Changes come slowly.
In the past week, I have had 3 people who told me that I looked more trim. They couldn’t put their finger on what it was, but there was something different. And it was good.
To be honest, I ate really badly a couple weeks ago so I haven’t stepped on the scale in a while. I’ve been working out harder than normal, mostly adding CrossFit back into my life to a greater extent. When I was measuring, both my body weight and my body fat were stable. But I felt very different. I felt really good. And I’ve been sore a lot, so I know I’ve been doing the work.
Sometimes there are intangibles about how we look. Sure, maybe we have restructured our physiques. But people can also see confidence, a glow to your skin, joy in your face, and walking with pride. Since my rhomboids and lats are always sore from pull-ups and Olympic weightlifting, I open my chest more and my arms spread wide. I can’t help it. But I’m sure that plays a role too.
Don’t worry if body weight or fat doesn’t change analytically. Its more about how you feel. And if you feel good, you are definitely going to look good. Do the work and be patient. The work never lies.
I had software training all last week. And to be polite, I went to lunch with the trainer 4 out of the 5 days he was here. He’s a Southern boy who likes his food. In that respect, we are two peas in a pod. I really love food!
Now, I’m not just talking about fond of eating. One day we went to a BBQ place and we both had the Smokehouse 2 combo. That’s a half-slab of ribs, two other meats, two sides, cornbread, and a drink. Yeah, we snarfed that down without a problem. And I barely ate a salad that night. But this guy, he went to a steakhouse for dinner and had a 24 ounce sirloin, baked potato skin and all, salad, and a dessert. He can really put down some food.
The honest truth is that I could do the exact same thing if I wanted to. But I know my gall bladder, possible gout symptoms, and hereditary type-2 diabetes would set in rather quickly.
I was doing so well. I told myself I wouldn’t be in the 190’s ever again. So I haven’t stepped on the scales for a week. What I don’t know won’t hurt me. I am back on the Warrior Diet again, which is a superfluous term for what I normally do. I live off of my bodyfat throughout the day. If I feel the least bit hungry, I try to eat a little fat and protein to provide energy but not cause an insulin spike. Then I eat a big meal for dinner. I lose bodyfat quickly and body weight slowly with this diet. I essentially eat the same calories, but I’m burning fat all day.
So this week will be a good test of my diet since I was such a glutton last week.
CrossFit programming can be variable from box to box. I have visited several boxes and have a CrossFit Level I trainer certification myself. With slight variation, the programming generally follows:
- Warm-Up: rowing, jogging, maybe a short bodyweight circuit
- Mobility: targeted to the workout of the day (WOD). This may involve elastic bands, yoga-type stretches, massage balls or rollers, or PVC pipes.
- Strength work: usually a characteristic rep scheme, like 5 sets of 5 reps (5×5), and possibly percentages of your 1 rep max for a movement. It may be to get to a 1RM. An EMOM (every minute on the minute) may be tacked on to this as part of strength or as part of the WOD.
- WOD: This could be any nature of scheme that cranks your heart-rate and may or may not involve heavy weights. It could be an EMOM, AMRAP (as many rounds or reps as possibly in a given time limit), couplet or triplet involving 2 or 3 movements with a set number of rounds, chipper (reps for each movement that you chip away at), or other scheme.
- Cool-Down: This is similar to a warm-up and may involve a mobility element.
I’m a yoga teacher and have a daily personal yoga practice. So, mobility is not a big concern for me though I still do specific movements associated with the WOD. But, I’ve changed from what may be standard programming and it has been working for me. Ideally, I don’t do Olympic weightlifting movements in a WOD. Not that I feel it is unsafe, but it could develop poor movement patterns. And I focus on Olympic weightlifting anyway, so I don’t need to do it in WODs. So here is my daily programming:
- WOD buy-in: I’ve heard James Hobart, CF guru, talk about going “Jaguar“. This means with little or no warm-up, which sounds unsafe, but its what I’ve done with success and have yet to be injured doing a WOD. I usually pre-plan my WOD, but sometimes I do it based on feel. I’ll program away from sore muscles. My WODs are mostly couplets and triplets per Chris Spealer recommendations. I’ll do a 21-15-9 or other rep scheme. My time domain is almost always in the 5-10 min range. I realize this is not random nor does it cover all my bases. I feel those bases are covered elsewhere. This provides me with the heart and body work that I need. It is also my warm-up for Olympic lifting. I’ll do a couple reps of each movement and then start right in without much warm-up. My goal is not to get sore; it is to pump up my heart using mostly strength movements.
- Olympic Weightlifting: This is my strength work. Many times I’ll start with squats (front, back, overhead, other) and end with pulls. Despite there being only two lifts, the snatch and clean & jerk, the combinations are endless. I may just do the lifts as singles and then a few drop sets. I may do complexes getting time under tension. Or I may break apart the lifts and focus on multiple reps, like cleans, hang cleans, snatch balances, or jerks. I do a Max Lift Friday every week, so I don’t usually do singles during the week. But I do Olympic lifts almost every day.
