AtA: So I’ve got these dumbbells, see

Posted May 19th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

I’ve got a pair of dumbbells, up to 7.5kg on each (or more like 15kg if you put all the weights onto one bar.) I’ve read the section about doing hip and shoulder pull and push exercise, and I was wondering if you could recommend any exercises I could do with those weights that involve the areas mentioned in the book?

Although you can certainly abuse physics to some extent by using unilateral movements such as split-squats, single-hand OH push or lawnmowers, honestly that’s just not enough weight. You’ll quickly outgrow it (if you haven’t already), and more importantly you won’t get the crucial loading-stimulus on your frame or spine that hoisting a heavier weight will do.

But this is a wide world full of heavy stuff. 50lb bags of pea gravel are $3USD at a hardware store, and an engineer bag will fit in any corner. Or if the engineer bag doesn’t suit you, make due with what’s around (I’ve done a full workout with a mini-fridge before). One guy I train with from time to time has a workout based around his wheel barrow. Fill it up with the shovel, leverage squats, walking deadlifts, press, etc. You can also use crates, kegs, just about anything you’ve got. And the more cumbersome and unwieldy, generally the less weight you need since leverage and torque works against you (which is the sort of physics you can abuse without cheating yourself out of the benefits).

I regularly receive inquiries along the lines of  ”Well, I already have [miscellaneous piece of equipment], how can I use that?” If it’s a piece of gimmicky equipment like an ab circle lounger antelope strider pro plus, don’t bother unless you have fun using it. If you enjoy it, go for it, but bear in mind that almost none of them will provide a high enough intensity to count as an Interval Exercise; you’ll still benefit from the General Movement but don’t expect it to fulfill your exercise requirements. If it’s a home gym setup with tracks or rails, you’re better off (and safer) doing free-standing lifts with a heavy object. Sell the machine, buy a canvas sack and some pea gravel, and spend the rest on meat.

AtA: The Carby Nature of Breakfast Foods

Posted May 17th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

I love the book, the whole concept of base and peak meals makes a lot of sense to me so I started with it today. The problem is, I love my breakfast oats, and I only exercise in the evening. Can I keep the oatmeal and still make my breakfast a base meal?

Though oats are typically a superior carbohydrate (especially compared to cereal, muffins or other breakfast-type carbs), that’s what they are. Can’t really will them into something else.

However, though one person might see this as a threat to your way of life, another might well see this as an opportunity. If you were to get up even 5-10 minutes earlier, put your oats in the pot or microwave, and then crush out an Interval Exercise, you can earn those delicious carbs and just roll with a Peak Meal. As a personal example, there’s an awesome hill less than a block from my house that I visit a couple times a week for sprints. Though I feel like yarfing as I finish, with the walk home to wind down, by the time I’m here I can usually be ready to eat.

Or jumping rope, doing thrusters, working the heavy bag, or whatever it is you’d enjoy doing (or can tolerate best). Putting your body in an active state early in the morning is something you can do in under 15 minutes, you can enjoy your breakfast oats, and likewise have an improved metabolic profile and higher energy levels throughout the day (I myself am sluggish if I wake up alarm clock style, but an IE sets that right).

AtA: an Expansion of Stretching

Posted May 14th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Got a question though, about the stretching vs strength thing, could you elaborate on that a bit more? Or link to a good article on it? I want to be strong and crazy flexible and I am working on both. The book kind of glosses over the actual mechanics of it.

Going back and looking at that section, I’m surprised at my lack of citations for that information. It’s become so commonplace in modern fitness that it must not have occurred to me, despite upsetting the applecarts of pretty much every middle-school coach in the US.

I’m not entirely sure how much information you were looking for. Here’s a few of the articles I possibly should/would have cited (and likely may if I should do a second edition down the road).

Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors (Journal of Applied Physiology, 2000)

Acute effects of static versus dynamic stretching on isometric peak torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography of the biceps femoris muscle (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, NSCA, 2008)

Effects of Static Stretching on Energy Cost and Running Endurance Performance (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, NSCA, 2009)

If you were looking for something perhaps more accessible, there was a pretty good article in the NY Times’ Play Magazine not too long ago.

Anyway, though I was attempting to keep the book brief and concise, I still feel like I might have done a better job in that section. I’m not opposed to all static stretching. The example most obvious to me is the various forms of Yoga poses that hold positions, which in themselves may be valuable to health, strength, and/or flexibility. However, I wouldn’t bolt off and try to perform a workout immediately following yoga, or to use yoga as a ‘warm-up’ for resistance or interval exercise.

The objective of that section was to get people away from the longstanding notion of doing five or ten different held stretches in an attempt to ‘get ready’ for exercise, and to alternatively provide readers with a method for ‘warming-up’ the muscles and body, without depleting or inhibiting their muscular performance for what would come after.

Do you have any videos or animations for the “pull squat dynamic stretch” you mention in the book? I can’t visualize it and there’s nothing on google about it.

Made to order:

AtA: Thoughts on ‘The China Study’ and meat

Posted May 12th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

Have you ever read the book The China Study? I’d be curious what your thoughts on that are, if you have.

I read it back when it came out. Though I thought the findings from his sourced studies were interesting, I didn’t find them conclusive and feel he had to make some serious stretches to attempt to correlate them with the anti-meat/dairy agenda he’s pushing. The main thing I ended up taking away from it was that it came off like promotional material for a Vegan lifestyle, albeit significantly less slimy-salesman and shameless than the crew that writes the “Skinny Bitch” series.

While it might very well be true the average American could benefit from adhering to the lifestyle proposed, that’s because we’re by and large so awful that just about any change is an improvement. While I am convinced of the necessity and manifold benefit of vegetables and fruits (and thereby recommend having at least a serving with each and every meal), I feel there are also a multitude of benefits from the consumption of meat and animal-related protein products. The DHA/EPA from fish, essential amino acids that are extremely low or unavailable in plant sources (like carnitine and carnosine), iron, zinc, B-complexes and so on.

I’m not saying there’s nothing to the study, but I think the conclusions he draws don’t tend to follow. You can also find reasonably credible studies showing that wheat is killing us, and that soy will give your unborn children sexual deformities.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really advocate any sort of extremism. Everything’s got cancer in it, we’re all gonna die immediately, sky is falling. I think meat and dairy are an important part of a diet, but I strongly recommend the vegetables and their glorious antioxidants and phytochemicals and so forth also, not instead of.

While I don’t have a fundamental concern with the consumption of meat and dairy, the ‘factory farm’ situation and the unethical and insane treatment of animals and what we do to them chemically and biologically for profit purposes is mortifying. I however do not have a solution at present and have yet to see one manifest (a whole lot of yelling ‘fire’ but few people with buckets). It’s ever in my thoughts though.

AtA: Engineer Bags vs Freeweights

Posted May 10th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

I have a question about your suggestion for using an engineer bag stuffed with weights as resistance training, though [...] but I really wonder how favorably it compares to pumping iron with real free weight equipment.

I should preface by stating that the engineer bag (or other suitably heavy object you might train with) is not a short-cut or temporary fix to get people started with resistance training; it is a fully-formed method suitable for people of virtually any level of fitness, and can be an effective program for life. The barbell is less than a century old; it’s not like prior to that humans were just wads of cookie dough with stick arms.

A lot of ‘underground’ fitness methods do Strongman-style training, with tire-flipping, sandbags, car pushing, stone lifting, and so on. For all intent and purpose, you can build an incredible physique and immense strength doing basic movements with challenging free-weight of any kind. It’s just mass being moved, simple as that.

That said, it would depend on your goals and how you define them.

Bodybuilders, to start off with (and pardon me if I paraphrase something you might have already read, I say a lot of things more than once) are particularly suited to using barbells and dumbbells because what they are doing is in essence being sculptors, with their own body as the medium. Even amateur-level bodybuilders spend hours just critiquing their own physique, and by having a wide range of tools and stimuli available they are able to shape each curve, angle and plane. In that case, not only would you want the more refined tools that a gym offers, but a host of other isolation exercises that I don’t get into in the book.

Powerlifters and other competitive weightlifters I consider to be athletes, and lifting barbells as a sport. From the lowly gymrat up to the girthiest (sure that’s a word shut up) of pro powerlifters, they seek to make the numbers go higher, same as a runner wants to make the numbers go lower. In this case, I would recommend you seek a gym as well; it’s significantly easier to lift 225 on a bar, even in a front squat, than it is to do the same with an engineer bag or any other unwieldy load. This isn’t to say it’s somehow less of an accomplishment, but like any other sport, some powerlifters wear special suits and practice special techniques (and often have horrifying physiques and form) just to get the numbers a little higher. It’s not a means to an end, it’s the end itself.

There are obviously other purposes that I may not need to get into for the moment, but suffice to say if you goal is “be leaner”, “be stronger”, “look good naked” or most of the reasons people want to ‘do exercise’, the engineer bag is not only a valid choice, it’s one of the better ones available. Though I personally love the gym in theory and in practice, and consider my power cage to be a part of the family, it’s not necessary. I (and you) could accomplish basically the same thing with a good sized rock.

AtA: Macro-split 40P/40F/20C vs 40P/40C/20F

Posted May 7th, 2010 in Uncategorized by Clint

What’s the difference with going with a diet that is 40 pro / 40 carb / 20 fat? If I read correctly, I think Alfalfa’s nutrition thread ( recommended that, while you recommend the 40 pro / 40 fat / 20 carb. Are there advantages with one over the other? Is there a situation/goal where one is better, or are they pretty much the same.

The 40P/40F/20C is just a loose guideline, but in following the exercise concepts it tends to hit pretty close to the mark. Since the Peak/Base Meal design only has significant carbs being consumed after a workout, even an active person working out twice a day will still need around 4 Base meals that are low-carb. So even at this top end with a 2:1 ratio of Base:Peak meals, you’ll find that the calories have to come primarily from protein and fat (people who work out less often may only eat 1 or even 0 Peak meals on an off day).

It’s the division of carbs from fat that (in part) requires less strictness and structure in the tracking of calories, which serves three major purposes:

  • To allow for the differences between individuals, as when looking at raw numbers, one person may do with 2300 calories what the next person would like 2800 for, other factors being equal. By putting the focus on the meal composition rather than math, it allows people the wiggle room necessary to eat comfortably without significantly impeding their results.
  • The avoidance of math. While I know some individuals who love nothing more than plugging ounces of chicken breast and water chestnuts into a spreadsheet and dancing as the calculations rain down, I’ve found the average person finds such tracking at best distracting and cumbersome, and at worst daunting and frustrating. While food logs can be incredibly useful devices, it is often easier to just say “ok, here’s a framework: oreos don’t fit into it. c’est la vie.”
  • The average diet is swimming in excess carbs. A young lady I’ve recently been working with had a starting diet closer 5/10/85:
    breakfast: bowl of cereal
    lunch: white rice
    dinner: pasta
    dessert: candy

    But you can see french fries and sandwiches and bagels and pizza and soda and so much other stuff easily filling in there. And this high-carb nutritional profile is by far the most common starting point I see. By redirecting the focus to fat and protein, and making carbs a ‘reward’ of sorts for physical activity, I find it helps people make a clean break from that carb-saturated lifestyle.

This certainly doesn’t invalidate other methods, but I find this approach works for the plan I put forward, in the most number of cases, with the greatest number of people. But individuals aren’t statistics, so I’d recommend if what someone is doing is working well to keep at it, provided they are both healthy and happy.

AtA: Macro-split (PFC) Clarification

Posted May 5th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

Got a question about the nutrition profile: How’d you decide on 50% protein? Some sort of “Tell them the meeting starts at 19:30 so everyone will be there by 20:00″ deal? (I’ll also need to read it a few more times to mull stuff over.)

I’m not entirely sure which part you’re referring to, but I’ll make a couple guesses and you let me know if you were interpreting something else.

In the Base meal section, where it says “protein totals equal to or higher than the total amount of fat (by gram)”, the idea is if they go by gram and hit close to 50/50, they’re in actuality getting significantly more calories from fat. I don’t necessarily think that’s a negative thing, even in a sedentary individual, but that’s why I say keep the protein up above, which implies that protein can be even significantly higher. With regular exercise this balances out with Peak meals providing that same level of protein but minimal levels of fat to where you still end up at a rough 40/40/20 ratio (as in the section 40/40/20).

Speaking of that section, that’s my other assumption of your reference. In that section there are two optimal, if somewhat plain, meals that meet the requirements for the types of meals. But again, we’re assuming 4-5 Base meals in a day, and 1-2 Peak meals, so once this is all factored out we still roughly end up at about a 40/40/20 split. I try to keep the focus on getting protein in every meal no matter what type of meal it is; with the extra calories per gram in fat and the readily available sources, it’s easy to meet the 40% Fat requirements. Many people have a tendency to grossly underestimate the carb content of foods, but this approach helps to balance that as well.

Protein is the common link between the two meals, and healthy and robust Base meals will include some ‘carbs’ from vegetables, and peak meals will typically include some fats from sources no matter how lean. That ‘half’ target is to help compensate for the fact we don’t get our macros from a super-soldier machine strapped to our back that feeds us intravenously. And I didn’t want people fretting over the 3g of carbs from having mushrooms with their steak, while still being conscious of the fat in the dressing they want to slather on their salads.

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