Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Fit Cast

Outstanding content for years that I feel bad I have not mentioned here until now: The Fit Cast

The 300th podcast is with everyone's favorite, Dan John, and it is, of course, great:



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bring Sally Up

Did the "Bring Sally Up" workout from Rich Froning tonight. Fun, but harder than the last time I did it. I finished all the reps, but fudged the down time a bit... It's not something I'll be doing often, but I'll do it again.

I'm working on that thigh gap...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Week Away

The lad and I had a week away and spent some time at the pool. It's amazing how, when you're young, you pooh-pooh the need for an aerobic base. Later on in life, you realize how much you miss having one... I did a lot of easy laps and, just to see if I still could, did a few lengths of butterfly. It's probably been close to 20 years since I've swum a single stroke of butterfly.

I was happy that my spine didn't pop out of my back and sink to the pool bottom...

video

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How Much Do You Trust Your Training?

"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? ...Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.
Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game 'or else people won't take it seriously.' Apparently it's like that. Your bid - for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity - will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shove a man - or at any rate a man like me - out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself."
From A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (pp. 22-23, 37-38)

You have to have some skin in the game. It's worth reviewing... often. In all areas of your life.
In training, reexamine your programming. Set goals and raise the stakes. Want to bench 300? Enter a contest. If you don't have a competition to prepare for, create a challenge. Set a date and make a potentially costly bet with a friend. No? Still not moved to action?  Use your imagination. Imagine that in three months, you will have no access to a gym or barbells for a year - would you just throw your hands in the air and give up on strength all together, or would you get busy? What would you prioritize in your training? Imagine that Zoltar the fortune teller says you will be in an accident a year from today potentially leaving you bed-ridden for months... how would you train? 
If you train others, the exercise is the same. Will "GPP", however you define that, be enough for their 'test'? Will that rope hold?
The test should be different from training, yes, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with teaching to the test if the test is valid. And here's the kicker that gym rats tend to forget - there will be a test! The test will come whether we prepare for it or not. Train with the knowledge that one day we will all hang by that rope over a precipice.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Just move more and eat less!"

Telling an obese person to move more and eat less is about as helpful 
as telling a poor person to make more money and spend less.

Which is to say that it is not helpful at all.

A patient walks into a doctor's office and says "It hurts when I do this." The doctor replies "Well, don't do that!"

Heard that one? I have. Repeatedly. Usually the conversation revolves around lifting weights...

But, what's wrong with that advice, really? The patient hasn't learned anything. The assumption can be logically made that the patient wants or needs to do 'that' (whatever 'that' is). So, unless the desire or need can be fulfilled or eliminated in some other way, and unless our doctor here can advise and assist with that, then the advice is absolutely worthless. It's a nonsolution.

Our job as teachers, coaches, and trainers is to help our students, athletes, and clients become better. We understand that, for example, getting stronger and getting out of pain can be complex challenges. So why then, do we grossly oversimplify the problem of obesity? Why do we repeatedly point to single, decontextualized causes? Why do we preach to the point of dogma about the wonder herb and diet of the season?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Practice Maps

Just put in the time. Put in your reps. Get that session in. Put together enough sessions, even if they are nothing special, and unless you're doing all the wrong things, you're going to make progress.

Daniel Coyle, the author of The Talent Code, keeps a blog on his site. A while back, he posted about "practice maps" in the entry entitled "Steal This Idea, Please" The idea is to have a score card that you make a check on every time you train or practice. One session = one step closer to your goal.

"Practice maps" are common in Japan. I bought the practice maps below in Japan. They were meant for kids to affix a Dragonball "well done" sticker each time they did their chores, but it can work equally well for training.


I've tried this just to get sessions in and it works! 

Use it for the things that are tough to do, or for actions you want to make habitual. For example, windmills and bird-dog pose thingies are two exercises that I should do on a regular basis... but don't. Using a card like this and throwing on a sticker each time I get it done is actually motivating!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Your First Singlet


Sorry, but these aren't for sale folks.

