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Kettlebell Push Press – Refining the Details…

I want to give a HUGE thank you to Valery Fedorenko for the videos he’s been posting on YouTube. There is so much to learn in each of them. For me, this what really makes Kettlebell lifting so interesting – the constant refinement and nuances you can find when someone like Fedorenko shows you where to look.

In the video, Valery explains the difference between the Kettlebell Push Press and the Kettlebell Jerk. I know, most everyone “knows” the difference, but there were a few subtle points he brought up that made things very clear to me and gave me some things to work on. I actually commented back and forth with Valery on Facebook regarding the video. This was a BIG help and was greatly appreciated. The magic of the internet age…

REALLY Understanding the Details of the Kettlebell Push Press

So, of course, the next morning I HAD to go out and train the stuff Valery showed in the video. I kept it VERY simple and light:

  • 12kg Kettlebell
  • 1 min Right, 1 min Left, 1 min Right, 1 min Left

Why so little and so light? Two reasons:

  1. I have a weak Strict Overhead Press and a strong Jerk
  2. I wanted to BE SURE that I worked the details and DIDN’T turn the movement into a Jerk.

This is actually one criticism I have for “Speed at Any Cost” training and I’ve spoken about this in my blog response to Robb Wolf on Becoming More Efficient. I think my shoulders have actually become WEAKER because of my pursuit of speed over the last year. When you’re going fast, even if the Rx’ed movement is a Press or a Push Press, you’re going to turn it into a Jerk – especially if your Jerk is strong.

Another point here is that I used time instead of reps. I actually found it difficult to focus on all the things I needed to do to keep a GOOD Push Press going AND count reps. THAT’S how much was going on for me learning-wise. I couldn’t afford the extra attention to count the reps!

Here’s what I learned training the Kettlebell Push Press slowly and deliberately with the points Fedorenko made in the video

I naturally go back to a Jerk when I fatigue – This was interesting. It opened up a new level of understanding of Kettlebell training for me, actually. Here’s the thing. If you’re training the Push Press you need to ACTUALLY train the Push Press. Genius, right? Seriously! If you SAY you’re going to train the Push Press and you turn it into a Jerk, you’re not really gaining anything. At least in terms of the Push Press.

Pressing THROUGH the heels makes all the difference – This was a fundamental thing that Valery pointed out for me. When I Jerk, there is a very quick lift of the heels as I’m pressing up. I honestly can’t even explain the timing of it yet. I’m only just now aware of it because of Fedorenko’s comments to me on Facebook. The lifting of the heels is very quick and natural to me but I find it VERY DIFFICULT to NOT do it during the press. It will take a lot of practice for me to really push through the heels in the Push Press during an entire set, rep after rep, even when I’m fatigued. I currently have to REALLY CONCENTRATE to keep my Push Press from turning into a Jerk.

Maintaining a good Push Press rep after rep isn’t easy – There’s a lot of concentration involved and, if you’re like me, your body needs to REALLY learn the movement. If you naturally tend toward a Jerk when pressing overhead, it’s difficult – and even neurologically taxing – to do a proper Push Press and keep it clean, smooth and strict rep after rep.

Lifting the heels ON THE WAY BACK DOWN makes a big difference, but the timing is very tricky – Lifting the heels and coming up on the toes as the bell comes back down is a part of the Press/Jerk movement I’ve wanted to learn and train for a while. I have a better understanding of the timing now and I’m going to go after training it. It really takes some CONCENTRATION though.

Thanks to Valery Fedorenko for the GREAT VIDEOS and the personal comments that helped me so much

I’ve got A LOT of training to do, but I feel like I have a new appreciation for the subtleties of Kettlebell lifting, thanks to Valery. I also feel like this new appreciation is a GREAT BALANCER for my CrossFit training where speed tends to be King. As I said to my friend Fin on Facebook yesterday, the CrossFit and Kettlebell guys have A LOT they can learn from each other.



