Sharing nuggets of knowledge and ideas accumulated on health, strength and fitness based experiences. While here, feel free to hit the comments section and share your invaluable feedback about the blog's betterment. Have fun.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

How To Become A Minimalist Monster

Two Lifts. Six Weeks. Lots of Patience.

Sounds like too much?

I thought so too, until I gave it a try.

19 Years ago, Strength author Pavel Tsastsouline wrote about a simplistic program that helped individuals acquire over forty centimeter arms in just a couple of months of training. The program later got popularized as 'The Russian Bear'.

Well, folks, you are about to witness the ultimate frontiers of minimalism. Using only two lifts for the next six (or even eight) weeks, on your path to more muscle and strength. If you have the courage and patience.

Which two lifts though? The deadlift is the obvious choice, being the total body strengthener that it is. Don't be too hung up with the conventional deadlift though. Although the standard, mixed grip deads enabled me to work the most muscle, if you can pull more numbers in the Sumo style, pull Sumo.

"Why not Squats though?" Good question:

The program calls for a high volume regimen and most trainees, me included, will suffer anterior knee irritation and pain from prolonged inclusion of this lift. The Squat, I find is a more technical lit than the deadlift. For lifters with shorter limbs and longer torsos who are more suited to squatting than deadlifting, do give the squats a try though for a week or two before embarking upon the actual program

Okay, so the deadlifts. Is that all?

Certainly not. You need a robust, upper body lift that challenges your pushing or pulling muscles amply and yet leaves enough room to progress gradually over prolonged periods of time. Presses, owing to their suitability to high volume become a great choice. I prefer Incline presses over overhead presses or conventional Bench Presses due to the middle ground that they provide. You lift heavier than the military press and you work more muscles than the Bench Press.

To Summarize, you will be performing:

1. The Incline Press
2. The Deadlift.

Here's what you do with them.

Set 1: 5 Reps with a weight that allows you to do about 7 heavy reps
Set 2: 5 Reps with 90 percent of the weight used for Set 1
Set 3 onward: Continue doing 5 rep sets with 80 percent of Set 1 weight until you can no longer do sets of 5 reps with correct technique. Start training three days a week With time, if you aren't recovering well between sessions, do not hesitate in dropping weekly frequency to two.

Don't worry. You needn't do countless sets everyday.

On a good day, you may go as high as 20 to 25 sets on the 80 percent sets. On a less than optimum day, you may have to settle with as low as 5 to 10. Nevertheless. Build up till you can go all the way up to 20 ish, before adding 5 Kg to your set 1 weight and repeat. The key point to remember is, 'Do not quit too soon.'

When you can't add anymore weight without sacrificing technique for 5 reps or you just can't perform enough sets with the 80 percent weight, which should ideally happen around the 6th week mark, wave down to a weight about 2 to 3 kilos down and continue with the same cycle. Or, switch to a completely different program.

As always, never forget the value of enough good calories and a lot of rest on a very demanding program like this. Do not be misled by the simplicity of the program since it may devastate you progressively as you advance.

That's all. A complete program with as less moving parts as you can imagine. And a huge success rate. Test your mettle with this fool proof minimalist program that will tax your entire body in no time flat and force you to expand your wardrobe with bigger shirts and jeans.

Enjoy the gains.

Gym is not working for me...

"It never worked for me..."

He said playing with a D-Handle he was about to use for the 19th set of cable crossovers. Cody's attempts to pack up more bulk have been as successful as a butterfly trying to load a 40 feet container truck for what can be a good two years now.

"..I tried to hire the certifiedfromtwentyfiveschoolsinstagramsensation and we did have a great time doing stuff out of hell. Like I did those 75 curls with the 5 pound pinky dumbbells standing on a bosu balls on one leg. And then there was the 3/4 crunches done till I reached the 1000 rep count. Boy did my abbies felt like a vibrating cellphone that night. Oh, and how can I forget that day when I had to literally call emergency "

By now, I could sense why I was receiving shady sideways frowns from Cody while I was attempting heavy deadlifts while resetting between every rep. After all, it didn't have the perspiring and killing hit on every set and actually left me more energized than drained out.

