Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For Sherm: The Coffee Nudge!

Not just for breakfast any more :)

1 cup hot brewed coffee
2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon creme de cacao (or use Godiva chocolate liqueur for an utterly decadent version!)
1/4 cup whipped cream, garnish
3/4 teaspoon chocolate sprinkles

In the bottom of 1 coffee mug, pour 2T each coffee liqueur and brandy. Pour in 1 T creme de cacao. Fill each cup with hot coffee and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. Enjoy in moderation :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Today's kettlebell conditioning fun

The idea here is to work continuously for 4 minutes, then rest 1 min before moving on to the next work interval.

Conditioning triplets:

Triplet 1: KB 1-arm C&P, R :20/ KB 1-arm C&P, L :20/KB hand-to-hand drops :20

Repeat 4x, rest 1 min. move on

Triplet 2: KB 1-arm swings, R :20/ KB 1-arm swings, L :20/ burpees :20

Repeat 4x, rest 1 min, move on

Triplet 3: 1-arm KB snatch, R :20/1 arm KB snatch, L :20/KB hand to hand swings :20

Repeat 4x, rest 1 min

Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you're as obsessed with the OctoMom as most of the supermarket tabloids seem to be, you could also do an Octuplet version of this workout. Do 30 seconds of each exercise in the order written, omitting the burpees or the hand to hand swings (your choice, but I personally think the drill would flow better if you omitted the burpees), then rest 1 min and repeat 6x.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Stop it, Deb! Don't even go there, I mean it!!!

Oh, all right. Go there.

All right, now that we've all gotten that out of our systems, let's talk about the fitness benefits of vibration machines. According to the VibraDepot website (www.vibradepot.com):

Muscles will get stronger with proper vibration training. As a result of the muscle contractions required in response to the vibration stimulation

No, it can't be done, can it??

* * * * *
Okay, I actually tried out one of these total body vibration gismos at IHRSA. Yes, right there in public, as people watched. I was not enamored of it. I tried doing single leg balances on it. I tried squats. It just seemed silly. I did not feel that it improved my proprioception or increased my flexibility, and as for the claim that
10 minutes of vibration training ... produce[s] the same training effect as completing 150 leg presses or half squats with loads of three times body mass twice a week for five weeks
well, what do you think?
In fairness I should note that my friend and colleague Jesse, who tends to have tight hamstrings, was able to touch his toes more easily after 30 seconds on the vibration machine, so there may be something to the notion that it improves flexibility and range of motion. But so do lots of things, most of which cost a good bit less than $2,999.00, which IIRC is the asking price of the unit we tried out.
Sadly, I could see this machine being very popular at the gym where I train, simply because it claims to give you all the benefits of a workout without actually requiring you to DO anything. Though no doubt some folks would prefer a recumbent version.

Today's "Filthy Fifty" upper body focused workout

Here's what I'm planning:

50 pullups
50 pike pushups, feet elevated
50 BB rows, 60 lbs
50 close grip pushups
50 DB 1-arm rows, 30 lbs
50 t-pushups

Any guesses as to how long it'll take me? Hopefully not as long as it took my MIL to complete the Los Angeles Marathon (just under 8 hours, God love her), but possibly not a lot less :) This will be tragic, but whatever. If I don't know where I am, I can't know whether or not I've improved, right?

Edited to add: It took me just under 40 minutes. It just about killed me to do what amounted to straight sets of each exercise instead of supersetting; if I'd done that I'd have gotten through it much more quickly. I was practically twitching during the 1-arm rows in particular, because I SO wanted to start in on the left side while my right side was resting.

The pullups in the beginning just killed me, because even on a good day I can't get more than six quality reps without having to take a break. I was figuring on that basis that I'd need a good 10 minutes just to get through that part of the workout, and that was about right. Still, when you consider that even a couple of months ago I wouldn't have contemplated doing this workout without a band to assist me on the pullups, it's not so bad.

Say "Yes!" To Cardio, Part Deux

So, after yesterday's rant, what should appear in my in-box but this, from Mike Geary:

Welcome back to another edition of Lean Body Fitness Secrets Ezine.

Today, I have an intriguing discussion about cardio training, which will hopefully get you thinking differently, and trying new things.

You may know I've been called the anti-cardio guy before, but this week I'm back posing the question to you... Do you really need cardio training to get lean and in great shape? By the way, you'll see in a minute that I'm not really "anti-cardio", just "anti traditional cardio".

Most fitness buffs, weekend warriors, or anyone trying to get in shape or lose body fat, consider it a "fact" that they need "cardio" exercise to accomplish these goals. They would never even question it. However, I'm not only questioning it, I'm going to refute it!

In fact, you may be surprised to know that some of the leanest and meanest people I know (men and women), NEVER do any type of normal or traditional cardio. And I've spent over 15 years working out in various gyms, and hanging out with athletes of all sorts, so I've seen it all. I will say that there can be a place for low-moderate level cardio for really overweight or deconditioned people, but even in those cases, there can be more effective methods.

Whenever someone comes up to me at the gym and asks me how much cardio they should do to lose more body fat, my answer is always... NONE!!! You should see the crazy looks I get...it's priceless!

But the fact is, just like the lean people I mentioned above that never do cardio, I personally haven't done what most people would consider "cardio" in years. Heck, I can't even remember the last time I "jogged" on the treadmill, or glided away on an elliptical, or pedaled away going nowhere on the stationary bike. Yet despite my lack of "cardio", I maintain single digit body fat percentages year round.

Don't get me wrong... Just because I say I don't do "cardio", doesn't mean that I don't work my butt off in the gym.

But what exactly is "cardio"? Most people would consider cardio to be exactly what I described above... pumping away mindlessly on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, or coasting on an elliptical machine, while watching the TV screen at their state of the art gym.

This is what I call "traditional cardio". Hmmm, no wonder the majority of people get bored with their workouts and give up after a couple months without seeing results.