- Cool-Down buy-out: This is my strictly cardio element. It may be a quarter or half mile run repeat, 1 or 2K row, or similar Ski Erg. I may do intervals or a straight time or distance. I often wear a heart rate monitor and stay in a zone for 5-15 minutes.
I rarely go over an hour for a total workout. Sometimes I will do yoga-related strength work, like arm balances and hand stands, pistols and pushup related movements. Otherwise, I can do this every day if I can. I never feel overtrained or fatigued. But I do get sore. I can always program away from the soreness though and the active recovery is good for healing.
For me, this program enables me to do whatever I want. If I want to do a trail running race, I do a run on the weekend, but that’s the only additional specificity of training I need. I wouldn’t change if I were to enter a CrossFit or Olympic weightlifting competition. Its good for everything.
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.
(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.
I will be attending a 5-day Rocket Yoga training soon. A minor hiccup in the process is that (on a whim) I signed up for the CrossFit Games Open as well. So I’ll need to submit my video Friday morning after the announcement of the workout before I begin my travels. What’s life without a challenge? 🙂
So, being an older yogi…and despite being relatively fit….you can’t overlook one thing. This is gonna sting…possibly badly. I packed Epsom salts for nightly and morning baths. I have a Rumble Roller, massage stick, back buddy, and lacrosse ball packed for self-therapy. I tried to find a place for a massage, but most don’t have weekend hours. And I understand my training schedule may be fluid, so I couldn’t cancel if I needed to.
Regardless of the uphill climb I describe, I am very excited for this opportunity. I’ve been teaching Rocket Yoga classes for 1.5 years and attended Ashtanga and Rocket classes over several years. I have many limitations flexibility-wise. But I teach many who have similar or greater limitations. I emphasize doing what you can and having fun. So teacher do likewise. I keep my mind open and my body fresh.
So, my upper back, lats and such, have been sore for 3 days now. No worries because its a good soreness. One that comes from revelation.
I’ve been focusing more in the past 10 or so years on athletic performance and functional fitness. I’ll occasionally dabble into the dark side of narcissism and do some body work. But for the most part, my body work is an afterthought. If what I do makes me look good, then so be it.
Sometimes, if I am a little tired or I have a few minutes to spare, I’ll grab the cables on a machine or maybe I’ll do some isolation work with dumbbells. And sometimes, I do it even though I think its a waste of time. I mean, I know its not necessarily going to help me clean & jerk another 5 kilos or add to my squat. But I do it anyway.
Well, back to my soreness. I keep a fairly detailed log of my workouts. I mark down weights and PRs and how long it took to do a MetCon WOD. Three days ago, I found I was running out of time, so I thought I should do a few pulls on the cables since I was too tired to do pullups. I started with lat pulldowns while I was fresh. I usually do this with lighter weight and focus on form. But it was the close-grip pulley rows (picture of Arnold above) that got me. The weight was still light since it was the first set. I pulled back strictly until my elbows were fully back. Then, I only came forward half-way. So I did 3 half-way pulls to elbows back and then released all the way forward for a rep. Then pulled 3 half-way again and did that for a few sets. Lastly, I released all the way forward allowing my shoulder blades to pull far apart from each other getting a good stretch. Then I pulled back and pinched my shoulder blades together.
Know what? I almost didn’t count these in my training log. I ran out of time and only did one-set. But I’m glad I did because my back is jacked. I really need to rethink this and start doing more body work. I’m certain it will do wonders in building mass and hopefully that will translate into strength.
Live and learn!
Over and over in podcasts and my readings, everything comes back to the butt. Think about the major places where bodies bend: elbow, knee, ankle, wrist, shoulder, hip. The hip is where the largest and strongest bend occurs in the body. The largest muscle in the body is the gluteus maximus and all the associated muscles in the buttal region. At the cellular level, mitochondria is the engine of the cell. It is where energy conversion takes place. Bigger muscles, mean bigger muscle cells, means more mitochondria, means more fat burning, means less fat on your body.
Long story short—
If you want to burn fuel, build more ass muscles!!
I’m not saying that is all you should do. But everything starts with the squat. If you don’t have time for anything else, do squats and lunges. Everything else will fall into place after that.
I’ve heard excerpts from Christmas Abbott’s book “The Badass Body Diet”. She has a very ass-centric view on health and fitness. And people like Cory Gregory, President of MusclePharm, are advocates of Squat Every Day. You can see my previous post on Lunge Every Day for more on that. Think of Olympic weightlifters who squat every day because it is the primary mover in getting weight from the ground to overhead. And when you get old, do you know how you die? You die when you can no longer get up off the toilet (aka squat). It is very unhealthy to not be able to squat anymore.
See dudes walking around with a bony butt with a ghost-like presence in their jeans? Don’t be that dude. And girls, yeah you may get a bigger butt by squatting a lot. But guess what, keep doing it and the fat will melt away leaving you with a toned, leaner-than-ever, bikini butt.
It all starts with the butt! So get after it! Get up and do a few lunges and squats. Right now!