There are a lot of individuals lost in the maze of ideas and concepts, mostly sprouting from Timelines and Handles and Feeds than from any actual empirical source of data or experience.

For the bullet-point savvy:

1. Nobody is ready to exceed their limits these days:
I remember folks who have been trying hard years after years to pack on some muscle they can show as some kind of evidence of their working out. After deeper inspection, turns out that they never went past their point of discomfort, fear or risk and settled with convenient options that were only 'visibly' hard. Oh, speaking of hard...

2. Hard work is a lost art:
It's understandable. When checking Facebook likes or whatsapp messages amid sets of presses is more important than executing the next set itself, who even cares of putting all their mind and focus on performing a hard lift.

3. Nobody is ready to do something that is not fashionable:
I mean women are fighting in the gyms these days over what music is to be played. I can't even...priorities are lost. Nothing's in perspective. Men are discussing the latest gym wear while they need to be under double their bodyweight on the squat bar.

4. We want results yesterday:
Most folks, and more often than not, they're spurted from a sudden enigma caused after they saw a movie star dosing their audience with a shot of their eight pack, need to 'look that way' immediately.

5 "...because that celebrity personal trainer said it" :
If I had a dollar for everytime someone does stupid stuff in the gym because they read an Instagram fitness sensation say so, I would be rich.

So, that, ladies and gents is why GYM is not working for you. Before you try all those 'other' things like battling ropes, zumba, spinning or jumping from exercise station to exercise station holding the cable ends like a cirque du soleil acrobat, re-asses if you are lifting weights correctly in the first place.

If you didn't quite catch the drift above, the reason why you're failing isn't the gym. It's you. Change it. And you will see yourself skyrocketing towards the stronger and more muscled YOU.

As you might have guessed by now, Cody's clarifications were met with a grin and a shrug from me before I proceeded towards my next set of deadlifts.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Silent Strength

Getting surrounded by the focused embrace before attempting a strong lift leaves little room for noise

I've got no workout videos of mine on the internet. No Instagram posts. Zero. Zilch.

Many of my readers are perplexed by that fact. It even makes me lose a fair bit of credibility as an influencer in Strength, health and exercise.

But that's a good thing. And it's helping me being the silent brearer of all the strength I am gaining.

What makes me content inspite of losing ground while I practice my skill almost unknown to those who I don't train with?

I call it something what an unknown Bob Peoples quietly practicing his Pull in a farmhouse in 1949 would call: Silent Strength.

Bob Peoples Deadlifting more wheels in 1940s than many of you ever will

If you are looking for workout videos, there are a dime and dozen out there by individuals way more qualified than I am.

Not just from today, refined exercise technique was born and perfected decades ago, as late as the Eighties. It's not going to refine any more, unless some publicity artist with 100 K followeres over Insta decides to reinvent the wheel and add his own touch to the way a Zercher Squat is performed that was never needed.

We can only gain online popularity. We won't be helping people signifcantly by posting a lift online unless it is residing in the neighborhoods of world records.

Strength is silent. When Goerner was developing his immortal 600 pounds two finger deadlift or Legendary French Strongman Ernest Cadine was polishing his swing towards the 198.42 Lbs record dumbbell, how much noise and publicity do you think these guys garnered. Considering how popular their feats of strength became eventually, their training always remained a mystique shadow of lifts that only came out on paper later.

Ernest Cadine Practices the Swing

A case can be raised that no social media existed during the golden age of strength training. Which is exactly the point. Absence of internet and social media profiles has helped forge strong as an ox physiques more than any supplement ever could.

The patience and discipline needed to create 1000 pounds plus powerlifting totals can't be matched if every set you perform is done with an intention to gather likes.

