Probably the biggest deficiency on this blog from a Whole Paleo perspective is that I don’t post much about the workouts — which is ironic, given that’s exactly how this whole thing got started in the first place, via this post right here: May 29, 2007. That, amongst my political observations formed the basis of what was to become; I think, now, a reasonably popular paleo health & fitness blog. It was always an evolution, more rapid lately.
I wish to report to you that in terms of the workouts that I believe I’ve stumbled a bit, lost the path and my way. But I could only known that having regained it and being so surprised.
I’m not going to look up the posts but some months ago I was blogging about how I had begun to do more compound lifts, heavy stuff, assisted negatives. I was doing back squats at 200ish, deadlifts at 175ish, and also doing a lot of very heavy negatives, using my trainer (like lat pulldown negatives at 280, requiring both mine and my trainer’s bodyweight combined to get the weight into extended position. Then hold and slowly release. I did heavy negatives on bench, seated chest press, and barbell bent over rows as well.
And I now know that I was slowly losing ground. I think I’ve figured out why. Due to the nature of the lifts, setting up equipment, doing heavy volume that really demanded rest in between sets I was simply not using my 30 minutes twice per week efficiently anymore. Whereas when I began this whole thing there was little rest in-between work, I had extended that. So, while sticking with the 30-minute routine, I was actually doing less and less work in that 30 minutes while fooling myself into believing I was actually doing more, given the far greater weight.
So what have I done lately? I’ve dropped almost all weightlifting except when it’s in conjunction with a circuit of various functional and compound exercises. Basically, my trainer and I have put together a highly varied hodgepodge of Crossfit and P90X stuff utilizing various weights, kettlebells and the fantastic & versatile TRX straps. And lots and lots of bodyweight stuff like pushups, dips, pullups, lunges, squats, jumps and so on. Oh, and we use the medicine balls a lot. My very favorite there is explosive, all-you-got throws. First, unto the ground hard, bounce, then as high as possible onto the wall. You use your entire body explosively and it wears you out quick.
Here’s a question I recently got from reader Benjamin.
In the PB community, we stress that 80% of our results of how we look, feel, and perform is based on nutrition. The other 20% comes from sleep, fitness, genetics, stress, etc. On different websites, I read, "Burn Fat Workouts," that focus on doing as much work in as little time, similar to CrossFit’s metabolic conditioning workouts. Then I read, "Gain Muscle Workouts," which focus on doing big compound movements like squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls in a lower rep scheme with heavier weights. If it’s all about nutrition, what is the idea behind these workout claims? Is there really such a thing as a "fat burning" or "muscle gaining" workout? I thought if we wanted to lose body fat we cut the carbs, insulin will lower, calories will fall, and it’s that simple. If we want to gain muscle and minimize body fat gain, we eat more protein and fat while still limiting carbs to limit body fat storage. So what is this whole "burn fat" vs. "gain muscle" workout idea?
I’m sure there are a bunch of guys who can help sort through that tangle better than I, but isn’t that kinda the point? Many of us have gradually worked hard to simplify the apparent complexity of the diet into: Eat Real Food. And, c’mon, you know what real food is.
So this is partly why I don’t pay as much attention to the conditioning side of things and Benjamin illustrates exactly why. If you though the diet was complex…
So, how about: Just Move Fast & Hard? And, c’mon, you know what that means.
And just like you have virtually unlimited choices in real foods and combinations therefrom, how many ways are there to move fast & hard with various heavy things (including your own body)? And since it stands to some reason that given so many food choices that you’re best off mixing in as much variety as possible, doesn’t it make sense to do the same thing in your workouts?
Frankly, I’m now doing so many dozens of different exercises — most of which I’d have no idea what to call — that I don’t even remember them all. But one thing I do know is that no workout is the same, and I’ll tell you what: I’ve been in a new world of hurt the last couple of weeks, and I really love it. Workouts are exciting, again.
Here’s an example, from Wednesday, and keep in mind that I often don’t know the technical names for some of these exercises so I’ll just describe them, "all thumbs" style:
- 5 minutes alternating sets between the TRX straps doing pullups from near horizontal off the floor (feet against the wall) and 15lb dumbbell pushups alternating row from the top. The idea is to not really count reps or sets (at least for me). Just go until ready to stop, take a quick breath and go to the next.
- 20 minutes of grueling basketball court torture, all four corners. I begin at one corner with 65lb barbell and do 10-15 reps from off the floor to shoulders and press (kinda like a snatch, clean & press combo), then sprint to the opposite corner, 30 mountain climbers, then lunge to the close corner with 12lb medicine ball & horizontal twist thrown in. Then it’s 15 reps of 35lb plate swings (like kettlebell, but all the way to vertical, controlled descent), then sprint to the opposite corner where I explosively throw a 12lb medicine ball from a squat as high as possible against the wall as many times as I can without collapsing in fatigue, then lunge with the medicine ball to the original corner and do it all over again.
- 5 minutes doing a little weight work on triceps, biceps and then some seated flys.
I gotta tell you that I’ve probably given up most of the machines and most of the weights for good. One thing that motivated this change was just intended to be a bit of a break because I strained my lower back a few weeks ago from doing too many back squats and too many deadlifts on the same day. On my last few deadlift reps I wasn’t paying good attention to form, going too fast (I always release the bar, stand, and reposition for the next set) and I believe that’s what got my back. So I had to push my next workout a day or two beyond the regular schedule and then I said to Michael, "hey, let’s do one of those crossfit styled deals this time," which I had gotten started on some time ago but them moved onto doing the high volume stuff.
Well was I in for a big surprise because my body hadn’t ached properly — from head to toe — in quite a long while and it really felt good.
It’s great to be back on track.