Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pace Ladders (This Time with Squats!)

A few years ago, I was spending a lot of time training with kettlebells and happened upon a work-rest scheme that, as far as I could tell, no one had hitherto written about - pace ladders (2009 blog post).

The idea of pace ladders was to have an interval scheme that started at a slow cadence then, over succeeding sets, progressed to a fast pace, then dropped back to the slow cadence to begin the progression again. This would be repeated as many (or as few) times as desired.

For example, one set I did for kettlebell snatches with a 53lb kettlebell was 30 second intervals, resting in the overhead position, 2 reps - 4 reps - 6 reps -8 reps -10 reps - 2 reps - 4 reps - 6 reps, switch hands and repeat. That's 84 reps in 8 minutes with one hand switch at a pace that varied from 4 reps/minute at its slowest to 20 reps/minute at its peak - not bad for one extended set!

I've recently started doing this rep scheme with squats. Understand, I'm not recommending this exactly, just telling you about the training I'm doing lately that is making the higher reps feel a little less laborious.

In this workout, I squat for 3 minutes and 40 seconds. The ladder consists of doing 1 rep for the first 20 seconds, 2 reps for the second, 3 reps for the third, 4 reps for the fourth, and 5 reps for the fifth 20 seconds. I do this twice.

Considering the Alternative...

One of the tremendous upsides of choosing some kind of healthy lifestyle change, even if it's not THE best choice, is that you are NOT choosing a plethora of other bad behaviors.

Consider a person who is obese that decides to walk for one hour a day every single day, working at a leisurely pace, stopping and resting during that hour as often as needed. If you were to survey internet fitness gurus, no doubt many of them would scream and curse about how 'YOU CAN'T OUTRUN A DONUT!' or 'THAT WON'T EVEN BURN ENOUGH CALORIES TO MATTER!'. They are missing the point completely - this is exactly what is meant by 'replacement behaviors'. By choosing to spend an hour walking, they are also choosing to NOT sit on a couch for an hour internet surfing and eating chips.

Choosing a positive behavior and following through, even when it may not be the best option available, can be the first step toward building positive habits that will lead to more constructive and even better decisions down the road.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Developing the Hinge with the CV Deadlift

The better part of two decades ago, I was watching VHS tapes I had purchased out of Westside Barbell and they demonstrated an exercise they dubbed the "CV Deadlift" named after the powerlifter Chuck Vogelpohl.

The "CV deadlift" is a deadlift off of a low pulley or a band anchored at the floor in front of you. Because the weight is pulling you forward, the movement requires an exaggerated hinge to keep your body's center of gravity from flying into the weight stack or support structure.

I have used this exercise with many of my students and athletes to help them understand the mechanics of the hinge, and recruit the posterior chain into the movement. Initially, it's very common for trainees to lock up their hips and squat with the bands, looking like they are waterskiing badly. But, with coaching and practice, the athlete will quickly come to understand how to flex and extend the hips, using their glutes and hammies to drive the feet into the ground.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Birthday Workout

Had another birthday on Friday and put in a solid workout. I was hoping to squat "bodyweight on the bar x my age", but I think I'm going to have to either lose some or get younger to do it! I was happy with the session though and ended up doing bar x 20, 135lb x 10, 185lb x 25, 135lb x 25 x 2sets. Not bad for me, and I wasn't particularly sore the next day!

Here was the main set of 185 x 25 which, honestly, was harder than I thought it should have been:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Concept of "Yoyuu"

In the Japanese language, there is a word, 余裕 'yoyuu' (pronounced 'yo-you'), that means something like 'reserve, wiggle-room, surplus, leeway'. The word is used to convey an action that is done without excessive use of one's resources and energy.

Two people talking at a business meeting:
Person 1: レポートを書いた? ("Hey, you finished the report yet?")
Person 2: うん、余裕。("Yeah, It was no problem.")

A spectator watching a world class athlete in action:
Spectator: わあ、すごい!余裕だ! ("Wow, they are awesome! It looks so effortless!")

The term implies confidence in and mastery of a given situation.

