Tag: fitness

Rest Pause Training: How to do Myo Reps

The Primal Blueprint is all about maximizing the efficiency of training to reduce the time spent working and increase the time spent playing. If I can figure out the minimum effective dose and get 80% of the benefits in 20% of the time, I’m all for that. It leaves me extra time to spend with my loved ones, play outdoors, go for hikes, or buckle down and get some work done. Especially if I don’t cut any corners or shortchange myself. This is why I love microworkouts, where instead of spending hours in the gym I just do movements and exercises throughout the day—have “exercise snacks”—and accrue a large training load without feeling like I spent all day in the gym.

But microworkouts aren’t the only path to make exercise more efficient, or at least feel that way. There’s also something called rest pause training, or myo rep training.

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Learning Deadlifting: 10 Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

People fear the deadlift. For one, the name itself has the word “dead” in it. Two, they’ve been told for years—often by medical experts—that deadlifts are terrible for your back. “Oh, you might look/feel good now, but just you wait. One day you’ll regret it.”

But they’re wrong. The basic idea of a deadlift is sound and the movement is a foundational human one. If you look at a kid pick something off the ground, they hinge at the hips, maintain a flat back, and pick it up by extending the hips (bringing them forward). Now, there are certainly wrong ways to perform a deadlift. Dangerous ways, methods that can (some might say will) damage your back and put your future health and basic ability to function at risk. The back and all it contains, including but not limited to the spine, is a foundational human structure. It connects to and connects every other part of the body to each other. It’s riddled with nerve endings that start along the spine and run down to every muscle in the body. You ruin your back and you compromise your ability to move through the world. So deadlift, but deadlift properly.

Today, I’m going to lay out proper deadlift form and highlight some common mistakes you might be making when performing it. That way you can safely and effectively integrate the deadlift into your training regimen.

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Common Plank Mistakes to Watch Out For

The plank feels like the simplest movement. Heck, it’s not even a movement, really: it’s holding a still position without movement. It expressly forbids movement. And yet it’s the simple exercises where things can really go wrong.

The plank is simple but not easy. When you’re in the plank position, every fiber of your being is resisting the pull of gravity. You must engage and tighten every inch of musculature in your body to resist collapse. To maintain coherence throughout the line your body forms. During a plank, you are quite literally holding the line against the most omnipresent force in the known universe.

At least in a push-up, you’re moving. You have something else to focus on. For a plank, a lot of the difficulty is mental. You’re just there in the same position, getting more and more tired with each passing moment. You have to sit with the pain.

Okay, so what’s the basic plank form?

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This is Why Your Pull-ups Aren’t Working

The pull-up might be the best measure of overall strength and fitness. As a simple measure of strength, it’s unmatched; you’re actually lifting and moving through space and time an entire human body. It targets almost every muscle in the upper body, and more than you’d think in the lower body. If you want to build muscle or lose body or just get fitter and stronger, there’s no getting around doing a pull-up or two or ten. If I had to choose one upper body exercise to do for the rest of my life, it would be the pull-up.

Pulling your entire weight is hard, though. The vast majority of average people walking around in this world are unable to do a single unassisted, high-quality pull-up. And half of those who think they’re doing pull-ups are doing them completely wrong, setting them up not just for suboptimal results but life altering injuries.

Today, I’m going to tell you why your pull-ups aren’t working and how you can improve them.

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Proper Squat Form: Common Mistakes You Might Be Making

Everyone needs to squat.

The squat is a foundational human movement pattern and resting position. Watch a young child study the ant trail on the ground, and they don’t bend over to gawk at it. They squat down and sit in that squat position comfortably for as long as it takes. Watch Hadza tribesmen cook and share meat around the fire. They aren’t sitting on camp chairs. They aren’t standing awkwardly. They’re sitting in a squat, comfortable as can be. Go to many Asian countries and you’ll see regular people, even elderly people, sitting in a full squat as they wait for the bus or visit with friends.

To squat is to be human. It is to explore and inhabit the full range of our body’s motion. It is to remain mobile, agile, and effectively young. If you can achieve and sit in a full squat at age 70, you’ll be in the 99th percentile and, hopefully, avoid most of aging’s physical ravages and functionality degenerations.

Squatting is also an incredible exercise that targets every muscle in the body, particularly when you do so with added weight. Glutes, hamstrings, quads. Core, lumbar, traps. For that reason, squatting is incredibly anabolic, meaning it provides a total-body hypertrophic stimulus. Anecdotally, people report growing muscle everywhere after picking up a regular squatting habit, even those muscles that aren’t directly involved.