It adds to my pride to complete a strong workout without talking aloud about it. It's the feeling of completing a conquest without the dishonor of beating drums about it.

My writings are more bent towards clearing the clutter. Diminishing the noise with clear and concise lessons gained on ground.

So, quieten up and keep practicing your skill of strength silently. No Instagram likes needed. Don't worry. You will still get stronger.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Why these 50 year old workouts are the most profitable choices you can make today

The intelligence of Peary Rader lives on.

Long before 9 hour office desk jobs before a computer screen became the norm in every working economy, Peary, an erstwhile skinny dude from Nebraska in the early 1930s who went on to add 80 pounds in just an year with intelligent exercise founded the coveted Iron Man Magazine, along with wife Mabel Rader.

If you haven't yet read an Iron Man magazine issue, you're reading the wrong blog you are up for a surprise in enlightenment in how ahead of the times, 40s and 50s could be.

Inside the issues of Iron Man, readers from across the globe started discovering the simplicity of weight-training methods for adding slabs of muscles to their body and sporting the strength to match it. What was even more delightful was that these methods did not require a lot more than a conventional barbell set and could be stationed inside any regular household.

Things went really 'Hall-of-Fame' though when Peary came out with his formula for success in the form of 'The Rader Master Bodybuilding and Weight Gaining System' in 1946 and refined it in 1956.

Guys trying to get muscular and add weight really went Gun-Ho all over knowing the 'secrets' listed in this book.

Anyway, what was interesting, if you look deeper into this publication, was how Peary always relied upon the power of minimalism.

The most notable section that I found from this book is his representation of the abbreviated routines for the busy and working guy. Something that applies the most to the readers of this blog.

Peary also notably mentions how these quicker training sessions were beneficial for the time-challenged office goers who were low on energy.

What you see below are excerpts taken from this publication showing five ultra abbreviated routines worth giving a try if you are someone who is on a quest to get bad-ass on a really busy lifestyle.

1. The Bench Press - Row - Squat Program

The Name says it. All you gotta do is:

Bench Press: 1 set of 12
Two Arm Bent Row: 1 Set of 12
Barbell Back Squat: 1 Set of 20 Repetitions

Workout 2 to 3 times a week.

Breathe DEEP through each and every rep of each and every exercise.

Breath in deep before performing the descent and press on the bench press.

Perform the Bent row with the weight parked on the floor on all reps and end each rep with the weight back on the floor. Breathe deep through each rep of the row as well.

Finally, it goes without saying that none of the squat reps should be done on empty lungs.

Keep adding 'sets' whenever you are able to perform the named reps easily. Target a total of 4 to 6 sets with each exercise. For the squats, a right multi set approach with this program would be to perform the first set of 20, then add weigh to perform another set of 10. Then go a bit lighter for a 15. Then a bit heavier for a fourth set of 10. be Experimentative but never go less than 10.

Estimated time to completion: Close to 60 minutes, factoring the rest periods involved. A home gym works even faster.

2. The Press - Chin - Squat Program

The program consists of just three exercises which accoring to Rader "are so well chosen that they cover most of the major muscles in the body."

Here's your menu:

1. The barbell overhead press - 1 set of 10 to 12 reps
2. The Chin Up - 1 set of 10 to 15 reps
3. The barbell back squat - 1 set of 20 to 25 reps

Do the workout 2 to 3 times a week. You can also follow the squats with a light set of 20 pullovers done with a dumbbell or a barbell.

The pullovers can be done with a barbell

Or a dumbbell like shown below.

The progression schemes remain intact as in the previous program. So does the emphasis on deep breathing.

Per Rader, as you progress with weights here, you can split your target reps into smaller clusters and perform them in rest pause fashion till you reach the target reps in a single set.

Estimated Time to Completion: 45 to 60 Minutes

3. The Clean and Press Squat Program

This one is a fantastic overall developer. Your program looks like this:

1. The Barbell clean and press: 1 set of 15 reps
2. The two arm barbell bent rows: 1 set of 10 to 15 reps
3. The barbell back squats: 1 set of 20 to 25 reps

End your workout with a light set of barbell or dumbbell pullovers doing 20 repetitions.