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America is the Greatest Nation on Earth

If you’re patriotic, you need to read this. And if you’re NOT patriotic, you REALLY need to read it…

American Flags on Long Island Sound

Every morning that I run or sprint or do whatever I do here in Old Saybrook, CT, this is the view I’m rewarded with at the end of my hard work. I always feel so blessed and fortunate when I get done with a workout that I have such a beautiful place to be and train and work and do what I’m doing. Today, my head was actually noisier than usual (that’s really saying something) and I missed a lot of the beauty and the sights and the sounds and the smells of the little beach area I’m in. I was doing my cool-down and trying to quiet my head when I got to the end of Middletown Avenue. I have been to this beach 1000s upon 1000s of times for almost all of the 38 years of my life and it never looked like it did today.

In addition to the beautiful ocean and the smells and the sounds there were FOUR American flags flying out near Saybrook Town Beach. I’m pretty sure there’s always one. But I’ve never seen the four like that all together.

Flags on Middletown Ave in Old Saybrook Closeup

In that moment, a lot became clear to me.

I actually had such a moment of clarity I got weak for a second. I’ve always been VERY patriotic but I never really “got it” like I did today. I mean REALLY got it.

I am able to enjoy this view every day because people LOVE that flag and are fighting and dying EVERY DAY for it!

I actually walked the 1/4 mile back to the cottage to get my camera and capture this moment. On the way back it ALL come together:

The shit most of us worry about day in and day out is NOTHING. We are blessed to have the freedom to worry about the minor crap we worry about. BLESSED.

So, I’m walking back for the camera and thinking this needs to be a blog post and IT REALLY HIT ME: It’s because this country EXISTS and there are people who will fight and die for it and protect our rights – here and abroad – that I EVEN have a blog to write on!

I can post anything I want, day or night, on whatever topic I want, in whatever way I want, WITH THE PERMISSION OF NO ONE! I have the compete and utter right of free speech to write and publish anything I want. In Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, the rant I published last week asking how much fitness and health ACTUALLY mean to you would have gotten me killed – or worse. Actually, it would have been worse FIRST and THEN killed. And the thing I posted this week about the media and fitness establishment would have meant 5-10 years in prison at the least. We say and do shit in this country that people in other times – and other parts of the world NOW – would be terrified to EVEN THINK.

I’ll never forget a story I heard about a German man (NOT Jewish) on a bus in Nazi Germany on his way to work. It was 1938 and the morning after Kristallnacht. The bus passed a still-burning synagogue and the man said – out loud – the German equivalent of: “It’s shameful to our people this could happen.” The man sitting in front of him on the bus stood up and showed his Gestapo badge. The man was ordered to report to the local Gestapo office at 9am the next morning. He left for the “appointment” and his family never saw him again. No doubt he was on a train and headed to a concentration camp by 11am that day.

I don’t think anyone can TRULY appreciate the freedom and liberty we have in America without knowing the incredible atrocities and horrors that have occurred in this Century and ALL the others. And I mean REALLY know. Put it this way: if you think you know some of the stuff that has gone on in these regimes over the years, there’s one way to make sure. Make sure you became absolutely sick when you read it, heard it or saw it. If you didn’t, you don’t REALLY know.

And this isn’t just stuff that went on “then.” It’s happened long after World War II and it’s happening right now. Ever heard of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge? Pol Pot was a “Cambodian Hitler” in the 60’s and 70’s. He murdered about 1/4 of the ENTIRE POPULATION of Cambodia during his reign.

And do you REALLY know what was going on in Afghanistan and Iraq before we showed up there? Do you REALLY know the freedom those people DIDN’T have? The terror and the abuse that happened under Saddam’s Regime?

Do you know the stuff that’s GOING ON RIGHT NOW in other parts of the world? Check out Amnesty International’s website if you don’t. Make sure you don’t eat first though…

I had a conversation this morning with a 23 year old guy online. He and I agreed on a lot but he was into a lot of the “Oil companies rule America” and “In 10 years we’ll all have microchips in our heads and bar codes on our necks” conspiracy stuff.

