Thursday, February 15, 2018

How To Eliminate Boring Cardio

Ever been on a treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster or any machine that has you doing endless and mindless minutes of cardio? I've been there too and it isn't fun. Cardio in the real sense is the concept of getting your heart rate up within a certain level and keeping it there for 5 minutes sometimes up to an hour. Common areas of cardio generally have you running, power walking, riding and just be in a stationary position for up to a half hour or more to "help burn fat." The problem with this especially with recent studies is that long, slow cardio is not the best way to burn fat, build muscle and burn the amount of calories needed to lose weight. You can burn calories doing plenty of running or riding a bike but in the end, unless you're at a high level of speed and tempo, you're only burning calories during the exercise.

I genuinely hate cardio in the mainstream sense. It has no real use to be in realistic shape and you're only managing one area of conditioning and/or distance style training. However, you can burn off calories and fat in a much shorter amount of time when you speed it up for 30 seconds and resting 3 times that amount of time. This is what's called HIT or High Intensity Training. Some people added the word interval or SIT (Speed Intensity Training) so regardless of what you call it, it is still an area of cardio that not only takes less time but gives you less impact on the joints and ligaments. Now you can do all sorts of exercises for this, even with a machine (if its cold outside or just like being indoors) but for me I get the best cardio using Animal Exercises & Hindu Squats. I know what you're thinking "How can squats help your cardio?" The Hindu Squats generate loads of natural hormone production due to the level of intensity you make it and it's not just using the legs; you're moving the arms, contracting the core muscles for stability and it takes a bit of balance. I've literally heard and seen people do long ass treadmill running and for the life of them can't do more than 50 squats without getting out of breath.

If you think Hindu Squats don't build cardio than test that theory by doing 100 in under 5 minutes, i'll wait. It goes beyond cardio, once you hit into mid to high triple digits into the 4 digit reps, it becomes a mental game and it is a challenge that even world class athletes at times struggle with. When I was really serious into cardio, I would do up to 500 Hindu Squats a day and the objective is to get that number in 15 minutes or less. At first getting back into them, it took me around 20 minutes, than 18, 15, 13 and than a few times it was under 12 minutes, that's cruising. I shifted my mindset of counting down instead of up and that created a more fun way to hit high rep squats. Your heart is racing unlike anything else and yet you can do them anywhere. I've hit as high as 1000 squats in 33 minutes. This will burn calories like crazy and it will build muscle, shed fat and get you in incredible shape fast.

The other approach to cardio is doing Animal Movements; think about it, moving on all fours or bipideling for a period of time and getting your heart rate up in mere seconds. The movements use multiple muscle groups and have you going in awkward positions to the degree where you're adding in strength just starting with the stabilization. More than just moving, you're building muscular awareness and strengthening the joints, tendons and ligaments in order to stay strong in those positions. They don't take long either, 20 minutes or less and you'll be in phenomenal shape. You will have strength very few possess, conditioning that would make jaws drop and agility you didn't think existed.

The last ideal way to build great cardio is through the use of Isometrics. This is probably the most odd way to get cardio but trust me you can get a hell of a workout without moving a muscle. Push, Pull, Squat, Grip and Stabilize your body in all sorts of positions and flex hard for a few seconds or hold and do deep breathing. The most common isometric these days is the plank and for good reason, the majority of people do this exercise and hold up to 5 minutes or more but there's more to the concept than just the plank. If you lift weights, pick up a weight and hold it there for a period of time and what you'll start to feel are muscle fibers coming into play hard, your core tightening and your whole body will feel like on fire. For bodyweight this could mean holding a dead hang, a handstand, the human flag, stopping at a half squat, various yoga positions or a wall sit. Isometrics build the little muscles or tendon strength and if you hold for 30 seconds or longer, you'll not only feel it but your heart rate will go because you're generating greater strength in the muscle fibers.

These are just ideas on how to get rid of boring cardio and get in shape that is more fun and doesn't make you feel lethargic or feel like you're going out of your mind. We all have responsibilities and not all of us have the amount of time needed to get in the training we feel needed. Do what's possible but don't make it boring for yourself, make it interesting, fun and challenging.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

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Why is that?

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Monday, February 12, 2018

The True Measure Of Strength

In every era of Physical Culture, there has been some person or group of people who have felt the need to tell everybody what the mark of real strength is. Some have said the Overhead Press, the Deadlift, the Squat, Bench Press, Lifting Stones, Bending Spikes, Sprint up a hill a hundred times and so on and so forth. In today's society there are three big time groups that literally believe they are the true measures of strength; Bodybuilders, Crossfitters & Strongmen. Personally i'll take the Strongman any day of the week but this isn't about who's better and has the larger point of view on strength.

