My latest ideas come from listening to Mash Mafia podcasts with Travis Mash. They were talking about isometrics for powerlifting. For example, if you had two sets of pins in a power rack, you limit the upward progression like for a bench press. You don’t even need a lot of weight on the bar. You press against the pins and hold for a number of seconds. It simulates a max lift like no other. They were also talking about slow negatives, lowering the bar through a movement at a very heavy weight.
The one they got me to thinking was doing walk-outs on the squat with some astronomical weight. Feeling a very heavy weight on the bar and standing there for 10 or 20 seconds (or more) is quite an overload. Olympic weightlifters do this with jerk recoveries. They rack a bar so you are almost at full extension with arms overhead. You might start in a shallow split squat or power jerk position with your feet. Then you walk to lockout and hold as long as you can. It gets you accustomed to locking out heavy weight.
So here is my plan: I have a goal weight that I want to squat. I’ll take my safety pins up as high as they will go on my rack. I’ll walk out with my goal weight and squat to the pins and push back up. I’ll probably only drop a few inches into my squat. But it will program my body to know what that kind of weight feels like. Over time, I hope that I can do 5-10 reps at that weight. Once I can do that, I’ll drop the pins another notch and go a little deeper. Eventually, I’ll take it all the way down to full depth and have my goal accomplished.
The hesitance I would have about this, which is why I’ve not done it before, is that your muscle memory would take away from squat depth and overall flexibility. So, to counter this, I’ll always finish with some A2G (ass-to-ground) squats for reps to make sure I don’t lose my depth. And, I’ll only do the topside squats one day a week. I’ll get the neuromuscular trauma and then allow for full recovery. Plus, I’ll still be doing Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit movements anyway, along with lots of yoga. So there is no fear of losing proper squat depth.
OK, so there may already be a WOD (workout of the day) named “Andy”, but ignorance is bliss. I’m naming my benchmark workout “Andy”.
I’ve been telling you about my experiments with the Trap Bar. My excitement hasn’t waned in the least. I started just repping at 135 pounds, then doing WODs with 225#, and working strength at 315#. I really don’t want to hurt myself, but I’m beginning to wonder if I can hurt myself. Yeah, I know I can, but its not foreseeable.
I mean a Trap Bar Deadlift is, to me, like a “Naked Deadlift”. There isn’t any space for a bar to rub your shins or climb up your thighs. You don’t need Weightlifting shoes to feel extra flexibility to blast out of the hole. You don’t need a mixed grip since your hands already counter each other facing inward. And it is so similar to a squat with hips down, but you don’t think about weight on your shoulders. Hand placement on the bar, bar placement on your back, squat depth…well, all of that is irrelevant. It is the perfect Naked Deadlift/Squat.
So my short couplet is simply:
21-15-9 reps of–
trap bar deadlifts at 135#
I might propose a “Heavy Andy” with 225# and weighted 20# dips. That’s for another day. But for a quick “Fran” style WOD, this works well. It is semi-antagonistic with a pull and a push movement. It works your whole body in one workout.
I begin to learn my yoga students’ bodies and their abilities over time. It is quite a linear progression of flexibility and strength that can be graphed to a predictable outcome. I see a yogi and think, she is probably ready for the next step. I saw a yogi the other day and she was doing a mermaid version of pigeon pose. I walked over and worked her body into king pigeon. It wasn’t a surprise because I could see the progression. I see someone else and think that they are ready for something like one-legged crow pose. Or maybe a bind in a revolved twist. It is all possible with consistent practice.
However, when I evaluate my own body, the linear progression goes out the window. In fact, my progress is very sporadic. It seems like a Samba dance. I step forward, then I step back…sometimes two steps back. I look at binds I did 3 years ago and I struggle to do them today.
Such is the way of progressive resistance strength training. But also virtually any sport where you push yourself to muscle breakdown requiring recovery. This is especially true with endurance athletes who do repeated movements in a short, efficient range of motion. Fibrin, collagen, and other muscle tissue and fascia development restricts lengthening of muscles. It seems like you start over again every time when you do yoga. For me, CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting is what does it. It requires constant maintenance through yoga, massage, and heat therapy.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discouraged by this. I just know that my progress is not linear. Whereas, my strength is fairly linear. I know I’ll keep growing and getting stronger. My yoga will be stronger too. And I’ll have better GPP (general physical preparedness) to attempt things requiring strength and balance so much better. But the flexibility will be a constant struggle. And that’s OK. I don’t fight battles that don’t need to be fought.
Life is a balance of give and take. Yin and yang. Raja and tamas. Give in to what your body gives you. And use your strengths where they lie.
So here is my update to my new trap bar purchase. I just read an article today about working up to 100 trap bar Deadlifts. It is very insightful. As an Olympic weightlifter and recovering powerlifter, I completely agree that this novel movement can do wonders for your [insert everything here]. I may need to buy bigger shirts here in the next few weeks. If you’d like to read for yourself…
To tell you the truth, by the true definition of the word, there isn’t a REAL Power Yoga.
“Power” is the speed at which work is done on an object (Physics). This doesn’t even apply to the sport of PowerLifting. Power is not involved! If you are deadlifting 800 pounds, you are focusing on pulling that weight up, not at doing it quickly. We don’t hold a stopwatch and do a deadlift for time. That would be silly. That’s not the goal. If anything, that is closer to Olympic weightlifting. When you are lifting the bar in a clean and jerk or snatch, you pull it up quickly to get air under the bar as you drop as fast as you can under the bar. Weightlifting would be closer to “Power” lifting because there really is a speed component, though it still isn’t done for time.
The same is true with Yoga. In the classes I teach, we never forcefully move through a pose with speed. That would be both dangerous and ineffective. Yes, we do use “Strength”. You hold chaturanga or warrior 3 with a lot of strength. Arm balances and many inversions involve strength. Mayurasana and Navasana are held with strength. But “Power” is never involved. We aren’t doing any strengthening poses quickly.
If it were my choice, we would never call something Power Yoga. It is a misapplication of its meaning. Call it Strength Yoga. If its Ashtanga, just call it Ashtanga. But Power Yoga makes no sense at all
[meanwhile, I’m substitute teaching Power Yoga tomorrow, so I’ve been thinking about this]
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.
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!