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, 9 May 2020

MAKE YOUR TRAINING PORTABLE

You prize your squat like its dearer than life herself.

And it's no joke. Hoisting 600 pounds on your back when it is trying to not only crush you, but bury you deep underground is a serious affair for anyone anywhere.

It's all fun and games though until you suddenly have that unplanned road trip. Or worse, you need to fly for work to places where you might need to walk miles to find even something remotely looking like a dumbbell, let alone a squatting set up. Even the most well equipped hotel gyms across the globe may not be able to fancy your Deadlift PR goal, I'm sure.

LET'S ADMIT, THIS HAS BEEN A SIGHT OF HORROR TO SO MANY OF US!
I think it's about time we begin to ask ourselves:

CAN YOU CARRY YOUR TRAINING PROGRAM WITH YOU?

When it comes to training, only portability can guarantee really long term consistency.

Let's face it. In the long run, only things we have been doing almost like second nature can win us the shape we want to be in.

During my childhood, I used to be enthralled looking at the phenomenal abdominal development of construction laborers. My then developing brain did not allow me though to realize how it wasn't any super specialized six week abdominal training program that chiseled those marbles. Rather it was those 50 plus kilo cement and sand bags those hard working men used to carry up several flights of stairs tirelessly for almost his entire adult life. Over their lifespans, they end up acquiring wiry, ripped frames that could envy any fitness model.

YOU MIGHT WANT TO RECONSIDER YOUR CAREERS AFTER NOTICING SOME CONSTRUCTION WORKERS' RIPPEDNESS
This was just a fancy way of introducing the power of consistency to you.

SO, WHAT OPTIONS DO I HAVE?

To cut it all short, here are the categories of movements you must start considering as soon as you can to be added to your strength programming:

1. High Tension Bodyweight Drills - Remember, these are not just plain push ups and bodyweight squats, rather their more sinister uni lateral varieites.
2. Resistance Bands/Spring loaded strands/Any other similar cable training portable apparatus
3. Kettlebells. Enough has been proven about their formidable nature. They are a concentrate of that entire dumbbell rack into one cannon ball with a handle. That should help explain their portable power.

THE ANYWHERE TOOLS
Whether you might enjoy hearing it or not, you can design a world class strength training program using just these 'anywhere' tools.

Of course, this is in no way a limited list and your imagination would be the only limit when it comes to devising effective training plans using anything available around you. Sandbags, pieces of furniture, bricks, towels, odd shaped objects... Just think in terms of, would you be able to continue this during a long, unexpected road trip. The answer to this question might enlighten you towards a fool-proof program design.

Think of it this way. You expand your horizons once you let go of the conventional possessions of strength training. You break that invisible string that has tied, rather, 'chained' you to the power rack for years, making you sacrifice the finer joys of life such as meeting your people and planning adventures with them.

SO THEN, WE CAN JUST, DITCH THOSE BIG BARBELLS AND DUMBBELLS? JUST LIKE THAT?

This is no way to state though that big barbell lifts have no place in a trainee's life. This is to ascertain that those big lifts are still a rare luxury for so many of us and should be treated so. You can include a handful of the big barbell lifts in your program when you're home, but always ensure to keep the body weight training as an integral part of training. You can use regular barbell training programs during a 6 to 12 week period when you are highly convinced, life isn't going to throw an air ticket or a long drive to a new place towards you.

Another way is to keep testing your Squat, Dead and Press numbers on a periodic basis to assess how your 'other' training is helping them. Believe it or not, you can improve your deadlift without training it directly.

And by the way, not all of us are anyway made to be doing conventional squats, deads and bench presses. Case in point, the day I started toying around with the barbell Zercher squats, I have seldom looked back. The irradiating realization and swarms of aha moments made me question my sanity in not choosing this remarkably productive, beneficial and safe lift all these years. I haven't got my hands across a Trap bar yet, although a similar exclamation would go out for the conventional deadlift deserving to be replaced by a more upright version such as the trap or hex bar deadlift. Maybe a behind the back deadlift should suffice till then, but that's a different blog post for a different day.

