Arm Blasters

lu xiaojun

If your focus is on building a better body or maybe even in being a body-builder, then think about this. When we are starting out doing the prescribed 3 sets of 8-12 reps of dumbbell curls, you may be starting with 20 or 30 pound dumbbells. And if you have massive guns and that is working for you, then read no further.

If you are willing to experiment and go deeper, then read on.

First, consider a pull-up. Say you are a man between 150-220 pounds. Regardless of how you do a pull-up, whether strict or kipping, you are lowering your full bodyweight to the full extension of your arms. That eccentric contraction is a massive load on your biceps. Sure, it is meant to focus on your lats and other back muscles, but your biceps take a brunt of it as well. Considering your bodyweight, you would have to lift 75-110 pound dumbbells in each hand to equal the eccentric load of a pull-up. What if you can’t do a pull-up? Find a bar or stand on a box that allows your arms to bend slightly as you reach the bar. Then jump to a full chin-over-the-bar pullup, hold, and then slowly lower down. That eccentric load will be good for lats and biceps alike.

Second, for the advanced lifter, nothing makes my arms more sore than repeated hang cleans with a heavy weight. The same is true for hang snatches, but maybe not quite as much. It is a distant side effect of Olympic weightlifting that can build massive guns. My biceps are crying right now, so this is the main reason I’m writing this. I did sets of 3 hang snatches yesterday and I can surely feel it today. Consider that you are lowering a heavy weight, much heavier than you’d ever do with a barbell curl, with a huge eccentric load. The eccentric loading is where most muscle growth occurs. You can do this with any barbell with or without bumper plates since you don’t need to drop the weight on the ground. But bumpers help if you got them so you can do full lifts.

Try these two movements and see if they work for you. And if you don’t grow, you’ll definitely get stronger.

Lose Yourself

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“Practice what you Teach, Teach what you Practice”

I took this to heart yesterday. My mind has been crowded with so much in life. I often practice yoga over lunch in my office. I lock my door, turn off the overhead lights, slide a table aside, and roll out my travel mat. I started easy into my Sun Salutation A’s since I was struggling. But before you know it, I was lost in what I was doing. I stopped analyzing my movements. While my breath lead my practice, I didn’t focus on it. I stopped counting. I went completely by instinct. When I felt it was time to come forward out of downward facing dog, I did. Sometimes I succumbed to child’s pose; not because I needed it, it just happened. We throw out the word “flow” in yoga a lot. This was truly a flow. It had no beginning or end. I didn’t even know where I was.

Ever notice how you cannot predict what an ocean wave will do? It moves where it needs to move

I wanted to badly share this experience, and that came about in my Rocket class later that evening. Without any fanfare, I had the yogis come to the top of their mats and begin. I told them we wouldn’t do Surya Namaskar B today. But we’d lose ourselves in a seemingly unending Sun A. I gave a few suggestions at times, but otherwise let them try to feel what I felt earlier. I told them to stop counting. To move when it feels right. To hold where they need to. To experiment with fingertips and closing eyes. Lifting mula bandha with lightness and ease. To gather their warmth and glow in it.

Sometimes we share hoping others will feel the deepness that we’ve felt. Even if one connected with my experience, then my sharing was a success.

Lovin’ the Greek Wedding (2)

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re: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

My wife and mom are the types of ladies who could watch non-stop Hallmark channel romance movies and not blink an eye. While me, myself, and I could watch Mixed Martial Arts and College Football without going to the bathroom or eating for 7 days straight.

That being said, I loved this movie. It is witty, fast moving, with a bunch of little nuances you have to be careful to notice. The writing and cinematography are spot on.

I think even kids could get into this one, as much as they wouldn’t want to admit it. A wonderful family romp good for lots of laughs. It would work as the perfect date movie too!

I Don’t Fit The Mold

I never did.

  
I never will.

I have a colleague who is an Iyengar-trained teacher. She shared that, having come to Iyengar later in life, she was going to have a very tough time reaching the next levels of her practice. Bodies that are naturally flexible or have potential to be flexible will move up the ladder in a progressive manner. But there are limits to those of us who have been around the block to open something that has been closed for decades.

I would never say never, but some realities are just that….realities.

I have embraced Rocket yoga and recently had advanced training in it. It is such an uplifting, playful, and empowering practice. It is adult play time. And others see that in the practice as well. I have people who attend my classes who can imagine themselves one day reaching an enjoyable climax to their journey. It is attainable.

I agree. Yoga is not a competition. I believe in ahimsa, non-judgement, not harming self or others. Rocket teaches us “Function over form”. It is what is so freeing about Rocket. However, I believe true Ashtanga is “Form over function”. You have to fit the mold, or you’ll never fit in. If you always stop at Marichyasana A and are never allowed to proceed beyond that point, then you’ll never grow. 

Some yogis believe that all there is…is yoga. I’m quite fine with that idea. If that’s what you want, then fine. But I have more in my life. I enjoy strength-building, among other things. I’m fascinated with Olympic weightlifting. But I also embrace powerlifting, strongman, and CrossFit. The goal of these are not flexibility. The goals are to get stronger. And to get stronger, you need layers of muscle and thick connective tissue. It is why yoga is a perfect compliment since it can help maintain length and quality of life. But to the yoga-centric person, it is counter-productive to reaching the next pose. You will never fit into the mold if you continue things outside of yoga.

