can you know if you are making progress if you don’t remember where you have been? How are you supposed to figure out what types of training are productive for you and what types are not? Well writing them down in one form or another is an easy and very useful way to make sure that you are able to see you progress. I’m going to throw out a few different ways that you can track your program and then a few pieces of advice on how to keep track of what is important and what really isn’t in the long run.

Journals

Notebooks are an old friend to tracking your training. You can go with a high rent moleskin, a spiral bound like you used in school, or just a simple small note pad. The key is get something with a hard plastic cover on each side since over time being in the gym it is likely you will spill something on it. Also, you will constantly be opening and closing it which can cause you to lose the cover which in turn will possibly have you lose the first pages in the journal additionally. Spiral bounds do have an advantage in that you can store a pen in the spiral so you know you will always have a way to write.

Excel files

You can use Microsoft excel to track your workouts and specifically what your performance on your top sets are with time. I’m not a big fan of this, but another way is to write up workout cards for the week or for just your lifting days. This gives you something you can print out and then take with you to the gym to fill out as you go through your workout. This does work well and this is how I tracked my athletes when I coached and my personal training clients so you can see what they are doing with their progressions. There are also nice excel templates that you can buy through companies like renaissance periodization that you can use for very specific training goals. Here is a simple excel formatting that I made for my in-laws that you can use for your own training by copy and pasting it in to excel (you will have to manually change the formatting to get what you want here):

Name
Day Date                    
Warm Up: Exercise Time                    
Exercise 1 Push Set 1 wt            reps                    
Rep Range: #-# Set 2 wt            reps                    
Seat Setting: Set 3 wt            reps                    
Arm Setting: Set 4 wt            reps                    
Pad Setting: Set 5 wt            reps                    
Exercise 2 Pull Set 1 wt            reps                    
Rep Range: #-# Set 2 wt            reps                    
Seat Setting: Set 3 wt            reps                    
Arm Setting: Set 4 wt            reps                    
Pad Setting: Set 5 wt            reps                    
Exercise 3 Lower Set 1 wt            reps                    
Rep Range: #-# Set 2 wt            reps                    
Seat Setting: Set 3 wt            reps                    
Arm Setting: Set 4 wt            reps                    
Pad Setting: Set 5 wt            reps                    
Exercise 4 Abs Set 1 wt            reps                    
Rep Range: #-# Set 2 wt            reps                    
Seat Setting: Set 3 wt            reps                    
Arm Setting: Set 4 wt            reps                    
Pad Setting: Set 5 wt            reps                    
Exercise Optional Set 1 wt            reps                    
Rep Range: #-# Set 2 wt            reps                    
Seat Setting: Set 3 wt            reps                    
Arm Setting: Set 4 wt            reps                    
Pad Setting: Set 5 wt            reps                    
old bench assault pages
Old bench assault pages. Useful since you can track your weights each week of the program.
excel formatting for programs
This is how you should format the table above in excel. If you have questions email me and I will send you the basic file to use.

Apps

There are a number of different activity trackers for your phone and computer. Some of these are just for tracking steps, but others cannot just track, but give you entire programs to follow. There is nothing wrong with investing or utilizing one of these, just make sure there is a way you can get all of your information out if you want a physical copy so you can look through it to find the trends of your training and where you might have been getting better faster or not making as much progress.

How many details?

When you are using a journal or writing your program in to your phone or computer, you need to ask yourself how much is enough information to record? Do you need to record every warm up exercise, set, and repetition? Maybe when you start off but after a while that isn’t so necessary. Do you need to record every single work set? Probably so you can see how much work you put in. Do you need to record your personal records in movements so you can see what types of progress you are making? Yes, always keep track of your PRs so you know which way you are moving with your overall training. Do you need to track your rest periods? Maybe. Start off simply with how much work you do and then with time add in more variables and then look back at what you have done and see what the important metrics for you to follow were.

What is important?

Aside from just training your training program of sets, reps, and time you might want to track some other pieces of information. For example, always track which day you are training on. Sounds simple, but some folks take years to figure out their squat workout sucks the day after they deadlift. Keep a log of which days you do train and in which way, so you can see how your other workouts effect your current one. Also you can track your sleep and parts of your diet (which is another can of worms in itself). With time you will find what is important for your log and what is just noise, but you need to start tracking either way.

Summary

So that is the basics of how you can track your program. There are a huge number of ways that you can do so, but you need to be using at least one. Figure out what works best for your time, energy, and psychology. Use these training logs as a way to see what training is the most productive and a waste of your time. Find what works and keep experimenting to make things better with time. I hope this was useful for you and as always thanks for reading.

