Friday, May 28, 2010

Skills vs. Weight Training

Kids work on technique then start
resistance training sometime around puberty.

A forum member over at Precision Nutrition had a question the other day I replied to. It was about ditching weight training in pursuit of other sports to improve athleticism.

It was a great goal, but the problem was disentangling the misconception. I responded as thoroughly as possible describing a skill/sport vs. strength & athleticism and how they're independent one another.

Long story short, the latter contributes to the former. That's not the best description, so here's the response I wrote. Bold is my emphasis.
The question was:
I love the weight room. I love pumping iron. I love seeing numerical increases in my strength and power.

A little voice, however, has been growing in the back of my mind. It's now too loud to ignore.

I think we can all agree that the human machine isn't designed to be strong and powerful so that it can execute a number of weighted exercises. It's designed to be functional in any number of environments.

Up until now, I've been concerned primarily with visual results attained by reaching goals in the weight room. Now my desire is leaning more towards functionality. I want a lean, strong and powerful body that can run, sprint, swim, cycle, treacherous trail run, judo, dance, hunt, etc. I want a body that can take on the world, not just a 500lb deadlift or a 275lb bench press.

In a few months, after I've achieved some muscle balancing goals, I plan on spending almost all of my exercise time OUT of the weight room. I plan to cycle more (my cardio of choice). I plan to be able to run without gasping every 5 minutes for air. I plan to be able to swim a mile or two without choking. I plan to take up a martial art. I plan to be increase my flexibility by challenging my body in a fluid, non-regimented way.

My question is, how do I learn to recognize how to supplement my activity with regimented exercise? Pull-ups, push-ups, core work, dips, etc.? In other words, if I'm going to limit my regimented exercise to only body weight manipulation (and that exercise will be strictly supplemental to support an already active and challenging lifestyle), what type of routine would I build? How often would I implement that supplemental routine?

I know this is probably a unique thread, but I feel some serious feedback could be very beneficial for anyone looking to get out of the weight room, for anyone who doesn't have the time to constantly be in the weight room, or who simply wants their exercise to come from other sources.
I replied:
Those are all different skills which require practice to become more efficient at.

Weight training is a means to increase strength which transfers over into those areas....well, maybe not hunting (unless you kill it with your bare hands).

For example, sprinting well requires technique and type-II muscle fibers (which are strength & power based). The more developed those muscle fibers - assuming technique is already good - the better your acceleration, speed, etc.

The in-betweens to better transfer gains from the weight room to actual sports are utilizing specific drills to hone technique and selecting exercises similar to movements to a specific sport. A shot putter would benefit from incorporating barbell corner presses in an off season program to increase throwing strength. During the season, they would practice throws to adjust to the newly acquired strength.

Also, keep in mind body weight exercises aren't all that different from weighted exercises. A squat is a squat regardless of it being loaded or not.

I'm sure that's not what you wanted to hear, but if optimization is your goal then ditching the weight room altogether doesn't seem like the best choice.

He didn't respond yet. I hope I didn't scare him.

Have a good Memorial Day weekend everyone.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Art of Writing (How to Write a Blog Post)

My actual keyboard doesn't look this nice.
Most likely due to the 88 posts I've written.

Real quick before I start, Dave could use some help. If you don't mind & have the time, go check out what he needs a hand with here.

Now, onto me post writing manifesto! Yes, I just wanted to use the word "manifesto," sue me.

There are a lot of blogs out there. From what I've seen, a good bulk of them seem average. It might be due to the lack of originality and writing very base posts, which leads to a lot of overlap with blogs already discussing the same areas. It's hard to compel people to visit your site if there's already another one - or many in this case - writing on the same topic.

I like to
think I'm not one of those generic blogs. This is my 89th post and almost 1 year running this blog, which has required fine tuning over the months. Mike Robertson and Tony Gentilcore wrote a post each on how to run blogs, but the posts themselves make the blog.

Here are things I've learned to make your posts,

1) Have a purpose
Have something worthwhile to convey to the reader. Not only that, but do it in a way that's entertaining, concise, and precise. Try to make it flow as smooth as possible.

And there's nothing wrong with short posts. In fact those are the ones most likely to be read.

2) Art of words
Stories are wonderful to illustrate points. So are analogies, metaphors, and examples to get your message across and break down information.

Likewise, use flavorful vocabulary to avoid repetition which gives the illusion of a post being longer than it is. Search Google with "
define: [word here]" to truly understand the multitude of meanings a word can have, even the ones you know, and use it to your advantage.