But if you look closer, "cardio" can be considered any type of exercise or activity that strengthens the cardiovascular system. I'm not going to get into anything technical like increasing your VO2 max or anything like that. To keep it simple, if it gets your heart pumping, and gets you huffin and puffin... it's cardio. I don't care if you're holding dumbbells or a barbell and everyone calls it a weight training exercise...it's still conditioning your heart.

Let's take a look at a couple examples. Take a barbell (or dumbbell, or kettlebell) clean & press for example, which involves lifting a barbell from the floor up to shoulders, then push pressing overhead. And listen up ladies, because even though this is usually seen as a manly exercise, it doesn't matter if you're not lifting 250 lbs; if 45 lbs is challenging to you, then you will still benefit just as much.

At first glance, most people think of the barbell C&P only as a weight training exercise or strength exercise. However, I challenge you to do a hard set of around 10-15 reps on the C&P.
If you used a challenging enough weight, what you'll find is that your heart rate is probably up to about 80-90% of your recommended max, and you are huffing and puffing like you just ran a 100-meter sprint (which by the way, sprinting kicks the crap out of jogging any day if you want the easiest way to lose the flab fast).

Try the same thing for a set of 20 reps of one-arm snatches or swings with each arm with a dumbbell (2 of my specialty exercises in my Truth about Six Pack Abs manual), and tell me your legs aren't burning, heart racing, and you're gasping for breath. How about trying 5 minutes straight of rotating bodyweight squats, lunges, and pushups with very little rest between. Again, notice your heart pounding, sweat pouring off of you, and chest heaving for breaths!

Try and tell me you're not conditioning your heart with this style of training! Conventional thinking says that these are weight training or strength training exercises. However, they are fullfilling your cardio needs as well.

Not only do you save time, but you strengthen and condition almost every muscle in your entire body with these full body exercises if you do them with enough intensity...something that can't be said for that boring stationary bike ride or treadmill jaunt while reading or watching TV.

Seriously, if you can read or watch TV while doing any exercise, you're not concentrating enough on what you're doing, plus you're probably not working out hard enough to see any real results.

I challenge you to give the "traditional cardio" a rest for 6 weeks, and start training the way I explain in my internationally-selling Truth about Six pack Abs Program, and see how you start getting leaner, more defined, and your six pack starting to show through what used to be stubborn stomach fat deposits. What do you have to lose? If you don't like the program, you're covered by the guarantee... so you really have nothing to lose except that extra belly blubber that's been hanging around way too long!

For more info on the Truth about Six Pack Abs Program, go to...

(I don't think I've broken any copyright laws in posting the above, but I may have bent them a little. In a good cause, I hope. Mike states the case for non-traditional cardio so well that rather than paraphase I thought it'd be better simply to quote him. Also, I didn't edit out the plug for his program, so if you really like what he has to say, head on over to his website. But please don't tell him Laura sent you or anything, because it won't do you a bit of good. As always, if I recommend something it's because I think it's worthwhile, not because I have a financial incentive to do so. I'm not on my moral high horse here; I'm just worried that if I compromise my principles in this respect the workout gods will curse me with a muffin top and saddlebags.)

Oh, yes, the workouts ...

So, yesterday I was supposed to have a squat-intensive day, but I'm worried about my legs getting too thick and bulky, so instead I opted for 30 minutes of fat-burning cardio on the elliptical, trying not to elevate my heart rate too much so as to maximize the % of calories from fat burned. Rocked out to "Muskrat Love" on my iPod.

Okay, I'll stop now. April Fool's Day isn't until Wednesday after all :)

Friday was an active rest day that perhaps was a little more active than it should have been, but then again maybe not. It's sometimes hard for me to gauge how much rest I really need between workouts. I tend to think our bodies were meant to be active every day--we're not cheetahs, after all!--and in any case, real life doesn't allow for rest days as a rule. I mean, suppose you did a heavy upper body workout on Thursday, and then on Friday your ridiculously outsized 22 pound monster cat decides he needs to be picked up and cuddled and carried around the house while you sing to him. (This is all hypothetical, of course ....) Are you going to tell kitty you can't pick him up because this is a recovery day for your upper body? Probably not.

So, anyway, after the feline-resisted farmers walks I decided to do a Turbulence Training thing that looked like fun even though a couple of the exercises were repeats of ones I'd done the day before. The sequencing, rep range, and so forth was different enough that it didn't feel as though I was doing the same thing, so it was fine. And once again I rocked my pullups, though I hesitate to say it because I have to do pullups again today and I don't want to jinx myself!

Saturday was my squat-intensive day. Again, the set/rep scheme was 4x8 with "active rest," meaning that instead of resting between supersets I did bodyweight exercises for 20 reps. I think I could've gone heavier on the first superset in particular (BB squats and Bulgarian split squats, rear leg on ball), but I was feeling a wee bit migraine-ish so I decided to play it safe.

So, here's what it was:

superset: BB back squats, 4x8x95; DB BSS, leg on SB: 4x8x10's

superset: BB front squats, 4x8x75; 1-leg RDL, 4x8

superset: BB overhead squats, 4x8x55; 1-leg SB curls

None of the between-set bodyweight exercises felt all that difficult this time around. I suspected that that would be the case when I created the workout. My real sticking point was my core, which is another reason why I didn't want to go too heavy. If I'm doing an unloaded exercise such as a pistol I'll allow my spine to go into flexion (it sorta has to!), but with barbell and dumbbell exercises I'm a stickler for a neutral spine even if it means I can't go quite as deep or use quite as much weight. I mean, I'm not doing this to impress myself (okay, that's a lie, but never mind), I'm doing this because I want to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Say "Yes!" To Cardio!

I'm being contrarian here because, well, orthodoxy annoys me. Fitness orthodoxy in particular annoys me, because the fact is, there's no one right way to exercise. It totally depends on the individual.

