minimal gym equipment kettlebell

Hack Your Psychology: Workout Every Day

Lesbiup front about this post –

I’ve fallen off the adventure/fitness/healthy/active/climbing/hiking/biking everything bandwagon.

You’re no doubt sick of hearing me complain about being gone for 2.5 months for work, but furreal, it’s not an insignificant amount of time. During that time, I worked substantially longer days and for 6 days/week. If I were brainwashed, I certainly could have made myself work out or run or do something while I was away, but I live in the real world and I was tired. I didn’t work out. Call me human.

Once I finally got home, I immediately started working on the van (another topic you might be sick of seeing?) into the late hours of the night. It went like, work til 4pm, come home to change clothes, go work on the van until 9:30-10:30, come back home and go to bed. And if you hadn’t noticed, I’ve picked up the pace on writing more consistently. That takes time and energy too. Again – real world, didn’t feel like forcing workouts.

BUT I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE CUZ I FEEL GROSS AND NOW I’VE FINALLY STOPPED MAKING EXCUSES!

The Program

I heard about this program from my roommate that read about it on T-Nation. They called it the PSL program…or something like that. It stands for Push-ups/Squats/Lunges.

The concept is that you do body weight PSLs every single day in conjunction with your normal training routine. If your main training regimen is in the morning, you do PSL in the evening, and vice versa. (I’ll science this up in a bit.) You start Day 1 by establishing a baseline number of reps that you can do in a single set, non-stop, of your weakest movement. Given these 3 movements, it’s likely to be push-ups. Every day thereafter, you add one more rep to each movement. Something like

Day 1: (baseline is 3 reps) 3 push-ups, 3 squats, 3 lunges (per leg)
Day 2: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges

Once you get into the higher rep range and can no longer complete all your reps in a single set, you start splitting things up into multiple sets and done in circuit fashion. That is, if you’re supposed to do 7 reps on a given day, but you can’t do 7 in a row, you would do something like this, all in a row, with no rests in-between:

Day 5: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges, 3 push-ups, 3 squats, 3 lunges
Day 6: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges, 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges

Get it?

Physiologically

Physiologically speaking, most body weight movements are not very invasive. That is, they don’t stress your tissues or nervous system like a weighted bench press, deadlift, or squat until you get into very high reps or very advanced movements. This is perfect for beginners or people that have been on a long break. It re-maps the tissues back into the form required to move your joints through these ranges of motion (you’ve likely been sedentary while not exercising) while not stressing anything so much that you have to take a day off.

For intermediate and advanced people, this is still a great idea for two reasons:

  1. It’s a form of active mobility, which has actually been shown to speed up recovery time between training sessions (as opposed to static stretching and massage)
  2. It’s another workout on the day, bringing you closer and closer to your goals, with very little “cost” to your main workout objectives (it shouldn’t negatively affect your main workouts or recovery).
  3. (BONUS TIP, OK?!?!) It increases your total work capacity over time.

Psychologically

So if this isn’t the workout that’s going to give you the body of a Greek Goddess, what’s the point?

Well, as I said, it’s a component of becoming a Goddess, so there’s that. But there’s also the psychological aspect. The part that we want to hack.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced, this part isn’t for you. You can skip down to the next heading. For everyone else THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD BE READING THIS POST!!

Starting something with the intent of making it a habit is often the hardest part. You want to read Atlas Shrugged (the longest book I’m aware of)? Start with Page 1 and read every day. You want to run a marathon? Start with a mile. Starting and staying consistent is the hardest part of forming any habit.

By starting slow and starting with consistency, you’re teaching yourself that working out is fun. You’re teaching yourself that working out is easy. You’re teaching yourself, “hey, this ain’t so bad.” Before you know it, it will be a habit, it will be something you look forward to, and being healthy and active will just become your natural lifestyle.

Yes, starting out with 4 push-ups, squats and lunges is potentially embarrassing, but look at the big picture. If you stick with it, look at where you’ll be in a month, two months, three months. Just after the first month,  35 push-ups is a helluva lot more than 4 (and still really not that invasive for most active people).