Have belt will travel: Westside Barbell

At some point I will write about my first visit to Westside barbell, for now I will talk about my most recent visit to this gym. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Westside barbell is one of the most successful powerlifting clubs of all time. A number of great lifters have come out of Westside barbell and then struck off to find their own success in business or training.

Calling ahead

Each time before I go to Westside I call ahead and find out if it is ok to come in and train. I would like to tell you dear reader and say that my voice is more confident and less fanboyish each time that I call them, but that would be a dirty lie. In my experience when you leave a message with them they get back to you in a few days. Then you have to act like you aren’t mildly freaking out and gushing at the fact that you are getting to speak to THE WESTSIDE BARBELL. They were kind enough to look past my childlike glee and allow me to come in and train with the Saturday morning crew and then ask questions later on about training and such.

In the hotel room

Here I am, sitting alone in a hotel room thinking about how it all started over ten years ago. Driving alone to Columbus, Ohio to train at Westside Barbell. Driving by the closed gym that night to make sure I knew where it was and then driving to the hotel to sit by myself and think about how in a few hours I would be training with some of the most intense and strongest people on the planet. Feeling that slight bit of trepidation, but mostly excitement while sitting in the room that I was getting the chance to train with and learn from the best. Eventually sleep finds me by about 11pm that night.

Pulling up and time to go

I got up at about 6:30, got dressed (I avoid wearing any labels while training at Westside, the last thing you want to happen is everyone starts calling you Kentucky or something), and made some tea then got on the road. I pulled up to the gym at about 7:12am and the place was already going. Standing outside I could hear the clatter of bars and plates being moved along with stereo playing. As I walked in the gym I’m hit with the aroma of chalk, sweat, and iron. Welcome back to Westside, Mike, now what are you going to do…

Training

I quickly hop in with a group of collegiate linebackers. One just graduated from playing at The Ohio State University and the other plays for Indiana. They are doing speed bench with a football bar against band and chain resistance. We are coached the entire time by Tom Barry the general manager of Westside Barbell. I’m told to lockout my reps since I’m having a hard time between the pec and the band tension to do so with each rep. We motor through 8 work sets, slightly changing the weight for each of us with each set. From there we did band resisted pushups (light band) with our hands on a barbell for three sets of burn out with different grips for each set. The sound of loud DMX playing through the PA and 20 or so athletes slamming weight made me realize that if there is a Valhalla it is probably quite like this place. From there we did what they refer to as the “Dirty 30” which is ten reps of pullovers, followed immediately by 10 skull crushers, and then 10 close grip bench presses or what I would simply call the “painful 30”. After going through three work sets each, we moved on to 4 sets of 10 reps on each arm dumbbell snatch (60lbs.) while keeping our feet on the ground and focusing on hinging at the hip along with making the upper back do the work. This was a bit of a metabolic test to say the least. Once that was done we did some cable rows on the belt squat machine with a MAG handle (first time I used one and definitely can say that I like it) with holding it at our sternum for a 5 count with each rep along with band tension on the exercise. The final set was just repping it out as many as you could. Afterwards the session was over and I did a bit of random accessory work trying out the different equipment that they have there. I was then alone in that gym for a few moments and just took it all in. All the other lifters were chatting outside or had left to go about their day. Here I am standing in Westside barbell and I’m 23 again, alone, tired, but with the sense of what is possible…

westside barbell survived
A selfie at Westside Barbell, I understand I deserve to get punched for this one…
belt squat machine and the row handle that I used
belt squat rows with the mag handle

The gym

Westside Barbell lays in wait in an otherwise quiet commercial garage location on the west side of Columbus Ohio. It is two large garages with a small office on each side and one bathroom. The gym is has a pile of dumbbells thrown unceremoniously on the floor, a variety of custom machines that they have created throughout the years. A number of nice monolifts, squat cages, benches, and deadlift platforms. It is everything you need to get strong with no frills and definitely no rules for setting weights down gently and avoiding grunting.

The people

I can’t say enough good things about the lifters I have met at Westside. After training they are great people to chat with about training and otherwise. Yes, I have been physically threatened by a few of them in the past, but that’s part of life (bit of a story behind that too). I chatted with Tom Barry a bit about training afterwards for his thoughts on how to work with my athletes along with how to help myself rehab from my shoulder surgery. These folks are a wealth of knowledge and always willing to help those that want to learn. After chatting with them for half an hour or so I left and hopped back in my car to head back to Kentucky.