I say, Americans are SMARTER AND BETTER than that. And I say we’re going to get it all figured out just fine. (Eventually…)

This is the greatest nation on Earth. If you doubt that, read some “Ayn Rand.” Try “Atlas Shrugged.” At least read Galt’s Speech from the book. If you really believe in the “1984” George Orwell thing, read “Anthem” by Ayn Rand and learn how to prevent it from being that way. Not so sure about the U.S. or Capitalism? Think the European Union Nations are so smart? All excited about National Health Care? Check out Ayn Rand’s “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.”


The United States of America was founded by brave, genius (and somewhat drunk) men who defied the tyranny of the British Crown and committed acts of High Treason – punishable by death – to have freedom and create the free country we live in today. Do you actually know what they were up against? Do you actually know what an act of bravery and defiance it was to SIGN the Declaration of Independence in 1776?

And do you know what the Continental Army was up against? England was the most powerful nation ON EARTH at that time. And we beat them and sent them back across the Atlantic with their tails between their legs. We then proceeded to BECOME the most powerful nation on Earth.

To all of those who have lived and died to create the greatest nation on Earth – THANK YOU. To those who continue to protect it – and us – THANK YOU. And for all those who support them and love them – THANK YOU.

Thank you for the right and the privilege to live my life how I choose and for the right to press “Publish” on this computer without fear.



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Fitness, Health, Money and LIES

I want to thank my friend Darren Rueb for the two articles he recently posted that got my creative juices flowing this beautiful Sunday morning. I also want to thank Darren for saying a lot of what I said in my anti-establishment rant about fitness, health and the crap we get fed in society a bit more rationally and calmly :-)

I figured I’d keep going on those topics and see if I can say what I meant a little more clearly and with less piss and vinegar. Or, at least less vinegar…

Darren’s first article – Fitness Today: How You Measure Up – is essentially a comment on the fitness standards we see all around us and how some of us can have a bit of an inferiority complex depending which side of the spectrum we look toward. If you assume MOST of us sit in the main part of the bell curve we can feel great or awful about ourselves depending which direction we look toward. I’ll argue that those reading this blog and Darren’s stuff will sit a bit further to the right than most, but the vast majority of us will be in that main distribution. If I recall my stats class stuff at all, the hot computer guy and Arnold are going to represent 0.1% of the population EACH and everyone else will be between them with about 70% in the thickest part of the curve – 35% to the right of the line and 35% to the left.

Really Fat Guy and Arnold Schwarzenegger on a Bell Curve

Thanks to JC for the Fat Guy pic!

I won’t go as far as Stuart McRobert and claim that anyone with a bench press of more than 135lbs is a genetic superman who’s also using steroids, but I absolutely will not downplay the genetics thing for a minute.

Regardless of genetics, however, I believe that LIFESTYLE is the single most important – and most overlooked and downplayed – factor in health, fitness, strength and performance. I think a great disservice that occurs in the fitness mainstream – and the media in general – is the downplaying of the importance of lifestyle in building an outstanding, “0.1%” body.

I can vividly recall Flex magazine running pics of Ronnie Coleman in his police uniform – working a claimed 80 hours a week of SHIFT work in the patrol car – while preparing for the Mr. Olympia. Bullshit. Or the old Muscle Media 2000 running pictures of “Dan Gwartny, MD” who supposedly did 100+ hours a week in the ER – while maintaining 4% bodyfat and working out 6 days a week “to relieve stress and stay energized.” Bullshit. Both of those scenarios are obviously impossible – unfortunately, at the time I was reading that stuff I didn’t know better. Some NEVER know better.