HOWEVER, I still have T-shirts available. Let me know if you're interested. $25 each (shipping included). Shoot me an email at boris_york@yahoo.com to check size availability and we'll work out payment through PayPal.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reps. Just Reps.

A Training Plan Rediscovered

Let me tell you a secret... I don't like to do math when I lift. I don't like calculating poundages or percentages. Terms like 'volume' and 'intensity', unless I'm training for a competition, make my skin crawl. When I load up a barbell, I only want to be thinking about this rep, right now.

And here's another secret... Most people in the gym qualify as beginners to advanced beginners, and as such, they don't need to overly concern themselves with volume and intensity as training metrics. They simply need to perfect technical skills, occasionally add some weight to the bar, and get quality reps in. Like most things in life, time on task and consistent, intelligent effort are a lot better long-term than beating yourself into the ground.

A training "plan" that I've rediscovered lately is to simply count reps over the course of a week or month. Just count reps. That's it! I say "rediscover" because didn't we all start out just going to the gym and lifting, trying to add a rep here and a plate there?

Don't worry about intensity, or sets, or volume - just count reps. The simplicity of this frees us from unnecessary complication. I know that if I look at a given 30 days in my training log and I've done hundreds of squats, then I've done my due diligence in training. On the other hand, if I look at a few weeks of training and see that I've only done 25 reps of presses including warm-up reps, then that's a problem.


How It Works
Early this year, a Facebook friend achieved a rep goal of 1000 pull-ups in a month. She's a kettlebell athlete. I thought the goal was genius and, since I'm pretty good at pull-ups (or used to be), I decided to give it a go. 1000 reps in 30 days = 33 reps/day, so I figured it wouldn't be a big deal. 20 years and 50 pounds ago, it probably wouldn't have been, but the honeymoon period was about three days long. When you need to average 33 reps/day, you don't take days off because every day off means more reps you need to average on the remaining days. I made it, but it was NOT easy. If I were to do it again, I'd probably shoot for something a little less ambitious - I don't weigh 150 anymore...

After that experiment, I decided to apply the idea to other exercises as well. For example, in January, over the course of 30 days, I did:
Push-Ups: 1005
KB Press: 960
Pull-Ups/Chins: 1012
One-Arm DLs w. 2" Vertical Bar: 1050
KB Squat: 1000

It was a fun experiment, but I found that trying to maintain a thousand reps for every exercise was too much. I started dreading the thought of cranking out another 33 pull-ups...

Choosing Exercises and Appropriate Rep Targets
Include one exercise or more from the following categories (Dan John)
Push: Overhead Press, Bench Press,
Pull: Pull-Ups, Chin-Ups, Rows, etc.
Hinge: Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Swings, etc.
Squat: Back Squat, Front Squat, KB Front Squat, Overhead Squat, etc.
Loaded Carries: Farmers Walk, Suitcase Carry, Ruck, Sandbag Carry, Pulling Harness, etc. *
Rotational KB Exercise:  Turkish Get-Ups, Windmills, etc.

Be flexible about your exercise selection and keep the reps appropriate to the specific exercise variant you choose. Push-ups and light swings are one thing - you might be able to easily punch out a grand or more every month indefinitely. Deadlifts and back squats, on the other hand, depending on load, may only be a hundred reps or less (including warm-up reps). If you decide to do pull-ups or chins, choose a total number of reps that will require a daily average that is sustainable. For me, 33 chins/day was a bit much, but half that number would be something that I could maintain just about every day for months.

*A note about loaded carries: Unless tracking distance is easy for you, I'd recommend setting a training frequency goal here. Five solid sessions a month is a good goal for me. I know that if I average one or two sessions of loaded carries a week, I'm doing pretty well. To be completely honest, I hardly ever do loaded carries in the winter months, but as long as there isn't danger of slipping on ice, I should.

