Archives for April 2014

WHEN SQUATTING ISN’T AN OPTION

To squat or not….

To squat or not….

Ah, good old squats. You’ve just got to love them. Nothing like sucking wind after a set of heavy ass to the ground squats. But I’m going to come straight out with it and I’m probably not the first one to say it.

SQUATTING ISN’T FOR EVERYONE!!! (Especially back squats).

Gasp!!! He didn’t just say that. Heaven forbid, that’s blasphemy, he’s committed the greatest sin known to man and must be punished……

Hold your horses. Before you go jumping the gun, read the rest of this post to get the full low down.

Rather than this simply being a “why you shouldn’t vs why you should post.” As we are all well aware, life seldom ever works like that.

Everybody has an opinion when it come’s to squatting. It’s a highly debated, highly controversial subject in the fitness community. Just visit any bodybuilding forum or fitness site and you’ll no doubt find statements such as.

“Shut up and squat”

“If you don’t squat, you’re a pussy.”

“Squats are one the greatest exercises in existence.”

Now my personal take on squats is this. In all honesty, I do squat because I have no issues, injuries or impairments that prevent me from performing a full squat.

Plus, I’m still working on bringing up the size and strength of my legs and squatting does help accomplish that, when done properly.

What’s not to love about them, done correctly they are a great overall mass leg builder and strengthener. (They also help develop your lung capacity).

Note: I’m not going to get into the proper technique of a squat here, because that’s not the focus of this article. You can just run a Google search if you’re curious.

However, some people just aren’t designed for heavy, ass to the ground squatting. Now I’ll say this, the parallel squat is not an effective replacement for the full back or front squat.

If you can’t do a proper butt to the floor back or front squat and you must do the parallel or half squat, try to limit it. Most of the common squatting injuries come from the parallel squat than any other variation.  (Always attempt a full squat, only do I ever recommend half or partial rep squats for those occasions when using really heavy weight).

Some people have knee (patella joint issues) and lower back injuries that just make squatting downright painful. Screw what others think, if you’re joints feel like hell when you perform squats, avoid them.

Bear in mind, there’s a clear distinction between a little soreness and crushing pain. (You don’t have to justify anything to anyone else, you train for yourself).

If you’re in this category, pick another exercise to work your legs that doesn’t bother your knees. (It doesn’t matter if it makes you look like a wimp. You’re training for yourself remember. Sacrificing your knees for validation from someone else is moronic).

If squatting is completely out of the equation, you can still get in some decent leg training with moves like the leg press and single leg RDL’s. If you can perform front squats and/or hack squats do them. Usually it’s the back squat that tends to give people problems.

There are also those individuals who have poor hip flexibility and until you open your hips up, you won’t get the full benefits of the squat and will probably do more harm than good, trying to squat with a loaded bar across your back.

If you’re in this bracket, I would focus on the bodyweight squat variation, trying to get my butt to touch the ground, to help learn the movement pattern and get the hips used to the full range of motion.

You’d also benefit greatly from stretching exercises designed to improve hip flexibility such as butterflies or hip flutters and side-to-side stretches, some of which are covered in WARRIOR 101.

If you still want to work your legs with weight I’d stick with a few sets of the leg press if I were you, until my hip flexibility had improved enough so that I could squat deeply and properly.

Avoid doing the half squat if you can, especially if you want to improve your hip flexibility to point of being able to do the full variation. It’ll only limit your range of motion and help stiffen your hips further. (Not what you had in mind, right?)

Don’t just take my word for it. I asked Chad Howse for his opinion on where he thought most people went wrong with squatting:

“Where most people find difficulty with squatting is the depth, they find it hard to go ass to grass and most don’t understand the cause – tight hips. Using weight lifting shoes with a heel or putting a two and a half pound plate under the heel can make a wonder of difference for depth in your squat, just make sure you continue working on hip flexibility in the meantime.”  CHAD HOWSE 

If you’ve built up your legs to a size and strength level you’re content with and only seek to maintain said level, you really don’t have to squat that often. I know a guy who has some pretty decent sized legs. Nowadays, he only squats 1-2 times a month, just to maintain strength and size.

He built them up over the years while progressing his squat up to 330lbs for about 10 reps. Not bad, considering the fact that he wasn’t really focused on getting incredibly strong in the squat. He also used to sprint up hills a lot.