My Take on a Better Daily Workout

Of course, if I didn’t give you my take on this, I might as well have just thrown a link up to T-nation and let you read that. But I think there’s a better way. One that you might not think of because it’s largely counter to what you read from “top trainers” on the internet.

It starts with Day 1. On Day 1, I do not suggest you go to failure while establishing your baseline. I don’t want you to go to the point where you’re struggling and twisting and contorting and making faces like you’re going to poop in order to finish the rep. I want you stop much sooner than that. In fact, I want you to stop as soon as it feels more difficult than the very first rep. Yup, that’s your baseline.

This goes for once you start splitting your sets into circuits too. Once you get up to 20’some reps, you’ll find all kinds of different ways to split up your sets. And that’s ok. I want you to stop any given set and move on to the next movement as soon as one rep feels more difficult than the first one of that set. Even if that means you do 10 sets of 2 reps, I still want you to adhere to stopping early, making it easy, and finishing the entire thing without a break. Whether you do 1×20, 2×10, 5×4, or 10×2, the total amount of reps and work that you’ve done is the same.

That’s going to allow all those psychological hacks I mentioned to stick with you. People are lazy. I’m lazy. Actually, I’m the laziest. I hate doing stuff that’s hard, and I really enjoy moving when moving is fun and easy. If I already know that the reps at the end of my set(s) are going to be hard, I don’t want to do it. It’s discouraging. So I make sure it’s easy.

My Turn

Since this is my primary workout for the day while juggling writing, #VanLife, work, life, and freelance, I’ve added more movements than just PSLs. I’m doing pull-ups, air squats, push-ups, lunges, shoulder press with a 16kg kettlebell, ab roll-outs, and hanging knee raises.

My limiting movement is the shoulder press, and I started my baseline with 4. Yup, that’s right. I used to be able to shoulder press my entire body weight overhead, but I can now only press a 16kg kettlebell 4 times. Leave your ego at the door, folks.

I’m at Day 3 and while 6 reps is still pathetic, I’m already feeling better about myself. Not because I’m proud of where I’m at, and absolutely there’s no visible changes yet, but proud that I’m actually moving again, and proud of where I’m going to end up.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to pick 3-5 body weight movements, get a baseline, and do this program for as long as you can. Let me know your results, how long you made it, and why you stopped. Ready, GO!

Climbing and Training Terms for Low Gravity Ascents

One of my favorite phrases in the world is words mean things. And as such, some words in the climbing and training world are confusing. This was apparent when someone downloaded my climbing e-book and told me they thought they liked what I had to say, but didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about sometimes.

Hm.

That does not a good read make.

There’s yet another something wrong with climbing terms: most of us don’t know all of them or their meaning. So then we tend to make up our own meanings or mix and match the definitions with the different words. Somebody’s red point is my flash. pink point could also be a send? I don’t know. There’s so many ‘points’ that I don’t know or care.

So, just so that we’re all on the same page when reading this website or the e-book, we’ll all know what I’m talking about, mkay?

Barn Door

In climbing, when your body position forces your weight shifted all to one side and reaching for your next hold (hand or foot) causes an uncontrollable swing to the opposite side. Basically, you swing open like someone shoving a barn door. (Flagging a hand or foot can sometimes prevent this.)

Beginner’s Gains

When someone just starts (or re-starts) a training program, they experience beginner’s gains. This is the rapid progression you see within the first 4 weeks. When going from a completely untrained state to a ‘doing something’ state, your body adapts very quickly. Once the training becomes repetitive and the skills have been mastered, the body becomes very efficient at performing those movements and the measurable gains slow down.

Flagging

When you know your bodyweight is out of position and reaching for the next hold may cause you to barn door, it is sometimes possible to extend a hand or foot onto the wall in the direction you’re going to swing. This can only be done if the free appendage to that side is non-loading bearing. That is, if you know you’re going to swing to the right as soon as you let go with your right hand, you may stick your right foot out to the right to prevent this. This can only be done if you’re right foot is not essential to staying on the wall (perhaps it’s your only foot on the wall and your left foot is just dangling).

Grades

Grades are the scales and systems we use to determine how difficult a climb is.