But whether you’re squatting just to maintain the ability to move into that position or squatting to train, you need to do it with proper form.

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What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids and Do They Help Muscle Growth and Recovery?

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?

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Revisiting Fasted Training

I’m a huge fan of fasted training. It feels right, it feels “Primal.” And it jibes with my sense of how life was back in the hunting and gathering days: if you wanted to eat, you had to go hunt, and you had to hunt on an empty stomach (because you didn’t have much food laying around, let alone a refrigerator full of it). This is the natural state of animal life in the wild—get hungry, perform physical tasks to obtain food, eat—and it always made intuitive sense that following that pattern when working out as a modern human would confer special benefits. Our big disconnect nowadays is that food is separate from physical labor. You no longer earn your meal on a visceral, physical level. There are social benefits to this new setup, but there are also metabolic, health, and fitness consequences.

Fasted training could be a way to correct that disconnect and restore the ancient relationship between food and movement. It’s plausible. But what does the research say?

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Blood Flow Restriction Training. What Is It, and Is It Safe?

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.

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How to Gear Up for Winter Exercise

When they ask me about gear for training in the cold, I’m inclined to tell people to just get after it in whatever they have lying around. I was never one for crazy amounts of intricate training gear, cold weather or otherwise. I just don’t find them all that necessary. However, to be fair, I’m not training in extreme cold like some people. While I grew up in a fishing village in Maine, most of my adult life has taken place in warm or mild climates where it never gets colder than freezing and the gear doesn’t really matter.

But for people who do endure extreme cold (and “extreme cold” is relative) and know they still have an obligation to get outside and train, I’ve put together a list of recommendations.

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Don’t Jog, It’s Too Dangerous: Part 2

Dr. DeVany’s title quote has haunted me for years; I typically ponder the significance of this deadpan assertion during my morning jog. “Come on, this can’t be dangerous, can it?” I assert that my morning jog helps me enjoy nature, clear my mind for the impending busy day in front of a screen or microphone, and seemingly contributes to both my fitness base and my health. But only if I go slow!   That is the revelation I have come to appreciate over decades of devoted endurance training. Walking is perhaps most health and longevity promoting activity of them all, the ultimate human experience of life and planet that our genes require daily for healthy functioning. This is especially true as you age. A UCLA study of the elderly revealed that walking more than 4,000 steps a day makes for a thicker hippocampus, faster information processing, and improved executive function. Sedentary folks were found to have thinner brains, lower overall cognitive function and increased disease risk. From a base of frequent daily walking (and other forms of low level movement like yoga), if you are fit enough to jog at a heart rate below “180 minus age” in beats per minute, there is pretty strong evidence that you are boosting health. If your “jogging” routinely drifts above that important MAF cutoff (surely the context for DeVany’s warning), you are likely actualizing the quote and endangering your health. This article details how I destroyed my health during a six-month binge of high volume aerobic exercise (playing Speedgolf, where you run around five miles while playing 18 holes as fast as possible) after a long layoff from real training. I overestimated my aerobic maximum heart rate by 12 beats (and exceeded that beeper limit on the golf course frequently as well!) and experienced that familiar steady spiral into declining energy and burnout. First, I delivered a free testosterone reading that was clinically low—as in, a candidate for hormone replacement. Next, on the heels of a two strenuous workouts in 100-degree temperatures over four days, I found myself in the hospital with extreme dehydration, a ruptured appendix and emergency surgery. Months of complications and follow up surgeries ensued. Doctors might assert that an appendix will blow out randomly, but I’m certain that my problems were driven by the six-month chronic cardio binge. In Case You Missed It: Don’t Jog, It’s Too Dangerous (Part 1) With five months of enforced rest and trading my slightly too difficult cardio for easy jogging and walking (after surgeries), I doubled my testosterone levels—going from clinically low to exceeding the 95th percentile for my age. In the aftermath of the ordeal, which coincided with me hitting the big Hawaii 5-0, I turned my attention to fitness goals better suited for longevity: building power, speed, explosiveness, flexibility, balance, and mobility. I increased my devotion to sprinting and strength training, and integrated the wonderful drills and skills highlighted in the basic running drills and advanced running drills videos and morning … Continue reading “Don’t Jog, It’s Too Dangerous: Part 2”

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