When I'm designing a program for a client, there are certain questions I always ask myself. I begin the process by giving some thought to the client's goals. Does she want to lose fat? build muscle? improve her athletic performance? build bone mass? be able to get down on the floor to play with her grandkids? have a healthy pregnancy? If she has multiple goals, can they be achieved simultaneously, and if not, which does she wish to prioritize? This is the stage of the process where fitness orthodoxy can be useful, because it gives me insight into what generally works best to achieve a particular goal

Thing is, it’s not enough just to know what works best. Say the the client's goal is fat loss. Current wisdom is that she needs to "get off the treadmill and get metabolic" (TM), or at the very least do HIIT on the treadmill. But what if she's very deconditioned? Obviously I can't have her doing a minute of jump squats followed by a minute of 1-leg burpees followed by RPE 9 hill sprints: it wouldn't be safe! Eventually we might be able to work up to that, but first things first: maybe 15 seconds of bodyweight squats (maybe using a stick or the wall to support a portion of her bodyweight) followed by a 15 second elevated plank followed by moderate-intensity intervals consisting of 30 seconds at RPE 5 (75% MHR approx.) followed by 90 seconds at RPE 3 (60-65% MHR). This might look suspiciously like "cardio" to all the self-proclaimed "renegade trainers" out there who've adopted "Just say 'No!' to cardio" as their mantra, but the fact is, if you've got a deconditioned client you're doing her a major disservice if you don't include some heart rate training at lower intensities in the early stages of her program before moving on to the tough stuff.

(NB: in fairness to Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove, Chad Waterbury, Craig Ballantyne and all the other brilliant anti-cardio trainers out there, I don’t think any of them would dispute what I’m saying. What these folks—rightly, IMO—object to is the tendency of many gymgoers to hop on cardio equipment with no goal in mind other than to burn x calories (with x usually equating to the number of calories in the donut they shouldn’t have eaten at 10:00 am after skipping breakfast). This sort of activity is harmless enough if you’ve got time for it, but it also isn’t what I consider to be cardio. Cardio, quite simply, is heart rate training, and its purpose is not to burn calories but to strengthen the heart muscle by systematically overloading it. Any activity that achieves the desired training effect counts, which is what Rachel Cosgrove really means when she says “get off the treadmill and get metabolic.” You can also “get metabolic” on the treadmill or elliptical if you like, but most people don’t, which is why people like Craig Ballantyne are always dissing machine cardio.)

Okay, back to program design considerations. I also need to give some thought to what's realistic given the client's time constraints. Maybe her goal is to build enough mass to do a figure show somewhere down the road. Conventional wisdom tells me she needs to be doing a high volume split routine where she's working no more than 1-2 body parts per day. Assuming she's physically ready to do this kind of program, does she have the time for it? Maybe she's got three kids, a demanding job, and an unsupportive spouse, and can only get to the gym for an hour three times a week. If those are her constraints, those are her constraints ... and I have to work with them. I have to give this lady not the most effective program, perhaps, but the most effective one she has a shot of being able to do.

Budgetary constraints are a consideration as well. Say the client's goal is to develop explosive power and speed for improved athletic performance. In a perfect world we'd be doing lots of power lifts and kettlebell work ... but maybe he can only afford to buy a session here and a session there because he's still in school and struggling to make ends meet, and he doesn't really know how to use kettlebells or perform any of the Olympic lifts. I could teach him, but probably not in just three sessions. So I would have to build a program around plyometric exercises and maybe a few of the less technically demanding power lifts ... whatever I thought he could master in only a session or two.

Finally, there's the fun factor to consider. The squat may be the king of exercises, but if a client tells me he hates them I'm not going to put a ton of them in his program because then the risk is that he'll stop training altogether. Likewise if a client tells me she loves cardio and hates to lift, I'm not going to give her a lot of traditional resistance training exercises. Instead I'll try to build a program around bodyweight exercises, maybe using the TRX, with the idea being to create a fast-paced program that will give her the same kind of endorphin rush she gets from cardio. If a client likes variety we'll change the program up every session, and if she's more motivated by repeating workouts so she can measure her progress from week to week we'll do that.

The bottom line here is that, yes, there is a right and a wrong way to exercise, but right and wrong vary with the individual. If a program is effective for the client's goals, if it's safe for her, if it fits her schedule and is something she won't mind doing, it's "right." If it doesn't meet every single one of those criteria ... just say no, no matter how genius the program is :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today's workout was a good one

It was a push-focused upper body day: three push exercises supersetted with three pull exercises, 4 sets of 8 on all exercises, with the twist being that instead of resting between supersets I did 20 reps of a bodyweight exercise. So the first superset went like this:

Bench press: 1x8x75
DB pullover on SB: 1x8x35
20 squats
Bench press: 1x8x75
DB pullover on SB: 1x8x35
20 pushups (this sucked!)
Bench press: 1x8x65 (I'm a pussy, but after the 20 pushups 75 lbs was not happening!)
DB pullover on SB: 1x8x35
20 alt leg forward lunges
Bench press: 1x8x65
DB pullover on SB: 1x8x35
20 mountain climbers

The second superset was DB press on the ball supersetted with side plank rear delt raises. I used 25's for the DB press and a 5 pounder for the rear delt raises. The bodyweight exercises between each set were as above, and the pushups sucked even more this time around.

The third superset was one armed shoulder press and renegade rows. I started with 20 lbs for the shoulder press but pretty much knew right away that that was too much and went down to 15 for the last 3 sets. I used 12's for the renegade rows. And again the pushups sucked.

Next time I this particular set/rep scheme comes up in my rotation it's on a day that's squat-focused. I have so much muscular endurance in my legs that I suspect it won't be too horrible, but I've certainly been known to be wrong.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another hummus recipe


1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (4 ounce) jar roasted red peppers
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Put all the ingredients except the parsley in your handy-dandy food processor, and process. Once it's nice and smooth, stick it in the fridge for at least an hour, then garnish with the parsley (if using) and serve.

A half tsp of cayenne makes for quite a spicy dip, so you might want to use a little less if you prefer milder flavors.

So, the workout update ...

Monday was a planned active rest day. I opted for a run on the beach, finishing with 8 tabata stair sprint intervals. Good enough.

