Monday, 11 August 2008

Stepped Negatives Routine

The sets are reps structure is an old favourite of mine that I first came across in the late 1990s. It has since been popularised by HG fitness guru Arthur DeVany, who gave me the idea of including emphasis on the negative phase of each rep. DeVany advocates the building up of lactic acid with this weight and rep scheme - something you'll feel for sure - but not to failure.

There is only a brief rest between each of the sets (less than 10 seconds), as 'transition time' to change weights or position. The exercises should be preformed in groups (as indicated by the line spacing below), in the form of mini circuits. The splits and cuts are optional - be aware that these are strength exercises as well! With exercises like the planche or body-lever, try breaking it in to 3x20s chunks. Where appropriate, perform each set as a cluster set - working the left arm, then the right in turn.

There are two routines to perform, A and B. The idea is to integrate them in to a five-day split routine (Mon, Wed Fri). I actually perform these only once each a week as I have a climbing routine (involving explicit finger training), and train in Lau Gar (involving press ups, explicit core work, aerobic and anaerobic fitness), that I complete in parallel to this routine each week.

Feel free to add some press up style movement or some dips (ideally a few sets of muscle ups), to supplement this routine.

ROUTINE A
Shuttle Sprints (5,4,3,2,1) - Tennis Court Length. Concentrate on acceleration and touch the baseline with your hand at each turnaround!
Splits (3x1min) - To be done in between the sprint sets above

Dumbell Split Jerk (16-8-4) - Stop each set short of failure.

Body Lever (1min Total - 3x20 seconds)
Cuts (3x2min) - Done in the rest from the sets of body levers. Hold 1 minute each way.

Chins/Pull-Ups/One Arm Lowers (16-8-4)

Planche (1min Total - 3x20 Seconds)

ROUTINE B
Four Way Sprints (10 Strides Each Cardinal Direction)

Deadlifts (16-8-4)

One Arm Dumbell/Ring Rows (16-8-4)

Body Lever (1min Total - 3x20 Seconds)
Cuts (3x1min)Cuts (3x1min)

Planche (1min Total - 3x20 Seconds)
Splits (3x1min)

Back Limber/Wall Walks (4x4)

I have specific goals at the moment to improve my leg flexibility and achieve a quality planche and body lever. This is a good routine for shoulder and back strength. It also has a pinch of athletic quickness thrown in for good measure.

Science: Sitting Behind the Knowledge Curve and Loving It!

The BBC today carried a story detailing how "researchers may have found a way to halt the biological clock which slows down our bodies over the decades." Specifically the researchers think they "may have found the genetic levers to help boost a system vital to cleaning up faulty proteins within our cells."

Now do not claim any psychic, supernatural or other-worldly powers, but I was struck by a sense of deja-vu when I read this story. Over a year ago Dr Eades posted about this exact same topic - the conclusion of which was to stray into - and indeed stay in, ketosis!

Methuselah has been blogging recently about the relationship between science and health, and offers an interesting perspective. We have a fairly frequent exchange of ideas and one theme that repeatedly crops up is how science sits far back on the knowledge curve. I have no problem with 'science' making steady progress - an inch is better than a mile in the wrong direction - but a few things seem to crop up again and again:

  1. Currently knowledge on nutrition is built upon a shaky foundation - such that progress in nutritional research is being crippled by bias;
  2. As the story above highlights, 'Science' is trying to 'bottle and pill' that which is functionally part of the highly evolved and sophisticated machinery that is the human body - most people just don't know they have such 'functionality'. The capacity for this to happen is provided by the fact that such wonderful functionality is often impaired or dormant in the human body due to lifestyle and particularly nutritional factors;
  3. Issue (2) is of direct consequence to issue (1).
  4. Issue (1) is not going to go away any time soon.

So, when I read the BBC's story, it actually smacked of being rather old news. Rather than waiting for science to catch-up, my Paleo lifestyle would also seem to be providing me with much of what 'science' hopes to give me at some time in the future.

Keep up!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Warm Up

After weeks of ranting on a nutritional theme, I figured it was time turn my hand to exercise. Specifically I thought I would share my warm up. I use this warm up all the time regardless of sport. So prior to sprinting, kung-fu, rock climbing, kick boxing, gymnastics or a (rare) visit to the iron-house, this is how I prepare myself. As it engages all limbs it raises heart rate and ensures all body-parts are reached!

Warm Up Mistakes

People make three mistakes with warm ups:

1) they don't do one, thinking they can gently 'ease' in to a session,

2) they perform an inadequate warm-up that does not engage all limbs, nor generally raise the heart rate,

3) they take too long with their warm up and 'blow their cookies' for the session.

Hmmmmm, I think that is all bases covered! For those that take option '1', it is a false economy. The main part of your workout should be about quality work - not some half arsed attempt at preparing yourself for work. Without an organised approach to warming up you are likely at best to then be guilty of '2' and possibly stumble in to '3'.

The Goal of a Warm Up

A good warm up will heat up body tissue, promoting blood-flow around the body (delivering fresh oxygen to muscles), and lubricate joints. The net result is a decrease intramuscular friction and promotion of elasticity in addition to an increase in your metabolism and the speed of nerve impulses. You are 'primed' for action! As exercise commences and increases in intensity, a message is sent to the adrenal glands to secrete adrenalin.

Adrenalin increases heart rate and dilates capillaries (allowing an increase in the volume of oxygenated blood to flow around the body). The is an increase in the production of synovial fluid (to ease joint mobility). Looking at this issue through a paleo filter, we should be able to 'deliver' from a cold state - in case of a fight or flight scenario. Adrenalin is the magic ingredient here - as anyone who has been scared will testify. After a fright, your heart rate is pumping and you are 'on-edge' in preparation for a fight (or to run away).