Yoyuu can also be used negatively to describe a situation or action that requires all of one's attention and effort to complete. Used negatively, it implies a lack of control and composure, and that one is overwhelmed. It is worth nothing that although hard work and diligence are virtues of the highest order in Japanese culture, not having yoyuu is always a BAD thing.

Two friends talking:
Friend 1: 仕事は忙しいけど、映画をみる? ("Hey, I know work is busy, but you want to see a movie?")
Friend 2: いやああ、ごめん。今はちょっと余裕がないわ。。。 ("Man, sorry but I don't have time/money/physical-emotional wherewithal right now.")

In training and learning, there should be a gradual (but not linear) increase in capacity and competence. We are expanding our wherewithal so that we create a reserve in task efficacy where there was little before. To create yoyuu, you do NOT repeatedly put yourself in situations without it - you practice performing with yoyuu to get more of it.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Cut Your Goals In Half

If you have some goals at work that your boss gave you, there's a chance the "cut your goal in half" idea won't work. It's unrealistic to think that you have the power to cut all your annual goals in half. I agree. But when it comes to corporate goals you don't have control over, the research suggesting that reduced goals perform better over the long run gives you ammunition to set the right goal in the first place. 
I once worked at a company that took twenty years to make a $5 million annual revenue on the back of one great product. The CEO decided one year that the company's new goal was to make another $5 million in five years on a brand-new, untested product. Everyone smiled when she announced this aggressive new initiative in the boardroom, but the break room tends to tell the truth about a company. 
Everyone knew it was impossible - not just out of reach, but irresponsible in its overreach. It would demand resources, distract us from our real goals, and ultimately fizzle out with a whimper. That's exactly what happened. After a frustrating year, the goal was tweaked, changed, and eventually abandoned. 
Few things demoralize a workforce like a leader who doesn't pick the right-sized goal. If you think it's discouraging to break a promise to yourself, imagine multiplying that discouragement by a hundred or even a thousand employees. 
How do you apply the 50 percent rule to work goals? By making sure they're they right size from the beginning. How do you do that though? That's what the rest of the book is about, but chapter 7 in particular will be important for work goals. Pulling data from the past will inform the planning of goals in the future. The bottom line in corporate settings is that even if you can't cut a goal in half, you can temper dangerous optimism and planning fallacy in your company. (Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done, pp. 26-27)
Every year, I make 'resolutions', New Year's goals. Usually, most them do not get accomplished. As this book suggests, we are often overly ambitious when we set goals for the new year. We set an ambitious goal and then become discouraged at the first hint that we are not on pace.

It's not a bad idea to halve the goal, or double the amount of time you allot for it to get accomplished. For example, if you currently can squat 300lb and you set your goal as 400lb, consider resetting your goal as 350. Not only will your chances of success improve significantly, but you're also more likely to springboard to the goal you had in the first place.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Secret To Doing So Much Is Doing So Little

It seems to be the condition of modernity to be in a constant state of anxious, hurried and unfocused multitasking mess. I have this discussion with kids all the time - yes, you CAN do more than one thing at a time, but if you want to do anything to the best of your abilities, you have to focus on that one thing and that one thing alone.
Can you drive and talk at the same time? Yes, but both tasks will suffer. Remember when dad yelled for everyone to be quiet when he was driving in heavy traffic or when the weather was bad? He knew what we all know intuitively - that to really focus, you can't allow unnecessary distractions. You can't be all-in if you're playing more than one game at a time.

"By doing one thing at a time and devoting his full concentration to that one thing, Dr. Bob is able to do many things well - from writing and influencing health care policy, to investing in companies, to being a good husband and father. His insistence on single-tasking ensures that he learns and grows from every document he drafts and every interaction he's involved in. 'It's not that I can't multitask," he says. "But when I multitask everything suffers. So I just don't multitask. Ever.' 
He compartmentalizes his day down to the hour. Each compartment has a concrete objective. These objectives range from, for example: write 500 words for a paper; learn enough about a company to make an investment decision; have a free-flowing conversation with an interesting person; keep his heart rate at 80 percent of its maximum in a fitness class; influence a decision maker in a highly political meeting; enjoy dinner with his wife and kids. This type of compartmentalization ensures he follows his governing rule: 'Do only one thing at a time.' Dr. Bob's secret to doing so much is doing so little. He is the ultimate single-tasker. " 
(Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, pp. 56-57)
Related Squat Rx Posts:
Multi-Tasking Addiction & Training Focus