Tuesday was supposed to be deadlift day. HEAVY deadlift day. As in, I was planning to go for my 1 rep max at least once during the workout. Unfortunately I'm at that point in my cycle when I could tell that that would be a potentially unsafe thing for me to do. So, I ended up just teaching my spinning class (it was a tough one, though, with some high-intensity intervals as well as endurance work) and doing some core work. It was really the core work that convinced me not to go forward with my workout as planned. My low back was feeling tender enough that it was screwing with my proprioception and ability to stabilize my spine and really get my core muscles to fire.

This morning, though, I went forward with a modified version of the workout. I still used "waves" but instead of using a rep scheme of 6/1/6/1/10 I opted for 10/8/4/10/8. The point of the very low rep set in the middle is that it tricks your body into allowing you to use heavier weight on your last two sets--ideally, for your second set of 10 you'd use the weight you used for your first set of 8, and for your second set of 8 you'd use the weight you used for your set of 4.

Even though I wasn't going crazy with the low reps you'll see that I still was VERY conservative in the weights I selected:

superset: sumo deadlift, 1x10x105; 1x8x115; 1x4x125; 1x10x115; 1x8x125; air squats, 1x10xBW; 1x8x10;1x 4x10; 1x10x10; 1x8x20

superset: RDL, 1x10x85; 1x8x95, 1x4x105; 1x10x95; 1x8x105; DB Bulgarian ss, 1x10x10; 1x8x12; 1x4x15; 1x10x12; 1x8x15

superset: snatch grip deads (super light here, to be sure I was really engaging my lower traps): 1x10x65, 1x8x70; 1x4x75, 1x10x70; 1x8x75; 1-leg squats, bodyweight only, but the depth of the squat varied, 10, 8, 4, 10, 8

metabolic thing: KB swings, 30 seconds work, 15 sec. rest 6x using 14 kg

Later, ballet!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Black bean hummus

I made a batch this morning from a Cooking Light recipe. Yum!!!!

Here's what you do:

15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic (about 1/2 t. minced)
1 small jalapeno, chopped (about 2 T)
1 T tahini
2 t. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. cumin
2 T lemon juice
dash cayenne

Toss it all in the food processor and puree to the desired consistency. Serve with raw veggies and/or whole wheat pita chips or Kashi TLC crackers or what have you for a yummy, spicy diet-friendly snack.

GVT upper body workout (pull focus) plus unpleasantness

This was a good one. The format here is 5 sets of 5 reps on all exercises, with decreasing rest periods (60, 45, 30, 15 sec.) between supersets.

Superset A: pullups & pike pushups, feet elevated (I rocked my pullups. I mean, for me I rocked them, meaning that I did them unassisted and they were pretty much all quality reps.)

Superset B: BB rows, 80 lbs & close grip pushups

Superset C: 1 arm DB rows, 35 lbs & T-pushups

Unpleasantness: 9 pushups, 1 burpee; 8 pushups, 2 burpees; 7 pushups, 3 burpees ... and so on until I was at 1 pushup, 9 burpees. No breaks. This was staggering in its awfulness. I couldn't tell you exactly how long it took me to get through it--couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes because it was "only" 45 pushups and 45 burpees, but it was a loooong couple of minutes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lower body Filthy 50 plus core training

First, the Filthy Fifty:

BB back squats, 50x65
Bulgarian split squats, rear leg on SB, 50 total (25 R, 25, L)
BB front squats, 50x55 (had to break this up into two sets of 25)
1 leg RDL, 50 total (25 R, 25, L)
BB overhead squats, 50x45 (again, had to take a midset break halfway through)
1 leg SB hamstring curls, 50 total (25 R, 25 L)

core work:

hanging leg raises, feet to bar, 2x5
hanging knee raises, knees to chest, 2x10
ab wheel, 1x6 (no wheel so I used a barbell)
incline board leg thrusts, 1x12
lying leg thrusts, 1x15
ab scissors, 1x10
SB crunches holding weight overhead, 1x10x5lbs
SB plank hold, elbows on ball, 1x70 sec.
Floor side plank holds, 1x35 sec. each side

The resistance portion of the workout was awful, but at least it was over relatively quickly. The core work was pretty hard too, even though on paper it doesn't look like much. The emphasis here is supposed to be on quality over quantity--no sloppy reps allowed. It was quite hard to keep my low back from arching during the leg thrusts and scissors, probably because I was fatigued. I need to be doing abdominal vacuums regularly to strengthen my transverse abdominis so that doesn't happen.

Mike Geary's "The Truth About Six Pack Abs" ...

is my latest e-book purchase, and it's a good one.

I should explain that, appearances to the contrary, I'm really not all that easily impressed by all the bazillions of fitness e-books on the market and consider very few of them worth shelling out actual money for when there's so much free information available online. To pique my interest an ebook author needs to give away enough information on his website to convince me (1) that he actually knows something, and (2) that what he knows will be useful to me and, hopefully, to my clients as well.

That's exactly what Mike Geary does. Free of charge, he will send you a 66 page (!) e-book filled with nutrition and exercise tips for people interested in fat loss. (If anyone wants a copy, let me know and I will e-mail it to you. This is okay to do per the author, so no worries about copyright violation.) After I got my copy I looked it over and was very impressed. It was all about the variable-intensity training, total body workouts, multi-joint exercises, resistance training instead of cardio as the primary exercise mode, non-traditional set and rep schemes ... all the stuff that works, in other words. And the diet advice was sensible: real food, no processed garbage, healthy fats, and no pressure to take supplements. That last aspect is key for me.

But what really sold me was Geary's apparent concern for healthy joint function and creating a body that actually performs well, as opposed to one that simply looks good in a swimsuit. Like Geary, I really believe that exercises that work the muscles in isolation are not only minimally effective for fat loss, but actually unhealthy in the long run because they force the body to work in an unnatural way and can even promote muscle imbalances. They have their place in a rehab setting, but for general fitness they're almost never a good choice.

