28 March 2013

You're probably not too fat to get strong

I guess powerlifting is like a double edged sword.  When I imagine a powerlifter, the first image that comes to mind is an obese guy with a red face who is really fucking strong.  Oftentimes, this image is accompanied by no other practical value--like being able to walk a flight of stairs and not be winded.

We can spin obesity into somewhat of a positive with this kind of thinking.
Thankfully, I know tons of lifters who do not fit that stereotype, and many of them can walk stairs and push prowlers just fine--in fact, some have great physiques and can walk several flights of stairs and keep their breath.

I think the point of what I said was to note that I overlooked an audience of people who just want to look good, and don't really give a shit about competing in a sport that involves probably the narrowest set of movements around.  Furthermore, not everyone likes the smell of ointment, or ammonia.

There is a reason for this gravitation and it is not without merit.  If you take a beanpole of the street, and they get strong, that's a good thing.  They get more lean muscle tissue, they'll get a faster metabolism, men and/or women might want to fuck them more, and they won't get sand kicked in their face like the old comic shows.

Poor guy.

Take a larger person and you get them stronger, they lose fat, and generally feel better about themselves.  Bonus: if they are a big son of a bitch who also happens to be really strong, they have a good physique hidden away.  

That being said, there are more ways to get strong besides the squat, the bench and the deadlift, though I don't see any rational reason why a person wouldn't want a heavy ass deadlift.  

Before I go further on that, let me just say that what follows will be an alternative.  Hopefully, you will find it fun.  But if you are of the mindset that you need to waste your life on a treadmill or an elliptical or anything that has you standing next to a motherfucker worse than you are, with horrible BO or hangover breath, or garlic smelling sweat, this is for you.

I am a fan of Paul Chek's primal patterns of movement--Squat, Lunge, Push, Pull, Bend, and Twist.  It makes shit simple.  PC said that those types of movements are what we start doing as infants.  Squatting to stand up, lunging to get back up after falling after a few steps, pushing their weight up from a crawl to a stand, bending to pick shit up and so on.  

Aside from the bowling pin fetish they seem to have, this is pretty good at demonstrating what PC was talking about.  The good thing about these movements are is that you can make them as complex or as minimal as you have to depending on where you are.  One of my favorite starting points for bigger people is the Turkish Get-Up.  Before the RKC fucked it up and made it less efficient with extra hip bridges and shit, the idea was really simple.  You press a weight, you stand up and get back down with it.  It's a hybrid of several PM patterns, and the good news for big folk is that your body will be the heftiest thing you lift during it. 
Here's a guy doing a TGU with a woman. Pretty rad.  Here's a good starting point for moving.  Getting up and getting back down.  If you can't do it from the floor, a couch or a chair can be a good place to start (though it is my sincere hope that none of you reading are that bad off). Get better at it using minimal effort, then hold some weight.  If you can't use a woman, a kettlebell, dumbbell, light backpack or anything similar will do. The main key point is don't drop the weight on your face, or otherwise hurt yourself.  Always err on the side of caution.

For other movements, you can also squat.  You don't need a barbell.  Use your body weight.  Can't get low?  Get where you can, and you will be able to get low over time.  Key points for that: push your butt back, drop between your legs and keep a douche bag chest for max efficiency.  Fuck with it til it feels good, scale it back as needed.  If you really need to, use a counter top, or a door handle to help. 

If you want more lunging, you can actually do lunges.  You need to throw in some twisting, you can lunge and twists.  Need some minimal pushing movements? Push-ups are good.  Can't do full push ups? Do half push-ups or the ill named "girl push-ups," which will be termed "knee push-ups" from now on.  

Hopefully, you get the idea.  Call it whatever you want--primal moving, animal movements, etc. The limit is your creativity.  And if you are severely uncreative, here is an idea for you:  take a twister game and lay it out. Spin the spinner 10 or 15 times and write out the spots it landed on a white board.  Hit each spot as fast as you can, using the minimal effective amount of effort. Do this a few times.  You might enjoy it.  If you video it and send it to me I'll give you a handshake and some praise.

The take home point is that you can start your path to better by getting strong. It will pay off dividends over paying for a gym membership to walk or "eliptic."  You can do this stuff in your home, or outside if you want.  And if you must do steady state cardio, at least use God's treadmill (the earth).

And a final example of how complex and awesome human movement can be. 

21 March 2013

Training for the other sport

I have written about my foray into BJJ once before.  Recently, I was asked about what I do to train for BJJ. The answer is remarkably simple--I practice the mEA (minimal effective amount) of BJJ.  The mEA is ever increasing, as I follow the gym movement protocol during the practices too.

As a caveat, I will explain a few things: I took Karate to a yellow belt when I was a kid. I don't remember jack shit about the practice, other than a front snap kick, and for some strange reason, I can do the kata that got me the yellow belt.  I have also never pursued an interest in MMA fights. I watched maybe one or two with friends, but didn't pay a lot of attention.  That said, I am not in a position to assimilate the things I see on the big time fights.