3) Capturing attention
Speaking of words, titles and the initial portion are what get people to continue reading. Make them exceptional to attract the reader to keep reading.

4) Creating posts
They need to be original (for the most part). Put the time* into making something worthy of reading. Write and save drafts if you can't find the time to finish it in one sitting. It shows when you write in a hurry because the quality of the post sucks.

For me, ideas come and go all the time. If it seems like it would make a nice post, write a note down reminding yourself to flesh it out more later. There are plenty of times I've lost great posts because I forgot to write them down. Now I keep a notepad file on my laptop to keep track of posts to do and ones I've completed. Hell, this post has given me the thought to do a future post on how to run a blog.

As for fleshing out a post, do a rough draft somewhere - notepad for myself - and jot down whatever comes to mind. Get a sense of what you're trying to do and have your writing flow naturally.

Click & enlarge to see
me working on this post.

5) The body

The longer a post is, the more interesting/entertaining or insightful it needs to be. People are reluctant to read long lengthy posts.

Piggy backing - or chicken backing since I don't eat pork - on the topic of length, formatting your post so it looks neat is ridiculously important. Big walls of text are the 2nd most unattractive thing you could do. (#1? A site with too much going on like tons of ads/links, no organization, ugly colors, etc.)

A large paragraph can be broken down into multiple lines to trick your reader into thinking it's less. I do it all the time. Seriously, just look at this gargantuan post.

Images and videos make a post less boring. And use the wide variety of tools your blogger's composer mode has available. Bullet points, block quoting, italics, bold, font sizing, number lists, so on and so forth. Above and beyond the buttons offered on blogspot, refer here to see what you can change in "Edit Html" mode.

6) Competency

Show you're not an idiot.

Make sure your grammar & spelling are correct and you have coherent sentences. Proofreading goes a
long way. (As I proofread this, I'm finding a crap load of errors.)

7) Be eclectic
To a certain extent. Rather, read other blogs to get an understanding of how your writing style contrasts and what, if necessary, you could do differently. Learn if you could change anything to improve your posts.

8) Who's reading?
Know your audience and write FOR THEM! (Well...actually I have no idea who visits here.)

You can't please everyone. Give your attention to the people who take the time to come read your material. Honestly, it's the least you could do. What can you offer them?

If your writing style is too dry or overly informative/geek-speak, you'll repel even the mightiest of nerds (and women if you're a guy). Write naturally as if you were speaking to someone, but don't write as if you're lecturing a person - you pompous jackass.

9) Ending
End on a good note. It's not terribly difficult to end your post with a simple sentence or two on what you were trying to get across to your reader.

*This post took forever.
Darn! One short of a full 10, oh well.

A lot of these points are similar to giving a good presentation. For those interested, check out this article from the Harvard Business Review, courtesy of Carter, and Boris's presentation post - full of other resources - for more details on writing and presenting. They're not about blogging, but they can be applied to it.

Be innovative and creative to distinguish yourself from others. And above all else, enjoy doing it. Put some music on while you write and don't think of it as a chore.

Otherwise, go do something else. If you didn't know, blogging's

But I do it, and it's awesome.

So does this baby.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Everything Abs

Tranverse abdominus and external & internal
obliques not highlighted. (like you care)

This post would have been a quick fix, but I think it covers much more than the typical write-up for that series.

So, what can a good set of abs really do? Talk of course.

Kidding aside, abs are at the center of your body and are important for stability/posture, glute activation, and improving performance of lifts.

The problem

Core training is often thought of as crunches, side bends, bench twists, and leg-ups (or whatever it is when you try flailing up like a fish).

Awesomely ineffective, especially when something like crunches are performed wrong. It becomes a waste of time in the gym. And honestly, what's more annoying than spending time doing exercises that don't deliver results?

Now while the title says "everything" in it, I won't be posting every single detail I know. God knows it's hard enough to get people to visit this blog, so the last thing I need to do is bore them to death with transverse abdominus recruitment, rotation vs. anti-rotation, and other stuff.

The solution

I've tried a decent amount of core exercises. Some are great, some are terrible. Here's a list of the ones - assuming you haven't - that are worth trying:

- Timed planks: The standard floor version is the simplest. Variations include having your elbows on an exercise/BOSU ball, feet elevated, one foot raised, alternating arm raises, and much more. The possibilities are endless. Be creative.