Train 2 to 3 days a week.

Once again, follow the same instructions for technique and progression as listed previously.

Estimated time to Completion: 35 to 50 minutes.

4. The Clean and Jerk Squat Program

I'll let Peary himself do the honors of explaining this potent atom-bomb of a program:

In his words: "This exercise is the same as the one above except that you use the clean and jerk instead of the clean and press. It is more advanced in that you use more weight and clean with as much leg action as necessary, then start the press with a drive of the legs by bending and then
straightening them quickly, then finish by pressing to straight arms length. Do this exercise
first then your squats as usual. This program will give you rugged power as well as unusual
development and is a favorite program of Doug Hepburn."

You can do clean and jerks, the squat style like this:

Or in a split style like this.

Since the barbell clean and jerk can be an intimidating exercise to learn for many trainees who are uninitiated to Olympic lifting, it is best to learn this lift as a part of a different program first, and under an able supervision of a trained coach.

The same rep schemes as program no 4 here.

Estimated Time To Completion: 30 to 45 minutes

5. Specialized Squat Program

A lot of trainees require nothing more than raw, rugged bodyweight gains. This one's for them.

You perform nothing but the Squats and the pullovers here. One set of 20.

If you are in the mood to do more, add another set of 10 to 15 reps on the squat and another set on the pullovers.

With time, you may be able to do several such sets in a single program.

Trainees who have actually given this deceptively simple looking plan a chance for some time have reported phenomenal gains in bodyweight and muscle gain.

Sit back and let the simplicity of this program sink in for a moment.

Estimated Time To Completion: 30 to 45 minutes

Where are my Bicep Curls?

I can see a lot of you scratching your heads because of the significant amount of training-dogma of today that these programs break.

When time is a cherished luxury for you, the first thing that goes out of the window are the peripheral movements such as bicep curls, calf raises and forearm exercises.

You can however add an effective ab movement such as ab wheel rollouts, hanging leg raises etc at the end. But let your time and recovery be the judge here and not the conventional wisdom of program design that you see being screwed around and lauded about in your gym.

Why Did I decide to write about these seemingly over-simplified programs?

I'll answer this in one sentence. They work like a charm for me. I have been on one of these abbreviated program and it has been months since I have switched to another, simply since I am not seeing the weights on my lifts stopping from increasing. And I thought, why not let everyone make use of this re-discovery?

Would they work equally well for you? Why not give them a shot and find out. If tonnes of evidence of trainees having enjoyed gains in strength and health of them over the decades are to be believed, you have a lot of reason to trust them and start off on your journey with them. And save hours and hours of training time every week and spend it on more meaningful pursuits such as the family, kids, cooking food, shopping and traveling.

What more can you ask for?

Muscle building programs don't get any simpler. Take advantage of more than half a century old wisdom of the Iron pioneers and see how much time you can actually save while getting more results than your current program, every week.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Deadlift behind the back and artificial testosterone

Question: I love deadlifts. But more than once have I experienced excruciating low back pain while executing the lift. At one point, I felt this slight spark in the low back/tail bone-ish region while putting the weight back down and then suddenly, OUCH.. I realized it's all over now. The weights I used were indeed heavy and I might have gone a few extra reps on that set. I am a long limbed guy with a sedentary desk jock lifestyle. What could possibly be going wrong here? Am I doomed to never be able to deadlift again?

The Solution: Although long limbed individuals have an unfair advantage with deadlifting, compared to their T-Rex like shorter limbed, longer torso's friends, a continuously seated lifestyle presents an entirely different picture altogether.

So, while a nearly neutral/naturally curved spine looks like the one on the left, the spine of a taller guy with a lot of sitting in his or her life displays an anterior pelvic tilt like the one on the right

That's how you would look if you were sitting with an anteriorly tilted pelvis.