I said in the last installment that the seasoned practitioners always advise to relax.  This is good advice, and I am fairly relaxed now during the practice.  I am also more relaxed while lifting as well, which is a good thing for both practices.

At this point, if I am rolling with someone better, I do a few things to make my life easier.  A lot of guys at the school go for arm bars.  And they can all get to an arm bar from about 5 million positions.  If I noticed I fall into a certain trap, I generally tap before the arm bar (or submission) so I can start back over and not waste a lot of effort fighting to escape.  Though, if I do see the opportunity to escape sometimes I will go for it.

Ideally, I will have the chance to roll with varying skill levels (equal to or better than I) so that I can see what the margin of error on my fuck ups are.  Furthermore, if I am able to pick a partner, I try to pick the guys who won't tap me in four seconds if they are able to do so.

Worst case scenario, your shit gets broken.
If I start breathing too hard, I take a break.  It's literally no different than doing any other movement I have spoken about.  If you need to chill out, close your guard and chill out.  It's pretty simple.

As for the actual conditioning, I don't do anything extra.  In fact, I get away with less in the gym than I ever did, since BJJ involves me being in a fuckload of other positions I don't train a lot of in the gym.  Some of them are as follows:

  • Thoracic and Lumbar flexion
  • Plantar flexion
  • Hip and neck flexion
  • Rotation of the hips
  • Lateral leg movement
  • Twisting patterns
  • And more

Currently, in the gym I practice a lot of thoracic extension with the high bar squats, I practice the extension with the deadlifts, and my bench is getting better possibly because of all the strength I am getting in similar positions, and with the added pulling movements (rows and pull ups still test well all the time). 

I haven't had to spend loads of time swinging or snatching kettlebells--I still use them as testable extension movements when deadlifts (regular or axle) don't test well, or if I have no means to deadlift.  Of late, snatching tests better, undoubtedly to counteract some of the positions I am in while rolling around.  I would go on to say that having a familiarity with the Turkish Get Up helped me figure out how to shrimp out of certain situations, and move my hips around to help facilitate escapes.  With that awareness, I can apply it to actual situations, in lieu of training it as a "gym movement," though it is not out of the realm of testing.

So, nothing ground breaking for this sort of thing.  The key is to move yourself in as many ways as you can, using the mEA.  You'll figure it out.  Darryl tipped me off to the fact that the shit you will inevitably choose to do will be contraspecific (or nonspecific) to what you already do, and this is a pretty good example.

Female readership has expressed discontent with so many pictures of the female posterior. So,  here is a picture of a guy with a nice ass.  It might not even the score, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

15 March 2013

I don't give a fuck, do you?

At some point, perhaps around 2007 or 2008 I made a comment to a friend regarding our government.  I said that if a government loved its people it wouldn't allow them to have sugared cereal such as the kind we see on store shelves. 
If you read this now, you probably also know I like to eat pop tarts. So much so I may get a tattoo, like this person.
I no longer feel the way I did circa 2007 or 2008.  I think it was a logical extension of how I always felt I related to the world.  I didn't really listen to anyone.  I "didn't give a fuck," if you will.  To the point, I give less of a fuck, than ever before. I'm of the opinion that a lot of people do give a fuck about the wrong things in life.  Furthermore, nobody should give a fuck whether I eat poptarts, drink sodas above 20 ounces or wear seat belts. 
During the time I gave piano and guitar instruction full time, I was exposed to a lot of children and young adults. Many of them gave a fuck about what their parents thought.  Some of them gave a fuck about what I thought (the smarter of them all questioned what I said and found their own way).
The thing I noticed is that when given the freedom to choose, (and in turn not give a fuck about what their parents thought) the lessons went smoother.  I didn't have to teach them any boring shit that they didn't want to learn or weren't ready to learn. Like chord theory, or music reading.  In turn, the student wound up happier and progressed faster, and learned songs and skills they liked. This made me really fucking happy because the time flew by.
The overall concept I was going for was to show that you didn't have to follow a perceived norm for happiness in your craft.  The ideal paradigm perceived by others (and me to a great extent) upon entering as a beginner guitar player was as follows:
  1. Start playing on an acoustic guitar.
  2. Learn to read music.
  3. Play Beethoven or other assorted classical pieces.
I started similarly. My first guitar was electric, instead of an acoustic though.  I learned theoretical components of music and then went on to write my own shit.

The mold I tried to teach to and am still trying to break out of today was to a form of more unconscious thought to do what I do.  Others would call it going by feel, intuition, learning by ear, or whatever.  This comes back to giving a fuck.  Had I not given a fuck back then, I would have progressed faster, developed my intuition and learned (and gained unconscious awareness of) theoretical concepts quicker.  Alas, I can concentrate only on what is next to develop those skills.

Chuck played with three fingers, though he had all five on his left hand.  He clearly gave no fucks.

Sometimes, these same students would stick with me until they were in college.  Talk about a mind fuck of a social norm.  I gave just enough fucks to buy into that one too, though I didn't listen to my parents and do anything practical.  I am happier with the choice I made simply because I know so many people who did what their parents wished and wound up miserable.  I would hear the same complaints often, and my answer was--and still is--to quit school.  They had the power to quit.  The response would be they would lose financial support, or they need school to get a job, etc.  But, they could have been better by not giving a fuck. 