Oh, and I don't think the made-up word "bodypart" appears even once in the 66 pages. "Bodypart" workouts turn me off almost as much as supplement-pushing.

So, anyway, the 66-page freebie convinced me that Geary knows something worth paying $39.95 for ... so I did. "The Truth About Six Pack Abs" is 140 pages long and filled with great information about core function and core training. The exercises are explained in detail, and routines for all fitness levels are provided. It's the information on core training that makes this book a standout; the total-body exercise programs that are meant to be performed in conjunction with the twice-weekly core workouts look fine but not that different from all the other good fat loss programs that are out there.

The exercise that Geary suggests as sort of a benchmark for determining where you should start with the program is the hanging leg raise. In Geary's world, the hanging leg raise involves curling the pelvis up and bringing the legs up to touch the bar from which you're suspended. If you can do 5, you start at level 5 (of 8). If you can't, but you're not new to training, you start at level 3. If you're an absolute beginner you start at level 1. I was surprised and pleased to discover that I'm already ready for level 5, so that's what I will be doing later today as an add-on to my "Filthy Fifty" squat workout.

Will update later once I've done same, if I live.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Just wrote myself a kickass new program ....

At least, I think it's a good one. It's like what I've been doing in that there are 4 workouts, 2 of which are upper body focused and two of which are lower body focused. But each workout focuses on a different movement pattern: Workout A is really all about the pull, although each pulling exercise is supersetted with some sort of a pushup because that's just what I prefer. Workout B is all about the squat, with 3 different variations each supersetted with some sort of hamstring focused torture. Workout C is push day, with each of the big push exercises paired with some sort of a pulling movement that's more in the nature of an assistance exercise targeting the rhomboids and rear delts. Workout D of course is deadlift day, with each deadlift variation being paired with some sort of funky quad-focused exercise.

The real beauty of this workout, though, is the set, rep and rest schemes I came up with and/or lifted from workouts created by other cleverer people. One is stolen straight from the SOS playbook: GVT with decreasing rest periods. Another, the Wave, is from NROL. There's also the Filthy Fifty: 1 set of 50 reps per exercise, as few breaks as possible. Finally there's Active Recovery, which is sort of my own invention except that none of this stuff is exactly rocket science, you know? 4 sets of 8, only instead of resting between sets you do 20 reps of a bodyweight exercise (squats, pushups, lunges, mountain climbers). I frankly am not sure it's even humanly possible, but we'll see :)

Today's workout

So, I should've gone to the gym to squat, but I just didn't feel like it, so instead I did the following 8-exercise circuit:

4 rounds, with decreasing work/rest periods each round (round 1 was 30 sec. work, 25 sec. rest; round 2 was 30 sec work 20 sec rest; round 3 was 25 sec. work 15 sec. rest, and round 4 was the classic 20/10 tabata protocol)

Exercises were:

jumping pullups
wall ball
mountain climbers
jump squats
KB swings
alligator crawls
jumping jacks

I still might go to the gym later to squat, but then again I might not.

Not so sure about this Meathead thing ...

I do think it's a terrific program, I'm just not sure it's a good fit for me. Partly it's that I just don't like working out at the gym that much, and partly it's that after all the timed sets and other fun things I've been doing it's hard to go back to more traditional set and rep schemes. At the same time, the deadlift workout I did last Monday brought home to me that I really shouldn't be neglecting my heavy lifting. My low back felt tender for two days afterward, which ALWAYS happens to me when I go for too long without doing heavy deads as part of my program.

So, I'm thinking I maybe want to switch over to something more CrossFit-ish, except with a bit of GVT or wave theory at the beginning of the workout for maximal strength. I'm realizing I don't really care about getting bigger or capping my delts or what have you--I just want to feel strong and athletic, and I'd like to weigh as little as possible because it'll make pullups easier and pointe work less painful.

Just realized I never posted my Thursday workout ...

Too busy raving about stripper poles and hollow kettlebells, I guess!

It was a meathead-ish upper body thing:

warm up, then:

alternating sets: barbell bench press, 2x8x45, 1x6x85, 2x6x90; pullups, 5x3, which sucks :(

superset: DB press, 1x8x35, 2x8x40; DB row, 3x8x40

superset: cable face pulls, 2x12x49.5; decline close grip pushups, 2x12

unpleasantness: burpee/swing countdown--12 of each, then 11 of each, and so forth all the way down to 1, no rests.

There were some teenage boys in the weight room trying to master barbell cleans, and they just weren't getting it so I spent a little time coaching them as well. Which was sort of hilarious, really, because most of these boys have mothers who're younger than I am, and who gets lifting tips from their mother?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Workouts and IRHSA

So, after Meathead Monday I decided to take a couple days active rest. Taught spinning class on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday I did a kettlebell/bodyweight conditioning thing. The idea was to get as many rounds as possible in 30 minutes of the following:

20 KB swings
15 mountain climbers
10 KB thrusters (5 per side)
20 KB high pulls
15 burpees
10 pushups
20 KB snatches (10 per side)
15 hanging knee ups
10 KB rows (5 per side)

I completed 4 rounds using a 12 kg kettlebell for all the non-bodyweight exercises, and felt quite challenged. My form on the snatches got a bit sloppy as I fatigued, so my forearms are a bit banged up today. But I will do better. I really do need to be challenging myself with the heavier kettlebell. This is how I will get stronger. My form on cleans used to be awful, but now I can do them perfectly with 14 kg and no bruised forearms, and I got good at them by practicing. So, my plan is to suck it up and deal with the bruises for a while until I've perfected my snatch. (Get your mind out of the gutter, people!)

