Monday, 27 October 2008

What Follows Will Change Your Workout

"What Follows Will Change Your Workout". How about that for title? It might sound a tad arrogant, but for most of the people out there, I think this post will give you significant food for thought.

Paleo Food
We can see from cave paintings and bone remnants that paleo dude hunted down game.....BIG game.
The problems of a diet based upon high levels of protein and the constraints of carbohydrate availability - particularly during the winter period and even during cooler periods in the earth's history where the vegetation would have been characteristically slow growing, difficult to harvest and largely indigestible to humans, are circumvented by adaption to the hunting of big game.

Big game offers copious amounts of fatty meat and additional materials (skin, fur and bone) from which to make tools and garments. Big game offer optimal utility in a marginal environment. Big game was a staple of our early diet.

Big Game
You often read about 'big game' and ancient hunter gatherers. I have visited several museums with flint tools and skeleton of these mighty beasts. Images of early man tackling mammoth and other giants of the planet abound. This is the reason for my post!

Woolly Rhinoceros
The Woolly Rhinoceros was just under 4m in length, around 2m in height, with a one meter horn on its nose. These bad-boys weighed in at 3 tonnes and were powerfully built. I cannot find a information on the speed that they could attain, but modern rhino can reach around 30mph, and it is not improbable that the Woolly Rhino could reach a similar speed. They existed in herds called a 'crash'.

If you saw one of these beasts you would undoubtedly find it intimidating. Very intimidating. I was at a museum the other day where they had a model of a woolly rhino - and I managed to capture a photograph of it with a man standing beside it - useful for scale purposes. The guy was about 5ft8in tall and is standing directly beneath the animal.

You probably know where I am going with this, but look at that picture for a minute. Now imagine that this was one of your staples - a staple which you HAVE to tackle, simply to eat. Now imagine yourself going out on the hunt, to kill on of these animals......!

The Workout

Given the scenario above and the physical prowess of the woolly rhino, what kind of physical skills do you think you would want to possess prior to going in to battle with one? Obviously you'd want speed and agility to get close to it, but also to keep out of its way. You'd want great strength to throw spears or rocks into it. Your movements would involve multidirectional bursts of speed, changing angles quickly as the 'battle' dictated.

What of the 'crash'? Perhaps you might need to quickly scale rocks or a tree if the wider herd were in pursuit. For sure, you would probably choose not to 'jog' away in a steady state.

Perhaps you would be called upon to rescue an injured comrade?

Even after kill, you might be called on to protect your kill from other scavengers. The meat would have to be quickly butchered and carried back to camp. The load would be heavy.

Modern Gym Rats
Think about your local gym. Can you imagine a bodybuilder or even a power lifter expressing the necessary qualities to engage in those activities above?

More importantly, does YOUR workout?


Chris said...

Thought provoking post.

Sprints, fighting, throwing, dragging at power law frequencies - i.e., randomly....

Most exercise routines will not cut the mustard here.

I've been training for years, but recently started doing some Krav Maga classes and they have really started to make me think in terms of integrated whole body movements.

What are your ideas to develop a good training programme?

Asclepius said...

You know, when I saw that woolly rhino in the museum I immediately thought "how the f**k do you kill something like that?". Even with a band of fellow hunters it is a frightening task.

The act of fighting such an animal will prepare you physically for a repeated hunt. But the hunts in and of themselves would contain variety.

For any particular hunt an individual might have a different role (separating off the target animal from the crash, throwing the first spear etc...). The weather may be different or the hunt may take place of a different terrain. Different physical demands would be placed upon the hunters as these variables changed.

Our challenge is to abstract this situation, this variety of movement and this intensity, in to our modern environment. (Either that or get yourself down to the local zoo armed with only a pointy stick!)

I am still trying to put my thoughts of training together in to a post and am still experimenting with several protocols, but the problem as I see it lies in blending skills with 'athleticism'. Gambetta sums it up best - be adaptable, not adapted.