The question raised is "how do we not give a fuck?"

I posit that the first step towards not giving a fuck is to question everything.  You will become knowledgeable, and a lot of people will argue that knowledge will you make you unhappy--the whole ignorance is bliss idea.  However, the more pathways you open up, the more chance of self discovery you have, and you can find out and unlock shit you didn't know about yourself.  You'll always adapt, whether you like it or not.  Religions are a great example.  We will use Christianity as an example, since most of us are familiar with it, but if you ask the right questions you can find the following to be true with any faith.

The tenets of the magus figure of Christianity (Jesus) were rooted in certain sectarian aspects of Judaism and were regarded as another group of Jews in the diaspora.  Fast forward to today, most Christians worship on Sundays, probably couldn't tell you anything about Levitic laws or the Noachide covenant.

We can see, over time, derivations from the original teachings (which many teachers love to see) but for a 2000 year old religion, we can make the argument that the rate of adaptation is slow, due to the lack of questioning.  Stop giving a fuck about your dogma, you evolve faster.

The second step is to realize that what you do to better or yourself (or destroy yourself) will affect you the most. Sure, if you give yourself a shotgun face lift your close friends and relatives will feel sad.  You'll be the dead one, they still have a chance to better themselves. 

If you find yourself adapting at a faster rate than your peer group, you will be alienated.  It's not your fault if you know how to get better, quicker, and your friends don't.  Someone said you are like the five people you hang out with the most.  Do you want to be another random fuck? Didn't think so.  Disregard what is not useful.

I don't claim to have all the answers to this.  Surely there are more things associated with not giving a fuck, but these are a few that I can think of off the top of my head. If you question these things, you can find other things to question to lead you down your own path to better.  Then you can eat your poptarts in peace.

07 March 2013

7 March 2013

This might be one of the best things I have written to date. I also made some swell PRs today.

05 March 2013

Hypotheses on Concurrent Sports Practices

I don't think it's an accident that a lot of people involved in The Movement take up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I know DarrylAdam and perhaps others have taken it up.  I can include myself in this as well.  I think part of this is because our mentor Frankie plays BJJ as well.  I can't speak for everyone specifically, but there are a lot of correlations regarding an interest.  Frankie said it helped his movement quality, and helped him get out of pain. Adam spent years bending metal and shit and his tissue was undoubtedly more rigid than a dead nun's moral dogma.  So it made sense to develop the tissue in other ways.

I like it for the same reasons. I am not overly creative in the gym and find myself moving in the same directions a lot, and not focusing enough on contraspecific activities to other shit I do in my life. I also am a fan of puzzles.

I went in to Gracie Tampa knowing i needed to move more, and was pleasantly surprised that the movement in Jiu Jitsu was very novel, and very cerebral.

Moreover, the philosophies we invoke in The Movement are very prevalent in Jiu Jitsu.  Goals during rolling are as follows:

  1. Stay relaxed
  2. Don't breathe too hard
  3. Use the minimal effective amount of effort (mEA).
  4. Work within your limits
I think these are other main reasons why we are drawn to the sport as well.  It helps us get better at what we are already working towards getting better at.

I have also experienced some great benefits in my short time at playing BJJ--you will recall that I was busy adding 150lbs to my powerlifting total this past January, and couldnt train BJJ much during the previous two months.

Since the meet is over, I am able to play BJJ more, and my movement has taken on a different quality.  My squat form has changed to a high bar Olympic style squat with heavy (for me) with thoracic extension, and a close grip (this is not forced, this is just a matter of what is testing well).  Sumo deadlifts test well more often than conventional deadlifts, especially those done with the axle.

In BJJ, I am training a lot of the things missing from gym movements--flexion of the hips and thoracic spine, circumduction of the arms and legs and feet, and a whole bunch of other shit that is making me generally more flexible.  It has also helped alleviate any negative sensations related to my previous injury.

In short, a lot of people would like to emphasize specialization on one thing only.  I had an ex girlfriend who believed that and was generally downtrodden as a result of it (though she was remarkably talented at other things, they were of no interest).  I also had a parent and several teachers who believed in specialization.  Needless to say, I think it's a crock of shit.  I think one can become exceptional at a lot of things.  Charlie Chaplin and Robert Rodriguez have both made films that they wrote, directed and scored.  In Chaplin's case he even starred in them. Adam has placed well in his BJJ competitions and holds records in grip sport.  Long ago, Bo Jackson excelled at football and baseball.  Strongman Mariusz Pudzianowski has a small, but good fight record as well (5 and 2).  If we believe that we have these limits, we will train like we do, and not recognize what we are capable of.

My hypothesis is that taking up BJJ will help keep me in powerlifting a lot longer and reduce even more the potential to fuck myself up.  Though I am by no means as exceptional as the above, I am working towards it and will work towards it in both sports.  I decided to enter a grappling tournament this year (perhaps July) and see how I fare.
Also Brazilian