While I’m on this topic, I also recall the urban legend that circulated through the science and engineering circles I hung out in during college. Supposedly, there was some guy who worked a full-time job, had a family AND was going to engineering school full time. Of course, he was also pulling straight A’s. Now, no one ever actually SAW this guy. And no one actually KNEW him. They only knew someone who knew him or knew someone who knew someone who knew him… The fact is that MY senior chemistry classes ran pretty much 9-5 Monday through Friday (OK, Wednesday was a light day) and many nights I NEVER SLEPT because I had so much studying to do. Of course, some part of me felt like a loser because I should have also had a full time job and been 250lbs at 3% bodyfat while pulling straight A’s. “All” I managed was a 3.5 GPA with no job, living at home and little weight training and no sleep. What a loser…

I think the frustration of “the guy in the street” is that he thinks he should be able to have that 0.1% body AND do everything else in his life with no problem. This is the image we’re sold in the media. So many people feel inadequate because they think they’re falling short or not working hard enough. Then, they WORK HARDER at EVERYTHING and get even worse results because they get even more fatigued, more scattered, more cortisol, less clear thinking and on and on. I LIVED THIS FOR MORE THAN 10 YEARS.

Seth Godin – who runs THE NUMBER ONE MARKETING BLOG IN THE WORLD – has said over and over again to pick one thing and become the best at it. Here he is saying it in an interview on Technorati.

If you truly are passionate about something, GO DO IT! Don’t believe for a minute that you’re going to be able to do everything all at once. Even Arnold couldn’t do it. He focused on being the best bodybuilder in the world – and succeeded – then he blew up the box office, then he went into politics. He never could have done all 3 at the same time. It would have been impossible. Many have probably tried but we’ll never know, because they never made it…

I think the media likes to promote the “you can have it all” idea for two reasons:

  1. No one likes to think they might have to give up something to get something else
  2. Many, many industries thrive on people being frustrated, misinformed and ready for a quick fix or magic pill

If I wanted to be generous, I might even say that many of the hardworking people who make up the mainstream media actually believe that they CAN have it all. They’re functioning under the same delusion. So the delusion just keeps spreading.

Darren’s other article asks the important question: Fitness vs. Money: What’s More Important?

I think this article and some of Darren’s points follow right along with my point on media conditioning. My current view is that you can – and should – have both health and fitness AND money. I think our current society takes an attitude that you can be healthy OR rich. And if you want to be rich you have to work yourself to death in hopes that “someday” you’ll have enough money to do what you REALLY want to do. If you think this way, read “The Four-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss and see why the thinking is flawed. I bought into this flawed thinking for a long time and I’ve already ranted about it a lot :-)

And, yes, some people are born into money and are able to follow their passion with no worries about paying the bills. But I think that they are few and far between (go back to the Bell Curve above) and that situation comes with it’s own problems.

I’ve read somewhere around 80 self-help/success books to this point and the general consensus is:

  • Clearly define your values
  • Live by them
  • Find what you LOVE to do and figure out how to make money doing it

Tim Ferriss will add to that: Figure out how to make what you LOVE run on autopilot to the greatest extent possible while it’s making you money :-)



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Raw Milk Kefir and the Paleo Diet

I’ve played around with raw cow milk and kefir before and I’ve been using goat yogurt and kefir for a while. I’ve REALLY wanted to switch to raw cow kefir though. I’ve wanted to make the switch not so much because I think cow milk is better than goat milk – I’m not so sure it is – but because I can easily get raw cow milk locally and raw goat milk is a bit harder to get around here.

So, yesterday I substituted raw cow kefir for my usual pasteurized goat yogurt in my shakes. Everything else remained exactly the same for the day. The results? Quiet stomach all day, no gas or bloat and I felt good all day. This morning I’m doing fine as well and all was good in the poop department. Overall, a very successful introduction of a food that is SUPPOSED to be very healthy for me.

Now, the question remains – Is raw cow milk or kefir Paleo? I think the strict Paleo answer is NO! But let’s take a few steps beyond that…

Advantages of incorporating raw milk and kefir into a Paleo diet:

  • Raw cow milk has high levels of digestible protein and LIVE enzymes
  • Raw grassfed cow milk has high levels of CLA
  • Kefir made with raw milk incorporates not only the probiotics from the kefir but also the good bacteria that remains in the milk because it isn’t pasteurized
  • Raw kefir is a lot more digestible than milk
  • Raw cow dairy contains a good amount of saturated animal fats and a ton of other great stuff
  • Raw cow milk from healthy animals contains a high level of Vitamin D

If you move away from the “Paleo” paradigm for a second and just think “primitive” I think you can see that cultured raw milk from grass fed cows on a local farm is about as “early” as you can get in the agricultural time-line. We’re basically talking Paleo plus a few hundred years or so. This is still very primitive and there’s a fair amount of evidence that primitive and hunter gatherer cultures have used raw dairy to good effect.

