Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Compressed Volume Upper Body Workout

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University

5 Raise-assisted handstand push ups (3 plates for first set, then 4 plates for rest)
5 Weighted chin ups (15kg)
5 One-arm dumbbell bench press (each side) (28kg)
5 Basketball rollouts

I did this circuit 5 times.

Finisher: Rowing machine - 500 metres, resistance level 7 @95% effort

Total time: 27 minutes

Post-workout meal 40 minutes later.

I was hungry for some serious resistance work after nearly a week away from the gym, going primal / paleo in the mountains. My legs were still weak after 3 consecutive days of hiking and walking at the weekend, so I focused on upper body.

I wanted to hit all 4 of the exercises listed with 5 sets each - but realised I would not have time in my 30 minute window unless I gave myself no rest by cycling the sets – what I call ‘compressed volume.’ This can be pretty punishing and today was no exception.

Some joker has hidden/burst/stolen the medicine ball I normally use for basketball rollouts rollouts, so they were especially gruelling: I had to use a mini-med ball scarcely bigger than a coconut, which makes stabilising it much harder. I think this was also the first time I have done several sets of this exercise so it brought home to me just how demanding on the core it is.

I went straight into the rowing from the last set of rollouts despite still breathing heavily from the effort. I then gave it almost everything I had. In hindsight I should have skipped the rowing because my legs weren’t ready for it.

I gave my system a serious shock with this workout so I think I will now rest until Saturday, when I will perhaps throw in some deadlift and pistols if the legs feel up to it. I will imagine that I caught a good-sized animal with today's efforts, the meat from which will keep Mrs M and me happy until the weekend...
... Read more

Monday, 27 April 2009

A Primal/Paleo Weekend in the Mountains

Location: Buttermere Valley
Day 1
We decided to 'warm up' the weekend with a walk around the lake - it's about a five-mile walk with a little elevation. On the way, I stripped to my underwear and took a dip in the water. I wanted to gauge the temperature, as I had some wild swimming planned for the next day.

With the temperature outside the water being comfortable t-shirt weather, I was somewhat surprised to find my breath taken clean out of my body when I fully submerged. I will never doubt people again when they tell me that being in cold water can very quickly overwhelm a person.

Day 2
I rose at 6am and headed down to the lake. I was dreading my wild swim a little. To get myself in the mood I lifted some heavy rocks above my head and made some animal noises. No one but to sheep around to witness this spectacle. I took this photo before going in.

I dived in, swam 2 metres front crawl, before resorting to breast stroke with my head above the water because I was breathing so fast from the cold. I swam out about 15 metres, then turned around and swam back. It was COOOOOOLD.

Cold, but invigorating. Emboldened and primalised by the experience, I then did some messing around on this bridge. I hung from the bottom rung over the water, then went up the rungs one by one before hauling myself over the top one, without using my legs.

I returned to the hotel, woke Mrs M, and after a breakfast we went on a 5-hour hike up a 2000ft mountain nearby. Here is a photo of the mountain we headed up, then one looking back on the way up.

Day 3
Action replay of day 2, swimming-wise, except this time I managed a longer dip. It still cannot have been longer than 45 seconds before the cold drove me back to shore. Next time we visit I am determined to cross the lake entirely. I may need a backup team :-)

This time I challenged myself further on the bridge by starting at one side hanging off the third rung, then move sideways, hand over hand to to other side. By this point I was fully clothed again, so there was a degree of pressure, as I did not want to fall into the river. It was actually very tough and no less challenging than a set of chins or pull-ups.

Mrs M and I then went on a 5-hour valley walk. We had sore legs from the say before so significant elevation was not on the menu. I did throw in an impromptu Fingal's Finger using the log in this photo.

Day 4
Back home :-(

I will rest my legs for most of the week after that lot. 12 hours of walking in 3 days is a lot for me.
... Read more

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Video - Paleo/Primal in a Nutshell Part 2: Exercise

I have just posted Paleo/Primal in a Nutshell Part 2: Exercise on Pay Now Live Later, but am posting here too, given the obvious relevance of the topic. As I mention in that post, this is a less clear cut part of the Paleo ethos and more open to debate, which I welcome in the comments here or on the other blog - although as I am on holiday over the weekend there may be a delay before they go live.