If you’re in that category, I’d even go as far as saying that if you were never to attempt a squat again, you could still maintain that size to some degree. Stick with some walking and sprinting and you’d do fine.

Here’s what Greg O’Gallagher of Kinobody.com had to say about squats.

A strong focus on squats inevitably leads to over bulked thighs and glutes. This leads to chaffing thighs and a limited wardrobe. As well, the sweep associated with big legs is a feminine looking trait. Men should desire the legs of a gymnast or martial artist who needs to be fast and powerful but still light and nimble. 

When you keep your legs balanced and athletic, your upperbody will not only look more impressive, but you will experience better strength gains on your upperbody lifts. This is because intense, high volume leg training is very neurally demanding and will interfere with maximum performance for upperbody sessions.” Greg O’Gallagher 

That’s my two cents on squats. The debate rests with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

What’s your stance on squatting?

Agree or disagree?

In any case leave your comments bellow and add to the discussion.

By the way: If you’re looking for a full program to develop strength, and get lean, mean physique like a warrior pick up a copy of Warrior 101. It’s a fully detailed mapped out 3 phase program that also covers everything from exercises to nutrition, supplements, recovery and much more.

Also I’d like to announce the “WARRIOR 6 MONTH CHALLENGE”

Take the challenge and see if you can’t improve your physique, health and well being within 6 short months when you follow everything laid out in WARRIOR 101. Your health and vibrancy is worth it. Any further questions, contact me here.

GRIT AND TENACITY 

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

The storm raging within.

The storm raging within.

Have you worked so hard for something that you felt was reachable and you were so determined, come hell or high water to get it, but for reasons you couldn’t quite explain it eluded you? 

You just couldn’t figure out how or why. The doubt starts to set in. Did you really do everything you could. The little voice in your head goes off on a tangent and starts eating away at the very fibre of your being, pushing you to ever closer to your breaking point. It just eats you up inside.

You’re probably wondering Why the hell I am I telling you all this?

Let me explain.

For a long time I tried so hard and pushed myself to reach a new level of skill, strength and durability when it came to my training. (Especially martial arts and believe me, I’m still constantly striving and pushing to reach new plateaus). All in the pursuit of reaching a “higher level.”

The hours, weeks and months I spent hitting my heavy bag with my bare fists. That’s right ladies and gents, no gloves, mitts, hand/wrist wraps. No damn protection whatsoever. Just skin coming into contact with vinyl.

The storm within me raging. The intention was crystal clear.

I wanted to make my fists like iron. I wanted to develop the power in my punches to the best that was humanly possible for me.

Note: I don’t claim to have the greatest, most powerful punch in the world, nor do I care to. I simply want to train my body to the best I can get it.

For a long time my hands would bruise, turn red and the skin would tear. (If you didn’t get the picture already. Yeah it dang well hurt a lot too).

At first I would throw in the towel and walk away. Let the hand heal, I figured. 3-4 days later I’d be out again doing the same thing.

Slowly my pain threshold grew and I endured more, lasting longer and longer each time, but it still wasn’t good enough. (At least to me at the time). No matter what I did the pain would be too great to deal with and I felt disappointed. If only there was a way to manage it. To work through it.

One particular day as I walked out into my garden to hit the heavy bag, expecting the usual to inevitably happen, I started up, took my stance and began hammering away at the bag. Sure enough the pain started to develop with the onslaught and flurry of my punches.

But then suddenly a weird, unexplainable calmness filled my body and mind. Suddenly, I really didn’t care about how hard my punches were, or how much it hurt.

I didn’t care anymore and that’s when the magic happened. It was as if my body shut out the pain, all the thoughts, feelings and emotions. All the reasons for hitting the bag become insignificant. It was as if I’d been able to let go of all the things holding me back.

I lost track of time, space, maybe even reality. Nothing mattered. I continued pounding away at the bag, with no thought. No emotion.

When your mind becomes so clear. So empty. When you become immersed in the movements and actions. 

It feels strange writing this and was insane at the time. But I’d actually found peace in the fact that I didn’t care about reaching my goal or anything for that matter.

I ended up having one of the best power bag sessions I’ve ever experienced and at the end of it my knuckles weren’t bruised. There were no cuts, blood or any trace of swelling/inflammation.

