28 October 2010

Videos: Hilarity, and more.

I have a lot of free time on my hands these days since I have graduated college.  I watch a lot of shit on youtube as a result.  Here are some videos I particularly enjoy, feel free to discuss some of them, as some of them can (in their own way) raise some questions.

Is this video merely funny? Or does it let insecure people stay insecure and reinforce stereotypes?  I think both.  I laugh my ass off every time I watch this, and think of how sad it is that it reinforces a stereotype of a musclebound black guy and a frightened white woman--the same stereotype that got the KKK popular years back.  I admire the guys mind muscle connection with his pecs, as well.

Easily one of the best commentaries on steroids today.  Not really much to say about it. 

This makes me remember why I used to like professional wrestling.  However, given my current job as a guitar instructor, I get to deal with a lot of youngsters.  And some of the shit they will tell me is absurd, in many cases.  From my experience, telling a kid not to do something is worse than telling them not to be an idiot about it.  I wish, when I was in my teens, that the advice I got was sensible.

I like this because, according to an attendee, she got three white lights on the lift.

There ya go.  Four videos to amuse you for the day.

25 October 2010

Deadlifting Nuances, or more about your lats.

Recently, I was deadlifting, as it is one of my pastimes.  Recently, as was stated in the last post, I had some wonderful deadlift pointers imparted to me. 

Staggered grip=a grip that won't fail on a max pull.
These pointers include such things as, "wedging yourself between the bar and the ground,"  With this cue, you use your hips to bring your head up, as explained by a friend of mine.  This is a wonderful cue to maximize leverage, and another is to push the floor to either side with your feet, as if you were going to make a chasm beneath you.  
Pretty sweet drawing I found of Mount Doom.  Inside, there is a chasm, and it is the only one that can destroy the precious. 
After reading this article, I opted to go for practicing my deadlifts with a pronated grip because it is more symmetrical and "what you'll find is the more you pull double overhand, the more weight you can use. If you're used to failing at 225, give it a few weeks and you'll be up to 315," according to Jim Smith. It also feels less awkward and doesn't hurt my wrist, as opposed to the staggered grip.   

One of the reasons I think it allows more weight is because it is easy to engage the lat muscles--it's easier to break a stick, bend a piece of metal, or "break the bar" for a bench press or deadlift when you have a pronated grip. 

Recently, I was deadlifting with a pronated grip, and since I am still practicing it and am new to it, my grip started to go, and I switched to a staggered grip.  Immediately, I felt weaker.  The reason being is because I couldn't engage my lats well enough to do anything.  As I said earlier, if the grip is staggered, it's harder to bend the bar. 

This last nuance I stumbled upon myself, and it overcomes the lack of lat involved in a staggered grip:  when using the staggered grip, squeeze the shit out of the bar and try to move your hands closer together.  The friction will not allow it, your lats will be engaged, and you will feel stronger. 

23 October 2010

A special visit from Master RKC Andrea DuCane

Recently, The Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification course was held in Orlando, Florida.  Being close to Orlando, some friends and I made it a day and went to receive some free training from the newly minted RKCs, and pick up some kettlebells. 

While there, I was fortunate enough to meet a great number of knowledgeable and personable people, including Franz Snideman RKC, and Pavel Tsatsouline, both of whom helped me out with my deadlifting form and technique.  I was also fortunate enough to meet Brett Jones, another very knowledgeable RKC, who also gave me advice on short steel bending.  I also got to meet Dragon Door CEO John DuCane, and his wife Andrea and daughter, Nicole.  All wonderful and knowledgeable. 

Prior to this, Andrea DuCane agreed to come out the USF Kettlebell Club in Tampa, and give our club an informal seminar, wherein she gave us information on flexibility, mobility, and lastly, the kettlebell swing--the most important of kettlebell drills.  Why is the swing in important? For those who do not know, it leads to other drills, like the snatch, and the clean and jerk, and if you practice swinging, and make it a point to do many swings, you will give your heart a good workout, and your deadlift numbers will rise. 

She spoke of much, but some key points emphasized are as follows:
1. When deadlifting, think of lifting with your glutes. Squeeze them, hard.  You will feel stronger merely thinking about this one thing.
2.  Think about having a long spine, so that it will stay straight, and not snap in half.
3.  Stay rooted in the earth--a good way to do this is to grip the ground with your toes.
4.  Squeeze the glutes at the top of the swing forcefully, and be aware of flexing your quadriceps at the same time.
5.  If you are in doubt about any of these, revisit your deadlift with a kettlebell and emphasize gluteal contraction. 
6.  Stretch your hip flexors so that they will open up, and you will automatically feel stronger. 