No need to hold a plank for more than 60 seconds at most. The longer time, the less sets I say. And the opposite for the reverse, meaning more sets for less time.

- Side planks: Similar to above. [More variations]

- Dead bugs: Along with the plank and chops, I feel this is the best exercise to start with to build a strong core foundation.

- Reverse crunches: For you crunch fiends. Use a weight or something solid to hold and anchor yourself. The less grounded or lighter the object, the harder it is to perform.

- Variety of cable chops1: These are the most underused. They can be performed standing, on your knees, or in a split stance. The idea is to use your core to resist movement.

- Roll outs: The higher the placement of your hands, the easier. Using a barbell with 45 lb. plates on each side is less difficult than 5 lbs. on each side instead.

- Overhead medicine ball slams: Perform standing or kneeling but either way, it doesn't get more fun or easier than this. Lift it overhead, then slam down as hard as you can. Make sure the ball doesn't rebound so high that it ends up hitting you in the face.
1Search "chop" to see variations.

Sets can be anywhere from 3-6 with 6-12 reps. Experiment around to get an idea of how to do the movements.

Now, this isn't exhaustive. It's what I've tried and got results from. There are a ton of other exercises like the Turkish get-up - which I will be trying - and Pallof presses (which felt average). Some I didn't include for the sake of most people's inability to perform them.

Either way, this list is a solid start for most people who have stuck to the traditional core training.

The end result? Somewhere to wash your clothes instead of something to set your bowl on.

assume she's pregnant.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This, not that

Some things aren't always great and we don't like them. Nothing wrong with that, but we often enough don't realize there may be an alternative to it. (with the exception of women, zing!)

Here are an easy 5 I suggest taking a look at.
1) Front squat: It's not so much the exercise that people have trouble with, but the grip set-up.

Elbows up with wrists bent back and sticking your chest out isn't convenient for some. Luckily, all you need is 2 kitchen towels to work around that. And yes I'm aware that this trick has been around for a while.

Just put one in each hand and fold it around the bar to keep it hugged in. This allows you to keep the bar balanced on your shoulders without excessively bending your forearms and wrists.

Straps are shown, but towels work fine.

2) Crunches: Overused and overrated with many people doing them wrong. The best part is that our replacement exercise is simple and effective.

Enter the dead bug. The section of that article titled "The Dead Bug Series" describes how the exercise is performed, but here's a video of a modified version.

Between the two, you should be able to understand how it's done.

3) Oatmeal: I'm not a fan of oatmeal and neither do a lot of other people I know. But, the mushy baby vomit-like oatmeal most people are familiar with is made from rolled oats.

Another type of oats is steel cut oats which have a completely different texture. If you think the typical oatmeal from rolled oats is gross, then this is definitely more up your ally.

4) Running: Unless you're training for an event or sport, why focus your energy on half of the body? Crank it up by doing a full-body effort session.

If you lift twice a week, end your workouts with a "finisher" which could be a number of things. Tabatas are popular. Do 20 seconds of an exercise then follow it by 10 seconds of rest and repeat for a total of four minutes.

5) The Wasteful: You know all the unproductive things you do, coughFacebookcough. Oh heavens, I must be coming down with something.

But seriously, take some time out of the day to do something that isn't fully immersed in technology like reading, meditating, or laying down and doing some calm easy thinking.

Even 10 minutes is better than nothing. It can go a long way.
There you have it. 5 tidbits that hopefully help you all out.

Maybe if I think of another 5 I'll write another post like this again, maybe not.

Who knows.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sculpting the body you want

The, thinking.

How's it done? Most times I joke around and say steroids, but how do we really get the body we want? You know, the one you want to flaunt around at a party or on the beach.

It's common knowledge that having too much body fat hinders "le sex appeal" as the French would say...or at least how I envision Pepé Le Pew in my head.

Suave is his middle name.

Lose the fat, look good. Got it.

However, that's only one part of the equation. Say a person does get rid of a lot of fat, but they didn't build any muscle. What do you get? A skeleton on the extreme end, but more so a lack of curves. Such as,

Where the booty at?!

Yes she is attractive, but I don't like to snap my ladies in half when I hug them. (or do I? Kidding.)

No curves means no muscles. It's great to have low body fat, but building up the proper muscles shouldn't be neglected. (Need a start? Look here)

If you're going to work you ass off to look good, do it right.

Rachel Mclish: Plenty of curves and
strong enough to tear my penis off.

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