THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF RAHUL HARSH RAJE

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, 11 January 2020

Strength Strategies of a Man Less Traveled

You know, for a guy who rants and blabbers a lot (here, let me show you how to do a pull up), I have been living in the same place for a majority of my life.

Until now.

I have now begun to plan some real good travel in my coming years. Journeys that can help me redefine myself in ways unknown and make me a better man and a hopefully better author.

I have always preferred staying in the same place for a longer duration of time. And truth be told, part of it is because I hold strong to the tenets of following a set lifestyle: A day that consists of waking up at mostly the same time, brushing my teeth at the same damn time daily, having a meal, heck even drinking water by the clock at most times... these are stuff that give me immense pleasure when they are at their scheduled times daily.

Sure, one can always improvise but carrying a barbell on a tour would be the last of what we would all want on a holiday
All that stuff is fun and games but the waters start getting deeper when the subject of lifting heavy things and becoming stronger comes into the discussion. That has been one of the biggest pet peeves of mine when I make up my mind to travel to somewhere distant. Even when I travel for work, the thought of parting away from my beloved barbells haunts me throughout my scenic experience in an unknown country with a language and dialect I cannot understand.

Even if you combine all the weight you see in this hotel gym, it wouldn't match an average deadlift. That's how sketchy things can get when you're looking for free weights while on a travel

And the fact that you cannot easily carry even a moderate sized kettlebells in a flight without shelling out a grand sum of money is only part of what adds to my misery.

It kept on going this way for years.

At one point, I kept a body-weight training regimen that I could follow for those two weeks when I was out and get back to the iron when I return home. But the naiveness I would showcase when I did my first set of single leg squats after ages during those travel would ultimately defeat the purpose of a consistent, healthy, progressive training program.

I ended up spending efforts at something I wouldn't eventually carry along with me once I am back. I know, I know, Random Acts of variety and shit, but sooner than later, the need for this kind of bodyweight centric training was begging to become a part of my usual training programeven when I was back at home. A plan like this would provide a continuum that would give me a wide overlap between the programs I do when home and the ones I practice when I am traveling.

Before this thought took shape, here is what I was following. For 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps:

Day 1

Squats
Dumbell Lateral Raises
Dumbell Rear Lateral Raises

Day 2

Deadlifts
Incline Presses

Day3

Squats
Dumbell Lateral Raises
Dumbell Rear Lateral Raises

Make no mistakes. It's a very durable program and advanced trainees can make progress on this valhalla of an abbreviated program even when they take a layoff week or two here and there. Though I understand there are habit mongers like me who would frown at the idea of not having to move against resistance for more than three days.

To bridge the gap for people like us, I married this robust program with the czar of the bodyweight lifts. I took out the inessential and added something similar but different (and bodyweight).

The Pistol Squats and The One Arm Pushups: The Czars of Bodyweight Exercises

My program now looks like

Day 1

Squats
Pull Ups
Dips
Pistols

Day 2

Deadlifts
One Arm Pushups
Pistols

Day 3

Squats
Pull Ups
Dips
Pistols

I kept pistols on all training days in a moderate dose since I really (really) suck at them. You guys can feel free to replace it with the Hardstyle Plank, Janda Situps or any other high tension bodyweight ezercise of your choice. Just remember to keep the volume moderate (3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps).

What keeps this format similar to the previous one is I retained the most important things that were being done by a barbell: The Back Squat and the deadlift. Everything else got augmented by a bodyweight version of it.

When I am traveling, I would then follow this 'Lite' version of the program

Day 1

One Arm Pushups
Pistols

Day 2

Pull Ups (need to find something to hang, or else, would do Door Pullps)
Dips (Or a TRX Bodyweight Press Variant)
Pistols

Day 3

One Arm Pushups
Pistols

The Takeaway

Sparing a few big boys of the weight room like the Squats, Deads and Presses, most of the really necessary strength moves can be done almost anywhere. What's important is they should be a part of your ongoing program so when you are left deserted on the road, you can still repeat most of what you have been usually doing.

The purpose of sharing these programs is to trigger an insight. Use these as a template to form your own program with the exercises most suited to your goals and preferences. Just make sure you include a healthy mix of free weight and bodyweight movements. Include only what's necessary and hack away the inessential.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Lifting Magnifies All You Have


If, you're a man, moving heavy weights is going to make you more of a man.