For the sake of keeping it punchy, there were a number of areas I avoided, such as steroids – even though the photos I used invited a mention. Perhaps something for future videos or posts.

See Also:
Paleo/Primal in a Nutshell Part 1: Food ... Read more

A Taxing 300 Workout

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University

Cheat 300 Workout - I have updated the post on this to reflect that I now do dumbbell snatch instead of clean and press, and why.

Time: 24:56

This was 30 seconds slower than the last time, in spite of the easier snatch exercise. This was partly because I took longer setting up for the floor wipers than usual, but partly because I was very tired - I was up late burning the midnight oil working on Paleo/Primal in a Nutshell Part 2!

Perhaps because I was tired, it felt like one of the most taxing workouts I have done for a while. I was out of my comfort zone most of the time - which Rusty at Fitness Black Book suggests is the way forward for fat burning.

I am going on holiday, walking in the Lake District for the next 4 days, so I will be taking a break from resistance exercise of any kind. After reading Natural Messiah's recent post, this seems like a good idea, especially given how hard today felt. I am also inspired by Chris at Conditioning Research's recent photos to come back with some of my own to share. I only hope we get the same kind of weather.
... Read more

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Less is More Day - Another Single Set Routine

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University

Frog stand planche - 60s, reasonable form for 50s, then shaky
Tuck front lever - 60s, struggled in last 10 seconds

Main routine: Single Set circuit
- except NO pistols or deadlift
- did basketball rollouts (using med ball) for abs

Finisher - none!

Total time: 15 minutes

For this session, I think I finally came of age, training-wise. I did less when I wanted to do more. I made it short, avoided the legs and did not even do a fitness finisher. There were several reasons for this:

1. I had already done fitness two days before when I did some savage hill training
2. I am planning my monthly 300 workout tomorrow, which is very demanding on the whole body
3. I was planning to fast post-workout, which is always made easier when the workouts are shorter
4. My legs were tired and needed a rest.

Normally I would have rationalised all these factors somehow and pressed on with the full set of exercises because I was feeling good. But I didn't, so today my legs feel strong and I am ready for tomorrow.

The single set approach is still working for me. In spite of the quite demanding planche and lever work at the start of the workout I was able to match previous weights on the exercises I did, and even improve on the weighted chin ups, which were done with 22.5kg.

On the Tuck Front Lever - I have stopped raising my legs in the air to make it easier - they are now tucked firmly into my chest. I am not ready to start flattening my back yet, but do feel stronger.

Finally, the basketball rollouts - I would urge you to try these if you already do ab rollouts of some other kind. I am finding them to be much more satisfying than the alternatives and a more natural movement.
... Read more

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Caveman Hill Workout

Light run: 5 minutes, medium incline
- 20 press ups
Hard run: 2 minutes, steep incline
- 5 slow chin ups on tree branch
Light run: 5 minutes, medium incline
Hard Run: 90 seconds, steep-ish incline
- 20 press ups
Light run: 3 minutes
- Failed attempt to lift a heavy log ;-)
Hard run: 30 seconds, steep incline
- 20 press ups
Light Run: 3 minutes, no incline
Sprint finish: 30 seconds

Essentially, I ran up the hill and threw in some fast bits whenever it got steep. Then I walked down.

I was running with a friend, who is slower than me. Normally I wear a 9kg weighted vest to even up the stakes, but this time I said I would do random exercises instead. Having him there as someone I had to keep catching up after doing press ups was a great way to ensure I continually pushed myself. There were moments when I really did not want to carry on running, but the desire to stay with him kept me going.
... Read more

Friday, 17 April 2009

Single Set, Low Rep Circuit

Finisher: tabata intervals - rowing machine @ level 7

Total time: 25 mins

The weights/exercises for the circuit:

3 x 20kg plate raise for the raise-assisted handstand push ups
20kg for the weighted chin ups
30kg for one-arm dumbbell press
120kg for the stiff-legged deadlift
Ab exercise: this time I did basketball reverse rollouts - these are great!