Just a bit of redness over the knuckles, which was to be expected. It was about 10 mins or so after I’d finished working on the bag, that the pain finally registered. But it didn’t hurt as much as it had on previous occasions.

It’s an odd feeling that I can’t explain. I just like to call it “THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM EFFECT.” And man is it wonderful. (You’ll only be able to relate to this when you experience it for yourself).

You’re probably thinking cool story but what’s the whole point of it?

Well, keep your shirt on we’re getting to the good stuff.

If you want to take your training to the next level, the answer doesn’t always lie in consciously forcing yourself to add more weight or grind out more reps. Just try to connect and flow with the movement. (Easier said than done, right?).

That’s why before every training session I mediate to eliminate all the useless garbage that floats around in the mind. I also do it before I start each and every day. It’s a very empowering feeling.

Sometimes you’ve got to completely free your mind of every darn thought and feeling towards every damn thing you’ve worked so hard for. It sounds bloody insane, and it’s downright difficult, but not impossible.

I believe when you’re pushed to a certain threshold, a certain level of mental and physical stress, (that more often than not is self created), due to the intense desire and longing  inside of you to reach a goal.

Eventually you’ll likely reach the tipping point and lose track of said goal. You just won’t care about achieving it anymore. When you get to that point, your breaking point, your limit, that’s when crazy things happen. That’s how I experienced it.

It’s like the more you think and strive for something the further it gets from you. (Sounds like a damn paradox).

LET THAT SINK IN FOR A SECOND. RE-READ IT AGAIN IF YOU HAVE TO!!!

Let me give you another example you’ve probably heard of this situation occurring dozens of times. Heck, maybe it’s even happened to you.

Ever been in a situation where you lost your house or car keys. You get all pent up and frustrated looking for the sucker and you just can’t find it anywhere. Then you forget about it, you just stop thinking about it and then presto, out of nowhere you end up finding it. Usually they were right where you left them, in plain sight.

The point is, when you block out all your desires and thoughts and learn to stop being overly consumed by your goal, you’d probably end up reaching it a lot sooner and with a lot less hassle and stress.

Don’t take that the wrong way, you still obviously have to work hard and strive to achieve your goals, but when it takes over you to the point that you lose sight of everything else, particularly your enjoyment in life. You’re probably over obsessing.

We’ve got a tendency to over think and analysis everything. It does nothing except complicate situations and lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety, making things harder than they need to be.

Hey!! “Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to move two steps forward.”

MIND-BOGGLING, ISN’T IT?

ACUITY AND MENTALITY

THE TRAINING TIMEFRAME: HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TRAIN?

To train or not to train?

How often should you train? That’s the question

It’s a question raised often. How often should you train in a given week? The honest truth is that there is no solid, definitive be all and end all answer that will satisfy all tastes. We’re all individuals at the end of the day, each with different requirements and goals.

Simply put, there’s too many damn variables/options available to group everybody together under one category. Some train 3 days, 4 days, 6 days, hence the large number of different programs that cater to that.

It all comes down to the individual. It really depends on how your body feels and responds your training frequency. By no means am I saying that an individual that trains 3 times a week trains less intensely and effectively than someone training 6 times a week. (And vice versa).

I personally prefer training with weights 3-4 times in a given week. However, I also engage in other physical activities outside of those “training days.” including sprinting, practicing martial arts, heavy bag work, stretching, yoga and calisthenics. (A rest day to me is simply a day where I don’t meditate with iron).

I view these activities as more of an outlet. Leisurely activities that I like to participate in and find joy doing. In fact I’m pretty much involved in some form of physical activity/training every day of the week.

Call them “rest days” or “active recovery days.” Whatever you like, it really doesn’t matter.

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t seek to train merely for aesthetics. I train to be more athletic and to prevent injuries. Above all I train to make myself a better, more resilient and disciplined individual.

THE POINT IS I LIKE BEING ACTIVE!!

Don’t get me wrong!! If I feel I need additional “rest days” with little to no activity I take them. Only when the need arises. I always listen to my body.

Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter how many days you train, as long as you’re enjoying it, you feel great, it doesn’t eat into your recovery and recuperation capabilities, but most of all, you’re getting the desired results. 