WON'T I LOSE ALL MY GAINS?

If you choose the right bodyweight training exercises, you wouldn't. I didn't too. What exercises should you pick up? Total Body tension drills.

Exercises such as the Ab-wheel roll out is a killer variation that fits this bill like a superstar.



This drill can give you a long-time achievable goal while delivering benefits all this while.

Handstand Pushups, Pull ups on a ledge or anything sturdy to hang from, single leg squats and push ups are all fantastic categories with enough progressions to keep you hooked for a lifetime.

When you come back to training the big barbell lifts after a month or two, you will be astonished at how much better you are under the bar using all those total body tensing techniques you learned.

IS IT REALLY THAT EASY?

Nobody said that. Okay, well, if you consider staying on the course for weeks and months doing the basics to be easy, then a resounding YES. Stay prepared to get bored. It's not a 'I'm gonna see visible gains every session' kind of journey. It's more of a 'Ah, after six sessions, I finally see some light' kind of journey.

Make these modifications to your current program and reap benefits of exercise and strength training while you are also enjoying that view of the valley on a hill or mountain range you do not know the name of.

Friday, 1 May 2020

WHAT WOULD CHANGE AFTER THE LOCKDOWN

A carelessly handled strand of virus has changed the way we live forever.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, complete or partial lockdown has been the go-to resort for most nations across the globe. While effective in reducing the doubling rates of the cases, it has brought about significant restrictions in our once carefree lives.

But restrictions or adversities can open up new ways and introduce us to ourselves.

In a lot of ways, living, eating, moving and playing will experience a dramatic and almost permanent shifts. People across the globe have already started considering to tailor their activities to occupy a 'smaller footprint'. Long walks have become marches across the house. Road runs have become running around the house perimeter or rope skipping. Swimming seems to have become an almost extinct activity overnight and I fear I may lose all my limited ability to flutter kick in a water higher than six feet all this time.

In this time of most granted luxuries being almost unfairly snatched away from us, it is restorative to relax and rethink what we have been doing all this while and chisel the extra 'ceramic' off our sculptures.

If you are like me, you would have already used this period as a renaissance for your training and health endeavors by now.

The spotlight would remain on a few significant areas of physical training and lifestyle management:

HOME WORKOUTS ARE BUSTING THE CHARTS

More importantly, setting up a small exercise space in your house or balcony, or what I'd prefer calling a 'Courage Corner' would become a part of most people's interior decoration. The usual belief that you 'need' a gym to get better will be got done with. After you have lost close to 5 to 6 kilos doing kettlebell swings with a single kettlebell for two months, you will be shocked to know how little YOU actually needed when it comes to exercise hardware. My forecast is people will shift to either extreme of the weight loss continuum after a long lockdown: They will either become a gluttonous over-sized mammoth adaptations of themselves; or become a wiry, reasonably stronger and significantly leaner versions of themselves. You might witness changes in some driven home-warriors they were never able to earn during their overhauled hours after hours of workouts in Planet Fitness or Gold's Gym.



Training at home and developing your own training zone gives you a greater purpose and priority for physical transformation. You might be devoid of a lot of space-intensive options but the dearth of options will take care of itself in the form of lending an unseen innovation to you to create a winning combination with minimalist choices.

REDISCOVERY OF THE POWER OF BODYWEIGHT TRAINING

Open your Instagram and go to any of the highly featured fitness coach or exercise-fashionista out there and you will see a common theme since the pandemic broke out: Everyone or the other is doing a form of pushup, or pullup, or bodyweight squat or giving a bodyweight touch to any other weight or machine based movement they were doing all this while. Unknowingly, almost all of them are tapping into this uncharted territory of the School Of Bodyweight skills that can teach us more than we have a chance to grasp ever doing partial super heavy deadlifts in a power rack. Lessons in total body tension and linkages throughout the body as Pavel Tsatsouline would like to call it.