After my kettlebell fun I trained some clients, went to ballet class, then headed off to IHRSA, which is code for the International Health And Racquet Sports Association annual convention. It's held in San Francisco every other year, but in 2007 I was too busy to spend more than a couple of hours there. This time I was able to spend the better part of a day, and it was a blast. I met up with a few of the other trainers from my gym, and we checked out all kinds of crazy gimmicky fitness equipment (stripper poles! ellipticals that move laterally! A weird hybrid Ab Lounge/rower/cable thingy!) as well as lots of really cool stuff. TRX was there, of course, and so was Art of Strength/Punch, so I got to have a look at those refillable kettlebells I've been eyeing. The pink one is adorable and just the right size, but there's not enough metal shot in the world to make it heavy enough for me, and the Bulldog bell is just too big. I mean, it was bigger than my waist. Possibly it was bigger than my hips. Even my fellow trainer Jesse, who is a tall and well-built guy, found it to be too big. I love the concept, but the product itself needs some tweaks.

I love seeing what's out there and trying out new equipment, but I have to admit that I find the fitness convention atmosphere to be intimidating as heck. There are all these plasticky-looking people running around with spray-on tans and hair extensions and fake nails and what have you--and those are the guys! Only kidding, of course. The guys have the fake tans, but no fake nails that I noticed, and mostly their heads are shaved. WTF is up with that? Anyhoo, I think before the next IRHSA convention I'll have to get myself a tan and some skintight, midriff-baring workout wear so I fit in a little better. I may change my name to Amber or Brandi as well.

Would you buy a "Six-Pack Abs" program from this woman?

I figured after all my ragging on that other guy, it was only fair that I post a picture of my own midsection. My rectus abdominis hypertrophies relatively easily so I tend to have visible muscles there even when I'm not especially lean, and that's just a genetic thing for which I deserve zero credit. OTOH I'm 46 and perimenopausal, so I must in some sense have a clue about what works, yes?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Meathead Monday Musings

Boy, did I feel like a meathead doing this one!

bodyweight circuit to warm up, then:

Deadlifts, 1x6x75 (warm-up), 3x12x115

Superset: BB lunges, 2x8x65; cable crunches, 2x8x???

Superset: DB RDL, 2x8x35's; x-body mountain climbers, 2x12 per side

Superset: BB reverse curls, 2x10x35; DB calf raises, 2x15x 35's

Leg matrix: 24 squats, 12 alt-leg lunges each leg, 12 plyo lunges each leg, 24 jump squats

countdown from 10: plyo pushups and jump squats (this is the one where you do 10 of each, then 9 of each, then 8 of each, and so on all the way down to 1, resting as little as possible between sets)

I didn't really care for this workout, to be honest. The straight set of 12 deadlifts in the beginning just seemed weird to me, particularly since the program called for a full 2 minutes rest between sets. To me straight sets with long rests mean I should be trying to go heavy, but how heavy can you go on a set of 12? 4-5 sets of 4-8 reps would make more sense to me. Also, the deads were supposed to be snatch-grip, which means that if you're me at least you really can't use much weight without weirdness happening in the shoulders. I don't dislike snatch-grip deads, but I put them in the same category as overhead squats, ie, I think of them as being more about balance and core stabilization than about moving massive amounts of iron. So, anyway, I ended up doing sumo deads, which I can go heavy on, but not if I'm doing a set of 12 because my grip gives out toward the end.

So, anyway, I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do about this workout. I think I might make it a little more like Workout B, where the first set of squats is supersetted with another exercise, and the rep scheme varies. I'm thinking side plank rear delt raises would be an interesting exercise to pair with the snatch grip deads.

Tomorrow is an active rest day. I'll be teaching spinning for sure, and might do some bodyweight or kettlebell stuff in addition if the spirit moves me, but it may not.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My biceps hurt!

Today I did TT for Meatheads Workout C:

Bodyweight circuit to warm up, then:

specific warm-up: 3 pull-ups and 5 TRX "dips" (no dip apparatus at the gym, so I improvised. What I ended up doing was sort of like ring dips but with my feet on a bench to bear part of my bodyweight because I'm not freakin' Superwoman!)

Superset: pull-ups, 6, 4, 4; TRX "dips", 8, 8, 9

Superset: DB lateral raises, 3x10x10; EZ bar curls, 1x8x35, 2x8x40

Superset: DB lying triceps extensions, 1x8x12, 1x8x15; DB incline hammer curls, 1x8x12, 1x8x15

Bodyweight conditioning circuit:

prisoner lunges, 10 per side
Siff squats, 25
elevated pushups, 15 per side
reverse lunges, 12 per side
bicycle crunches, 50
1-leg RDL, 10 per side
jumping pull-ups, 12
alligator crawl, 12 per side

Not a Turbulence Training affiliate.

Don't wanna be.

I like the workouts, I do them, I recommend them, yadda yadda yadda ... but I'd feel like too much of a shill if I were being compensated for it. My objectivity would be compromised. The idea is just distasteful to me. If I ever recommend Turbulence Training or another program or product it's because I think it's good, not because I'm getting kickbacks.

"Tell them Laura sent you" are words that will never pass my lips.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

KB triplets

The format here is, you pick 3 exercises per triplet, and you perform each exercise for 20 seconds. Lather, rinse, repeat until 3 minutes are up. Suck water and wheeze for 90 sec., then move on to the next triplet. Once you've done all three triplets, go back to the beginning and do it again.

Triplet 1:
KB squat press, R, L

Triplet 2:
KB swings
Jumping jacks

Triplet 3:
KB snatches, R, L
mountain climbers

It's even more fun than it sounds, trust me.

