Category: Lift Heavy Things
I remember back in the day, you’d see all the bodybuilders at the gym sipping on purple water from those clear shaker bottles. They were drinking water spiked with BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, the idea being the BCAAs provide your body a steady drip of amino acids to maximize muscle hypertrophy and stay anabolic all day long. Heck, even I sipped the purple water when I was trying to gain mass. In more recent years, BCAAs have fallen out of favor, or at least become less “vital” a supplement for people interested in gaining muscle.
However, branched chain amino acids are still among the most crucial amino acids for human health, metabolism, immunity, and hypertrophy. Without adequate intake of the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine, we won’t be able to activate all the metabolic pathways we need to generate energy and utilize macronutrients. Our intestinal health suffers. Our immune system grows sluggish. And, most importantly, without BCAAs we won’t be able to trigger the mTOR pathway necessary for muscle building and repair.
That’s what everyone cares about when they talk about BCAA supplementation: muscle growth and recovery. That’s why the purple water was so common. So, what’s the deal? Do BCAAs work for muscle growth and recovery?
With gyms closed for the foreseeable future, now is the perfect time to expand your home workout. This simple, relatively inexpensive DIY parallettes project sets you up for a wide variety of dip bar exercises. Learn how to make your own parallettes with instructions, a materials list and a follow-along video with Primal Health Coach Brian. This post also includes a breakdown of a dip bar workout for beginners to get you started.
What are Parallettes?
Parallettes or planche bars can support an impressive range of exercises, ranging from beginner to advanced. Sometimes these bars are referred to as pushup bars or calisthenics dip bars, however, those tend to be a bit longer and lower to the ground. Though often associated with gymnasts, parallettes can be invaluable tool for expanding anyone’s range of bodyweight exercises.
I’ll admit, the first time I heard about blood flow restriction (BFR) training, it sounded like a hack to me. BFR training promises that you can do relatively easy workouts and get the same results as if you crushed a hard workout at the gym. Too good to be true, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about less is more: Spend 30 minutes in the gym instead of an hour and a half. Go for a long walk instead of a long, grueling run in the black hole. Simplify your diet. However, I’ve seen fitness trends come and go, so I’m inherently skeptical until I see the evidence for myself.
Once I started to dig into the research, though, it became clear that BFR isn’t just a “get swole quick” gimmick. It’s a well-researched, validated training method used by physical therapists, rehabilitation specialists, and personal trainers to help patients and clients gain strength with minimal musculoskeletal stress. In some situations, it might be the best—or only—option to help someone maintain or gain muscle safely.
BFR was formalized as a training method in the 1970s and 80s by scientist Yoshiaki Sato, who called his technique KAATSU (“ka”=additional, “atsu”=pressure). Research interest has really picked up in the past decade, with a significant spike in the number of publications in the past three years.
I’m pretty sold on the potential benefits, but since you are restricting blood flow, you obviously want to be smart about trying it for yourself.
Before the complex tools, before the projectile weapons and the wheels and the civilization, hominids stood upright and walked—and it made all the difference. Bipedalism freed up their hands to carry objects and manipulate the world around them and see for miles and miles across the horizon. They did all this atop bare feet that closely resembled our own; millions-year old hominid footprints from East Africa look almost identical to ones you’d see today at the beach. Not much has changed down there.
That’s the entire basis for the barefoot running movement. We were born barefoot, we spent the vast majority of our prehistory barefoot and history wearing the scantest of minimalist footwear. It’s only in the last hundred years or so that we began entombing our feet in restrictive leather and rubber carapaces that deform our foot structure and alter our gait and tissue loading. Running in bare feet or in shoes that mimic the barefoot experience can help us move and land the way nature intended, thereby increasing running efficiency and reducing injury risk. The science is sound.
There’s no question that the full squat exercise is an essential, Primal movement, and yet many folks in modern, industrialized society are unable to properly perform one. Kids have good squat form (just watch them at play), but their parents are stiff at the hips with rounded backs and tight knee joints. Many more have been taught – by health experts and personal trainers – that the full squat is dangerous, that it will destroy your knees with wear and tear and render you incapable of normal activity. They say a half-squat is perfectly adequate, or, better yet, get rid of the squat altogether and use the leg extension machine! (Actually, don’t.) Disregard these “experts.” Squatting is a natural movement that humans are built to do. You don’t need to use a ton of weight (or any!), but you do need to be mobile and flexible enough to reach a full squat below parallel. What Do Squats Do? Squats serve a variety of practical purposes: they can help you arrive into a resting position, they’re a proper starting form for lifting, and they work the muscles of the lower body. A proper squat engages and works a host of muscles, like quadriceps, abdominals, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors. When done correctly, squatting can build bone density, a key element in aging well. How to Do a Squat Stand with a comfortable stance. Most will prefer their feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with toes turned out at a slight angle. Lower yourself by reaching back with your butt while maintaining a strong lower back. Keep your knees aligned with your toes and your toes on the ground. Chest up, upper back tight, eyes looking forward and slightly down, head in a neutral position. Maintain a nice cohesive line along your spine. Go just below parallel, so that your butt drops below your knees.Come back up by pushing through the heel. Proper Air Squat Form Air squats, also known as body weight squats, can take pressure off of knees and still provide a ton of benefits. Learn, modify, and perfect your air squat over time using three squat progressions. If you’re already familiar with the motion but finding your squats result in knees caving, lower back or hip joints pain, your form might need a further tune up. Follow along with the video or these three progressions to get your squat into shape. https://youtu.be/1A0msu0FDl8 Squat Progression 1: Use an Assist Find a supportive assist, such as a wall, bar, pole, or the back of a chair – anything that is sturdy and comes to about navel height. Come to a neutral position with feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees and explore your range of motion. Aim to achieve 20-30 of these assisted squats before moving on to Progression 2. Squat Progression 2: No Assist, with a Spot Use a box or a bench to act as a ‘spotter’ while working on your full squat form. When in the … Continue reading “How To Squat with Proper Technique (with Video)”
Back in the day, only the most hard core weightlifters used kettlebells. Now, everyone’s catching on to their effectiveness and versatility. With just 3-4 sizes of kettlebells stashed away behind your sofa, you can do a full-body resistance workout that you feel the next day.
The free weights at the gym are great, but you don’t always have time to get there. Or maybe your gym is still closed. Investing in a few kettlebells will give you the means to emulate some of the more savage strength-building movements that you get with an expensive trainer, without having to leave your house or cough up a membership fee. You can even incorporate kettlebells into your microworkout regime.