A warm up has a psychological component as well. A good warm up will prepare you physically but also puts you in a mental state that acknowledges you can "push it".

The Warm Up: Part A

Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. keep your head up and relax. You will now perform a set of rotations. The rotations should be at a 'medium pace' and exploit your full range of motion:

1) Straighten your arms out at 45 degrees from your body and rotate you hands/wrists clockwise five times. Then rotate them anticlockwise for five rotations. Repeat this step once (so you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction).

2) Now move to the shoulders. Rotate them forwards five times, then backwards five times. Repeat this step once (so you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction).

3) Rotate your chin (not your head), in a clockwise direction five times, then rotate it anticlockwise five times. Repeat this step once (so you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction).

4) Rotate your pelvis clockwise five times, then anticlockwise five times. Repeat this step once (so you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction). When performing these rotations, imagine you are using a Hula Hoop. Try to keep your torso upright and your upper legs still, accentuating movement in the pelvis alone.

5) Now move down to your knees. Bend them slightly and put your hands on your knees (in a 1950's shang-a-lang 'stylee'). Rotate your knees five times clockwise and then five times anticlockwise. Repeat this step once (so again, you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction).

The Warm Up: Part B

Stand upright. You arms should be relaxed and hanging down by your side. For each activity perform 1-3 sets each of about 10 reps:

1) Front arm-swings; Imagine you are marching like a soldier. Your arms swing back and forth in a vertical plane. This is exactly the action you perform for front arm-swings (but keep your feet still). The swings should take your arms as far back as they go but rather than wildly 'throwing' your arms back, try to 'lead' them. With each swing, try to push for a greater range of motion.

2) Side arm-swings; Hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder height. Swing your arms back and as wide as possible behind you, and then bring them forwards in front of you. Vary the angles between the arm and the body and use a different 'plane' for each swing (think of 'semaphore'). Again, the swings should not be wild, you should 'lead' your limbs. With each swing you should aim to push your arms further back behind you.

3) Front leg swings; In this exercise, you will be using your hand as a target to kick to. Stand upright and hold your left arm out in front of you (imagine you are holding a dog on a lead). Now swing your left leg up until it touches your hand and then lower it again. You MUST start well within your comfortable range of motion with this exercise. With each subsequent swing, raise your hand slightly - to give you a higher target to kick to. As a rough guide, your swings should be just over half your maximum range of motion when you are half way through the total number of kicks you intend to perform. Repeat for the right leg.

4) Side leg swings; As above, in this exercise, you will be using your hand as a target to kick to. Stand upright and hold your left arm out to the side. Now swing your left leg out to the side until it touches your hand and then lower it again. Again, you MUST start well within your comfortable range of motion with this exercise. With each subsequent swing, raise your hand slightly - to give you a higher target to kick to. As a rough guide, your swings should be just over half your maximum range of motion when you are half way through the total number of kicks you intend to perform. Repeat for the right leg.

5) Rear leg swings; Bend over and rest your hands upon the back of a chair or stool. The height of the support is not too important. Now swing your left leg out behind you, taking care not to turn your torso (i.e. keep your pelvis forward facing). Again, you MUST start well within your comfortable range of motion with this exercise. With each subsequent swing, try to lead your leg higher and higher. As a rough guide, your swings should be just over half your maximum range of motion when you are half way through the total number of kicks you intend to perform.

Problems

There are normally three problems people find with this warm up:

1) If you reach an plateau at a non-maximal range of motion in your warm up, it means you are pushing too far too soon in the warm up. Aim for initial swinging ranges well within your comfort zone. Your maximal range should be reached only on your final swing or two.

2) If you achieve maximal range of motion well within your warm up (but after one set of about 10 reps), then simply cut back on sets. Once maximal range is reached your muscles should be locked and loaded for action.

3) 'Tweaking' is an injury. It means that you are swinging your limbs too wildly. Slow down the swings.

Finally....

As you progress, you will be able to drop sets from this warm up. With time you should be able to get to your full range of motion from about 10 swings of your limbs. The whole routine should take about 5 minutes. Conversely, do not worry about adding a few more rotations or swings to any particular step if you feel stiff.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Results

I just got my results.

Serum Cholesterol: 4.8
Trigliceride: 0.5
Conclusion: Normal - No further action.

So after two years of Paleo eating, of which I have been targeting high fat - from nuts and seeds, saturated animal fat from red meat, eggs, liver, chicken (including the collection of chicken fat for subsequent frying and for use as a stock in soup), 12 eggs (per week), and the eating of bacon, my cholesterol is classified as "normal".

Friday, 1 August 2008

Cholesterol Update

In a typical week I will eat a whole (free-range) chicken, saving the juices and using the fat for frying and the rest of the juice as a stock for soup. I also put away two large steaks (grass fed beef), a pack of lamb’s liver, a pack of bacon, up to 12 eggs, about 10 tins of tuna/sardines/mackerel. In addition I will eat a mix of brazil, pecan, walnut and almond nuts most days (this actually forms a ‘meal’ along with some fruit).

Each meal of meat is accompanied by some veggies - broccoli, cauliflower, carrots etc.. and the fish is usually eaten with a salad (seasonal). I moderate fruit consumption.

What I want to emphasise here is the meat content of my diet (including the chicken juices) and the absence of bread, rice, pasta, cereal, grains and potatoes. After a year of eating this way I went for a cholesterol test (judged against the Framingham template), the results of which the doctor described as "excellent".

I know that dietary cholesterol is of little significance to your serum cholesterol levels, but I went for another test today as it is now about two years since my adoption of a Paleo diet. I get the results in a day or two and will post them on here. I am confident that the Paleo diet will have served me well.