AtA: Dynamic Stretching (for Golf)

Posted July 28th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

What do you recommend for golf?

Color-blindness to help you in selecting the right pants?

If you’re going to sink it in every hole, make sure your wife doesn’t find out?

Go to your Happy Place?

haw haw haw~ (haw)

So anyway, I’m assuming you mean in regard to dynamic stretching. Truth be told, all four stretches in the book are beneficial to golf. The pull-squat opens up hip mobility, windmills stretch the shoulder axis, torso twists will improve rotational power, and even neck stretches can help unlimber your traps and shoulder girdle for swings. That’s not a cop-out; hip-drive and torque can immediately improve your game.

Beyond what’s in the book, you may enjoy doing one-arm planks (neutral spine, but tighten your (ugh I hate this word) “core” so that you can raise one arm out in front like a superman.

Apart from stretching (and back to the book) two specific exercises can significantly help as well: the first is working your way into one-hand push-ups. More than a shoulder routine, it actually develops significant (ugh) core strength. Second is the split-squat, which is hard to match for developing hip drive and rotational power.

AtA: Caloric Consumption and Weight Training

Posted July 9th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Quick question on calorie deficits as a result of weight training. I’m operating under the assumption that more work = more calories burned. Using bench press as an example, under a strength training workout, I’m doing 3 sets of 8 reps at 135 lbs with 2-3 minutes in between sets.

Under a bodybuilding workout I’m doing 4 sets of 12 reps at 90 lbs with 30 seconds in between sets.

Workout A is 3240 lbs moved over a longer period of time and Workout B is 4320 lbs moved over a shorter time period.

In this scenario, would workout B yield greater calorie deficits? Especially given workout A is a 2 day split vs. 4 day for workout B?

At face value the answer is moot, as the actual “calories” expended between the two is a wash, and a muddy one at that. However, once you start talking about the effects on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption it gets slightly more substantial, but still murky and largely dependent on individual traits and characteristics. As I mention in the book, there are numerous factors involved even beyond the volume/time equation, such as compound groups called into play, levels of neuromuscular activity, speed and explosiveness, range of motion, and even simple skeletal loading.

For example, you could create an absurd level of ‘volume’ by putting a substantial weight on the leg press or seated row and crush out hundreds of reps in a short span of time, but it would not produce near the levels of NMA or load that a well-performed set of squats would.

That said, the crux of the matter is intensity. When you talk about ‘calorie-burning’ (i.e. “waste” or inefficiency, which is a primary factor in keeping fat off the body), the higher purpose is intensity, which is why I put forth both HIIT and heavy resistance (in the 3-8 rep range) training that includes structural loading and compound movements for maximal “if we drop this, we may die” NMA levels. At high levels of intensity (especially in competitive or “play” states), the catecholamine dumps themselves are worth more toward a calorie deficit than anything that can be worked out on a spreadsheet.

Again, the focus I push is for maximum results with the minimum investment of time or complexity. If you’re looking for other perspectives you might try a more specialized program, since you mention a ‘body builder’ program which aims for a different set of goals.

One of the reasons, for example, that I solely focus on the big movements are studies like this one, that take a 31 minute circuit program of bench, power cleans, and squats, and demonstrate a higher metabolic level at 38 hours post-exercise, which is double the previously established max. That’s a higher rate of caloric consumption for the better part of two days after lifting. It makes the double-digit levels of calories-burned during actual exercise rather inconsequential.

Bodybuilding is a sport (or art, depending how you look at it) and they measure success by different metrics than almost anyone else, be they athlete or regular person. But if your question (specifically about calorie-expenditure) is rooted in loss of bodyfat, you’d likely better serve your goals by focusing on how hard you’re lifting rather than how much (and of course what you are eating). Hopefully that gets you closer to the answer you’re looking for.

AtA: Setting Up the Weight and Maintaining the Challenge

Posted July 7th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Do you have any tips for getting the bag on for pushups? It’s getting too heavy for me to do that part properly without the weight being centered at my lower back, which seems bad.