In conclusion, Andrea's aptitude for teaching conveyed all of these items far better than I am to you, and if you ever get the chance to have her for a seminar, it will definitely be a wise move, and you will be stronger for it. 

19 October 2010

Don't forget to breathe

In some beliefs--beliefs that we are not exposed to out here in the west but you readers out in the East (if I actually have any) might be familiar with--there is a story that posits that at the base of our spine lies a coiled line of energy.  It is sometimes visualized as a serpent, and is called Kundalini.  I am sure Western language fucked up the translation, as is usually the case, but either way it has something to do with coiling. 

And this energy is coiled in the base of our spine.  We can, however, awaken this energy and use it to our advantage.  Through Pranayama--breath mastery--we can awaken this energy, and if done properly, this serpent will rise out of our body, along our spine and explode from the top of our heads, leading us to what Rudolf Otto calls the "Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans," or a fearful and fascinating experience with that which is wholly other. 
Rudolf Otto, who looks like a deep thinker in this picture, wrote "Idea of the Holy," and it is his seminal work and has never gone out of print. 
What does all this serpent stuff have to do with anything?  Aside from being creative with their imagery and story telling, the yogis who originally crafted this idea clearly knew the importance of breathing and spinal health.  Once we are aware of how to breathe, simple deduction can tell us that even something simple like changing the way you breathe can potentially improve your posture.  

Try this:  breathe, while looking in a mirror.  If you breathe shallow, your shoulders will rise.  You do not want this.  If this happens to you, stand straight, with your back against the wall, and take a deep breath.  The wall will not allow you to raise your shoulders, and if you place your hand on your stomach you should feel it fill with air.  This is what you want.  You can also get the same effect by lying down. 

If you have ever sang before, you probably already know how to breathe into your belly.  Death Metal singers do it all the time.  Actors as well must know how to breathe properly.  For these types of artists, their throats are vital to them, and proper breathing does not strain the throat like shallow breathing potentially can.   If you should ever find yourself having to raise your voice, do it from your gut and notice the difference as opposed to screaming from your throat. 
Mikael Akerfeldt--Mastery of breath and singing allows him to growl from his gut and sing very cleanly from his gut as well, with minimal strain on his throat, allowing him to tour regularly.
And as it relates to lifting, breathing deeply will allow you to maximize your intra-abdominal pressure so you that you can lift heavier shit. 

Some things that will help you on your road to breathing include trying to breathe through your nose whenever possible.  We have a filter in our throat that filters out the shit in the air, but our nose hairs can help filter out crap as well, so breathing in through the nose gets the air double filtered.  To control your breathing you can also try something called a breathing ladder.  I forgot where I heard of this, but most likely it was on Dragon door website and the idea is that you start at one repitition of a kettlebell swing and  you match breaths with it--one rep, set it down, one breath, two reps, set it down, two breaths, and so on.  And you ascend the ladder avoiding at all costs your desire to suck massive amounts of wind.  I have done these before and if you can master your breath this way, you can get more out of your training.

Once you get good at belly breathing, you can practice full breathing.  This will allow you to maximize your breathing potential, and hopefully awaken the serpent within. 

16 October 2010

Walking is not exercise, unless you are a fat motherfucker or crippled.

Appropriately enough, this was the first image I found when I googled "fat motherfucker."
Walking is not exercise.  Walking is how you get from point A, to point B.  Jesus walked.  For some reason, he felt it not necessary to use his omnipotence to craft a Delorean to get his family the fuck out of Bethlehem.  Sometimes I walk.  I usually go somewhere when I do.  I and most normal thinking people would never say "I am going to work out," and then start walking to do so.

Why is walking not exercise unless you are a fat motherfucker?  Because it cannot stimulate your heart enough to do anything worth a shit for your body.  We all know that moving weight continually will accelerate your heart rate.  And if your fat, and you walk, you have a lot of weight to accelerate, so it might actually do your heart something good.  Especially since, if you are fat, most likely you aren't used to doing much of anything.

And even if you are fat, you can't out walk a few pizzas.  
And if you are fat, here are a few things you can do besides walking to get better at life, and less fat.  The first thing is called a get up.

As you can see from this video--28kg is about 62 lbs, by the way, which you will note is around half her bodyweight--the point is to get up.  She is using a kettlebell, but it can be done with a barbell, a sandbag, a human, or weightless.