For rope climbing in America, we follow the Yosemite Decimal System. It starts at 5.0 and currently goes up to 5.15, 5.0 being the easiest and 5.15 being impossible for mortals. From 5.0 to 5.9, routes can be subdivided by difficulty at each number by a + or – sign, 5.9+ is harder than a straight up 5.9. Above that, 5.10-5.15, difficulty is subdivided by attaching a letter (a-d) to the end of it. A 5.10a is easier than a 5.10d. To make things a little more confusing, some people have decided to start dropping the a-d designation and just using + or – all the way up to the 5.11s (from what I’ve seen). Got it? Good. Don’t worry, it takes about a week in a climbing gym to figure this all out. It’s really not that complicated.

For bouldering in America, we primarily use the Hueco Scale. These routes start with the letter V and are followed by a number, V0-V16. Once again, there may be a + or – attached to it, but at least there’s no additional letters.

Line

Line could mean two different things, but the context surrounding its use makes it really easy to differentiate.

Line is sometimes interchanged with rope. Climbing rope/climbing line. Toss the rope/toss the line. Get it?

Line, more frequently, means the route you’re going to climb. The two words are synonymous.

Off-Widths

Cracks that are larger than a balled up fist but smaller than a chimney (in which you can fit your whole body into and use your legs and feet to press your back against the opposite wall). It’s also the most brutal type of climbing. I’m not sure it’s actually climbing. It’s more like pushing. Or something.

Route

This is your path up the rock (or mountain). Someone else before you climbed the very face in front of you and determined that’s how to get to the top. You can find route descriptions (so you know where to go and how to protect yourself) in guidebooks and online. (Remember, route and line mean the same thing.)

Runout

Long distance between bolts or protection placements. In my world, any distance more than 6ft. between protection is considered run out. Some are scarier than others.

Send/Sending

Starting at the bottom of your pitch and climbing all the way to the end of your pitch without a fall or a ‘take’ (rest) from your belayer. You can take a break under your own strength, but you can’t hang on the rope. (This is the David Sandel definition. The term flash may also mean the same thing.)

Smearing

Plastering your hand or foot (usually a foot) against a flat, smooth, vertical wall and relying on friction to make it stick as you stand up and put weight on it.

 

 

Now, that’s a good start, but that’s nowhere near all of the. What other major terms am I forgetting? What’s a climbing term you always hear but you don’t know what it means? Let me know down in the comments or send me an email privately.

How to Tell if I should go to the Gym or Stay Home

Don’t even act like both of these scenarios haven’t happened to you:

  1. You don’t feel like going to the gym, you go anyways, you have a record breaking workout session and leave feeling like Superwoman
  2. You’re super stoked to go hit leg day, your warm-up set feels like your 1RM (1-rep max), you end up hurting yourself, and go home in pain and pissed off

Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with this too. I’ve gone to the climbing gym, warmed up on a V-easy or 5.beginner, and felt like I was climbing La Dura Dura. Other days I’ve been like, “man, I’m starving; I have a post to write; I didn’t get any sleep; and it’s Tuesday. I’ll just go in, do a couple auto-belays, and call it a day.” … Only to climb something much harder or for much longer than expected.

The good news is that those two things don’t happen every single time. They’re probably a rare occurrence, actually. But wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of knowing if you should go to the gym or just sit at home and do something else if you think you might be feeling those things?

I thought so too so I reached out to my fitness/nutrition/life mentor and asked him to write about this for me. Because he’s way smarter than I am.

He’s one of the creator’s of The Movement and is a huge reason I’m the athlete and type of trainer I am today. If you think I’m good at what I do/who I am, you should really read his information. He’s pretty much like Yoda and Darth Vader all rolled into one. Minus the green, plus the arm.

Anyways, here’s a snippet from his post. You’ll have to click the link to get the article in its entirety.

The answer lies in Anatomy and Physiology. Not all parts of the brain are connected to each other and no part of our conscious mind is directly connected to the body. So not only are we not conscious of everything, we aren’t conscious of most things…especially in our body. We’re not all that aware of peristalsis, respiration, perspiration and the overwhelming majority of bodily processes. We’re not wired to be.