If you're a woman, displacing heavy iron is going to make you more of a woman(not a man).

If you are strong, heavy lifting makes you stronger.



If you have a naturally broad frame, big lifts such as upper body pulls and pushes are going to help you accentuate that.

If you are one of those lucky bastards blessed with a naturally narrow waist., boy, you don't know what pleasant surprises heavy lifting has for making your narrow waist look even narrower by account of enlarging your
prime movers like the glutes, the lats and such...

If you're a born good squatter naturally, practicing heavy squats consistently will make you so much better at it. If you are a long-limbed deadlifting zealot like I am, consistent Deadlift practice can give you a constantly bigger and bigger deadlift.

Want a more striated pair of chest muscles? Stop doing countless mindless reps of cable crossovers and keep working at making your Bench presses heavier. With time and years, those flatter muscle bellies are going to grow and converge into each other creating a separation that 'tone and burn' exercises can never accomplish. You'll be magnified in a way you never thought.

If you're a man or a woman of character, engaging in regular heavy lifting will make you one of an even more immense character and stronger will.

Somewhere through the years trying to improve the same lift training it again and again, you slowly realize, what you've actually been building was more character than muscle


Lifting is like that elixir, or a Midas touch that can almost magically (BUT NOT OVERNIGHT) metamorphosise all of your already existing super Powers.

Remember, heavy doesn't necessarily need to be HARD. Yes, they can be different.

Three Sets of three Incline One Arm Pushups can be both heavy and 'not hard' if you can in fact perform 5 sets of 5 till failure. You see? Like in all my previous themes, 'not chasing muscular failure' and pursuing flawless technique is the key.

Corollary No 1:

As a corollary, it isn't always possible to make you acquire the exact shape of Bob Paris or Frank Zane or Sergio Oliva, Gina Aliollti or Olesya Novik. What those men and women were since they were born, they're yet the same, only a bigger and better version of it.

Dorian Yates in 1993 was still the same Dorian from 1992, only Magnified with better planning and implementation. Alright, I give up.. yes there were a truckload of steroids involved too, but still...


It's going to be the same for you; love it or hate. Envision yourself being a better, improvised version of your existing self, retaining all the structural specialties, curves, irregularities etc. That is a much more realistic target to set when you set out on a physical transformation than chasing an unrelated and imaginary form of a pharmaceutical aided mass monster.

Corollary No 2:

While it can magnify all the good you have, given the right (or wrong?) set of conditions, lifting can also have the ability to increase all the bad in you. Which in our case can be aching joints, neuro-muscular fatigue and trauma, day-long tiredness due to lack of adequate sleep and hydration etc. 

Did someone just say they got more irritated since they started lifting weights like a beast?

If you already have pathological conditions such as anterior patellar pain or subacromial irritation, constantly hammering those conditions with atrocious lifting technique can take you further down those hell holes until those acute injuries become chronic devastation. Every good has a bad side. Do not let the merits of good technique heavy lifting get undermined by flawed and sub-optimal lifts which you copied in a hurry looking at a cool Instagram or YouTube video.



Be consistent. Follow correct technique. And you may soon find out how lifting heavy weights is like a magic wand that helps you discover all the good you already have and gives the world a magnifying glass to look at it.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Do This For 10 Seconds And Recover Faster

Quick. Check your face now. Rather, FEEL your face now.

What do you notice? Tension. Truckloads full of facial tension. The jaws clenched and eyes stretched in anxiety.

You never know, how tensed you can be
Now do this. Relax all of your facial muscles.

Start from your forehead. Check your cheeks. Observe your nostrils. Once they are completely relaxed, draw the tension out of your jaw. Release the clench of the jawbones together and let them just 'stay' atop each other. Maybe even feel your neck and see if it is overly tight.

Most importantly, relax your eyes. De-stress your gaze.

Once your entire facial muscle groups feel completely relaxed, be like this for a few more seconds, probably ten.