This is the same routine, more or less, that I did a couple of times last week. I am really starting to like it. I feel more like I am making gains in strength than I have felt for a while - this time I increased my deadlift by 5kg. And the handstand push ups felt easier.

I will probably do this again next week, perhaps with some planche and lever work thrown in, then the week after throw in some volume work where I hit the same exercises at 5 x 5. The rationale? I guess I just miss that feeling you get when you've really hammered your muscles ;-)
... Read more

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Unexpected Urban Paleo Workout

Location: Birmingham City, UK
Yesterday I arrived at the gym, having walked 20 minutes to get there, only to discover it was closed. Easter Monday I can understand. But Tuesday too?

Since time was of the essence, I seized the opportunity to do my workout on the way home. I had been eying various parts of the urban landscape on my way to and from the gym in recent weeks and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try them out.

So here, accompanied by photos, is the 35-minute workout I did. It was pretty much entirely Paleo - by which I mean that it mimicked the kind of activity a caveman might have engaged in.

Pull ups on pipe - 8 reps
Partial handstands against wall - 5 reps - going down as far as I felt comfortable given the glass and dirt underneath!
Stair Jumps - cleared this short flight in a couple of jumps.

Chin Ups on sign - 13 reps

Here I found a sandbag (about 20kg) lying around and carried it 300 yards to a spot where I could do some exercises:
Sandbag clean and throw - 10 reps
Pistols - 5 each leg

Partial Muscle Ups
- 8

Hanging Leg Raise - using the tree branch upper middle of shot - 15 reps

Inverted Push Ups
- 15 reps - feet on the top of the grey box, body as rigid as possible.

Stair sprints back to apartment - 3 flights

Back at the apartment - unable to resist finishing with some stiff-legged deadlift using dumbbells - 12 reps @42.5k per hand.
... Read more

Sunday, 12 April 2009

10-minute Punisher - Stairs, Sandbag and Sprints

Sprint - 20 seconds @90% effort - this was outside in the road
Dumbbell Stair Climb - 3 flights, @37.5kg each hand
Sandbag Clean and Press - 10 reps @28kg sandbag

I did this twice.

Total time: 11.5 minutes.

This hurt. I had planned to do 3 sets, but became aware that a third would have taken my legs into the failure zone, which I did not want to visit on this occasion. So I made the second round count by avoiding any rest. The sandbag is relatively light, so the pain came mainly from the combined cardiovascular effort of the successive exercises rather than muscular fatigue. ... Read more

Friday, 10 April 2009

Single Set, Low Rep Circuit Week, Day 2

Swing-Assisted, Uneven Muscle Ups - 2 failures.
Frog stand - 30 seconds, arms as straight as I cold get them.
Tuck Front Lever - 30 seconds, backs as straight as I could get it.

Single Set, Low Rep Circuit

Finisher: mixed tabata intervals - alternating between push-ups and burpees

Total time: 25 mins

This is the same routine I did a couple of days before. For the circuit, I used:

3 x 20kg plate raise for the raise-assisted handstand push ups
20kg for the weighted chin ups
30kg for one-arm dumbbell press
115kg for the stiff-legged deadlift

I managed to increase from 28 to 30kg for the one-arm dumbbell press. On the deadlift, I was able to complete the set more easily than last time. I really enjoyed this routine, and may do the same again next week to see whether I make any further gains. However, I will try to avoid the introductory planche, lever and muscle-up work, so I can do the handstand push ups from fresh.