Another thing I find really cool about making my own kefir is the absolutely HEAVENLY butterfat thing that happens at the top of the jar when the cultures do their thing. That stuff is SO sweet and creamy and full of CLA and who knows what other good stuff!

Raw Cow Milk Kefir

The “making it” process is a little involved and can go wrong sometimes, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. Currently, I’m getting my kefir starter from Body Ecology.

Making Kefir

Really the only thing I have left to do here as far as testing is to keep using the kefir and make sure there isn’t any kind of delayed immune reaction. If I continue to do well on it, I’m going to keep eating it and see how I do. My hope is that the big doses of probiotics I get from the kefir daily will really help out my health and digestion. We’ll see what happens!

[Note: I was ORIGINALLY planning to include a bunch of references here to back up my points in this article. I haven’t found the really good stuff I’m looking for so I’ll update this post as I find better info.]



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Is Bodybuilding Relevant Anymore?

Marcus Ruhl Sleeping

What’s this dude’s Fran time?

I’m not sure what got me thinking about this topic. It might have been seeing old Bill “feels like Deca” Phillips on an early morning infomercial promoting his new book. Or, it might just be that I think too much…

This was originally going to be a somewhat humorous post. I was going to be as objective as possible, but I was planning to poke some fun at the globo-gym style of bodybuilding and training. I felt like I was on the right track when I saw the cover of this month’s Flex Magazine and when I found this Phil Health video where he talks about how he wears a lifting belt during all his training and then proceeds to do overhead presses with about 50% range of motion. (BTW, I’m in no way trying to take anything away from Big Phil. I know what kind of dedication is involved with getting to the level he’s at.)

Flex Magazine Cover

I continue to be blown away when I realize that people still read stuff like Flex Magazine and swallow all the crap they print. In fact, I’m still shocked when I pass a globo-gym (like the Powerhouse Gym we jog or do log carries past when training at CrossFit USA) and see that there are actually people there. I forget sometimes that the whole world hasn’t seen the CrossFit, Kettlebell and Functional Strength light and abandoned the “weights and cardio” nonsense and the isolation exercises and machines. As Stuart McRobert would say, there’s a new crop of young men (and women) who get sucked into the bodybuilding and fitness world year after year, usually after seeing a magazine cover. (Now it’s more like a blog or YouTube vid.) And this new crop serves an important purpose – to replace the old crop who are dropping out due to no results or becoming disillusioned when they learn the truth about the drugs and the lifestyles.

And, apparently, someone is still interested in this stuff. Last month “bodybuilding” was googled 1,220,000 times. There’s hope too, though – CrossFit was googled 1,500,000 times…

I shouldn’t be completely cutting (pun intended) on bodybuilding. Some of my best memories EVER are from about 12 years ago when I was bodybuilding almost full time. Training at Mike Katz’s World Gym in Branford, CT was great times. This was back when Bill Philips was a bodybuilder and not a self-help wannabe guru, ephedrine was cheap and legal and Hammer Strength machines were getting really popular. Hotskins spandex shorts were also popular – and, yes, I had several pairs…

But, this was all we had. It was all there was. There was no CrossFit. There were no kettlebells that we knew of (Pavel was still in Mother Russia, I believe). There was no MMA or UFC either. At least not as we know it today. If you wanted to be hardcore, you were a bodybuilder. It was extreme, it was counter-culture and it was cool. At least to me.

It’s interesting that, for most of it’s history, bodybuilding was the anti-establishment counter-culture thing. I remember training at a gym that catered to soccer moms in Guilford, CT for a while back in the day. You should have seen the weird looks and comments we got as we piled plates on a bar for deadlifts or squats. Now, CrossFit is the counter culture and even the bodybuilders are somewhat of an “establishment” to be mocked and made out to be less-than.