Thinking Meathead Workout B

Workout B is a lower body/core thingy:

Bodyweight circuit to warm up, then:

Superset with 1 min rest between sets:

BB narrow stance squats, 2x6x75, 3x8x115, 1x15x95
DB rear delt raises, 2x6x8's; 3x8x12's

Superset with 1 min rest between sets:

DB reverse lunges, 2x8x30's
SB rollout: 2x8

Superset with 1 min rest between sets:

Smith machine calf raises: 2x10x100 plus the weight of the bar, 1x10x150 plus the weight of the bar (I tend to go light on these because my main concern is keeping my ankles straight, my arches pulled up, and my weight centered over my second and third toes.)
Hanging leg raises: 3x8

Unpleasantness: 20 sec. jump squats, 20 sec bodyweight squats, 20 sec. squat hold, 3x, no rest

So, that was Friday's workout. Today is supposed to be an active rest day, so I'll probably do some kettlebell stuff.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Turbulence Training for Thinking Meatheads

Bodyweight circuit to warm up, 2x:

12 overhead squats, 15 lb bodybar
12 close grip pushups
6 prone stick-ups
8 (per side) spiderman climbs

alternating sets with full rest (1 min.):

BB bench press, two light sets to warm up, then 1x6x95, 1x6x85, 1x6x90;
BB row, two light sets to warm up, 1x6x85; 2x6x90

alternating sets with 30 sec. rest between exercises, 1 min. rest between sets:

pullups, 2 sets, was supposed to do max reps but I decided to try negatives instead, so the first set 1 did 1 pullup, then lowered as slowly as I could. I think it took 15-20 seconds, but I didn't have a clock near me so who knows. The seconds fly by like hours when you're doing negatives! The second set I just did reps, but I was fatigued so I only got about 4 good ones.

DB chest press, 2x8x35's

superset with 1 min. rest:

Y's and T's, 2x12x5's (was supposed to do shrugs but you know my feelings about those)
DB incline press, 2x12x25's

Unpleasantness: 3 pushups, 1 tuck jump; 6 pushups, 2 tuck jumps; 9 pushups, 3 tuck jumps; 12 pushups, 4 tuck jumps, 15 pushups, 5 tuck jumps, then back down the ladder with no rest. Words cannot express the horribleness of this particular drill. I was dying!!!

Give it a shot. You know you want to :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

David Brooks Is A Big Fat Idiot

Okay, not really.

Yes, really, but I don't approve of calling people idiots simply because I happen to disagree with them, and I wouldn't be doing it here if (1) Al Franken hadn't written a book a while ago called Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot which I am consciously echoing; and (2) David Brooks were not an idiot.

At least on some subjects he's an idiot. Take Michelle Obama's biceps, for instance. They offend him to the point where he has referred to them in conversation as "Thunder and Lightning" according to fellow New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Brooks thinks she should cover up. He suspects Obama of having run for office only to give Michelle a platform to show off her sculpted arms.

In fairness to Brooks, I don't think he really thinks that. I think he was just trying to be funny. Just like I'm trying to be funny when I say I think he's a pussy who hasn't seen the inside of a gym since the second Reagan administration :) Not that there's anything wrong with that, except if it's true it's probably not good for his health, but anyway it's his body to do with as he likes.

The serious point here is that Brooks, it would seem, has a problem with female power. Michelle Obama is a strong woman inside and out, and she's not afraid to show it, and apparently that offends him.

Which brings me full circle to the title of this post: in that one respect at least, David Brooks is a big fat idiot.

Tuesday workout(s)

I taught a tough endurance-oriented cycling class this morning. At least, it seemed tough to me! There was variable intensity but only one real recovery period--the idea was to try to get the class to find recovery within the interval, which is what you'd have to do if you were actually out on the road doing a long ride. I have several people in class who've got centuries coming up in later in the spring, so that's going to be my focus for the next little bit. It'll be good for all of us.

Later I did a fun little kettlebell workout that I sort of stole from Sandi's blog.

Circuit 1: 4x5 each side x 12 kg

KB snatch
KB floor press
KB overhead rear lunge
Rest up to 75 seconds as needed between circuits ( I think my actual rests were more like 45-60 seconds since I wasn't killing it on the weights)

Circuit 2: 3x6 (each side on the unilateral exercises) x 12 kg (on the weighted exercises)

KB side plank with row
close grip pushup
hanging knees to what should have been my elbows but were more like my armpits, lol!
Rest up to 60 seconds

5 minute finisher:

KB swings, 12 kg. I did 2 armed for 2 minutes, then switched to hand to hand, then did 1-armed for a while, then back to hand to hand, then back to 2 arm until the 5 minutes were up. It sucked as much as you'd think.

I'm sort of thinking of doing a program called "Turbulence Training for Meatheads" just for kicks and grins. It's sort of an old-school upper lower split, with 4 days of lifting each week. 2 on, 1 off 2 on, 2 off, lather rinse repeat. I'll tweak it, of course: I do NOT do shrugs. Not even for Craig will I do a shrug. My upper traps don't need it. No one's upper traps need it. I'll replace the shrugs with an exercise that targets the lower traps and rhomboids, which are the bits that need the extra attention on most people. Or just do a lovely port de bras or something :)

Oh, and the program doesn't include any energy systems training or what have you, so I'll tack on some sort of bodyweight unpleasantness to each workout and do extra metabolic work on two of the non-lifting days.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"666" Barbell Complex

It's Satanic, I tell you :)

Actually, it isn't that bad, but it will seem so to the client for whom I created it:

6 deadlifts
6 bent-over rows
6 front squats
6 military presses
6 static lunges, L
6 static lunges, R

Rest and repeat for a total of 6 rounds.

Then if he's still alive after that we'll do the following:

jump squats, 30 seconds
rest 15 seconds
running pushups, 30 seconds
rest 15 seconds
SB rollouts, 30 seconds.
rest 15 seconds

Repeat 5x :)

Am I awful or what?

Actually, I don't expect him to be able to do the workout exactly as written the first time through. I think 4 times through the complex will be about right, and I think he's going to need more than 15 seconds rest between exercises in the final circuit. But that's okay. With this particular client, what he likes to do is hire me to put together a program for him that he can't quite do at first without modifying. Then when he's able to sail through it as written, he comes back for an upgrade.

I plan to try it out myself later today just to make sure it's not harder than I think. I want my client to feel challenged but not demoralized!

Update: yeah, it'll do. I used 45 lbs--couldn't have gone much heavier because of the militaries. If I'd created this workout for myself I probably would've made them push presses. Complexes are harder to put together than you'd think because the exercises have to flow well and they also have to be appropriate for the individual. Upright rows are a good fit in terms of choreography, for instance, but I almost never include them because most of my clients if anything are overdeveloped in through the upper traps.