Set Rep Targets - Today Is Day One
There's no need to be overly ambitious when you set your rep goals. It's infinitely better to set a goal of 50 reps and achieve it, than to set a goal of 1000 and doing zero.

Of course, keep your regular training log, noting load, sets, reps, intervals, etc, but following this approach, while not preparing for a competition or any specific goal, you may find it easier to focus on "getting the work in"; focusing on reps. Just reps.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

T-Shirts: Summer 2014


I have an order of SKWAT! t-shirts coming in on Friday.

Sizes available are: MediumLarge, and X-Large. All shirts are royal blue 50/50 blend Jerzees brand tees.

If you are interested, I still have a few Small sized t-shirts as well - they are royal blue Gildan brand 100% cotton.

Shirts are $25 each (shipping included).

Please send me an email (boris_york@yahoo.com) to check availability and we'll make payment arrangements through PayPal.

Thanks everyone!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Self-Actualization and Movement

Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais (pp. 38-39)
9. Hinges of Habit 
Finally, and most important of all, there is one more reason why we should choose the action-system as the point of attack for the improvement of man. All behavior, as noted before, is a complex of mobilized muscles, sensing, feeling, and thought. Each of these components of action could, in theory, be used instead, but the part played by the muscles is so large in the alternatives that if it were omitted from the patterns in the motor cortex the rest of the components of the pattern would disintegrate.
The motor cortex of the brain, where patterns activating the muscles are established, lies only a few millimeters above the brain strata dealing with association processes. All the feeling and sensing that a man has experienced were at one time linked with the association processes.
The nervous system has a fundamental characteristic: We cannot carry out an action and its opposite at the same time. At any single moment the whole system achieves a kind of general integration that the body will express at that moment. Position, sensing, feeling, thought, as well as chemical and hormonal processes, combine to form a whole that cannot be separated out into its various parts. This whole may be highly complex and complicated but it is the integrated whole of the system at that given moment.
Within every such integration we become aware of only those elements that involve the muscles and the envelope. We have already seen that the muscles play the main role in awareness. It is not possible for change to take place in the muscle system without a prior corresponding change in the motor cortex. If we can succeed in some way in bringing about a change in the motor cortex, and through this a change in the coordination of or in the patterns themselves, the basis of awareness in each elementary integration will disintegrate.
Owing to the close proximity to the motor cortex of the brain structures dealing with thought and feeling, and the tendency of the processes in brain tissue to diffuse and spread to neighboring tissues, a drastic change in the motor cortex will have parallel effects on thinking and feeling. 
If we wait until we are feeling good to start moving, we might have failed before we've even begun. It is very often through movement that we can get the ball rolling, so to speak, on the road to greater self-actualization. I've seen this happen so often - the kid with zero self-esteem who turns things around just through the confidence that comes from increased competence in one area of his life, often in the weight room, or on the practice grounds and playing field.

Related Squat Rx Posts:
Commitment Follows Competence
If It's Worth Doing...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mission Elapsed Time

Mission Elapsed Time (MET) is the time that has elapsed since the beginning of a project or 'mission.' For example, if we tell you our MET is 5/22:09:17, you know it has been 5 days, 22 hours, 9 minutes, and 17 seconds since our project started. NASA uses MET on all its flights to minimize the confusion caused by flexible launch times... 
We live about a three-hour drive from our favorite bookstore, Powell's City of Books in Portland, Oregon. When we visit, we sometimes take our dogs along. If we were to plan an itinerary for a trip to Powell's, it might look like this:
   8:00 A.M. - Leave home.
   8:15 A.M. - Gas up the car and get a soda.
   10:00 A.M. - Stop at a rest area to stretch and walk the dogs.
   11:45 A.M. - Arrive at Powell's 
  However, we never know when we're going to leave, because we usually sleep late on weekends and there are frequently last-minute delays such as gathering up a few last books to sell or receiving an unexpected phone call. NASA would say we have a long launch window for our trip. Thus, an actual trip to Powell's might look more like this, in ordinary clock time:
   11:47 A.M. - Leave home.
   12:02 P.M. - Gas up the car and get a soda.
   1:47 P.M. - Stop at a rest area to stretch and walk the dogs.
   3:32 P.M. - Arrive at Powell's 
However, it might be easier to build an itinerary around MET, which is relative, rather than absolute, clock time:
   0:00 - Leave home.
   0:15 - Gas up the car and get a soda.
   2:00 - Stop at a rest area to stretch and walk the dogs.
   3:45 - Arrive at Powell's
 - From Mindhacker (pp 106-107) 