The latter is how we are worried about it today.  If you are in dire need of weightl loss, lie down on the floor, and get up til you are standing, and don't worry about holding anything.  Your body will be moving against gravity, and against your lack of will power, which will be your biggest obstacle.  Do it for time.  If you are skinny, learn how to a getup from a trainer, and do it with weight for time.  Increase weight as necessary.

Another exercise good for all of us would be squats.  If you are fat, you will do them with your bodyweight. 

Knees behind toes (for the most part, it's a little different with everyone), ass back, look straight.  Do these for time, for reps, or however you feel like.  Just do them.  If you are skinny, add weight.  Do them on one leg.  Just do them.  If you don't wish to walk, do these exercises, and your heart rate will go up, and you will start to get better conditioning, if you need it. 

If you are a fat powerlifter, stop using the excuse that it helps you lift more weight, and eat something sensible and swing a goddamn kettlebell.  It will make your deadlift go up. 

Not a fat powerlifter.  

In conclusion, none of you reading this (unless you are huge) should be walking for exercise.  If you are cripple it goes without saying that walking is tough, but the rest of you have no business.  If you are fat, take the stairs, and learn to squat, and learn to get up. 

07 October 2010

Your back hurts? Quit fucking whining and fix it part 2

If you all recall, last time we talked about how having no ass can lead to back problems.

Read it,  and look at the following pictures of Hank Hill for a summary. 

In this episode, Hank had to race his lawn mower, almost couldn't because his back started to hurt, and when he went to the doctor, he got diagnosed with Diminished Gluteal Syndrome and had to wear a fake ass.  

This is a real ass, to contrast with Hank's false orthotic ass. 
One of the other key ingredients to living a life free of back problems is to have a strong waist.  In fitness today, people call it "the core," as if it has some sort of esoteric significance.  Which, it does, but not because it is called the core.  And FYI, training on a goddamn bosu ball is not gonna do jack shit for your core.

Doing crunches will not do anything for your midsection either, and might irritate your back.  So save the pansy shit for your spin class.  If you must lie down, only to raise yourself back up again, do a sit up, with weight, and use your hips, too.   Other options to strengthen your core include:  Walking with a heavy weight, picking a heavy weight up off the ground, holding a heavy weight over your head.  Another viable option is to use an ab wheel, something I enjoy doing and use often.

According to "Intra-abdominal pressure increases stiffness of the lumbar spine" (Read it here)  Intra abdominal pressure increases stiffness in your lumbar spine during heavy lifting.  To translate, if you pressurize your breathing, your spine won't break like a match stick.  And how do you get better at intra abdominal pressure? By activating your core. 

If you try to slap her for useless exercises, a sharp exhalation when you make contact will cause intra abdominal pressure and put tension into your movement, and if your lucky will knock her out.
 Another important aspect of this equation is your breathing.  If you breathe correctly, you should feel your abdominal muscles tighten.  Here's an experiment.  Think of anytime in life you had to lift something heavy, and note that your gut reaction was to hold your breath.  With your breath held properly, you have tension in your diaphragm and this will cause pressure on your abs.  You are "bracing for a punch," as Pavel says.  Pavel also goes in depth with breathing by having you hiss through your teeth--since you are exercising you cannot hold your breath, you have to "breathe behind a shield," and the hissing method accomplishes this.

Breathe behind the shield, comrade.
The best way to think of it is as if you are a house.  Something I have told many people who have started on their strength journey was to imagine a house.  The foundation must hold up a shit ton of weight, so the foundation cannot be weak.  If the foundation is weak,  your house will fall. If you, the human, try to hold up a shit load of weight, and your important areas are lacking, you will fail, meaning you will get injured, or worse, not lift the weight and set a PR.   Any of the above movements I mentioned will train all the areas as a unit, including those areas we touched upon in part one.  In sum:

In heavy lifting, squeeze your ass, pressurize your abs, and lift.  Be it overhead, or off the ground, stay tight and provide a good foundation for your lifting.

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

06 October 2010

The pitfalls and possibilities of group training

For the better part of a few years, throughout the majority of my training, I have trained with a stellar group of people.   Well, more like a couple that were steady and always willing to do the work and stragglers who may or may not have been swell to have around, but they eventually faded away.  As a human, chances are you have competed in something before.  Whether you are a man or a woman competing with other men for a cheap lay in a bar, or you have competed in a ping-pong tournament, or you have competed for academic honors you have competed. 