I think we’ve gone wrong here though…

Bodybuilding – depending on how we define it – might not be all that useless

I started doing some research so I could do an in-depth post here and I was surprised to find some really interesting stuff. Among other places online, I found my way over to a newer forum called Anabolic Society. Like another bodybuilding forum I spent a lot of time on back in the day, this one is full of intelligent, cool guys who love to train. Yes, there is a lot of drug talk and information, but there’s a lot of other stuff too. In the Powerlifting/Strength section there was a ton of good stuff about The Westside Method. And this got me thinking…

There’s a lot of value in the “strength” community. I think, as CrossFitters we have a tendency to dismiss something glossy and ridiculous like mainstream bodybuilding and the mags that cater to it. In fact, we’ll dismiss just about anything mainstream that’s related to health and fitness. But we’re also intelligent enough to know when something has value and adapt it to our own evil purposes – The Paleo Diet, The Zone, Olympic lifting, Strongman, etc. And CrossFit has brought together some of the best and the brightest from so many different disciplines. I think it will continue to do so and this is what attracted me so much to the community – the pragmatism.

The best CrossFit cert I’ve been to yet was the Powerlifting cert taught by none other than Louie Simmons himself. Those guys aren’t CrossFitters. In fact, a lot of their methods are quite bodybuilder-like. They train a body part split, they do isolation exercises to some extent. These guys are powerlifters and powerlifters train in a more traditional “gym rat” sort of a style. And you can’t argue with the results Louie’s guys get. They also do some “CrossFit-esque” constantly varied (or at least regularly varied) movement and there’s some functional training in there too.

Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Strongman – Let’s call it the “Strength Community”

Let’s forget Flex and Muscle and Fitness for a few minutes (forever?). Let’s talk about some of the GOOD stuff that has come out of the Strength Community over the years…

There actually has been some real training going on in the bodybuilding world. It may not be functional training and there “might” be some evidence of drug use, but you can’t watch Dorian Yates training in his prime and say he isn’t strong or he isn’t working hard. Dorain was a lot of what inspired me to train when I was in my 20s.

And there are all the guys from Arnold’s era and before. These were some STRONG guys. And some still crossed over and competed in World’s Strongest Man competitions. I think Arnold’s day was about the end of the “realistic” bodybuilder bodies though.

Franco Columbu Deadlifting

Franco and Arnold Squatting

This was the cutting-edge of hardcore training at the time. These guys trained hard and were strong. They probably wouldn’t have had a very good Fran or Helen, but that’s another story. Still, they were strength athletes and they were the best at what they did. And I STILL feel inspired when I see a picture of Arnold in his prime…

There is ONE thing Bodybuilders can do better than anyone else

Put your preconceived ideas aside for a minute and just think about this. Does anyone, anywhere have the in-depth, practical knowledge of body and hormone manipulation that the bodybuilding community does? If I was looking to figure out how to use chemistry to enhance my performance I’d go to the bodybuilding underground. Not Flex magazine but the underground and the internet. There are some smart, smart guys out there who will never appear in a newsstand magazine or have a column in one. As a matter of fact, I’m already looking into some stuff in this community that could have some really positive implications with adrenal fatigue. Don’t worry, it’s legal…

My point is, if you want to talk about nutrient repartitioning, blood sugar levels, nutrient timing, practical protein chemistry, insulin sensitivity, carbohydrate tolerance, etc., the bodybuilding community is the place to go.

If you want to talk about performance enhancement though chemistry, these are some of the smartest and most experienced people out there…

Powerlifting and Strongman are making inroads into CrossFit

As more and more CrossFitters – people have come from highly diverse athletic backgrounds – continue to be exposed to things like Powerlifting and Strongman within the CrossFit community, I think boundaries will continue to break down and more and more of the good, useful stuff from these disciplines will start to infiltrate the community. I also think some of the pharmaceutical and supplement stuff will come with it. And that’s not necessarily a completely bad thing.