How to tell if I should workout or stay home and eat chips

 
 

Single Leg Training for Outdoor Athletes

First, the terms:

Bilateral Stance
Bilateral Stance

Bilateral – Symmetrical stance, toes in line with each other, both feet on the ground

Asymmetrical – Stance in which feet are offset from one another; typically with one foot more forward than the other or could be more off-center from the centerline of your body; both feet on the ground

Unilateral – Only one foot firmly planted on the ground. The other may be resting on a platform for balance or just dangling in air.

Apple Pie – A dessert made with a flaky pastry crust and caramelized apples. Ice cream or sharp cheddar cheese is optional. Bonus points for sugar-glazed top crust.

Asymmetric Stance
Asymmetric Stance

Yes, those are my shoes. Yes, I do wear them near daily when fashion allows.

At this stage of my life, I’m focusing most of my leg training on unilateral movements and perform most of my standing, upper body movements in an asymmetrical stance.

Why?

 

Single Leg Training

Unilateral Stance
Unilateral Stance

What you may not consciously realize, is that most of our movement outdoors is unilateral or asymmetrical. If you think about what we do outdoors, most of it is done on one foot (even if only briefly): hopping from boulder to boulder, stepping over logs, riding snowboard, or getting through a cruxy spot on a climb by doing a high step. Very rarely do we square up, set our feet, and perform some kind of movement requiring maximum muscle activation of the entire lower body.

Single leg training helps you develop balance. Bosu balls and Indo boards are about the most worthless pieces of workout equipment I can think of and only help you develop balance on a moving platform. I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend a lot of time on a ship or walking around with basketballs strapped to my feet.

This is a high step. Because I didn't know what else to do.
This is a high step. Because I didn’t know what else to do.

Balance is the combination of three systems: proprioception, visual, and vestibular. Proprioception is the body’s awareness of itself in space, based on the signals it receives from joint positions transmitted through the central nervous system (CNS). Visual is pretty obvious. It’s the brain’s interpretation of the surface you’re standing on or moving over as seen by your eyeballs. Vestibular takes place in your inner ear and sends signals to the brain about your head’s spatial position.

All three of those can be trained singularly (specifically) or together as one system. Assuming your eyes and inner ears are working fine, unilateral movements mainly train your proprioceptive system and intramuscular coordination.

The other reason I love single leg movements is for joint mobility. I know people that can hit a parallel squat but tumble over backwards as soon as they try to do a one-legged pistol squat. Also, joints are supposed to be mobile and should be able to be moved throughout their entire range of motion (ROM). Strictly doing (heavy) bilateral movements can actually inhibit ROM. Es no bueno.

So, getting to it, my favorite unilateral movements are Bulgarian Split Squats, Pistol Squats, and Step-ups. Most people will likely think of “lunges”, but I don’t care for them on a personal level (they made fun of my mom once) or a physiological level. I am by no means a perfect form Nazi, but I do think they put unnecessary stress on the knee even when done with “perfect form”. If I have to do lunges, I opt for reverse lunges.

If your balance sucks or you have poor joint mobility when just starting out, I recommend doing them in this order: step-ups > Bulgarian Split Squats > Pistol Squats. At each stage of that progression, intramuscular coordination and ROM is increased. However, you don’t have to master one before moving onto the next. Each movement can be scaled to your current ability and can be all be done in parallel. But most likely you’ll master a step-up while you’re still holding onto a pole for a pistol squat.

Step-ups

Step-ups are fairly simple. Find a box you can easily “step-up” on and do it. Depending on how bad your balance and mobility are, you may have to start with a 6” box and work your way up to something a little more substantial, say, 24”-36”.

Note: I don’t really care so much about the over exaggerated hip flexion at the top of the movement from your “off-leg”. It’s wasted movement and doesn’t really gain you anything.

Bulgarian Split Squats

In my 3rd YouTube video ever made, I demonstrate Bulgarian Split Squats. I was nowhere NEAR as comfortable in front of the video camera as I am these days, if you can’t tell. This will definitely increase the necessary ROM and you take the balance portion to the next level. Don’t worry, you can still use your back leg to help out.

Pistol Squats

And finally, the pistol squat. This requires the most balance, mobility, and coordination of them all. You are not likely to be able to do a full-on pistol squat the first time you try. If you’re interested in seeing a progression, I’m sure you can find them on YouTube or let me know if you’d like me to film one. I’d be glad to!