Here are a few magical things that might happen to you as soon as you do this:

1. You will find your entire body following through and experiencing the relaxation
2. Your mood will be heightened. Here's a small test. Practice this above tactic whenever you are in an argument or are paranoid with something. The above maneuver ( or lack of it ) is going to give you an instant improvement in your anxiety and stress levels.
3. Your mind gets instilled with positive thoughts and an overall pleasant outlook towards life.
4. With time, you will learn the highly valued skill of 'Resting On Demand'. Can you rest on demand whenever you're super stressed at work, on the road, between flights or any chaotic situation? If the answer to any of these questions is No, you need to learn facial relaxation.
5. You stop being in the past and the future and being to live more in the present.
6. The biggest benefit to this practice that I have experienced is that I began to be a calmer person in general. There are times when I used to experience 'hyper' times in the past. With the practice of relaxing on demand, these moments are now diminishing fast.
7. Most people might find it contradictory but relaxing your face even while performing heavy lifts in the gym can surefire your way to a better and smoother performance without the added risks of passing out or overly elevated heart rates. The major cause of a tensed face during training can be stopping your breath after inhaling a deep bout of air. Breathe evenly and naturally. More importantly, do not forget to exhale during the execution of a lift.

Exhalation is where the relaxation lies

Two key points to consider though:

1. Daily practice is different from 1 rep max testing or competition attempts. 
Now, before you even ask me, do not get confused between your routine lift practice and a max effort attempt. The latter is only a single and will need every part of you to maximally contract; the former will not.

This is not how your regular exercise practice might look
Most people watch a powerlifter performing a record breaking hoist on the platform and assume that to be demeanor they should adapt during each repetition they perform in the gym. Nope. Relax your face but tense your body, which takes us to:

2. Understand the difference between total body tension and facial relaxation.
You need to keep your mind cool in order to ward off any anxiety out of it and get a clear vision before you attempt the next set. But you also need to tense your entire body into a tight single unit before you get under the bar and until you get out from under it.

A relaxed face and a tensed body. No Clenched teeth here.
I haven't come across an easier method to let go of that broken down feeling coming from tough workouts. Facial relaxation is instant, effective and free.Try it everyday. You will improve. And so will your lifts.
  

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Stop Wasting Your Time In The Gym

She was the perfect distraction.

Wrapped in closely body-hugging black spandex and carrying a vulnerable confidence moving from exercise to exercise.

There was no one else in the gym that day. Only a 20 something shapely girl, half confused about her exercise choices and a so far well determined man, there to lift some serious iron.
Can she distract and rob your resources during training?

"What's that exercise for?" , I asked her after resisting it for the 400th time. She was doing a kettlebell front raise pretending to be a Swing.

"Those are done for the back. Swings, I guess."

"I see. I've seen them being done a bit different, though"

"Oh yeah? How's that?" She asked with a mix of curiosity and the knowledge of a possible pick up line being used.

I went on to demonstrate her a well orchestrated, near sublime rep with one hand, swinging the bell in harmony with tension.

We went on to have a brief chatter. She didn't give me her phone number. I retreated to the squat rack with a defeated face.

Be informed that all this melodrama ensued while I was waiting to perform another set of barbell good mornings.

Honestly said, I just wasted two precious resources, both time and energy into a task that was clearly mundane and of least importance ( come on, what was I thinking, she would end up with anything more than some head nods with me? ), when it could have very well been applied to the barbell for a thousand times more benefits.

Absorb energy from the barbell

A great workout session should have you feel more energized once it is done. The barbell isn't there to test your intestinal fortitude in the gym. The barbell is there to help you gain energy from it. Store the energy within you and then release or demonstrate it during competition or times of crisis.

The effort spent at lifting a barbell is an investment you can make which delivers its returns whenever you are on the stage, the field, the ring, or in any devastating situation in life.

Same goes for any other training modality: kettlebells, dumbbells, bodyweight.

The moment you start looking at these training tools with a view that they are there to energize you and not drain you out unconscious, you'll acquire a totally new meaning to training.

Of course, 500 pounds is always going to be harder to lift than 200. But the path you take to reach there tells a lot about whether you added all that strength and energy into your energy account or simply kept exhausting your precious earned energy savings on acts of no returns.

If your goal is to push yourself to death on every training session, well, abusing almost any training method can help you get there. You just need to push the pain meter ahead to achieve these lesser pursuits.

Proper application of training methods entails staying fresh or keeping your nervous system capable of performing another rep in reasonably correct form.

The oldtime strongmen said it best when authoring their landmark training methods: "Do not attempt another rep unless you are 100 percent confident of completing it." Applies well to every exercise. No half-hearted rep attempts, please.

Get energized. Don't smoke yourself up under the bar.

And let the sexy girl in the spandex wonder what's keeping you from getting distracted from that super heavy weight on your shoulders.


