Thursday, August 7, 2008

Catching Air

Very excited! Today I caught air on 2 individual handstand pushups. It
was not a lot of air, but I was airborne.
After that I deadlifted: 4 set with last 2 sets @ 355 for 5-6 reps. I
also did t sets each of over and under hand 1-arm pull ups. Sure, I
got some funny looks @ the gym today, but I was pleased with catching

Pre-Workout Shake

Ok, I know, for a guy who touts evolutionary tradition this one is going to be off the mark. I just created what I think might be the best pre-workout shake ever. And, it was all made possible with one of man's greatest inventions - the Magic Bullet (I freaking love that thing!)  So here goes (I guess you don't have to use a magic bullet, but I love mine): 

1 Banana (Potassium)
A handful of ice (H2O is good for you in any form!)
A half a handful or about 3/4 cup fresh blueberries (frozen blueberries also work really well and allow you to use less ice) (high in free radicals and anti-oxidants)
1/2 - 1 full scoop of protein powder (of your choosing, I like vanilla)
(if you don't like using protein powder throw in a handful of almonds) (for building muscle)
and a 1/2 to 1 full cup of coffee (I used what was left in my drip brewer from the morning) (caffeine actually can help to speed up your metabolism and give you a little pre-workout boost)

Throw it all into a blender (or a Magic Bullet) and blend. 

It makes about one low-calorie high nutrition serving. Enjoy! LOL 


I don't have time to write much now, but I did want to mention something about breathing while doing the body weight exercises - it's just as important as if you were doing training with real weights. In fact, proper breathing during exercise feeds your muscles with the essential oxygen (O2) that your body needs to perform. So breath! I find that prior to a hard exercise (e.g., the L Seat or handstand pushups) I take a few deep, really deep fill your lung breaths. I also exhale completely. These are techniques that I learned while practicing yoga and in fact work in all facets of training. Not only does the breathing increase you available O2 to your muscles, but I find it also allows me to concentrate on the exercise/challenge at hand. There is some data to support these ideas: see here for general info. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Classic Image of the Evolution of Homo sapiens

Today was a rest day, that is no gym for me today. Instead I did a few, or more than a few, 12 ounce curls poolside and then at the local pub. However, while doing so, I got to thinking about the "classic" image of human evolution (see picture at top of blog). This image is incorrect on several levels (and updated images may appear at this site). OK, granted our ancestors most likely walked on all fours eventually graduating to bipedal locomotion (think Lucy, Australopithicenes and such[e.g., 1, 2]). 

Now, look more closely. Which of the stages would you want to be? Ideally I would like to be the last image - the super fit dude sitting at the computer, because I assume when you sit at a computer hunched over like our primate brethren than you are actually doing something worthwhile at the machine, say something like programming, running statistical or mathematical analyses, or contributing to web 2.0 (!) In reality, however, that is not the case. Think for a minute of your friends and acquaintances that spend a significant amount of time in front a computer. Are they fit? Do they resemble Arnold? No. Rather they are the epitome of what popular men's fitness magazines (e.g. Men's Health) argue we should not be striving to be like. So much is the state of health of people in clerical and desk tied positions that it has become common place, or at least encouraged for companies to incorporate on-site fitness centers [3, 4] and / or health club benefits (e.g. discounted memberships, [e.g., 5]). In fact, the average desk worker/clerical staff is overweight and unfit. No wonder! They sit all day long and eat terribly (This image might be more accurate). The only exercise office workers get is moving their fingers quickly along their ergonomically designed (i.e. reduce even more work of you having to actually twist your wrist to type) keyboard and the eventual standing squat when nature calls. They may play for the company softball or football squad, but we all know what happens after one of those games - to the pub! Hooters anyone? Last I read, Wings and Beer were not atop the post-workout meal recommendations.  Not that I am knocking Hooters. Quite the contrary for several reasons (think in pairs here), not the least of which they (also) make a damn good hot wing.  But, as you might have guessed, I also like Hooters for another reason. That's right! The presence of a women, particularly attractive, scantily clad females. Seeing an attractive (and scantily clad) female actually increases testosterone (T) in males. So the benefits of hitting Hooters after a workout could be an increase in basal T, from which we all know assists the development of muscle tissue and strength. Additionally, acute administration of ethanol (the intoxicating active ingredient in beer) can actually also increase T levels (in rats at least, 6)[see also].

What was I writing about? Right, what male image you would want to be in the "classic" image of human evolution (see above). Well I hope I have argued that the final image, one for which most of us strive for, is wholly inaccurate. On the other hand, the first image is wholly correct, but likely one for which most of would not strive for (regardless of whether some of us actually resemble it, you know who you are!) So I think most of us would want to be somewhere between image 3 and 5. I think on most days, image 5 for me - he appears fit and the seed of technology (notice he is carrying a rake not just a stick). On most days, I probably am closer (intellectually speaking) to image 4, or even maybe 3. But that's no matter. What is important, in my mind, is that images 3-5 represent the fitness that we should be striving for. These ancestors (as they are depicted in this image) had to fend off predators (be quick, agile, competitive, strong), catch, hunt and/or gather their own sustenance (be clever, stealthy, goal-oriented, and able to follow through), and compete with one another (physically and mentally) for access to mates. They did not sit around too long, except to 1) conserve energy (e.g., for a hunt/gather, mating, parenting) or 2) to recuperate after one of the above mentioned activities. There were no time cards for work; there was no work "proper"; therefore there were no bosses, desks, etc; and there certainly were not gyms, fitness instructors, or nautilus machines! 

The moral of the story... Take your physical fitness to a level at which it is useful. Be fit so that on any given Sunday you can answer the call to join the local football match, basketball game, or marathon (without feeling like you had died Monday morning at work). Or better yet, take your fitness to a level at which your reproductive fitness might also benefit. Think about what females find attractive (some answers here): sporty physique, good looks (for discussion on a future post), intellectual ability (that is goal-oriented individuals that follow through with their goals), providers (e.g., hunters, gathers; i.e. your bill fold), ... oh yeah and there is that personality thing (more on that in a later post, maybe). Now some females may actually mate with you for another reason, a chemical reason, but again, I must leave that for another post, but hopefully I have piqued your interest. 

Unfortunately, for most of us, to get to that stage, we are forced to join gyms/fitness centers for the sheer fact that hanging ropes from our ceilings and installing a pull-up rack would get most of us divorced (that's bad, from a strictly mating perspective, 7). However, most gyms are equipped with most of the gear (a floor, pull-up bar, dip-bars) needed to properly train using your body weight and I will try to track my progress here over the next few months...

Grain of Salt Clause: Remember, I mentioned early on in this post that I took the day off gym in order to drink beer by the pool, which preceded my going to the pub so you might want to take what is written here, or anywhere on this blog, for that matter with a "grain of salt". As Giles and his wife can attest, after a few hefty Kasteel Brunes my intellectual prowess is less than stellar, not to mention my uncoordinated physical abilities (but still able to slap...) 

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Current standings

OK, I've been working on body weight workouts now for a few months after being turned on to it by Dan Giles in Liverpool England. Current standings: 4 sets of handstand pushups (still against a wall), 4 sets of 4 reps each of over- and underhand one-arm pull-ups. Bench press: 3 sets of 6 at 100Kg+. Deadlift: 3 sets of 6 or 5 sets of 3-5 at 190Kg. 

Keep a lookout for videos of my progression here...


My main theoretical perspective: Evolutionary Biology. Evolutionary history did not result in the creation of metal or rubber weights. Rather, during our human evolutionary history we survived by using our body to our advantage. Without claws, teeth, etc we were forced to use our brains and the little muscular prowess we posses - all of which came from throwing around our own body weight or dealing with animals (i.e. fighting with wild critters!).  So, from an evolutionary perspective, we should not end up as super-males (e.g. your average body builder), but we should end up as individuals that are better able to deal with the everyday use of muscles. For example: throwing around heavy objects (i.e. deadlifting), or even shaking hands. Recent data from researchers (Gallup et al.) at the State University of New York-Albany have found that the strength of your handshake indicates your underlying genetic fitness; i.e. how likely you are to leave "good" offspring and consequently be chosen as a mating partner.  

Similarly, the classic V-shaped body shape also has evolutionary 'benefit'. Females of our species really dig (find attractive) the V-shaped male body shape. The reason, males with V-shaped torsos are better mates; i.e. the offspring they leave behind have a better chance of dealing with environmental and developmental infarct or insults. So doing pull-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, and abs (yes, I said abs) may actually make you appear to be a "better" mate (i.e sex) partner to the opposite sex. Not a bad outcome if you ask me. 

The V-shaped male torso is similar to the female waist-to-hip ratio, which signals similar reproductive quality such as likelihood of surviving child birth. 

At the end of the day, Dan Giles got me thinking about strength training in a new way. His blog is focused on wilderness survival training. Imagine being chased in the wild by does curling allow you to climb the tree to escape to your safety or does your ability to do repeated one-arm pull-ups from branch to branch? I am going to rest my wilderness survival bet in the latter. So hence forth, I will track my training about body weight training in an effort to 1) communicate my progress and 2) think about the broader evolutionary and survival benefits of such training.