A Case for Bilateral Movements

Ok, I don’t completely neglect bilateral movements. I no longer have a need to squat 325lb. (undocumented personal record is actually 365lb.) or deadlift 420lb.

But they still serve a purpose. There’s no doubt that bilateral movements allow you to build the most amount of strength and hypertrophy (big muscles). I’m still interested in the ability to leap, bound, and have an aesthetically pleasing booty for the ladies. And the best way to accomplish all of those things is incorporating back squats, front squats, deadlifts, power cleans, and jerks into my routine. I may do single leg movements 3 days per week for functional purposes, but I still make sure I do some form or fashion of these at least once. For the booty.

 

What do you think about all of this? What else do you want to know? Do you already do any of these, and how do you think they’re helping (or hurting) your performance?

Distance Coaching: Transformed, with Dave’s Help

Editor’s note: Jay and I “met” via Twitter in 2010. He’s been my web designer since I was “Athlete Creator”, then “Dudes With Tents”, and now “Low Gravity Ascents”. Unlike me, who’s fussy, picky, and sporadic (making him start 2 other websites I never followed through with), Jay is an ideal distant client. As he explains, I’m not there to hold his hand and make sure he’s doing everything I say. I just have to hope he follows through, stays motivated, and asks for help when he needs it. As you can see, he does all of those things. Thanks for being a great friend and a great client, Jay! Hope the rest of you enjoy his story…

 

 

Last year in November, I looked like this:

Jay Before

I have been hitting the gym since 2008, with the (losing) attitude of merely fighting off the ravages of a sedentary lifestyle brought on by a long commute and a desk job that allowed for way too much time of mindless eating. I was strong because the sheer mass let me move weights that I wouldn’t even try now, but I didn’t look the way I wanted. I wanted to look lean, I wanted to have the sillhouette of someone in shape, and yes: it’s totally something that’s made popular in culture and by you. I’m not sorry I aspired for it.

How Dave trains

I came across Dave on Twitter in 2010, and I had reached out to him because he cut through a lot of the BS that was floating around in the fitness industry. (And that is enough subject material for its own site.) He irreverently called out peddlers of “broscience.” And he’s in great shape, then as now. So I asked him for a few pointers at first. And at first, I was stubborn and didn’t really follow what he said.

Story of the lives of so many of us. We hear what we need but then discard it because we didn’t actually want to hear it, right? So for a while, I kept on lifting the way I did, and eating the way I did, and instead of fighting off the ravages of time, I was losing to them.

When I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, I opened my mind again, and asked Dave again. And he gave me the same pointers: “try out intermittent fasting,” he said. “I couldn’t possibly hold out for 18 hours,” I complained. But Dave walked me through the process of taking baby steps. There was no need to dive right into 18 hour fasts. So I tried 12 hours at first. And every day I moved the clock a little. Half an hour at a time until I was able to function on an 18 hour fast every day. And day by day I saw the fractions of pounds just slowly but surely shed off.

At the same time, I asked Dave about my lifts. I’ve been lifting willy-nilly, following such formulas as “four sets of eight,” or “five sets of twelve,” and really, wasn’t going anywhere. He introduced me to biofeedback and Adam T Glass’ Gym Movement, and a very scientific, methodical way of testing whether a particular lift was leading towards your goals. As I was losing fat weight, my musculature was still growing. My shoulders started rounding out, and my already bulky legs started gaining definition. My back was getting broader, as was my chest.

I was burning fat and gaining muscle, simultaneously. I wasn’t going through “cutting and bulking” cycles, nor did I put myself through unsustainable dietary restrictions at any time. I ate what I wanted, in the time frame I had alloted to keep with the fast, just keeping calorie counts and rough macro proportions in mind. I bought a kitchen scale and I realized just how tiny a serving of pasta was and how many calories it dumped into you.

Where was Dave in all of this? He checked in and followed up. And that’s the thing about folks who choose distance training: it’s all on you. He wasn’t around me at the gym to “motivate” me by shouting in my face about how weak I am. And even if we lived in driving distance of each other, I know he’s not that kind of “trainer.”