Louie Simmons

The following day I was out for a little walk and noticed I had a call coming from a Columbus phone number. I answered it immediately and on the other side of it was Louie Simmons. The Louie Simmons. He called simply because I left my contact information in the office when I chatted with them about some further questions on training. Louie and I chatted for about 45 minutes about training, life, rehabilitation and otherwise. The one interesting piece of advice that I will share was a book recommendation that he gave me and that was Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. The story of the quest for perfect speed…

I can’t say enough good things about each of my interactions with Louie Simmons. He has always allowed me to come to his gym and answered my questions any time we have spoken. He might be a controversial person in the strength world, but he has always given his time and energy in my experience.

Summary

Westside Barbell is one of the greatest gyms I have ever set foot in. It is nice to be able to both be humbled and educated at the same time. Each visit I have had at that gym I’ve come away with new ideas, questions, and knowledge that I did not have before. This is definitely not a gym for the faint of heart, this is not a place to mail it in. This is a place where you lay it down. Thanks again to everyone at Westside for allowing me to come in and train with them. Thanks again to you dear reader for taking the time to read this.

Have Belt, Will Travel; Ludus Magnus

A few weeks ago I went up to Columbus Ohio and had the opportunity to train at Ludus Magnus. I hopped in with the Friday night lifting crew, who were predominantly in the midst of their prep for a competition. I pulled up to the gym a bit early and walked around the area a bit to get feeling back in my posterior after driving for a few hours. Off to the side of the road a few blocks down there was not one, not two, but three used condoms sitting on the side of the road. I’m not talking wrappers either, I’m talking rolled down (presumably used) condoms. I have so many questions about this, but I don’t want any answers.

A bit later on I was able to get in to the gym with the owner and talk a bit about life, the universe, and everything before the training started.

The Gym

The gym opens up immediately into a reception area adorned with trophies, awards, and published articles by the gym owner. It has some nice couches and a desk for the owner to work at. A doorway to your right leads you in to the gym that sprawls back quite a distance with a monolift, power racks, various machines, specialty bars, and otherwise good equipment.

Ludus Magnus
Part of the gym itself.

The Owner

The owner of Ludus Magnus is Matt Wenning, a competitive powerlifter, coach, entrepreneur, and very large man. He has been operating his gym for nearly a decade at this point and has coached not just successful powerlifters, but worked with Special Forces, firefighters, general population, and more. He often travels to speak about training, coaching, and performance and is a very well read guy who also is a bit of a gear head since I learned while talking with him that the newer manual transmissions can’t handle the massive amount of torque from beefy engines as well as the automatic transmissions due to how the gear shifting and force distribution occurs (the more you know).

The Workout

The athletes at the gym are in the midst of an 8 week prep for a powerlifting meet and 88% of their squat max for a triple and 88% of their deadlift max for a double was on the menu. The warm up involved three sets of twenty repetitions on Matt’s belt squat machine that he designed and now sells. These felt good to do and allowed me to feel a real large range of motion and get loose before the barbell work (and is now on my home gym wish list). From there it was time to start squatting. Working out of a monolift with a solid squat bar (think it was a mastodon squat bar, not a Texas squat bar), we worked up in about 6-8 sets to the top set of three. At this point the guys prepping were done and I was given some bonus work to do which involved vertical leg presses on a 3 seconds up 3 seconds down cadence done for a deep burn (15-20 reps for me), then weighted sit ups and reverse hypers with a controlled movement and the strap around my ankles with my legs straight. This was meant to be done for at least three rounds to help strengthen weakpoints in my lifts (and those reverse hypers were freaking humbling when done slowly for the entire movement).

The Advice

After training with the gentlemen I picked their brains a bit about training and supplementation in order to help with my recovery from my soon to be performed pec reattachment and labrum repair surgery. Some ideas they had for me involved lots of repetitions against an empty dowel rod as soon as I can (bamboo bar if I wanted to go high rent there). This of course being well after I’m out of a sling. The goal being to just grease the groove with that range of motion along with getting more circulation to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in that area. Additionally they had advice about diet in general of higher protein, get in lots of fish oil, and aim to mitigate inflammation to the best of my ability. For supplementation look in to getting in more magnesium, possible supplement with amino acids and utilize fenugreek. Finally, to get a particular type of massage therapy (Gua Sha) to minimize the buildup of scar tissue in the area so that my tissue regenerates in the correct patterns.

For my deadlifting and squatting I need to work on getting my chest up and holding the bar in better spinal extension than I currently do with the movements. Also to work on sitting back in my squats more than I currently do. Probably widen my stance up soon and work on getting my knees out more and being more stable in general with my squats.

Summary

Great gym with great people. Thanks again to Matt Wenning and his lifters for letting me hop in with them and ask questions for a few hours. The belt squat machine that he has is great and worth looking in to if you are in the market for one. This place is definitely worth the visit if you get a chance to train with some great people.