The skills I want to develop as a modern man are not all combat-centric - some of the skills I am currently developing are gymnastic in nature (such as a walkover and various handstands), some to do with climbing; whilst some are related to martial arts (kicks and so forth).

These may not be exclusively 'paleo' but they prepare my body for work over a range of movement. They allow me to become 'adaptable'.

Alongside the skill-based demands, I also want to develop my 'ability to tackle a woolly rhino'! This is a fundamental form of fitness that underlies my training.

To this end, I think you hit the nail on the head - you need to think in terms of whole body movement. But they should be basic movements - engaging the legs for burts of speed and the upper body for climbing and throwing. Concluding a session with some heavy carrying/dragging for time would also appear to be benficial.

For me, I have selected a variety of exercises that target groups of muscles, and I rotate the exercises for each 'muscle group', and each exercise invokes a unique protocol - negatives, plyometrics etc... in each session. The term muscle group is notional - there are no firm boudnaries. The exercises are performed in high temp mini circuits, and the whole session is short (around 30 mins).

This way, I avoid stagnation and plateaus and feel I am developing a breadth of athletic ability.

I will post some routines and you are welcome to comment on them.

Marc said...

Great post!

Sprinting obviously needs to be paart of the workout program,
what else do you suggest.

Carrying very heavy "things" for 10 15- minutes perhaps?

Just found your blog thanks to Chris. I look forward to reading more.

Asclepius said...

Marc- many thanks. Glad you liked it.

The biggest thing to take away from the post - the thing that made me write it - is the notion that IF you had to tackle a woolly mammoth/rhino, how would you train for it? You wouldn't go jogging nor bench press, that's for sure!

Further to my comments above, I try to target muscle groups with a variety of protocols. So, for example, I may do handstand walks for time (isokinetic), or a static handstand (isometric). I may try to a one arm dumbell press from the ground as quickly as I can (using the Westside protocol) or I might do one arm medicine ball throws (plyometric) - chucking the ball as high as I can, and similar to spear throwing!

You can see with this example that I aim to work my shoulders, but I do so by being upside down or the 'right way up', static or moving - depending on the exercise I chose.

Each 'set' is usually interspersed with some jumping up on to a platform or some sprinting, or maybe even a skill (some kicking in to space).

Principally I avoid isolation exercises, keep the intensity high, avoid more than around 10-15 seconds under tension (or around 5 reps) for any exercise, don't get bogged down with sets and reps and go for protocol variety.

Marc said...

That's what I was looking for.
Great, thank you.
I also throw the medicine ball one handed, sometimes with a jumping motion.

I recently tried the "300" workout, and what I've taken away from it is the box jumps. Something about them feels very natural.

Thanks again!

Asclepius said...

If you have nailed the "300" workout then I reckon I should be coming to you for tips! ;)

Don't forget that when you throw that medicine ball, you need to generate an explosive force.

Rhino hide is pretty tough to get through and given the danger presented by an injured animal, you'd want that first spear strike to go deep!

It sounds like you are training in terms of 'movements' rather that 'exercises' and that is exactly how I do it. It is easy for us pick an exercise so that at the end of a week we have worked every muscle once or twice.

Being 'exercise centric' whilst a useful handle, is rather parochial. Much better to be a bit more freestyle...imagine you are being hunted or hunting, and take it from there. No curling, no bench press nor pec-dec flyes!

Now THAT is my kind of workout.

Methuselah said...

Marc - I've been doing 300 as well and the box jumps were also for me the big find. Since then I have been bunny hopping up the stairs in my building. Two at a time or three at a time. Tougher than box jumps because no rest between jumps!

Marc said...

Can I just interject that I almost thrw up from that darn 300 workout ;-)

The jumping is very effective.
I'm pretty fast as it is on the tennis court...but the jumping is kicking me to a new level of quickness. Maybe the floorsweepers have something to do with it too.