Dave, as my distance trainer, served as the mirror that can only tell the truth. He’d review my workout routine and logs and ask me: “why do you choose that movement,” and when I don’t have an answer, I realize that it didn’t serve my goals and I would find something else instead. He also paid attention to my social media updates and would call me out when he saw something that didn’t make sense to him, or perhaps could have been done differently in order to be more effective.

Time is not fungible, and gym time is priceless. Dave helps by making sure you don’t waste that time.

7 months later, I look like this:

Jay After

I am now training to enter a physique competition. I want to do it by next year. It’s going to take much harder work than what it took to get to where I am now. I am not an after. I am still a before. There’s more work ahead, and I know my distance trainer will keep me on track.

Ryan Maier Training Success Story and Distance Coaching

About 2 years ago, I wrote a post about my style of personal training. I didn’t dictate my clients had to do anything. I didn’t just mindlessly put them through grueling workouts, forcing them to lose weight. I didn’t keep them in the dark and allow them to think that training and nutrition is some kind of “magical, mystifying, secretive” black magic that most people do.

In fact, I did the opposite. I informed them why I was having them do the things they did. I educated them on performing movements based on their physiology. I taught them how to do the movements safely and what was going on as they were performing them. I helped them interpret their own psychology which would help them decide their session for the day.

It is always my intent to lose clients. I don’t want clients to stick around for years at a time. I want to educate them. I want them to be able to make their own decisions. I want them to say, “hey, man, I’ve learned so much from you, that I’m gonna take it from here.”

Last night, I saw the most amazing thing. My last client that I’ve trained posted a 2.5 year progress picture. I only trained him for 6 months (if I remember correctly). And after that 6 months, he’s taken control of his own journey, using the tools I taught him. He’s become a real friend and a real personal trainer, passing along the same information I gave to him.

His progress is the reason I started training, and it’s the reason I wish I was still training people. So with that in mind, if any of this sounds rad-tastical to you, I’m open to the possibility of distance coaching. With today’s technology, I can teach you these same things using Facetime, Skype, YouTube, etc. etc. If you’re interested, get ahold of me, and let’s see if we can work something out. But be aware, the price is not “free”.

Thank you, Ryan, and congrats!

Distance coaching transformationP.S. You should totally follow his blog and ‘Like’ Maier Strong on Facebook: Maier Strong | The Pursuit of Better Through Biofeedback

 

Balancing Your Gym and Sport Training

How do you go about balancing your training with your sport? In college it was easy. The coaches forced you to lift weights and work on sprint mechanics. Plus, if you had any dreams of getting on the field, you needed to do those things to beat out your competition. In powerlifting, bodybuilding, weight lifting, figure, strongman, bikini, etc. etc. it’s easy because your training is your sport. But what if it’s just a recreational sport? A sport that doesn’t require you to compete for the starting job? What if it’s something simple like running 5k’s and 10k’s, mountain biking, swimming? Then what? You don’t have a coach breathing down your neck; so how do you force yourself to supplement your sport training with your gym training?

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Climbing Motivation: Magnus Midtboe

Holy crap!! I know a lot of you don’t follow climbing…..wait, let me rephrase that…..I know you don’t know anything about climbing, other than it looks really scary, but you have GOT to check out this video (sent to me by long time e-friend, noogles)!

 

This video is a perfect example of why I think bodyweight training is whack. There is a time and place for everything, but for the people that do nothing but strictly bodyweight workouts, you will never be able to do that kind of stuff. Also, for any climber reading this, notice that he’s doing contra-specific movements as well? By that, I mean, shoulder presses and horizontal presses (1-armed push ups). That is absolutely crucial to keeping your shoulders happy and healthy. You can’t just climb and focus on your back day in and day out. In fact, I’ll boldly say that you would make more progress if you took a day off from the climbing gym once a week and focused on traditional, full body workouts. Of course, there’s a bit of an assumption that you would be doing those workouts properly.

And just in case you’re wondering, the guy can actually climb too. Chris Sharma (a good climber guy that you’ve never heard of) may be the most famous, and in all fairness, the best, rock climber in the world right now, but he’s not the only one that can climb 9.a+/5.15’s. Ca-razy!! I might have a new role model.