Overtraining is not something I’m overly concerned with, because I’ve never really felt or been over trained. (At least in my mind).

I don’t rely on anybody to tell me how my body feels and responds to the loads I place on it. I know my own body and that’s the key thing.

You’ve got to consciously, understand your body and the signals it sends you. Get in tune with yourself.

In this day and age we rely too much on others to tell us what’s good for our bodies. There’s so much conflicting information out there that people are bombarded with.

Nobody can tell you how your body will respond to a particular frequency of training. You alone have to judge that for yourself.

Remember, no one on the face of this planet knows your body better than you.

People may look at what I do and say, yep definitely overtraining. I don’t give a damn though. I train according to how I feel and that’s good enough for me.

Train insane and enjoy the ride.

IRON AND SUBSTANCE

THE BODYWEIGHT DEBATE

Pull-up or shut up.

Pull-up or shut up.

Bodyweight training has become increasingly popular nowadays and with good reason. While weight/resistance training is fantastic, there’s a certain bodily strength and development that you can only get from bodyweight or calisthenics training.

Take a look at gymnasts, some of the strongest athletes the world has to offer, and virtually all that strength has in some way been developed through bodyweight training. (Of course in its very advanced stages).

Don’t get me wrong. I love weight training as much as any one else, but recently I’ve been incorporating more bodyweight exercises into my training and I love the freedom and feeling.

In fact, before I actually got into weight training I used to do numerous bodyweight/free hand exercises. Pretty much the first six months of training that’s all I did. It was a precursor to the iron that was to follow.

If you actually break it down, bodyweight is a form of weight training. The ‘weight’ part of the word is the giveaway.

As of recently I’ve added various forms of pushups, pull-ups/chins and dips, both weighted and regular to my routine. Not forgetting pistol squats, L-sits, inverted rows and handstand pushups etc.

I’m slowly working up to higher progressions and it’s a real pain. (Figuratively and literally speaking).

Truth is, bodyweight training requires, more focus, intensity, discipline and patience than pumping iron. (Yep, you read that correctly).  You see it isn’t easy trying to progress to a higher, more advanced variation of an exercise. It’s easier to do with weights than with your own body.

Want to get progress on a bench press, just add on another plate each side and get to it. (Not to downplay how hard you still have to train). With bodyweight it’s not that simple.

To get to the next progression, you’ve got to physically train your body to prepare it for the next level. It takes time. In many cases you have to practice the move over and over to finally be able to do it. It requires a lot of patience, something many people just don’t have.

If you can endure it though, it’s worth it. You’ll develop body strength, coordination and balance that you won’t otherwise get from lifting. Not to mention you’ll get some attention. (Always a nice side benefit).To top it of it’s also a great way to give your joints a break from heavy lifting.

Now, you’ll find certain individuals that think you can’t build muscle with bodyweight training. To all those people, I say, think again!!!

Of course doing endless basic pushups, pull-ups and dips will only get you so far, so they are partly correct. Sticking to the same basic bodyweight exercises constantly will eventually lead to result stagnation. That’s where advanced bodyweight training and progressions come into play.

Instead of doing a regular pushup, move your hands further away from your body and see how damn hard the exercise gets. If you find regular pull-ups a breeze, slap some weight plates around your waist, do some plyometric variations or work your way to a perfect form muscle up.

With bodyweight training you’ve got to continue to push the boundaries. Never get stuck in a rut. You have to get a little creative.

Just as there are those who knock bodyweight training, there are those who exclusively train with their bodyweight and knock all forms of extra resistance. (Weight training/bodybuilding etc).

Human beings are quite funny that way. They seem to feel that they have to choose one form of training over another. If you can get benefits from both and have access to both, why not do both? (Injuries/time commitment issues aside).

Ultimately it all comes down to preferences and personal choice. But never knock something till you’ve tried it.

Here’s a quick circuit I like to do from time to time.

Chest/Triceps/abs (perform 2-3 circuits)

10 regular pushups/ 10 sec V sit

10 wide pushups/10 sec V sit

10 diamond pushups/ 10 sec V sit

(Perform each round of the circuit in nonstop fashion. Rest about 60-90secs after each round).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ete9gaFvmHs

Hannibal. The man is a master of bodyweight. A one of a kind type of guy.

PAIN AND GAIN

Image credit: Marines