My legs were feeling a little weak because I have doing a lot of walking recently - and the pistols left me pretty weak. For that reason, I went for the mixed tabata interval instead of solely burpees. Ironically, it was my chest and triceps that gave up. My final press-up interval looked more like a static exercise - the only way I could keep going for 20 seconds was to make the range of movement very small indeed!
... Read more

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Single Set, Low Rep Circuit Week, Day 1

Swing-Assisted, Uneven Muscle Ups - 2 failures.
Frog stand - 30 seconds, arms as straight as I cold get them.
Tuck Front Lever - 30 seconds, backs as straight as I could get it.
Single Set, Low Rep Circuit

Finisher: Rowing intervals
- 1 minute @ 80% effort
- 1 minute rest
- 1 minute @90% effort
- 1 minute rest
- 1 minute @95% effort

Total time: 30 mins

The circuit was inspired by this and this from Conditioning Research. I am doing the same routine for each session this week. It's a circuit of major compound exercises, doing sets of 5 - but only one set of each exercise. So not really a circuit ;-) Couldn't 't resist a few bodyweight exercises first, just to keep my hand in.

For the circuit, I used:

3 x 20kg plate raise for the handstand push ups
20kg for the weighted chins
28kg for One-Arm dumbbell press
115kg for the stiff-legged deadlift

I was not close to failure for any of the sets, but I made sure I did each rep as slowly as necessary so that I did nevertheless feel I had worked hard.
... Read more

Monday, 6 April 2009

Conditioning Week Day 3: Improvised Cheat 300 Workout

Cheat 300 Workout

Since I was training in this joke gym, I had to improvise as follows.

- Instead of chin ups I did reverse-grip pull downs, selecting a weight I felt equated to bodyweight.
- Instead of stiff-legged deadlift with a 60kg barbell, I used the heaviest dumbbells, which were 50lbs.
- For the box jumps, I took my shoes off and jumped onto the seat of one of the machines.
- For the floor-wipers, I held the heaviest dumbbells instead of the 60kg barbell.

It was arguably more taxing than usual because the lighter weights meant muscle fatigue did not force me to rest as often mid-set, so my cardiovascular system was forced to work harder. ... Read more

Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, Mid-Town New York

Submitted By: Methuselah
Location: 405 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, United States (map)
Workouts: from workout diary

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that this is the same photo as I posted for the Roosevelt hotel gym. In fact this IS a photo of the Roosevelt hotel gym. But I am now so sick of staying in New York hotels and finding these cloned, semi-adequate, broom-cupboard afterthoughts that in protest I have posted the same photo again. Plus I couldn't find a photo on their website. I don't blame them - not even photographic trickery could make that gym seem anything other than cramped.

To summarise, they of course have a couple of rows of cardio machines. They have a set of dumbbells that go up to 50lbs, a selection of machines that allow you to hit most body parts, and just enough square footage to allow someone to do press ups. But if someone else fancies burpees, you'd better agree with that other person to cycle your sets.

One thing in thing in it's favour - being located on the 27th floor on the North-Eastern corner of the building, it does afford fantastic views of Roosevelt island to the cardio-heads.
... Read more

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Conditioning Week Day 2: Compressed Volume Circuit (and new exercise invented!)

CORRECTION (2/4/09) - before the circuit, I did:
- Frog Stand - 60s
- Tuck Front Lever - 60s

Circuit: Compressed Volume Upper Body Circuit

How I did it on this occasion:

- Ab exercise selected was Hanging Leg Raise
- I was unable to do the Dumbbell Snatch - for the laughable reason why, see below! So instead I did Single-Arm Dumbbell Cleans

Finisher: Stair Jumps. The hotel has many floors. I jumped two at a time from floors 2 to 10 in 2 minutes 15 seconds, before stopping. My legs we fatiguing and I want to save them a little for pistols on Friday. Lungs were pretty hammered too, but on balance it was the legs that were suffering more.

Total time: 25 minutes.

Today I inadvertently invented a new exercise: the 'Dumbbell Snatch Roof Buster'. My first rep on the dumbbell snatch punched a hole in the roof of the gym! There can be no better illustration of a gym designed by someone who does not understand the equipment they are filling it with. I will update the review to reflect this howler. ... Read more