If you don’t happen to have someone who can set you up, you can put the bag on a chair, then kneel next to the chair and draw it onto your shoulder blades with your outside hand, bracing yourself with your close hand and your knees. Then replace your hand and get in push-up position. You can also try varying your hand spacing, doing incline push-ups by putting your feet on a higher surface, or for something still more advanced, see if you can bust them out one-handed. Those are my fav.

Alternatively, you can do one-hand flyes/presses using the straps on, say, the edge of a couch or step so that you have clearance for the full range of motion. Or simply switch to overhead presses, or one-hand overhead presses until such time as your shoulders get strong enough to support one-handed push-ups.

Lastly, plyo push-ups going for height/clearance will never stop being a challenge. That is, until you can explosively push yourself up to standing position without breaking at the knees or hips. Which would be pretty impressive. You probably want to do them on carpet, a mat, a wood floor or something with some give. Concrete is for people that hate themselves.

Squats is kind of a pain for that too when you have no squat cage. You have to find some appropriate-height surface in your place to set it on and then roll slide into position on the back of your neck, or just do Zercher Squats.

I like Zerchers for the same reason I like hill sprints; you can’t do the weight you could on a back squat, but it’s a lot harder to do them wrong. And it lends itself to a natural functionality when you are doing something that requires you to squat and lift.

A great compound movement is cleaning the bag off the floor and throwing it over your shoulder in a fireman carry; you can not only scoop more weight than you might be able to hustle into zercher, but you also get additional stimulus to the torso and body to balance the weight. Just switch sides between sets (or for true brutality, drop it back to the floor and clean it up again for each rep).

I’d also recommend giving the split-squats a try with the bag in zercher position.

AtA: Running On About Intervals

Posted July 2nd, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

In the “Prelude to Movement” you are against jogging for more than 30 minutes. You also speak about something that I have been incorporating into my workouts forever, interval training. I was wondering if I could kind of combine the two because I have lost about 30lbs and discovered I really like to run again.

If, I am running in a hilly area, or have a program on my treadmill that adjusts the incline automatically for me, will this give me the benefits of interval training while still using the flat/downhill areas for active recovery? Will this interfere with anything on my lifting days? (I lift on opposite days that I run/walk/jog.) I am hoping that the introduction of the hills does not allow my body to become more efficient/adapted to running.

From pg59 in Brain Over Brawn:

My take on it is this: if you really enjoy jogging, go for it. It certainly counts as general movement and in moderation and with proper preventative care, you can preserve your joint health and mobility just fine. Just don’t try and use it as some generic fat-loss or calorie-burn method; the following exercise forms will do a much more efficient job.

As I’ve said on many occasions, running for the sake of running is not the basis for my beef with cardio, steady-state or otherwise. If running is fun for you (or you do it competitively), go bananas. B A N A N A S. But for some people it’s boring drudgery and they do it because they think that’s the best (or only) way to change your body composition, and it’s not.

As far as considering it to be HIIT, I wouldn’t think so unless you are sprinting up hills (or stairs) or some exercise to the point that it’s impossible to maintain a tempo due to exertion. Treadmills especially are ill-suited, as the vast majority of machines can’t maintain enough of an incline to be a sufficient challenge without also destroying your stride (a grass hill or even stairs will provide much more joint stability than a flat plane at an angle). And most don’t go fast enough (until again, it’s a dangerous situation). I dislike treadmills in general anyway, but they’ll suffice for general movement/active recovery if it’s something you want to do.

As far as cross-country type HIIT, if you’re falling down in the dirt and pine needles like you’re about to vom your brains out, and have to force yourself through a haze to stand back up and run more (only to collapse again) sure, that can be HIIT. But most people go out to the trails and it’s this big grand process to drive there and get to running, and they don’t want it to be over in five minutes. Conversely, you could enjoy your run and then at the end just before you go back to the car or house, if you want to just sprint your brains out for a few sessions, yeah. That’ll do, pig.