The truth is, there is no real test to fully know what the measure of strength is because it's not meant to be generalized to one specific category. There are different areas of strength that people possess more than another and it's not to say one group is weaker, it is what they built upon and taken to the degree of their craft in that area. Not every strongman lifted 500 lb stones but some have held back airplanes, bent spikes the greatest bench presser cannot even match, one guy can lifts hammers that are heavier than anyone can even get off the ground but can barely handle a heavy kettlebell. The greatest athletes don't possess the strength of a 1000 lb deadlifter but can throw a ball, have insane eye coordination to hurl a basketball from full court and you have guys that can go for hours wrestling and still have the will to pick up an opponent and drive them into the mat, that's crazy strength.

There is no such thing as one level of strength among all people. I personally believe in the type of strength where it carries over to the real world and has usefulness in many aspects. There are many strong guys that can pulldown 200+ lbs. on a machine yet those same guys cannot do a freaking pull-up, a 500 lb. Bench Presser is really strong but that same guy may not be able to do a 200 lbs stone or do 500 push-ups. Another thing I believe in is being able to master different forms of training and take bits and pieces that make up the natural order of those forms. You may not see me do a Tae Bo tape but I'll pick up rocks, sprint up a hill, do difficult animal moves, hold positions that come from gymnastics, carry heavy furniture and even lift up heavy boards that are under somebody.

The greatest mark or measurement of strength is what creates a real world form of what brings to the table instead of a glorious one time moment that happens to be a record. 100 years ago, many of the old-time strongmen didn't focus on specific lifts or isolate the muscles to look pretty; they had a hand in many styles such as wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, manual labor, dock work and blacksmithing. They found what they had to use in order to function in more than one aspect. Look at men like Otto Arco, George Hackenschmidt, John Grimek, John Davis and others; they possessed strength in areas more than 95% of the very best strongmen and crossfitters today. Yes the weight is heavier, the speed has greater velocity and the events have a greater spectacle but let me ask you this, how many strongmen today can go an hour or more on the mat? How many crossfitters have precise muscle control? How many gym rats can haul a couch? How many 700 lb. bench pressers can bend a 6-8 inch spike? I will guarantee you 1 out of every 10,000 can probably answer these and that latter number is actually short if you really do the research.

I beg of you guys, stop being such ego maniacs and walking around saying shit like "The mark of a man is measured by his bench" or "life ain't worth living if you can't do a heavy deadlift" or even one of my favorites "Strength is only measured by your squat." I'm thankful I still have strength in ways many my age don't have but that doesn't no where near make me better than them because they have strength that I can never fathom or fully understand but all in all, we are all extremely strong in some form or another and if someone is looking to get strong, show them different ways so they can find what works for them and cheer them on, putting them down doesn't show strength, it shows weakness more than anything. Be grateful that you are already strong but remember, there is always someone out there stronger than you'll ever be in ways that you can never truly measure up to. Be strong both in mind and body and master more than just one thing, it creates more excitement and adventure to find what else is out there to be strong at. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It's Never A Good Time To Lose One's Head

It's easy these days to forget that keeping your head in tact is a literal and figurative centerpiece of what keeps us alive. Having a strong neck isn't just about sculpted muscle, it is the strength of the tendons, ligaments and joints that keep everything together. If you have bad posture, chances are you have a weak neck so it is important to train that area the best ways possible. 

Our neck holds up our brain and is holding on to the spinal cord that is the electrical power in our back. If you ever had an injury where you broke your neck, you're also putting severe strain and injury to the spine. Our spine is our lifeline so we must check-up from the neck up. There are great ways to strengthen the neck and the very best is by bridging exercises. Now don't be afraid, I was too the first time I even saw a bridge being done, it can be very scary and downright intimidating but from a health standpoint, it is actually one of the best things you can do.

Bridging not only strengthens the neck, it stretches the back, strengthens the legs and provides incredible lung power as you stretch and open up the rib cage as you breathe deeply which in turn creates incredible endurance. The main three bridges are the Wrestlers (Back) Bridge, Front Bridge & The Gymnastic Bridge; each one develops incredible flexibility and all three strengthen the body from the inside out. You can say they are literal Body Builders. 

I do realize not everyone is meant to bridge due to severe problems like bone spurs and have had surgeries that wouldn't allow them to get into the positions regardless of progression, so what can you do to strengthen the neck without the need to bridge? My personal favorite is doing Self Resistance Neck Exercises where there's no impact on the joints and you are in complete control of how much you strength you put into it. The big 4 are as follows:

Side To Side (Moving The Head like a Rainbow)

Side To Side (Move The Head like an Equator)

Up And Down

& Circling The Neck For Mobility and Dynamic Flexibility

These alone are foundational for building a powerful neck and keeping your tendons and muscles strong. Start with 5-10 each way and build up to no more than 25-30. Another incredible way to train the neck especially for those over 40 is what's called Neck Chi Kung; it is a series of exercises that virtually anyone can do and it teaches how to breathe and relax (hardly strenuous) the muscles and focus on building energy and life into them. These take only a few minutes a day to do and helps realign your body from the head all the way down to the toes. You can learn about this type of training and many other forms of Energy Training & Conditioning by signing up at Matt Furey's Furey Faithful Website.