For this cheap slut, the winner must have a large wallet.  Wallet+Trampstamp+an already cheap slut=The Clap.  Congratulations, you win a doctor's visit. 
If you follow philosophical thought, Friedrich Nietzsche espoused this theory of the will to power.  One way--out of so many vastly incorrect ways--to interpret this is that humans don't merely adapt to survive and live and in complacency, but that the human will try to get better and better and become a master of its surrounding world, and also be a master of its reality.

The will to get better and not settle for mediocrity is why he had a bad ass mustache.
One way for a group of motivated people to get better is to compete with other people in sports.  If I were to compete in sports against someone--say in powerlifting--I sure as fuck don't want some piece of shit to beat me, so then that is my motivation to win, and to get better. I would be less likely to achieve the best I could achieve if I didn't have to assert my will to power over other people.  By the way, I say "piece of shit" regarding my competitor in jest, as in actuality these people might be my friends, or family.

If any of you remember the classic movie "Pumping Iron," we can recall that Arnold and Franco and the rest were all good friends, and ate together and partied together.  And the fact that they trained together made them try harder.  But when they stepped on the Olympia platform, they wanted to beat each other, and the process to exert their will over the competition started long before the competition--In Arnold's Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding the Oak relates how the guys wouldn't show off their physique before a competition, but in order to weaken and demoralize their opponents, Franco Columbu would run around in shorts and show off how great he looked. 

Franco was Arnold's best man at his wedding, but they still competed against each other at the Olympia's. 
Overall the group dynamic was a good thing for these guys.  Sometimes, group training is not always that fun, and it can leave you pissed off and demoralized.  I have read of others having training partners who were nothing but whiny little pussies, but I didn't think it would affect me ever, until recently when some slackers started showing up to my group.  Now, when I say slackers I mean, people who barely do anything and wonder why nothing is happening, when they didn't listen to instructions, or advice that was freely given out.  Other times some people decide to take it easy because they worked out super hard, or maybe even maxed out a lift the day before.  There is a difference. 

The bad people in your group can distract you or other people from making any progress (though you can ignore them, if you got the willpower).   The key to dealing with them?  You can always expel them from your group.  If you are a university club, it's not likely.  So what is the next best thing?  Ignore the problem and focus on what you want to do, and find others who you will motivate and be motivated by within the group and let the asshole be a pariah for the duration of your lifting session.  In the end, only you can fuck your own goals up. 

Pauline Nordin knows how to get shit done. 

04 October 2010

If you can't make the time to train, you're a goddamned liar

I used training in the title, but this applies to almost anything that humans tell themselves they need (or want) to do.  Being that I started a weightliftingand that I teach guitar, I once thought that all the excuses I heard from people were different, regarding their time.  For both endeavors, people will make the most absurd excuses as to why they cannot commit to the activity.  In my circles, school work and jobs come up the most often. 

In spite of all these excuses, what the person who says they do not have time to train or practice is saying is as follows:  "I thought this would be easier than it is, and it turns out I am wrong.  I promptly need to get fucked now because I can't assess any undertaking, and I see no value in this activity." 

If you make excuses like those above, you are just as worthless as this fuck rag (Lindsay Lohan).

I am going to give you a list of things you can do to manage your time better, because for some people it seems to be an insurmountable task.  As a preliminary, taking time to do an activity--we will say training in this case--is not something you do outside of your normal life.  Your normal life encompasses training, and other meaningless shit comes later.   If you are fat, and need to train, saying you are sick and that you are going to a party later is not a valid excuse, unless you want to settle for the mediocrity you are destined to achieve. 

1. Stop watching TV.  Or, if you are completely worthless, watch TV on the internet.  You'll save time by not watching commercials. 
2.  Don't eat out often.  Driving to a place, parking and waiting takes time.  Even fast food restaurants are not worth the wait anymore. 
3.  Learn to cook.  You'll save money.  You'll eat better and you will feel better.  In short, learning to cook equals a less worthless you. 

Learn how to cook stuff like this on your own.  If you can't learn how to cook, you should learn how to fire a gun and blow your own head off. 
4.  Invest in some of your own shit to lift.  Your body is a good one, you can also get a kettlebell, or a barbell.  Ideally, while you are waiting for your food to cook, lift said weights. 
5.  Read more.  About any subject. Like cooking or lifting, to name two.  You'll get smarter.  And it will help you not watch TV.  (See 1).

6.  Don't check your phone and email so damn much. 

If you can't follow any of these instructions to get some training in, you really do suck at not cheating yourself.  Get some character, and make an effort to train, and make it a part of you.  And as a bonus tip, if you must, break up an hour long session into four fifteen minute sessions if you "really do not have the time."