This is most seen with office goers who are unfortunate enough to have a chair that sways back way too far and has a lot of play in the backrest. Chairs that are not upright enough. Something like this:
Anyway, what this does to a super heavy deadlift, especially when done for reps is that, while your glutes get exhausted and fail to trigger fully, the compromised spinal erectors fail to do their job fully as well.

The result is an ouchie.

But I'm sure you are not going to let go of the heavy deadlifts and the gains that come along that easily.

Let's revisit why it happens especially during a deadlift. The devastating demands placed by a deadlift on your entire body aside, the deadlift especially requires a trainee to have forward bending capabilities.

Of course the trap bar deadlift would have been my first suggestion here, but, really, how many gyms around the world that you would travel to would have the hex bar or the trap bar?

The solution to his problem is a deadlift done behind the back.

Yes, something like that does exist, in case you were wondering.

Here's a great deadlift behind the back in action. And by the way, it is not to be confused with a barbell hack squat, which deserves an altogether different blog post on its own.

To state the technique simply, try to execute it as you would a standard deadlift. Just have the bar behind you.

Behind the back deadlifts force your torso to be more upright and eliminates all the low back pain triggers associated with anterior pelvic tilt.

Trainees having had episodes of back pain in regular deadlifts have reported to be able to lift greater poundages in this deadlift variation compared to the standard pull. Which makes it a really great overall hypertrophy drill in case conventional deadlifts are getting contra-indicated for trainees with low back pain.

It's also a fantastic quad-builder. Like really fantastic. Give it a try for some time to witness your quads acquiring that tear drop shape, often even better than regular squats.

Your hamstrings might come in the way of the bar moving up, requiring you to push your hips forward a bit during the mid-lift, which is totally fine. Keeping the chest high and shoulders back throughout helps through this.

So, to put back pain behind you, put the bar behind you.

Question: That friend of mine told me that I may need to inject some artificial testosterone inside me. That's really going to help me with so many things that are going wrong with my health, physique and life in general. But I am kind of worried. Is it really worth all that hype? Am I going to get hurt? Will it benefit me? Should I take it?

The Solution: Well, in my experience so far, to answer you in one sentence: The cons of artificially injecting testosterone far outweigh the pros.

Unless you are someone medically advised for a hormonal replacement, you're better off not taking artificial T.

Which does not mean that you do not need to have your testosterone boosted naturally. The immense benefits of higher testosterone such as increased muscle mass, improved confidence, strength, vigor and vitality and a higher libido cannot be undermined at all.

My take would be to employ the naturally proven ways to enhance testosterone release inside your body such as :

1. Do a lot a back squats
2. Pull a lot of Deadlifts
3. Do all those other big movements such as rows, pull ups and presses.
4. Consume adequate healthy fats. Few people look at it this way. A testosterone molecule is produced by the aid of Omega 3 fatty acids. Walnuts, Salmon, Canola, Flaxseeds are all great sources. If nothing works, supplementation is really fine too.
5. Eliminate undue stressors. Never ever miss sleep.
6. Even herbs such as Shilajit have a proven capability since ages to act as a natural testosterone balancer.
Back Squatting with huge weights for reps beats any testosterone injectible in boosting your T levels in the optimum manner
There's so much more than can delver high testosterone secretion if done correctly and consistently for months and years.

And if you are still not convinced to not go the syringe route, here's what can happen when you quit consuming artificial testosterone. While the normal levels of serum testosterone in healthy males can range circa 1000 ng/dL, super-ambitious juice junkies are known to boost that up to 2000 or even 5000 ng/dL and I have read about some top end bodybuilders to have even boosted it up all the way to 10000.

This chronically suppresses the testes' natural secretion capability. And once we quit, we may need to live all our life with an under or no production of T. Leading us to gynaecomastia and related low-T conditions. And we end up losing way more than what we could have ever gained from the needle. Including our manhood.

The choice, as always, is yours.