dagoski: Emperor Norton I of the Bear State Republic (Default)
[personal profile] dagoski

I started packing the moving truck today. Michelle and I have a lot of books. I never did throw out my old Physics and Chemistry books. Surprisingly, as I begin a doctorate in the social sciences, I'm find them useful references even now. Michelle has a boatload of Biology and Medical textbooks. Actually, the medical texts are mine now that I think of it. This is why I had to cancel my Science Book Club subscription. I just sorted hoovered up everything. Plus I have computer books, Information Science books. Then there's all the tomes on Cognitive Science, Linguistics, Economics, History, Anthropology and Military Science. I don't even want to think about all the Math books and gaming texts. Anyway, we're bibliophiles and we move. There's a trick to it. The primary trick is staying in shape. That's what I'm going to blather about today.


A while back, I posted a barely coherent rant about stupid stuff that people do in the weight room. Today, I'll talk a little about what you should do and some theories that I have about weight training. I've been lifting weights about 29 years. I got a home weight set when I was about thirteen. That means I got my first barbell set when I was around thirteen. I was getting tired of having guys thinking they could actually take me in a fight back then so I wanted to bulk up enough to discourage them from even trying. Worked pretty good too. Of course I was doing some dumb things with weights that almost crippled me one year. A torn trapesius muscle is among the most painful injuries you can have. Around that time I also started studying Kung-Fu in an At Risk Youth program in a neighboring city. That program was intense! The instructor had started out training in Chinese Opera. He switched to Martial Arts after winning an argument with his father. The was a proviso of course: He could follow his dream and become a High School teacher only if he mastered traditional Chinese Martial Arts. This guy's partner in instruction was formerly a gymnast who barely missed selection for the Olympics before he went into college. So the program was truly cinematic and we learned how to do stuff you don't see outside of movies. I'm not sure if the school was Wing-Chung, Huang-Gar or Panzer Kunst but I got bad ass and looked the part in that program. Entering college, I got out of shape pretty quick because I didn't take my barbell set and no longer had access to my surfing beach or the cinematic martial arts program. So I turned to the weight room where I received instruction from a number of interesting individuals. I learned a lot of my technique from an Olympic medalist who was paying her way through school by managing the weight room and from a guy who held the regional body building title. I'm not sure if I'm expert but I've been doing a lot of hard physical training for a long time. And, I do seem to have the GURPS advantage, 'Trained by a Master'.

All this is a long winded way of saying that I've tried almost everything in weight training and come up with a few original ideas. One of the things I've learned is that impressive looking muscle can be utterly useless. Bodybuilders are not athletes though their art is athletic. Bodybuilders are sculptors who use their own bodies as their medium. As a result, they do some very contrived exercises that you would probably never use in the real world. My Martial Arts training taught be that coordinated use of even weak muscles generates a lot of force. The first time the little thirteen year old girl in class throws you back with a kick you're a believer. With my strength, I could blow all but the biggest partners across the room. In a punching drill I once knocked a practice mitt from partner's hand and beaned sensei in the head with it. It's not a strength thing per se, but rather a result of many muscles working towards a single goal. If you ever get a chance to watch an Olympic Powerlifting competition, look closely at the contestants. They're often not as big and powerful look as you'd expect. Now watch their technique during the lift. It's amazing to see! Their technique lifts the weight not their strength.

So, when I redesigned my routing the other year I decided to draw on lessons learned from Martial Arts training and from watching a couple of Olympic weightlifters in the Upenn gym. Prior to that I had been doing a variety of bodybuilding exercises and working out body parts on specific days. There's nothing so very wrong with this. I just found myself forgetting which day was which. I also found myself dissatisfied with the results. Oh, I looked damned strong. However, everyday lifting in a tech environment might throw my back out. First thing I wanted to do trim my schedule to a two day cycle. I had been on a three day rotation and it was getting confusing. Next, I shifted the focus of my work out to movements I might actually use. The Olympic techniques looked like they had applications in venues other than the gym. A reading of Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength confirmed my hunch. He detailed all the applications for each exercise and showed how they mimic movements in sports. Lastly, useful strength can be thought of in terms of moving one's own body weight. So I took a page from Martial Arts conditioning. Traditionally, the Asian Martial Arts do not use weights. Instead they have devised diabolical variations on push ups and other such movements. So the principles for my current routine were Development of Usable Strength and Minimum Complexity.