I do believe in the establishment of "SMART" (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goals, however the "time-bound" thing has always been a bit problematic if we look at things long term. For example, if you set a goal to squat 500lbs at your next powerlifting meet three months from now, what happens if you fail to attain it? The mission isn't over. Do you just throw your hands up and say "Oh well, back to the drawing board"?
The beauty of using "Mission Elapsed Time" is that the clock doesn't have to stop at your next meet. The clock stops when the mission is complete.
Let me be clear - in my opinion, there is a difference between a mission and a goal. A mission is big. Totaling elite in a powerlifting meet is a mission. Losing 100 pounds is a mission. Most people aren' going to be able to sustain the effort needed for more than one or two missions at a time. Choose your mission thoughtfully.
Goals, on the other hand, can range from big to small. A goal may be a minor benchmark along the way to mission completion, or it may be the mission itself. You can have multiple goals, but they should all be assisting you in completing "the mission".

How would this look in your training log? I'm still experimenting with the idea, but after establishing a mission, the next workout you put in toward its accomplishment would start the MET as "Goal X - Day 1". Each successive calendar day (training or not) would count as Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, etc. The MET ends when the mission is complete and not before.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Judging Squat Depth is Not Difficult...

"How is my depth on this squat?"

There's nothing wrong with this question in a gym setting, especially if the squatter doesn't have a camera. But, I see this question on the internet a lot with an accompanying video. Yes, I understand that different powerlifting federations are stricter about judging, but no, there really is not any mystical know-how involved in judging squat depth. If the crease at the hip is parallel with the top of the knee, then it's "parallel" (also called a "half squat"). If you squat as deeply as your hips and knees allow, then it's a "full squat" (also known as an "ass to grass" or "ass to ankles" squat).

This fellow on the left is at parallel, and the gentleman on the right from Catalyst Athletics is full (front) squatting:



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Timed Squats for Cardio

Timed Squats
During the summer of 1967, Tommy Suggs and I decided to experiment on ourselves with a squat program designed to increase cardiovascular, respiratory fitness. This may seem to be a strange goal for a pair of aspiring competitive weightlifters, but actually cardiovascular, respiratory fitness is an important variable in our sport. Total conditioning counts for a great deal as some contests drag on for as long as twelve hours and the more fit athlete has a definate advantage over his opponents. Those who are in better shape can train harder and longer and, if they are practicing the right kinds of things, should improve more than those who do not do so. 
- Bill Starr, The Strongest Shall Survive
I've done my share of timed squat work in the past and always found it to be a fun change from the grind of straight reps. Recently, I've been doing higher rep work, and occasionally doing them in a timed format (such as a minute straight - repeat as tolerated, intervals, "20 seconds on, 10 seconds off x 8") can make it more palatable. As long as proper form is insisted upon and the load is appropriate, you could do much, much worse than squats when selecting an exercise to do for conditioning. It goes without saying that high technical competence and focus is a prerequisite to this kind of approach to cardio.

Yesterday, I did two sets of light front squats for one minute. I plan to add sets over time and vary the time on task and load. It will make for a fun experiment and I'll keep you posted over the next couple of months. This is the second set from yesterday:


Related Squat Rx Posts:
"Tabata" Squats
Sustained Heavy Breathing Training

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sassy Friday Post

Squat Rx - Putting The Squat in Sasquatch Since 2007

Friday, May 2, 2014

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

The happiest thing for me about this day's race was that I was able, on a personal level, to truly enjoy the event. The overall time I posted wasn't anything to brag about, and I made a lot of little mistakes along the way. But I did give it my best, and I felt a nice, tangible afterglow. I also think I've improved in a lot of areas since the previous race, which is an important point to consider. In a triathlon the transition from one event to the next is difficult, and the experience counts for everything. Through experience you learn how to compensate for your physical shortcomings. To put it another way, learning from experience is what makes the triathlon so much fun. 
Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren't involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It's precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive - or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself. If things go well, that is.
 - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami, pp. 170-171

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How I Train (Lately...)

On Tuesday evening after work, I put in this squat session:
Squat: bar x 10, 135lbs x 5
Squat (5:00): 185lbs x 35, 3


The numbers are not impressive, but I was working with a bad cold, and I was happy that it did not leave me physically wrecked at all. My lower back and hips had been problematic in 2013 - to the point of doing almost no squatting at all to speak of. In that context, I was very satisfied. If I try it again, I'll hope to get at least 40-50 reps in a single set.

In the month preceding this, I did sets of 20 with 135lbs in a few sessions, and a couple workouts where I would do as many quality reps as I could in one minute with 135. About 9 days out, I did the "Bring Sally Up" workout. I found it to be a lot of fun!


These days, for the first time in a long while, I look at each squat session as play. There are goals and focus, but I don't get greedy and I take each workout as it comes. If I feel good, I do more. If I feel crummy, I shut it down early. Currently, I'm enjoying riding the wave and seeing where it takes me. The plan is to push the intensity up a bit in the coming weeks, and when that starts to feel stale, switch to higher rep work with squat variants.

Friday, March 21, 2014

DVD Review - Prehab/Rehab 101: The Groundwork Progressions


The Functional Movement Screen has certainly revolutionized the landscape of S&C over the past decade, but it has left some coaches confused. Where do I start? What can I have my athletes do today? Do I need to write 20 different training menus to cover all of my students' needs? The answers are simpler than you might think, and Dr. Cheng's newest work provides an clear access route to improved mobility and stability that most coaches would miss - groundwork progressions.

Let me be perfectly honest, I loathe corrective work. Like most gym-rats at heart, I like to lift weights and anything that can be described as "twisty", "bendy", "unilateral", "contralateral", "prehab", or "rehab" has a way of very quickly falling out of my exercise rotation. I can put on a happy face when I'm coached through it, but it's just NOT what I want to do in the gym.

That said, I know I need to do it. Dr. Mark Cheng's DVD made it all seem laughably easy to incorporate into my existing "restorative work" (which usually consists of lying around on the floor and stretching). The deceptively simple patterns that I did while watching silly television very quickly had my hips and shoulders (and by extension, neck and knees) feeling better.

If you are a coach or trainer that works with populations that have hip and shoulder issues (which is most of us), then this DVD is a must-see. It is also easily applicable for the self-coach struggling to find the right mix of correctives in their training.

Give some the ideas in the clips below a try in your own training and I think you'll see how effective a small dose of good movement medicine can be.

Prehab/Rehab 101: The Groundwork Progressions



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Play and The Beginner's Mind


I have a wonderful memory. I am on the Serengeti Plain, watching a pride of lions. They are mostly belly up, sleeping and yawning after a big feed. Suddenly, two adolescent lionesses who have been wrestling and rolling around with each other begin a wild ballet. At first, it looks like a fight, but then I see that it is a full-blown, rough-and-tumble dance, choreographed intrinsically by play. It is rhythmic, gorgeous, dominated by curvilinear movements and rat-a-tat slaps. There are no signs of aggression. The cats make "soft" eye contact, their hair is smooth instead of bristling, their claws are retracted and their fangs covered. They make sounds - low shrieks of joy - that are particular to this, and only this, behavior. I almost need a slow-mo camera to catch the intricacy of the movement. And I feel something deep inside me. A visceral thrill, something pure and primal. My linear thoughts get overridden by the epiphany of this moment. It seems as if a spirit of divinity has infused these magnificent cats. A spirit of joyousness in physical form. Something more than reflex, something intrinsically creative. I am reminded of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, when the title character is at the limits of his endurance in his struggle with a giant marlin. All of Santiago's dreams of storms, fish, women, and fights fall away, leaving only a dream of lions playing on the beach, like cats in the dusk. That is the essential nature of play. It remains when the importance of so much else has fallen away. 
Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown M.D., pp. 195-196
As I've said on the blog before, your training should be playful as often as possible. I hate to bring up that topic again (and who isn't sick of hearing about it?), but one of the reasons for CF's success is the re-introduction of elements of play into what had become an atmosphere of sweat, discomfort, and (largely male) aggression.



Related Squat Rx Posts:
Neoteny
The Opposite of Play is Not Work, It's Depression

Monday, March 17, 2014

Okay, Fine. Let's Talk Knees-Out (again...).

September of last year, I posted 30 Days of Squat (Day #18): Don't Push Your Knees Out?. I thought it was an interesting topic, but nothing earth-shattering. I still think I said about all that needs to be said in that short little post. Apparently, the topic became huge soon thereafter - fitness and S&C bloggers from all corners came out with pages and pages and hours and hours of endless writing, speaking, and diatribe on the topic... Honestly, I didn't even know what "valgus" was before all of this hubbub.
If you haven't been following all of this nonsense, please, let me save you a lot of time and exasperation and repeat something that Mark Rippetoe talked about to me on the phone about seven years ago and I've said numerous times on the blog: Cues are cues. They are NOT technique. They are prompts to move the trainee in the direction of proper technique. 
People seem to forget the difference between cues and technique. And there IS a difference.
The problem with confusing the two is that you end up with exercise tutorials that look like this:


What's wrong with that? Well, nothing I guess, but if what you really want is the foot, knee, and thigh all in alignment with slight external rotation to provide some spiral tension, then (imho) that can be demonstrated without exaggerating the "knees-out"/"toes forward" to an extreme.
I reviewed Kelly Starrett's Becoming a Supple Leopard. I liked it a lot. I think it has real genius within its pages. But, I think Kelly's gone overboard in his defense of the book. If he had simply said "It's a cue. Nothing more. Nothing less." and left it at that, it would have been less confusing to the average trainee. But, being simple and clear doesn't sell as well as complication and controversy, so what the hell do I know?

Here are the videos, posts, and articles that speak to the controversy. The only one I'd recommend spending any time with would be the article by Greg Everett:
The Knees-Out Discussion - Takano Athletics (blog post)
Community MWod Videos: The Knees-In Squat - Kelly Starrett (videos)
Offline, Episode 4: The "Knees-Out" Cue - Kelly Starrett, Lon Kilgore, Quinn Henoch, Jacob Tsypkin (video)

Friday, February 21, 2014

How Many Squats Can You Do with Bodyweight on the Bar?

I think there will be an online contest (maybe April Fool's Day - no joke) - 5 minutes, as many reps as possible, barbell back squats with bodyweight.

I'm looking forward to participating actually - with some lingering back issues, it's been a long time since I've felt comfortable pushing things. My numbers will be nothing to write about, but it will be a training day for me.

This is Sarge's classic performance:


Here is a more recent go at it - 5:00 time limit. Contestants were allowed to re-rack the weight within the time period:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Distant Mountain

"Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be was a mountain.
A distant mountain.
My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could not stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain."

I really like this analogy and think it's a good one for most people, especially if they have long term and/or ambiguous strength and fitness goals. There are many roads to the mountain. Some roads are faster. Some are slower. Some are direct. Some take switchbacks and detours - sometimes the side roads and detours are worth exploring. Some roads are dead ends. And some roads lead to nowhere or take you in the wrong direction. 

