Monday, November 22, 2010

Public Failure: Getting the First Pullup

Products on TV emphasize the fact that people want to exercise in the privacy (see: safety) of their own homes. The freedom provided by anonymity allows you to really cut loose and utilize the ab shocker 9000, P90X, or whatever is popular this week to its full extent. 

Commercial gyms have certainly picked up on this, and do their best to provide a safe environment where you can hide for 60min in a cubicle made of pulleys and light weights without anyone looking at you. I've seen countless gym guides showing prospective gym members the different machines that will fail them time and time again, all the while using TV buzzwords such as *muscle confusion to describe the techniques used by their underwhelming personal training staff.

The fear of failing in public is understandable, but inexcusable. The person who was laughed at in high school gym class for failing to do 1 pullup is screwing themselves by choosing a routine out of convenience and the fear of public failure. The pullup is generally a difficult and intimidating exercise for most new trainees to perform, but it is a very empowering movement when you have it in your back pocket.

Tips for Better Pullups
1. Think about pulling your elbows down instead of pulling your body up. The visualization makes the entire movement easier.
2. Until you can do 1 solid pullup, try negatives by holding the bar at the top of the pull, then slowly let yourself down (resisting the entire way).
3. Once you can do a single pullup, practice singles until you can get 2. It won't take long.
4. Don't cheat by jumping or kipping. You will rob yourself of the full value of this exercise. The only exception to this rule is when you are doing pullups for time (i.e. most things Crossfit)
5. Forced Reps can be done at the end of a set by pulling half reps (arms and lats involved) and quarter reps (lats only). If you find yourself stuck at a certain point in your training, ending a set or two with forced reps may aid moving you forward.
6. When you can, add weight. Nothing feels better than waddling over to a pullup bar with 50lbs hanging on your dip belt like a fat toddler with space issues and knocking out 8 clean reps.

*Muscles lack the ability to be confused, unless of course your muscles are made of tiny civilizations of brains. The only reason your body becomes confused is when you stand on a bosu ball. Your body realizes what a stupid fucking thing you're making it do, and does its best to seek out any and all cancerous cells in dingy intestinal bars, encouraging them to hurry up and end it all.

Say NO to bosu ball earthquake training. Get stronger.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kratos Costume pt1

New Kratos skills learned:
Forward shoulder roll
Diving forward roll

Current Standings 1RM
Squat – 305
Deadlift – 405
Sumo Deadlift – 445
Bench Press – 245 LvlUp
Powerclean - 210
Chinup – BW+70lbs x 6 LvlUp 

Prioritize Your Shit

Be honest with yourself.
How much of your program is dedicated towards things that don't really matter?

Endless curls and tricep pulldowns won't make your arms grow any more than peeing makes your dick bigger. Isolation exercises do have their place, but the majority of your program should be dedicated towards heavy compound lifts (especially if you are a natural lifter).

Below is a decent start for prioritizing your lifting schedule. Pick and choose what you are already comfortable with based on the importance of the lift, or refer to the Starting Strength program to remove the guesswork.

Tier1: The Big Three
Back Squat/Deadlift/Bench Press
Considered the big 3 lifts for a reason. Don't puss out when it comes to adding weight to the bar. Bench pressing 135 twenty times will make you really good at bench pressing 135 twenty times and nothing else. Go heavy.

- leg press/leg extensions are NOT replacements for a back squat
- if you hate your knees, by all means continue leg extensions
- train with a full range of motion, partial movements have their place in strengthening your tendons and premping your CNS (central nervous system) for higher weights, but they should not make up the majority of your heavy work
- do not let your back round on your pull upwards
Bench Press
- try a closer grip if you have shoulder issues (shoulder width is my favorite)
- see Dave Tate's advice for better form

Tier2: The Man Makers
Overhead Press/Power Cleans/Front Squat
All three of these lifts are comprised of motions that allow you to lift heavy, but are more technical to perform than their tier1 counterparts. Make no mistake, you should still go heavy, but expect a more difficult learning curve as you progress. 

Overhead Press 
- can force more reps out with a push-press (use your legs to drive momentum before you press)
- ditch your lateral raises and focus on adding more weight to this exercise 
Power Cleans 
- this is a difficult exercise, and should be attempted with light weights at first
- comprised of 2 distinct pulls, make sure you're doing both or your lower back will want to murder you 
Front Squats 
- much more difficult than a back squat
- a heavy workout for quads, abs, and shoulders

Tier3: Assistance Work 
Chinups&Pullups/Dips/DB Bench Press
Add in assistance work after your main lifts have been completed for the day. These should not be the focus of your workout, but they shouldn't be ignored either.