To minimize complexity, I tried something I read about in The New Rules of Lifting, the Push/Pull rotation. It's a two day cycle that starts with exercises which employ pushing movements(loosely interpreted) and ends with pulling movement(again loosely interpreted). This cycle both gives muscles a day off and ensures that all sections of the body get a workout each day. Next, I put three exercises at the center of the plan. The first is the Squat. Squats are done with a bar either across your shoulders and behind your neck or across the shoulders in front with arms folded to create a cradle for the bar. This is called a Hack Squat. Squats develop the strength used in jumping and shape up your legs and butt right good. And, because you're free standing in this exercise, your back, abs and oblique muscles—everything in the core of your body—join in and get a workout too. I despise machines because they lock out the contributing muscles and never teach you to coordinate. The second exercise is the Clean and Jerk or Clean and Press as I usually do it. This is a two step exercise that starts on the floor. You grasp the barbell, stand up and, right as you achieve you maximum height, you rapidly dip down and flip the bar up to your collar bone, preferably rolling it back on your fingers. My fingers lack the flexibility owing to my penchant for psychotic Kung-Fu exercises earlier in life. Once you've brought the weight to your collarbone, you drive up, forcing the weight over your head. If you only have time for one exercise, make it this one. The Clean and Press takes in your entire body! It develops the kind of explosive power used by football players, boxers and anyone who might have to shove hard against an immovable object. This exercise also helps you push a disabled car off the road. The last exercise is the Dead lift. In this movement, you start with the barbell on the floor, grasp it with both hands and squat down. Now you stand up and take the weight with you. It's a slow exercise that teaches you how to effectively support a burden. This is the exercise that helps you on moving day. You can stack a dolly high with book boxes and lower it down two flights of stairs with no risk of injury once you get good at the dead lift. To round out the hour or so I spend lifting weights with Michelle in the morning, I include supporting exercises and do many of them with my own body weight. Many beginners will not be able to use their body weight at first. Never fear, most gyms have machines which provide you with an assist as you work up to your full body weight. The plans I present below have many redundant exercises. I like redundancy. In engineering it adds a margin of safety. In weight training redundancy tires your muscles our completely leading to development during the recovery time. The plan also assumes a six day schedule with one day off to do something physical that's purely fun. For Michelle and I this is often a forty mile bike ride. Sounds more impressive than it is. We just head out on good touring trail at a moderate pace and enjoy the sights.




Situps or crunches: 3 sets, do til exhaustion.

Bicycles: 3 sets, do til exhaustion

Leg Lifts or Roman Chair Sit Ups: 3 sets, do til exhaustion


Push Ups: 3 sets, do til exhaustion

Squats: 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps. Use as much weight as you safely lift.

Clean and Press: 3 sets, 4-8 reps. Don't go too heavy and stop if light headed.

Dips: 3 sets, do til exhaustion. Don't use more than own body weight.

Leg Extension Machine: 3 sets. Gives upper body a break

Bench Press: 3-4 sets 6-12 reps. As much weight as is safe for you.

Alt. Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets. Do standing, not seated.

Delta Push Up: 3 sets do til exhaustion. Described below.

Toe Press: 3 sets. Pile on the weight. Builds good calf muscles.

Triceps Push Down: 3 sets.


There's a lot of exercises here. You can cram this into an hour if you work yo' ass and don't socialize. The Delta Push Up is a crazy little thing I learned in my crazy little Kung-Fu program. Put your arms out. Bring your hands together. Make a triangle with your two thumbs as the base and your forefingers forming the sides. You should have an isosceles triangle. Now put that down on the ground such that it extends from your solar plexus and put your legs out in push up position. Now lower yourself and raise yourself again. Feel the burn? Feels like your arms are gonna fall off? Good. You're doing it right. You won't be able to do very many of these to start. I can only manage ten on a good day. This exercise builds scary big triceps that makes you look like you've done time and develops some real striking power. Don't do too many reps on the Clean and Press. It's a hard exercise that can leave you out of breath. Have someone show you this exercise and look it up in Rippetoe's book. For squats, you're ultimate goal is twice your body weight. You're real strong when you can do that.




Situps or crunches: 3 sets, do til exhaustion.

Bicycles: 3 sets, do til exhaustion

Leg Lifts or Roman Chair Sit Ups: 3 sets, do til exhaustion


Dead Lift: 3-6 sets, 4-8 reps. Shoot for 1.5 times your body weight.

Wide Grip Pull Ups: 3 sets, do til exhaustion. Use the assist machine if needed.

Alt. Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets, 8-12 reps. Do standing, but don't swing body.

Front Shoulder Raise: 3 sets 8-12 reps. Do standing, no higher than shoulder.

Leg Curl: 3 sets 8-12 reps.

Narrow, Parallel Grip Pull Ups: 3 sets do til exhaustion. Hands face one another.

Preacher Curl: 3 sets 8-12 reps. Don't use too much weight.

Lateral Raise: 3 sets 8-12 reps. Light weight.

Lunges: 3 sets 8-12 reps. Not really a pull, but very good for legs.

Dumbbell Row or T-Square Row: 3 sets, 8-12 reps.

Lat Pulldown: 3 sets 8-12 reps. Redundant with pull ups.


This workout is shorter than the push rotation. It does however include two difficult exercises. Most people find the pull ups hard. The two here are not redundant. The difference in grip changes the muscles used entirely. The narrow grip pull up gives you the kind of strength used in climbing.







dagoski: Emperor Norton I of the Bear State Republic (Default)

July 2011

2425 2627282930

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 05:46 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios