Friday, August 12, 2011
You should go outside and play!
Your Paleolithic ancestors were outside all the time and moved constantly in search of food, water, and out of sheer curiosity. This movement would be similar to long slow hikes consisting of plenty of relaxed long slow activity. Not your typical 30 minute power-jog at 75% of your max heart rate. Nope, just lots of long, slow hiking combined with periodic intense sprints, some heavy lifting, and some sporadic play such as wrestling.
This high volume of easy activity combined with low volume of very intense exercise done outdoors developed lean, strong and fit hunter gatherers who could handle anything Mother Nature threw at them. If they couldn’t handle it, they died, thereby weeding out the weak and improving our genetic pool.
I will give you an exercise plan below, but for now understand this. Get outside in the sun and play. Exercising outside will allow your body to absorb the vitamin D it requires to be healthy and strong. It will improve your mood, health, and hormonal balance.
Getting started is never easy, especially if you have been sedentary for a few years. But if you truly want to look like you could star in the Conan the Barbarian movie then you have to get started now.
My exercise/training philosophy is a bit different from popular thinking, but that should come as no surprise to you by now. As I said before, if you want to look like everybody else, do what they are doing, if you want to look different, do the opposite. Well, the masses spend way too much time doing tedius, draining cardio sessions indoors and not nearly enough time exercising the way were meant to. Long, hard sessions on a treadmill while drinking Gatorade are not the answer to a warrior’s physique. Just look at all the fat people who finish marathons.
How many fat sprinters do you know? How many fat, and high level, soccer players? If you want to be lean and strong you need to spend your time lifting heavy things for short snappy workouts and running sprints. On top of this, for repair and well being, do some light and enjoyable cardio such as walking.
Below is an example of a training week for me to give you an idea of how to fit all this in. I will use a regular week for the training plan, but feel free to change up the days of the week and activities to fit with your schedule. The key here is to get lots of low level cardio in, some tough strength training, and a sprint session here and there.
•Go for a walk at lunch.
•Run spints or play on a sport (soccer, hockey, Ultimate, flag football), just make sure it is safe but intense.
•Go for a walk at lunch.
•Lift weights after work
•Upper body heavy
•Go for a walk at lunch.
•Lift weights after work
•o Lower body heavy
•Go for a walk at lunch
•Play with a kettlebell or do body weight drills .
•Go for a walk at Lunch
•Take the afternoon off or do some outdoor light outdoor activity with your family or friends.
•Lower body light but for more reps
•Lift weights or go for a nice long hike
•Upper body if you lift weights
Putting together a training schedule is really not that complicated. The one above is just an example and might be a lot more than you have the time or inclination to do. That is fine. As long as your diet and sleep are in check, you don’t need to train like a competitive athlete to look like one. Remember, your diet is responsible for 80% of your success. Here are some general rules to follow when putting together a training schedule:
- Run sprints once a week or at least twice a month.
- Lift heavy things frequently, aiming for three to five times a week for 30-45 minutes.
o Use a kettlebell, lift weights, or do body weight drills, and try to avoid machines.
o Most importantly chose whatever you enjoy and will stick too.
- Join a sports team.
o Exercise should be fun and social, not a tedius chore.
o Play hockey, soccer, flag football or any other fun sport you know you will love.
- Get lots of easy cardio in.
o Activities such as walking, biking, hiking or roller blading are great.
o Any kind of movement is better than none and will help you lose weight, feel healthy and get plenty of sunlight.
- Do as much of your exercise outside as possible to reap the benefits of fresh air and sunlight.
- Avoid unpleasant cardio such as tough jogs or spin classes!
o This may come as a surprise but long hard cardio sessions do more harm than good.
o Tough cardio sessions such as a spin class raise cortisol and make you slower and weaker.
o Chronic Cardio does not help you become fitter and stronger, it only makes you better at that type of Chronic Cardio.
o Avoid it and you will be healthier than Joe Marathon who has joint problems and looks like he gets sand kicked in his face.
As I mentioned above, exercise should be fun and social, not a tedius chore. That is why I called this section Play instead of Exercise or Training. Life is too short to spend time doing activities you don’t enjoy. You need to get your fun on man! Our warrior ancestors were physical people who would compete with one another in all kinds of activity such as sparring (play fighting with weapons or bare fists), wrestling, racing, throwing, and lifting. They tested each other for fun and social status. It is a natural thing for men to get together and physically compete.
As for the long easy walks, use these for repair. I find a walk is a great way to get the blood flowing and reduce any pain or inflammation I am experiencing from a tough workout. It is a great way to spend some quality time with a pretty lady, or go looking for one!
Choose activities you enjoy, join a sports team and get outside when you play. You will make new friends, have a great time, and work harder than you would slogging away in a gym. Play time isn’t just for kids, it is for people who want to look and feel their best.
Once you get going I highly recommend you choose a physical goal and start training towards that. Whether it is to be the best flag football player in your league or an elite strength athlete doesn’t matter, just pick some goals and start working towards achieving them. Just don’t tell me you are going to run a marathon, that isn’t cool.
I don’t think anything will make you leaner or more explosive than running sprints. I love to lift weights but have to admit that sprint training is probably the biggest tool I over looked as a young athlete. Sprints are extremely demanding so if you have been out of sports for a while, start kind of easy.
Begin with hill sprints because they are easier on your joints and safer on your hamstrings which get pulled easily. Find a steep hill that is as big enough to gas you out at the top during a full speed sprint. The idea is to go all out during the sprint, then catch your breath walking down the hill. Work up to 10 full speed hill sprints in under 20 minutes.
A workout might look like this:
- Walk or bike to the hill as a warm-up
- Walk up the hill x 1
- Jog up the hill x 1
- Sprint up the hill x 10
- Walk or bike home
Unless you are a sprinter, sprint workouts should be short and intense. Don’t drag them out and kill yourself training them. Short, snappy workouts are the key here.
There are only a few major lifts that must be central to your weight lifting regimen. They are:
- Bench Press
- Military Press
- Clean or High Pull
- Barbell Curls
These are the big lifts that will put meat on your bones and build what Dan John calls muscle armour. Muscle mass will make you look more powerful, help you out when you need extra strength, and protect you from damage during impact in sports. I have always said that the best method of self defense is being able to deadlift, pick up off the ground, more than 500lbs. You just don’t want to fight a guy that can pick you up and put you over his head! Spend your strength training time lifting barbells, dumbbells, or any other heavy awkward objects you can find. For example I love to lift big rocks, sandbags, and kettlebells, but I am weird like that!
There are literally millions of different workouts you could do so keep it simple. Split your workouts into upper and lower body sessions. For each workout pick one main lift to go hard and heavy on. The choose 1-3 other movements to get some extra work in at a lower intensity (weight).
Upper Body Sample Workout
B Bench Press
o Working up to a 3 rep max (with a spotter of course)
o Hitting a total of 50 reps with various grips
o Do one set between each set of pressing
- Dumbbell Military Press
o 4 sets of 8-10 to really put some mass on your shoulders, making you look broader (chicks dig that)
o 4 sets of 8-10 to blast the guns!
Lower Body Sample Workout
o Working up to a 3 rep max to really build power through the legs, hips and back
- Farmers Walks
o Grap a pair of the heaviest dumbbells you can manage and go for a walk
o This will build your grip, hips, calves and upper back like nothing else plus burn a ton of calories!
o Get into a push-up position, then walk your hands out forwards while your feet stay planted until your abs have to contract hard to keep you from shaking
o Hold for 4 sets of max time
Weight lifting is only fun and productive when you are forcing your body to adapt by getting bigger and stronger. So don’t be afraid to work hard and be sure to mix up your workouts. Try new drills, experiment with different set and rep schemes, and play with different rest times. The key to progressing in the gym is to have a defined goal but to train for it with a variety of methods that keeps you feeling fresh.
I rarely do the exact same workout twice, something is always different whether it is the weight used, the drills chosen, the set and rep scheme, or even the order of the movements. Mix it up! That being said, there is a basic template that most strength athletes follow.
1. Big heavy lift. This always comes first and is the most important part of your training session.
2. Opposing Muscle Group. If you chose a pressing movement like bench press for your primary lift, you will hit a pulling movement like rows next. The goal is to keep your body balanced and work muscles that were resting during the big heavy lift. Don’t follow up bench pressing with incline benching. That is a waste of time, trust me!
3. Weak Points. Usually done for higher reps and lighter weights because the big heavy lift and secondary lift tired you out. Now is the time to blast your arms or work on that six pack. Whatever muscle group you feel needs some extra attention, this is when you do it.
Weight training sessions should always be under a hour. Work at a fast pace, you should be sweating and tired by the end of it. Stick to compound movements that work several body parts at the same time. Keep it fresh by mixing things up. Also, I highly recommend you hire a strength coach at first to show you how to train the power movements safely. Avoid the scrawny personal trainer, instead find an in the trenches kind of guy, or girl, who really knows their stuff. I have been lifting weights since I was 15 but paid a strength coach to make my workout programs and teach me lifts until I was 21. The amount I learned from him was priceless! Even today I train with a powerlifting team and a strongman team so I have experienced people watching my form and giving me feedback. Plus, the team atmosphere makes lifting more social, which is fun.
Kettlebells have been around for hundreds of years but only became popular in North America around 2002. A kettlebell is an iron ball with a thick handle that you swing, lift, throw or carry for a strength training and/or conditioning workout. I have been training with them since then and even used to manufacture them through a local metal smith. My wife uses them regularly too and let’s just say I appreciate the benefits of kettlebell training dearly! They are not some silly fad, they work.
The key to kettlebell training is to learn the lifts and then do short, intense workouts that get you sweating and gasping for air like mad. I call this type of training “resistance-cardio”, and it melts fat off you while building muscle at the same time.
A sample workout might look like this:
Kettlebell Circuit Training Workout
- Goblet Squat
- Rack Lunge
Kettlebells are a great fat loss tool and I think are about as primal a training tool as you can get. When swinging my kettlebell around I can’t help but think of a warrior swinging his battle axe in a field to build up his stamina for the next battle. Warriors and today’s combat athlete need to be able to be strong, for long. They need what you might call staying power, because as we see in mma these days, the first guy to gas out almost always looses.