- chinups (underhand grip) add more stress to your biceps
- pullups (overhand grip) add more stress to your back
- add weight if possible (hold a DB between your legs or use a dip belt)
- are you still doing lat pulldowns...fucker 
- stay upright to add more stress to your triceps, lean forward to add more stress to your chest
- add weight if possible (hold a DB between your legs or use a dip belt)
DB Bench Press
- don't be a douche and click your weights together, no one likes that guy

Tier4: Isolation Exercises
- includes curls/pulldowns/calf raises/etc
- used for refining an already solid body or to get a blood pump when you really want it
- work your heavy compound exercises in first, finish with the exercises that take the smallest amount of muscle

Bros who curl in the squat rack are made of used vagina.
Don't be a bro. Get stronger.

Monday, November 15, 2010

5/3/1: Level Up

Programs like crossfit and Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program intrigue me out of their simplicity and their intrinsic nature of advancing only those with the will to push themselves. Both programs can be as easy or as hard as you make them, and are simple programs to follow.

If you already know what 5/3/1 is and just want a calculator to store your work, download this google spreadsheet and have your way with her.

5/3/1: Leveling Up Since 1899
The premise behind 5/3/1 is simple. Use basic compound lifts that increase in weight over time. Revolutionary, I know. The tables below represent the original 5/3/1 program (top) that Wendler designed, and an altered version (bottom) that I follow.

You may choose to stick to Wendler's original design, or take what you like and apply it to your own program. In general, you will want use the calculation based lifts on the compound exercises you use to measure your progress (i.e. Shoulder Press, Deadlift, Bench Press, Squat).

Although you can use it with other exercises as well (I use it for power cleans), you are better off finding your own system for exercises such as DB Bench Press, Hammer Curls, etc.

*Note* Any time I note an exercise proceeded by 'Singles,' I am referring to a max 90%-100% output done through single reps.

Calculating your Program
a. For each lift you plan on applying 5/3/1 to, you will first multiply your 1RM by 0.9
b. Take your 0.9*(1RM) and calculate the actual values you will use to lift (make a template or use mine to save time)

1 RM Bench Press = 225
1 RM Back Squat = 305

0.9*1RM Bench = 225*0.9 = 200
0.9*1RM Squat = 305*0.9 = 275

c. Your actual lifts for the week will use this 0.9*1RM value to calculate the percentages in the table below

Only 3 sets? What about the pump bra? Fuck your gay pump.

Week 1 Values
Bench (.65x200/.75x200/.85x200) = (130x5/150x5/170x5+)
Squat (.65x275/.75x275/.85x275) = (180x5/205x5/230x5+)

Anytime you see a 5+, 3+, or 1+, it is an indication to go balls to the wall and prison bitch the barbell for as many reps as you can (ideally making a new record each workout). This is truly the point where your will power battles your common sense, and you will surprise yourself with what you can do.

Week4 is the only portion of the cycle where you do not attempt to make any new records. This week is used for recovering from the cycle so that you are fresh and edgy to begin lifting heavier the following week.

Rest Period Guidelines
Between core exercise sets: 2-5min
Between assistance sets: 1-2min
Between workouts: Every 2 workouts, take 1 day off (ex: AB rest CD rest)

How to Level Up
5/3/1 bases your lifts off percentages of your 1RM (1 Rep Max) and your rep ranges on a repeating cycle. Each cycle spans 4 weeks, then starts over with +5lbs added to your upper body lifts and +10lbs added to your lower body lifts.

Final Thoughts
Although you will most likely make your own version of 5/3/1 with whatever it is you actually want to use, keep in mind that the most important lift of each session is the one you are tracking (a.k.a main lift). Your main lift should receive the bulk of your attention, and is the measure of your increasing strength over time.

Your first cycle will likely be very easy. Do not take this as a reason to add +50lbs to all lifts unless you have seriously underestimated yourself.

Think long term growth over short term vanity. Your routine will become hard faster than you think.

This spreadsheet (same as attached above) has all of the information contained in this post, and will be a useful tool in tracking both your workout requirements as well as the changing percentages of your 1RM.

XKCD takes 5/3/1 very seriously

Passion and Costumed Iron

Cosplay (short for costume play):
Paying costumed tribute to an idea, most often associated with characters from anime, video games, comics, etc.

The way of discovering yourself through muscular expenditure.

When you truly devote yourself to an ideal or task, you never cease to amaze yourself. It’s when you halfway try, you produce nothing worth being proud of. Both cosplay and iron require a rigorous amount of devotion to be considered among the elite. It’s the sexy cats of Halloween or the weekend warriors of the gym which lack any passion for their craft. I don’t care whether the topic is your job, your workout, or banging your girlfriend. Simply going through the motions is the quickest way to feel unsatisfied with your current state of affairs.

This blog maps my passion for cosplay and iron. My goal: join the ranks of elite powerlifters, and show the cosplay world how to embody a character in both cloth and physique.

Current Standings 1RM
Squat – 305
Deadlift – 405
Sumo Deadlift – 445
Bench Press – 235
Powerclean - 210
Chinup – BW+70lbs x 4

Don’t get bigger, get stronger