I realized yesterday how true this is for me. My mind was already opening to new opportunities. The dead end to my journey in true Ashtanga came yesterday. I’m doubtful that I’ll ever go back. I don’t fit the mold. And I refuse to give up the other loves in my life. It is a freedom that I hope to share with others. I still admire Ashtanga and the roots and history of the practice. But I am not a practicing Ashtangi anymore. I’m a Rocket Man. I’m free to fly. I’m worthy. I’m not deficient. I’m not tight. I am strong. I am me. I am capable. I won’t be defeated anymore.

The Moon and Me

rocket moon

I would like to say that the Moon made me a little crazy over the past few days. Anybody else feel this way? My testosterone must have been boosted like 2 to 3 times its normal production. I was a maniac. I found myself working out, doing yoga, working hard, and chomping at the bit for more!

I don’t know the science behind these things. In Field Ecology and other biology courses, we’ve talked about effects on wildlife related to lunar events. I even have a Timex Sportman’s watch that shows prime times for fishing and hunting. They all revolve around Full Moon, New Moon, and Quarter Moon events. And humans are animals too. Garsh was I an animal the past few days!

Now I’m somber. Not really a let down or anything. I’m just me. But let me say, I’m not responsible for anything I did the past few days…

In The Eye of the Beholder

painting

A Masterpiece needs no explanation.

If just a glimpse in the corner of your eye, does it gather your attention?

Perhaps a sunrise. A long-haired maiden. A colorful mural resting in the shadows of an alley.

You hear a sound. Music in your ears. Orchestrated by the most delicate touch.

Crescendos. Decrescendos. Andante. Allegro!!

An image that comes to life. You can see the artist’s sweeping strokes.

Wafting sinews of a blend of spices from a Master Chef.

If it needs interpretation, is it art?

If it doesn’t captivate you, does it have significance in your heart?

It should take your breath away. It melts my soul.

Of Wallballs and the sort…

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(pictured: me at CrossFit Champaign-Urbana. Photo cred: sweet pea photography)

Truth be told, I hate wallballs. Is hate too strong of a word? How about despise?

In CrossFit, there is this workout called Karen. It is simple. Do 150 wallballs as fast as you can for time. For Men, you toss a 20 pound medicine ball above a 10 foot line. Sounds simple eh? Not so simple.

That crazy wallball has a mind of its own. You have to position your feet perfectly to catch the bounce off the wall. And those leather concocted balls stitched in a geodescic design are not that evenly weighted. They hit funny and ricochet in weird directions. You squat down so hips are parallel to knees and, for short guys like me, you almost jump off your feet to get it high enough. It bounces off the wall and hopefully catches perfectly between your hands. The ball is pretty wide. So you end up squeezing it between your hands and against your chin. I’ve hit my chin pretty hard at times. My chest and shoulders are often sore after because of all the squeezing. But your legs and butt get the brunt of the work.

So, to recreate this misery, I went to an outdoor basketball court at the University. The backboard is perfect since the rim sits at 10 feet high. It takes some accuracy to get it to the side of the backboard every time. Yep, the pain was just as I remembered. I had a good rhythm to 20 reps and then my wheels came off. That didn’t take long at all! I was doing a 40-30-20-10, not even a full Karen. I planned to rest in between and do everything fast. Ha! Not fast at all. I rested in a lot of places besides the 1 min rests. And I really thought I was getting into good CrossFit shape.

I’ll only do 50 (25 + 25) as part of an upcoming competition. This has me thinking twice about how ready I am. I almost barfed 3 times driving to the grocery store afterward. It was 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside when I did this so I had trouble regulating my temperature in the car. Those hot flashes led to that bitter taste in the back of my throat. Ummm, not good.

If you’ve never tried these wallball things, maybe you’d like to experiment? Or maybe run the other way. I’d advise the latter.

Happy Accidents

advanced yoga

True story: Several times in the past, as recent as this week, I’ve had yogis stumble into my Rocket Yoga class. Most people don’t know that Rocket really is a “thing”. My regular Rocketeers know that it is real and have embraced what it can do for you. But for someone who is new to yoga or new to Rocket, they think it’s simply another creative name for a flow yoga class.

Bob Ross, the late painter who hosted the TV series “Joy of Painting”, used to say–

We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents

I’m usually cognizant of who attends my classes and their ability levels. But since I had a small class the other day, I forgot to ask if anyone was new to Rocket. So I casually have my class start on their own with 5 Surya Namaskar A’s and 5 Sun B’s (sun salutations). No big deal, right? Well, someone started alright… then said “I think I’ve made a mistake.” I mean, we didn’t do anything hard yet. So I encouraged her to stay.

Larry Schultz’s favorite asana was child’s pose. While he founded a challenging variation on Ashtanga Yoga, he was also compassionate. He was SO encouraging of his students; just like my Rocket teacher, Amber Gean. He would always say–

You are Stronger than you think

I asked this yogi to just try. To do what she could. And if it ever got to be too much, just take child’s pose. Its your practice. I’m just here to help your Rocket take off.

Guess what? She stayed. And other yogis who’ve stumbled into this yoga party stayed as well. Some even came back! And some may wait a while before they try again. But at least they know what is possible. They see yogis who are further in their journey doing amazing things. We may all get there some day if we just try.

Happy Accidents? For sure..if you open the door and try. Rocket is so fast that you don’t have time to commiserate over what you can or can’t do. You just do! You try. And if you fall, you get back up again. That’s how we live life.

Where will your Rocket take you?