The bodyweight finisher was fun :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What-Was-I-Thinking Saturday

I stole this from a Crossfit site:

5 rounds, 40 sec work, 20 sec. rest:

KB 1-arm rows, L, R
KB 1-arm swings
KB 1-arm push press
Tuck jumps
Static squats, KB in rack position, L, R

It actually wasn't that bad except for the 40 seconds of tuck jumps. I opted to go for quality over quantity, really trying to get my knees to my chest each rep for max core involvement. Note that I said "trying to get" as opposed to "getting"! I also didn't want to take too long between reps because I didn't want to lose the cardio conditioning effect, so I'm sure my form was compromised on some reps especially toward the end of the 40 seconds.

Yesterday's workout was ripped off from the same site. It was the "Kettlebell 300":

25 v-ups
25 snatches, R
25 snatches, L
25 pushups
50 swings
50 burpees
25 clean & press R
25 clean & press L
50 mountain climbers

I sort of impressed myself with the snatches. I used my 12 kg bell and even on the left side, which is the one that I sometimes have trouble stabilizing, I only had to take one midset break. And my forearms are hardly dinged up at all! I actually struggled more on the clean & press, partly because I was fatigued and partly because when all's said and done 26 pounds is a lot of weight for a rather small female to press overhead 25 times with good form (no help from the legs) and minimal rest.

The 50 burpees were hideous, but you really didn't need me to tell you that :)

Anyway, I got through the whole thing in a little less than 20 minutes. Next time I do it I'll shoot for 18-19 minutes.

I sort of like this whole concept of making workouts harder by increasing density (more reps in the same time, or the same number of reps in less time) as opposed to just grabbing heavier weights, although of course that has its place too and I probably need to be doing that more regularly.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Triple Fat Loss Matrix

This actually looks like it'd be a nice little add-on to a workout:


But--and I feel like an utter bitch saying this--but I sort of think this dude's physique detracts from his credibility. I really kinda hate myself for even thinking along those lines, because maybe he has an underactive thyroid or has been taking steroids for an injury, or maybe he just doesn't personally care about having a body fat percentage in the single digits. My point is that just because a trainer isn't all ripped and buff doesn't mean s/he doesn't know what s/he's doing, and in my head I know that. But viscerally I'm more inclined to accept guidance from someone who looks the part, if you know what I mean.

What do you all think?

PS If you don't want to watch the video, the matrix consists of 8 1-arm squat presses each side, 50 jumping jacks, and 8 lunge presses (you do a front lunge then kinda explode into a push press on the return, almost like a split jerk in reverse.) You then rest 20 seconds, and repeat 6-15 times.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Vegetarian-friendly protein sources

Craig Ballantyne interviews John Alvino on the best protein foods for fat loss:


I haven't listened to the interview yet, so I have no idea whether it's crap or not. But I'm guessing there will be at least a little useful information in there. Supposedly protein powders are addressed as well.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Escalating Density Monday

The idea with EDT is, you pick 3 compound exercises and do a mini circuit of 10 reps of each exercise using your 15RM. (Well, that's one way you can do it anyway.) You then try to complete as many circuits as you can in a given period of time. The way you make it progressive is by doing more reps in that same time period each time you do the workout. It's a tremendous metabolic stimulus and also great for people who're short on time.

The three exercises I have in mind are band-assisted pullups, high-decline pushups, and 18" box jumps. My ultimate goal is 10 rounds in 15 minutes, but I think I'll need to work up to that. Today I'm expecting to get more like 7-8.

Will be back later with an update!

Update: I got 9 rounds in just under 15 minutes, but don't be impressed because many of my pullups were not worthy of the name. I don't like to count them unless my chin is over the bar, but that was so not happening toward the end. Because I like even numbers I went ahead and did a 10th round, so all told I got in 300 reps in 16.5 minutes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Turbulence Training March Madness

This month's Turbulence Training routine consists of 3 circuit workouts to be performed on nonconsecutive days.

I gave Workout A a shot yesterday:

bodyweight circuit to warm up, then:

power circuit 3x:

6 jump squats, hands in prisoner position
pull-ups, max reps
8 jump lunges per leg
8 spiderman pushups per side
8 1-leg stability ball curls
band assisted pull-ups, max reps
6 burpees

core circuit 3x:

plank, 45 sec.
15 SB jackknifes
side plank, 30 sec. each side
SB mountain climbers, feet on ball (!), 8 per side.

bodyweight squats, 5 min., AMRAP

The bodyweight squat thing was interesting. I was able to work continuously for the entire 5 minutes, but I did find myself slowing down very slightly toward the end. In minute 1 I completed 36 squats, and if I'd kept working at that pace throughout the interval I'd have gotten 180 total, but in fact I got 160-something. The idea with this one is to try to get more squats each workout, but I think I might want to do something else. Maybe 20 seconds of jump squats, 20 seconds of bodyweight squats, and then a 20 second squat hold, 5x. If I can. I certainly can do it 3 times, and probably 4. If I make it through 5 times I'll have to give myself a handicap. Pointe shoes, maybe.

Another option would be to stick in something like a 5 minute snatch test, though not on a day when I'm worried about my shoulders.

BTW, Craig Ballantyne is offering a couple of deals right now. For $1.oo you can purchase a basic Turbulence Training membership that'll give you access to the March Madness workout and a few others as well, in addition to the member forums, for a week. You need to cancel within 7 days or your credit card will be charged $19.95 yadda yadda yadda.

Alternatively, for $9.95 apiece you can purchase quite a few "back issue" 4-week Turbulence Training workouts. If fat loss is your goal any of the January workouts are highly recommended. I also like the bodyweight workouts with some reservations. In Craigspeak, "bodyweight" does not mean "no equipment needed." You'll likely need a stability ball, a pull-up bar, a step or bench, and a lower bar you can use for inverted rows. So, if you're looking for something you can do on vacation these workouts may not fit the bill unless you happen to own a TRX trainer you can throw in your carry-on.

(Apparently I'm all about the product placement today. Should I be charging?)