Related Squat Rx Post:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"Try to Never Send a Loser Off Your Training Site"


"...the experience of losing in a simulation actually begins to condition a risk aversion pathway in the brain to which they may turn during similar experiences in the future - they may actually stop fighting and give up as they were programmed to do in training. This is why Murray will never let a student out of the training arena without ensuring that they are the decisive winner...
Yes, there will be a certain percentage of people who never grasp the training, but your goal as a professional is to keep that percentage to a bare minimum. It is easy to design a force-on-force paint bullet scenario that makes ever trainee look like an idiot, but all that proves is that the trainers are jerks. Ken Murray calls this "masterbation" - its only purpose is to act as a form of self-gratification for the trainer. But, suppose you are a trainer and you put a warrior through a scenario where he fails, and then you put him through it again and he succeeds. First you revealed a flaw in his armor and then you taught him how to shore up that weakness. In so doing, you brought him out the other end of the exercise as a superior warrior.
If there is not sufficient time and resources to run the exercise again, then just toss him a softball, and let him knock it out of the park. Your goal is to send winners out the door."
(From On Combat by Lt. Col Dave Grossman w. Loren W. Christensen, pp. 134-135)

As has been pointed out by many, any moron can design a workout that will "smoke" a trainee. It's a little harder to design a workout that makes the trainee better. The effects of repeated training to "failure" and breakdown can be deleterious. That's not to say that training should never be challenging, but as I say repeatedly success breeds success (and failure breeds failure).

Related Squat Rx Posts:
Commitment Follows Competence
Walk It Out!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"When the weather's nice, be sure to check your change."

Even depression has its advantages. Recent research suggests that despondency helps us think better - and contributes to increased attentiveness and enhanced problem-solving ability. In an ingenious experiment, Joe Forgas, professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales, placed a variety of trinkets, such as toy soldiers, plastic animals, and miniature cars, near the checkout counter of a small stationery store in Sydney. As shoppers made their way out, Forgas tested their memory, asking them to list as many of the items as possible. But there was a catch. On some days the weather was rainy, and Forgas piped Verdi's Requiem through the store; on other days it was sunny, and shoppers were treated to a blast of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The results couldn't have been clearer: shoppers in the "low mood" condition remembered nearly four times as many of the knickknacks. The rain made them sad, and their sadness made them pay more attention. Moral of the story? When the weather's nice, be sure to check your change.
- From The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton

A few years ago, here on the blog, I introduced a Japanese proverb - "In victory, tighten your helmet". As I am often forced to remember, the most common time for me to injure myself is when training is going great. Success often does indeed lead to even greater success, but if it is not tempered it can be disastrous. For me, the best training plans are developed when I am at my lowest...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Squatting Really IS Like Sex


However manfully I resist nostalgia, Victorian silences appeal to me. Dr. Block, in an uncharacteristic fit of wisdom, observes, "The irony of creating a taboo is that, once something is forbidden, it often becomes very interesting." Sex in a time of ostensible repression at least had the benefit of carving out a space of privacy. Lovers defined themselves in opposition to the official culture, which had the effect of making every discovery personal. There's something profoundly boring about the vision that is promulgated, if only as an ideal, by today's experts: a long life of vigorous, nonstop, "fulfilling" sex, and the identical story in every household. Although it pains me to remember how innocent I was in my early twenties, I have no desire to rewrite my life. To do so would eliminate those moments of discovery when whole vistas of experience opened out of nowhere, moments when I thought, So this is what it's like. Just about every generation needs to feel that it has invented sex - "Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three / (Which was rather late for me)" was Phillip Larkin's imperfectly ironic lament - we all deserve our own dry spells and our own revolutions. They're what make our lives good stories.
Unfortunately, stories like this are easily lost amid the slick certitudes of our media culture: that a heavy enough barrage of information produces enlightenment, and that incessant communication produces communities. Susie Bright and Susan Block and Dr. Ruth are loud and cable-ready. You can turn them on, but you can't turn them off. They yammer on about the frenulum, the perineum, the G-spot, the squeeze technique, bonobo chimpanzees and vibrators, teddies and garter belts, "eargasms" and "toegasms." Their work creates the bumbling amateur. Their discovery of sexual "technique" creates a population bereft of technique. The popular culture they belong to thus resembles an MTV beach party. From the outside, the party looks like fun, but for passive viewers its most salient feature is that they haven't been invited to it.
- Jonathan Franzen, "Books in Bed" (How To Be Alone, pp. 250-251) 