As for interference, no, it won’t substantially impact your lifts provided you are getting ample recovery (which includes nutrition, General Movement, and rest). You’ll want to not do one immediately following the other, but if you put a few hours in between (ideally with a meal and a nap), you’re fine.

AtA: the ‘vanity’ of exercise and the ‘proper’ resistance weight

Posted June 30th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

In the last month I’ve started hitting to gym to lean up my fat ass; while in the last months my lifts have all gone from “struggling with the bar” to 100-140lbs, my motivation is more or less purely physical vanity.

Though this might not apply to your situation specifically, I’m still mildly surprised when someone blushingly confesses to me that their motivation is aesthetic, as if it’s somehow less noble of a goal or motivation than health or athletic performance. In the same way exercising for better health and longevity could be attributed to selfish motivation (because you personally want to live longer or better), or likewise could be for others (because you do not want to be a medical burden on your family or society), you can likewise consider aesthetic reasons to be for the benefit of others (so that your children don’t grow up with a weak, fat parent as their role model, or so that your significant other can continue to find you attractive and enjoy you physically as well as mentally and emotionally). I’m not one to break each and every little thing down to subjective reality, but you can call the motivation anything you want so long as it gets you where you ultimately want to go.

For example, I’m motivated to see everyone succeed because every person who is obese is a financial burden on myself and my society. I’m also motivated because I have plenty of friends and loved ones who are overweight or obese, and suffer not only medically, but emotionally and mentally.

What ultimately matters to me is that as many people who want to help themselves can do so, and I’m doing that in the best way right now that I know how. But my motivations aren’t as important as the end goal, and yours don’t have to be either.

However I hate the hassle of actually going to the gym so the idea of keeping a sandbag in my closet I can use in my apartment in the morning is extremely appealing.

I would caution you that though (or perhaps because) it is more convenient, you will need more motivation to convert to working out at home, not less.

Though it’s a method I recommend, having a sandbag in your closet is an easy thing to go “Oh I’ll just do it tomorrow, I deserve to take it easy today because of [reason here].” The engineer bag can be an incredible tool and can readily serve as a universal one for people who need it to do so; just don’t let it enable you to make excuses and eventually fail yourself in your ultimate goal. Again, that may not be your problem, but we’re all different.

Now, I’m 6’2″. Is a bag full of sand that maxes out at 160lbs going to be enough of a stimulus to give me decent-sized musculature (once I drop enough fat to have it become visible, of course)?

Time and again, athletes are shocked when they find out an engineer bag they’ve been struggling with might only weigh 100lbs. The reason barbells became so popular is because of the fact it’s efficient, that the body can best grasp that weight and manipulate it in that form, where it’s as compact and unencumbering as it can be. That’s why things like fatbars/fat grips and kettlebells are so en vogue; they take a weight and make it unwieldy and thereby more challenging. Bagging weight takes it that step further, especially if you are gripping the canvas itself rather than the convenient handle or cradling it. It’s a pain in the ass to lift and move, and the more obnoxious it is, quite frankly, the better it can be.

If you can fill a bag completely and are knocking out all your movements like it’s no thing, simply get another bag and either load them both up on your arms zercher-style, put one on each shoulder, or carry one under either arm. If you’re at 300+lbs in sandbags and you’re still feeling unchallenged, at that point you might look into a gym membership. And probably competing at a serious level of sportsmanship.

AtA: Workouts and Carb Meals

Posted June 25th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

Quick question on nutrition, I have always been told that you should eat your carb-heavy meals before you exercise instead of after but the book says to do the opposite. Does this matter at all, and if so, do you have an opinion on which is better?

I recommend it after (obviously), and though the carbs are the distinguishing factor (compared to the Base meals), I still consider protein to be the emphasis.

The metabolic state that comes with exercise obviously only extends beyond the workout (your body for whatever reason has a hard time predicting when in the future you may work out). While there’s some credence to be given to having the carbs available ‘as fuel’, that’s going to be significantly more of a factor for endurance athletes rather than someone doing the exercises in the book (or for a typical human, natch).