Callisthenics, especially the High Tension bodyweight drills like one legged squats and one arm pushups, one of the most underrated training style in existence have resurfaced as the savior of strength and health in the form of high-output and less-investment strength drills that can be done anywhere and not let you become a wimp or lose your man-card ever. One of the biggest myths paralyzing most exercise enthusiasts today is the mindless chase of 'size' or the 'bodybuilding mindset' making us myopic towards the brightest tool of training we have been blessed with all our life: 'Our Own Bodies'. 'Health-Building' over bodybuilding is the right way to go if we need to keep sound gains in our strength and appearance coming for ages and ages.

THOSE OFT OVERLOOKED 'EXTRAS' AND 'IN-BETWEENS' WOULD GET THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE

We used to call them 'correctives'. Joint mobility, flexibility, movement preparation, cardio and similar additives. Well, they might not just stay as additives any more. Being indoors gives most of these equipment-less training pieces more opportunity to be trained on their own right. Moving better will have a self-explanatory carryover to your main workouts.

A word of caution though: Do not overdo them believing in the 'more is better' cool-aid. Treat correctives like a dose of medicines and try to prevent overdoses.

TRAINING WOULD ONCE AGAIN BECOME MORE 'MEDITATIVE'

You're in a big box commercial gym surrounded by about 50 more sorry people like you drenched in sweat and participating in a 'grab that barbell before anyone does' contest. You have your last set of 300 left with the deadlift and you can see scores of bar snatchers surrounding you who are least interested in how technically proficient you are in execution of the pull but to grab the bar on that last rep and disappear into oblivion with the bar and the plates combined. And did I mention the blunt stares you get when you are compelled to do the same to someone else?

In a space surrounded by swarms of people and chaos, your mind has no option but to give up all ideas to stay sane and indulge in a battle to gather resources. The prime purpose of you being in a training facility gets defeated and unnecessary struggles take over.



 Now imagine you with your 24 Kg kettlebell sitting in front of you in your quiet living room. Nobody is trying to rob it away from you. The blank emptiness of the room is a striking contrast from the mayhem you just witnessed in the gym. Your mind can solely focus on the crisp movement of the lifts you are going to perform.You achieve what was inevitably unachievable elsewhere: You can link your mind in a mindful manner to the movement. You get one with the lift. You get in the 'Zone'. There's no one coming over, tapping your back in between a set and telling you 'Hey Bro, here, let me correct your form on this'.

Getting into the zone is highly therapeutic and can drastically shift your attitude to the positive side of the continuum.

EVERYTHING AROUND YOU STARTS LOOKING LIKE TRAINING EQUIPMENT

A couch or a sofa to do hip thrusts from, a ledge to hang on it for doing some rock-climber pullups, a towel to wet and wring for training the grip and core, a pair of chairs to do pushups or dips between. The more I am staying indoors, the more ideas are springing up to device a challenging variation of a bodyweight exercise.

Here's a powerful exercise that can be done whether you're in your household or in a hotel room. Take a thick towel and a bucket filled with mater till a mark. Soak the towel with water as much as possible. Then wring the towel dry using the entire force of your body till all the soaked water from the towel is rinsed back into the bucket and it is full again till the marked point on it. You will be shocked to know how much stronger this simple exercise can make you over a long run of time. The trick is to use your entire body, right from the hands to the feet by generating total body tension to squeeze the water out of the towel.

TRAINING WOULD GET MORE PORTABLE

I've been thinking of making my strength programs handy enough to be carried in a travel bag to guarantee assured consistency and near zero failure rate since a long time now. Notice something similar with the lockdown? We are dealing with a situation where a training approach exactly like this is coming to help. I think the lockdown has given us just the right time to come up with ideas and improvisations to let that happen.

A simple yet progressive strength program with very few moving parts is not only fool-proof, you can also carry it with you anywhere in the world. Come on, you can do a Pistol Squat on the cliffs of the Himalayas as crisply as you can in a Submarine around the Arctic. All travel woes and worry for training get solved.

You can carry a suspension training attachment such as a TRX, a set of push up handles and assortment of resistance bands or training springs or cables in an unbelievably small space in you bag and can still have room to store so much more. You're only limited by your imagination.

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.