Wednesday, 5 June 2019

12 Insights From Lifting Weights Every Third Day

I'm a miser, mostly.

Or, to avoid sounding like a douche, I'd like to use the word, 'efficient'

I'm the guy who would love spending the least to dish out the most at any restaurant.

Of course, I like extending this wicked vice of mine to everything in life. Work, entertainment; training...






This walk on the road of exploring training economy took me towards going way beyond on the training frequency continuum and try reducing my weekly training days as less as I can.

Most of the readers here know already of how much I am a fan of training three times a week, especially when it comes to adding muscle while staying as strong as possible..

And when one dusts off some old copies of Peary Rader's Iron Man or John McCallum's Complete Keys To Progress, it isn't much of a secret how after hundreds, if not thousands of trials, these bright minds found the ideal frequency for a 'real', non steroid using population seeking muscle gain to be 2 to at most 3 days a week of solid training.

Who would benefit from an insanely (only to the ones unfamiliar to twice a week training) minimalist program such as this?

  • Busy as hell folks
  • You just had a new baby
  • People who have a highly challenged recovery
  • Someone who doesn't enjoy spending a lot of time in the gym
  • If the gym is a really long drive from your place
Of course, these are just examples. Don't let them stop you from training with a 2X program and utilize its unique merit.

So where was I? Oh yes, the program. Okay, here's what I did:

Day 1:
A1: Back Squats
A2: Incline Presses

B: Barbell Hip Thrusts

Day2:
A1: Deadlift
A2: Pull Ups

B: Good Mornings

On the A exercise, I did 1 to 3 sets to 1 to 3 solid, relatively heavy reps. This was followed by 1 to 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps carried near failure to ensure a sufficient hypertrophy stimulus.

The B Exercise is simple. You only do one single set of 8 to 15 reps. Again, taken relatively closer to failure, but there's no rush.

You take two days off between each training session.

Following are the major observations I could gather from this experiment of mine:

1. It's hard to deal with the absence of training stimulus: This must have to do with the mind seeking soreness which may just subside after the first off day depending upon how stimulating the previous workout was.

2. There is a new-found time available at hand for doing more things: The benefits become more evident as we start using the newly found time for better purposes. Choices can range from cooking to playing with the kids more to pampering the wife more.

3. The mind is freer to think: This is especially true if you are like me and would like to visualize every training session days before it happens. Lesser training days puts lesser load on your mind.

4. I've to constantly stop myself from 'not doing anything: This is a challenge especially when you are coming from a high frequency program. The urge to just go and lift something will be tremendous on your off days during the initial few weeks.

5. Think in terms of Brief infrequent doses of growth igniting spurts: Each workout of yours is like a dose of Human Growth Hormone aimed towards pulling you closer to your better and stronger version. This kind of imagery helps when getting a perspective when you're training lesser. Get the hard lifts done. Then sit back and relax observing yourself grow.

6. Diet needs to be dialed in, since there are more non training days: Be responsible on those days when you once used to train and enjoy some luxury to indulge in minor overeating. That needs to be kept in check now.

7. It can sometimes get difficult to remember when is the next training day: Although I follow an 'every third day' template rather than two fixed days a week, you can as well try the latter option if you were the most memory challenged kid at school.

8. I'm literally resisting myself from hitting the gym on this second off day.

9. A great way to handle exercise addiction: Stop fantasizing over always continuing to have something heavy over your shoulders and start thinking about the life outside the gym as well. And there are few things better than this twice a week lifting pattern to help you get there.

10. Much less is needed than we think on such a training day: My initial thought was to cram my weekly training into two days. Oh, how wrong was I. One big lesson this experiment has taught me is that when it comes to training efficiency, 2+2 is not always 4. Sometimes it can 3. On other days it can be 5. If you choose your lifts wisely, very few key movements (such as the ones I chose) can give you amazing results. Don't forget that the strongest people ever have trained with a very small set of lifts diligently.

11. But you do need to train HARD. Examples of hard work: 20 rep squats, big compound lifts with a right mix of intensity or volume etc. But ease into your program rather than rushing into it headfirst.

12. When you only have that one day to train, you are compelled to give it your all compared to when you know you can always come tomorrow. Lesser training days may offer lesser opportunities to bring out your inner animal, but they may also present a lesser chance to fail.


As coach Charles Staley would put it best: "What you do not include in your twice a week lifting program is as important as what you include in it."