A more practical reason is the shocking (shocking, I say) frequency of people eating a pre-workout carb meal and then unforeseen circumstances preventing them from doing the workout at the time they’d planned, thereby sitting around with carbs in their tum and insulin up, and nothing to do for it. I look at carbs as a type of reimbursement; you do the work, then you get paid.

The other part of it is general restriction of carbs; if you had a carb meal before and after a workout, and had two workouts that day, 4 of the 6 meals you’re eating are low-fat, moderate-carb. Even with that much exercise you’re potentially throwing off the macro pretty fierce, and that’s problematic inasmuch as you’re not getting proper amounts of fat as you are getting ‘too many’ carbs. One peak meal per workout is my general rule.

Base/Peak is the approach I recommend most often to most people. However, if you’re doing it a different way and you’re getting/have the results you want, then there’s no real need to change it to what I’m saying. The same can be said for the Brain Over Brawn program: if you’ve legitimately and faithfully done it by-the-book and aren’t seeing the results you want, do something else.

AtA: Brain Over Brawn and Older Folks

Posted June 11th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

My mom is willing to eat a good diet but won’t lift, and my dad is willing to lift but refuses to diet. It also seems like older people seem to think that it’s impossible to get in good shape when you’re over 50, and considering than 90+% of people that age are in poor shape it’s really not hard to see why they would think that.

I also think that the accepted wisdom until recently has been “Oh you’re old take it easy you don’t want to have a heart attack” and that mentality seems to be ingrained in people’s heads. Luckily it seems like the medical community is slowly starting to see the light and is recommending lifting to more older people. I work out at a university gym and there’s quite a few older people who look like they’re just starting out.

Back when I was first getting started in the field, I remember all the old dudes who would faithfully come in to Bally’s at 6am, 5 days a week. It was practically a social club. But many of these dudes had been at it for twenty+ years and were still benching 135 and so on. Though I’ve repeatedly spoken out against the numbers game, I personally don’t feel like there’s a definitive end-game, even for little old ladies.

Though when I approached them as a trainer (for what was probably their 2000th time rejecting some young asshole trying to tell them their business), they were very canalized in their approach to nutrition, exercise, and so on. Even these men who have a lifetime of exercise behind them have been patiently sticking that same metal peg into the same gap in the weight stack for longer than I’ve been alive. While normally I’d take a ‘to each their own’ tact, those same people almost universally expressed dissatisfaction with their gains and their current ability. Though they were largely unable to affect change, they were also terrified to stop doing what they’ve been doing for fear of losing even their most modest of gains.

It’s a hard place to be, I’m sure. But it’s strange to see so many otherwise-successful men who probably listen to (and value the advice of) experts all day in their business, yet write off physical prowess to the chemistry and ferocity of youth. I’ve actually got a pretty thick notepadĀ  of observations that I’ve been slowly putting together regarding the age/gender-related disparities both from social and biological perspectives; I’m hoping to put it into a decent paper some day.

That said, you, myself and (I imagine) anybody who actually likes their folks has to deal with this sort of thing. My successes (where I’ve found them) have yet to have a common thread though, so I have a hard time proffering advice for helping others. The best tentative approach I’ve found (and that I tried for in the book) is relating to people as people, or human-animals, and really pushing the whole tribal thing we’ve been at for millions of years, in stark comparison to this last little few-decade hiccup of macbooks and automobiles. We’re all much more alike than we are different, and the things that do distinguish us are seldom these big blanket generalizations of boy/girl, young/old, etc. I know I’ve won over more than one older dude by painting up role models like Sam Elliot and Clint Eastwood; even some of the most wobbly grandpas out there enjoy envisioning themselves as grizzled old hardasses.

The short and sweet is that Brain Over Brawn (and nutrition, and fitness, and especially resistance training) don’t have an expiration date. Short of being medically bedridden (which you may yet avoid if you exercise between now and then), there’s seldom a reason someone can’t lift right up until curtain call. And doing so is very likely to give you not only more years to keep at it, but a higher quality of life throughout.

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