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Stretching Sequence

This is the basic stretching sequence I use with my swimmers as a relaxed stretch following dryland work. We do more and take more time with it, but this gives the gist of what we do. To really understand the stretches, you'll need to "shop around" (Dick Hartzell) and explore how breathing and subtle changes of hip/shoulder girdle/foot/hand/etc. positions alter the stretch and promote or inhibit the release of tension.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

*Neck Circles, turn left/turn right
*Arm Circles (forward, back)
*Arm across Chest shoulder stretch
*Behind Head Tricep Stretch
*"Skin The Cat"
*Pec Stretch
*Hip Circles
*Good Morning Hamstring Stretch
*IT Band Stretch
*Quad Stretch
*Straddle Stretch
*Lying Butterfly
*Lying Internal Rotation
*Hip Flexor to Hamstring Stretch
*Downward Dog to Calf Stretch
*Kneeling Shoulder Stretches
*Hip Complex
*Tactical Frog

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Key Log

Key log: a truly ancient concept from the days before suspensors when lumbermen sent their fallen timber rushing down rivers to central mill sites. Sometimes the logs jammed up in the river and an expert was brought in to find the one log, the key log, which would free the jam when removed. Teg, she knew, would have an intellectual understanding of the term but she and Taraza could call up actual witness from Other Memories, see the explosion of broken bits of wood and water as a jam was released.
'The Tyrant was a key log,' Taraza said. 'He created the jam and he released it.' 
(pg. 119, Heretics of Dune)

Often there are staples of our training life that have become impediments to progress, but we just can't let them go. We often look for the one thing to add to our training that will make everything jump forward, but sometimes what is needed is a culling of logs... Addition by subtraction.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017

More Often Than Not (Part I)

Training More Often Than Not

I've done my share of minimalist programs over the years, but starting three years ago, nothing was really clicking with me. I had been very busy with coaching, work, and trying to be a good, attentive parent. No matter what I did, the training template or split I was trying would be too restrictive for me to continue during periods of high stress.

I managed to stumble upon a philosophy that works and I try to incorporate it into all areas of life that I consider important. The philosophy has allowed me to get training in regularly and has been adequate for my goals.

The philosophy is this: If it's important, do it more often than not.

I believe that if something is important to you, you need to give it attention more often than not. Every day and all the time might not be realistic expectations for everything in your life, but more often than not is worthy and generally attainable.

In the gym, I call this my "More Often Than Not Training" approach. Here are the basic tenets of the approach:

* Work out more often than not
Making training and exercise a habit means doing it "more often than not". You don't need motivation, you need to make a habit. Missing a day is inevitable, but try not to miss two in a row. Two easily becomes three, becomes four... Missing practice very quickly becomes a habit of its own.

* Have clear goals
Clear goals make it easy to decide where to spend your training efforts. If your goal is to run a marathon, then, generally speaking, the answer to the question 'What am I going to do today?' is going to be apparent.

* Make no single session a time-consuming herculean effort
Training should be sustainable and repeatable. The "Go Hard or Go Home" mantra is fine for the young and gifted, but it will lead to burn out for many. Do things you don't hate, and don't do things you like to the point you start to hate them.

* Do something. Anything is infinitely better than nothing
Don't have time? Then do a couple warm-up sets and one solid work set and call it a day. Long term, making a bunch of minimum payments is going to have greater impact than skipping them all together.

In 2016, following the tenets above, I managed to do some kind of strength training 267 days out of 366. That's averaging a touch more than 5 days a week and that's not bad! I finished the year feeling good overall and did 20 chins for the first time in over 20 years. I will adjust my goals in 2017 to better address areas I want to improve, and I'll share that in my next post.

- Boris

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Birthday Work

Today was my birthday. It was a nice day. Tried to hit 20 chin-ups - something that I have not done in, probably, 20+ years. Didn't quite make it, but it was close and I hope to give it another good try before the end of the year.