If you're really ambitious and want to take your neck training to the next level than I suggest you check out Advanced Bridging by Logan Christopher. This course gave me the best tools to strengthen my spine and neck and still use them to this day. It helped make my neck so strong that I will bend tough spikes with my bare hands in the Back Bridge. Imagine what it can do for you.

So get aHEAD in life and become literally HEADstrong. Never neglect the one thing that can keep you alive and possibly prevent you from becoming a vegetable.  





Monday, February 5, 2018

My Recent Visits And Lifts At The Gym

I officially have had a membership to a gym for a few weeks now and mainly going once or twice a week at best, no more than three because I still love my bodyweight training and can do that anywhere and go in just to have fun moving heavy stuff around. It is quite an experience and have met a few people and have had a great time lifting some iron again and some new lifts I've never done before.

My lifts are not that special since I have no where near the strength some of these guys have but it is thrilling to be alongside them and try things out. I have learned a little on lifting stones but due to back issues still I haven't hit a heavy one as much as I'd like but that will change soon. I have picked up an 88 lb. stone which is pretty easy for me although I Am a beginner, picking it up and pressing it for reps and learn the technique. My next stone is around 150-155 lbs. I'm lucky I can still move some hefty dumbbells and like a Dinosaur, just do basic stuff no bodybuilding or to look like a pretty boy, not my forte. Carried up to 90 lb. dumbbells across an area of the gym for at least a couple revolutions in the Farmer's Walk. Haven't done this since I first trained with my friend Tyler "Garage Warrior" Bramlett.

One lift I'am surprised I can still pull off is benching more than my bodyweight. I haven't touched the barbell bench press in roughly 10 years and ended up benching 285 at the end. My max however was 305 back in the day but within a near 15 year period, 20 lbs lost is not that much if you really think about it and this is after years of push-ups, pull-ups, animal exercise, isometrics and other things so I'm actually happy. Doing the Log Press for the first time was quite an experience, learning the bar alone was 100 lbs so I was up for a challenge and managed up to round 150 for 5 reps or so. Doing the Yoke for the first time was a real eye opener and a humbling experience I'll never forget. Without weight on the corners, it is 200 lbs. alone (52 pounds below my bodyweight) and started out with that and carrying it across an area of the gym. My max carry was around 435 and for a first timer at age 33 and never carried that much weight in my life, it was incredibly exciting. My max weight however without carrying was a partial squat lift of 525 lbs. (more than doubled my bodyweight).

As I started getting a bit of a bug, I wanted to amp things up a little bit. For the most part I'm no really interested in deadlifting or benching anymore and focus mainly on odd object lifting, thick bar training (fat gripz) and other strongman style training at the gym. I decided to bring my fat gripz to the party and see what I can do with a thicker bar (they have an axle barbell but you never know who wants to play with that) so I have done just overhead pressing, rows and curls with them. My best lift in the overhead press with the FG has been 185 lb. for 1-3 reps for multiple sets, would love to hit 200 soon. DB Benched with the 65-70 lbs dumbbells with the FGs and curl with 30-40 lbs. for multiple reps. Without the FG I can still curl for reps with more than 50 lbs with DBs so that felt awesome to be able to do.

Now I'm not doing anything heavier than I need to do and never train to failure. I only do things I can instinctively do and I never reach a point of pain, sure I can go far heavier but why would I need to, I have nothing to prove. Some guys like to push their limits and see how far they can take it which is fine for them and kudos for their efforts but for me, it's about having fun and just playing around. I'am serious about going into a lift yes but not to the point where I'm maxing out and being in pain, I lift what I can and be able to walk straight and still lift my arms up without joints hurting.

Usually after a lifting session, I put on some swim trunks and go in the pool for a finisher or to cool down and let my body recover. This really helps the process and will do a little more training later in the day like animal moves or core training. Deciding to drop my guard a bit on joining a gym and seeing what I can experience and take in with it, very inexpensive and the only gym with an actual strongman room, that sold me right there. It is not my intent to be a full fledged strongman from that area since I already have done strongman stuff like steel bending, phonebook tearing and levering hammers. This is more of an adventure and learning certain skills. It is a blast and more than just doing lifts, I'll play basketball every now and then, I love to swim when the opportunity arises and help encourage guys around me, some of them are intimidating looking but after 20 years of off and on training in all sorts of areas, you get used to it being around big guys and learning from them as they can learn from you. Some of them are just young kids in their early-mid 20's and have a ton of potential so hopefully I can pass on some of my wisdom and share knowledge with them.