Zen and the Art of Squatting, Part II

Back in part I (read that first so you aren’t lost), I talked about the unconscious nature of motor learning and skill training, and mentioned how the brain rewires itself in response to outside changes, which include exercise. Now I want to discuss what this means for fitness goals.

We’re taught to fear overtraining from day one. We know, since we’re told so often, that if we train too much, we’ll basically die. A whole culture has developed around how to plan and apply training programs so that we avoid doing too much while trying to scratch out some kind of progress. I know it, as I was part of that culture.

Recent experiences have had me rethinking that viewpoint, to the degree that I’m no longer sure what’s a genuinely physical limit, what’s a psychological roadblock, and what’s just a good idea, limitations aside. ‘Overtraining’ has moved out of my vernacular — and this has happened because I stopped caring about the consequences.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Zen and the Art of Squatting, Part II

Zen and the Art of Squatting, Part I

I’m not exactly sure where to start this post, because it’s a departure from the straight-up, I did this at the gym kind of thing I normally talk about. I’ll start with a little background.

I have a wide range of nerdly interests outside of weight training. I’ve mentioned that my approach to strength and physical culture came out of my earlier geekiness, but what I don’t talk about often is that my interest in the science of biology doesn’t stop with exercise and nutrition. I don’t want to go into a lot of the personal-philosophy details, mainly because they aren’t very relevant and more importantly, they’re kinda out there, and I don’t want to bog the place down with my wider thoughts.

For now, let it suffice to say that I’m big on neuroscience, how neuro-bio-chemistry relates to psychology, and how both of those relate to physical stress — the universal response to an organism being bothered by its surroundings.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Zen and the Art of Squatting, Part I

Let’s talk about fitness.

I think by this point everyone has noticed the trend toward functional fitness, cross-training, and tactical elite athleticism that’s been creeping into the fitness industry. With the rise of Crossfit and everybody else rushing to copy-cat, it’s hard not to notice the rush of people jumping on the bandwagon of functional circuits for time, the sudden appearance of people wearing Vibrams or Chuck Taylors — the hallmark of shaved-headed powerlifters c. 2001-2008 — while doing weird combinations of deadlifts and plyometrics and other assorted exercisey things not generally seen in your average gym.

Those of you that know me know I’ve been half-ass critical of that in the past. Only half-ass, though; I couldn’t and still can’t bring myself to full-on hate, because there are a lot of positives that have come out of this trend. It’s hard to deny that getting people more active in general, and exposing them to solid strength & conditioning practices in the process, is a good thing on balance. Even putting aside benefits like the Andro Broads, Crossfit and the wider functional-fitness movement it has spearheaded has done a lot to popularize the effective training methods that I’ve tried to promote for years.

Again, on balance, this is a good thing. But this does not preclude any criticisms.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Let’s talk about fitness.

Raw Lifting and Linear Periodization

I’ve had to do a lot of thinking over the past couple of years as far as deciding what I want to do with myself as far as training and goals. I dabbled with powerlifting for years, but it wasn’t ever satisfying to me as a competitive sport. I like hitting big weights, and I even like competing from time to time. What I don’t like is how gear has become such an integral part of training and competing. Even in the IPF affiliates it’s gotten a bit wacky, and don’t get me started on the multi-ply feds.

This isn’t a swipe at geared powerlifting. If you enjoy it, then best of luck to you. But it’s not what I signed up for. The reason I lift weights is, for lack of a better phrase, because of “physical culture”. Bodybuilders back in the day actually had to lift weights in their contests. The earliest powerlifters trained more like what we think of as bodybuilding today. That’s the old idea of physical culture: that you develop both strength and the physique with well-rounded weight training.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Raw Lifting and Linear Periodization

Observations on Bulgarian-inspired strength training

If you like this article, you might also be interested in my book Squat Every Day which covers this subject in much more detail. Get your copy here. As I’ve alluded to in the past few posts and many of my Twitter updates, I’ve been experimenting with high-frequency training in a half-hearted manner for the … Keep on reading &rarrow;

Research indicates athletic performances may have peaked

From here: http://www.physorg.com/news185738503.html There’s some interesting points raised, regarding inherent genetic limitations, the greater involvement of athletes from a wider talent pool from across the world, and the influx of both drugs and “technological solutions” into sports. Most interesting: “Future limits to athletic performance will be determined less and less by the innate physiology of … Keep on reading &rarrow;

A Defense of Round-backed Deadlifting

Roundbackers Unite!

Most of us know the Deadlift as an exercise that works the lower back, along with its effects on the glutes, hamstrings, traps/mid-back, and just about everything else.

Nearly everyone stresses the importance of keeping the lower back extended or at least neutral while deadlifting, or doing any other movement for that matter – that is, keeping your back arched or, better, flat. Stuart McGill, one of the foremost experts on the spine, considers that neutral spine position to be both the strongest (from the standpoint of minimizing damage) and thus the healthiest.

Accordingly the deadlift is taught with a flat lumbar spine. The rationale is to protect and stabilize the spine – which is the role of both the spinal erectors, the numerous abdominal muscles, and most everything else in the trunk. This is good advice, in general. However, there’s reason to question the notion that you must never let your back round under any circumstances.

Keep on reading &rarrow;A Defense of Round-backed Deadlifting

Using Spreadsheets to Plan Training

Everybody likes to have a plan. A well-written, well-designed workout means you don’t have to think too much when you go to the gym. You just show up, do what the plan says, and go home.

I won’t lie; I like a good spreadsheet. It’s fun to fiddle around with the numbers and see how things crunch when you put them together in a program. It’s a useful way to track progress and see how things work together.

Here’s what prompted me to write this piece, though. What I want to know is how you’re using a spreadsheet to calculate percentages for the 5×5 routines, when those programs specifically state they don’t use percentages to calculate weights.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Using Spreadsheets to Plan Training