I know that, as someone who has created over 20 videos dedicated to squatting and squatting technique, it is probably hypocritical of me to say that the modern flood of "information", certifications, and guru-ism in the strength and fitness worlds have "created the bumbling amateur" and have "created a population bereft of technique", but that is exactly what has happened.

It's not that hard. (I'm talking about squatting people! I'm always talking about squatting, understand? Get your minds out of the gutter!) ...and if you can't do it, it's not the end of the world, just so that's clear...

Start from the floor in a push-up position. Walk your feet up near your hands. Keep your feet flat on the floor, take your hands off ground when you feel steady, and squat up.

If you did that, you're good!

There really isn't much more to it than that. You don't need an invitation. You don't need a guru. The moments of discovery are waiting.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

LARPing and the Strongman

Otherworld was founded in 1991 by four members of Quest, a Connecticut-based LARPing group. Several months after completing a particularly challenging adventure, they received a letter from one of the participants.
"It was from a woman who'd attended, and she started by saying, 'You're going to think I'm crazy, but the event you ran changed my life,'" says Kristi Hayes. "She was working in a dead-end job she hated, and she was living with her boyfriend, who from the sound of it was really treating her pretty badly. She'd sort of accepted that... this was probably about the best she could expect from life.
"And then, she said, she came and spent the weekend having all these adventures and doing all these challenging things. She was particularly afraid of any sort of public speaking, but at one point during the event, the story line took a dark turn and she had an idea about how to fix things, so she stood up in a crowed room and told everyone about it. People listened to her and followed her idea, and as it turned out, doing so saved the day.
"She told us that for a long while after coming home  from the event, she continued on with her normal less-than-stellar routine but often thought about the weekend. She thought about the person she'd been there, the one who'd stood up in front of all those people, even though she was afraid, and convinced them to listen to her. And I will never forget what she wrote about that... 'She would never put with crap like this. She would find a way to fix things... if I can do heroic things when I'm running around in the woods, why can't I do them here at home?'
"And then she did. She went out and got herself a better job and she ditched the lousy boyfriend. She'd make those changes and built herself a better life, and she felt like she needed to write to us and thank us for it. That was just amazing to me, that we'd been able to help someone reach that point. And we started thinking, 'Gosh, if this event did all that, when really our only goal going into it was for everyone to have fun, well, what would happen if we ran events where we tried to give people these opportunities?'" 
From Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt (pp. 194-195)
Curiously, "life-transforming" certifications have become very popular in the fitness industry over the past 5-10 years. As I often say here, competence precedes confidence, and a good certification gives its participants a sense of competence and accomplishment. While I wouldn't go so far as to call them exercises in live-action-role-playing ("LARPing"), the parallels are interesting to note.

Role-playing is a great teaching method. Everyone knows this on some level of consciousness, and yet it isn't used very often. Prejudices towards the teaching method are, perhaps, rooted in the common adult disdain for fantasy, and the common loss of ability to play make-believe that many kids experience as they struggle to grow up too quickly. Furthermore, the amount of preparation needed to go into creating a context rich enough to make a roleplay authentic enough to not feel strained is substantial. Under-prepare and you run the risk of having participants standing around awkwardly, unable to suspend connection to current reality ("This is cheesy"). Over-plan and you could end up with participants stiffly reading a lifeless script ("This is boring"). The key is to create structure that is flexible enough to allow and respect the freewill and contributions of the participants.