I’m not mad at you anymore, Bill…

Actually, I should be happy that my anger with Phillips has finally faded. That only took 12 years. How could anyone be mad at someone who has helped so many couch potatoes transform their miserable lives? Well, once upon a time, Bill ran the best hardcore bodybuilding magazine out there. Muscle Media 2000 (MM2K) was awesome. It was a hardcore, hands-on magazine that had tons training, supplement and even steroid information. It was the real deal and totally cutting-edge. They even jumped on The Zone bandwagon early (this was the mid-90s) and regularly interviewed Barry Sears and published diets and info that went against the low-fat hysteria that was rampant at the time. That magazine was years ahead of it’s time.

It was timely that Seth Godin said this on his blog recently. It made me think of the old MM2K:

“If just one player enters the field and works to make people smarter, the competition has a hard time responding with a dumbness offensive. They can obfuscate and run confusing ads, but sooner or later, the inevitability of information spreading works in favor of those that bet on it.”

This is what Muscle Media 2000 did. They educated their audience, brought supplements that actually WORKED to the market and made the whole drug issue common knowledge. Bill’s company, EAS, was the company that ORIGINALLY brought creatine to the market. They also introduced stuff like HMB and CLA to the market. This was revolutionary stuff at the time. Even though there was no internet then, they had the “social media” thing going on pretty well too. I wrote to Bill a few times and got a personal reply every time. He even sent me some free stuff once.

Then, almost overnight, the magazine completely lost its edge. Bill dropped the very people who got him to where he was and started doing a really watered-down mainstream magazine. It collapsed shortly thereafter. T.C. Luoma, the editor-in-chief of the old MM2K actually describes some of the craziness that went on over there behind the scenes in this audio. Incidentally, T.C. is the guy who originally started T-Nation when he lost his job at MM2K.

Realistic physical role models

One of the things Bill became more and more vocal about when he was on track was the craziness inherent in the hardcore bodybuilding lifestyle. And they published some pretty funny articles that detailed the exploits of the steroid-loaded male AND female bodybuilders and those who liked to be around them. He also spoke out frequently against the hypocrisy of the Weider empire, the side-effects and health implications of steroids (they ran both sides of the issue) and excesses of the bodybuilding sub-culture. For a while, Bill was promoting a “new” bodybuilding that was more about supplements, intelligent training and cutting edge nutrition than drugs and excessive practices. They weren’t completely against using drugs – they promoted an intelligent, conservative and educated approach to using them if someone chose to.

Something that apparently has stayed with me all this time is a push for the realistic physique role models that MM2K started. I think Bill saw the writing on the wall and started moving the magazine toward a more realistic and mainstream “bodybuilder.” In the end, he seriously over-shot the mark. But he was on the right track for a while.

One of the guys that got a lot of exposure was Danny Hester:

Bodybuilder Danny Hester

Danny was in DAMN GOOD shape! And he had an appealing look that was muscular but not freakish. Two other guys who got a lot of press in the old MM2K were Bill’s brother, Shawn Phillips and Joe Lazaro.

Bodybuilder Shawn Phillips

Bill's brother, Shawn Phillips, in the mid-90s

As a matter of fact, Shawn Phillips was one of the first adopters of HIIT training. At least the first that I had heard of. I remember he had this program with stair sprints done in intervals. Sounds a lot like CrossFit, huh?

Here are some of the current CrossFit bodies. Achievable, realistic, healthy AND they perform…

Chris Spealler at the CrossFit Games Jason Khalipa

Another trend regarding role models that Stuart McRobert promoted in his magazine HARDGAINER was the use of pre-60s era bodybuilders. This was before steroids came into widespread use and these were much healthier and more achievable bodies.

Bill Pearl Melvin Wells

A BIG thank you to www.oldtimestrongman.com for the pics!

I wonder if CrossFit, the Paleo movement and kettlebells will combine with stuff like Strongman and Westside to create a sort of hybrid “bodybuilder” who looks great, performs great, values health and maybe even dabbles with some of the less accepted stuff that goes on in the strength community.

My predictions

Here are my predictions for the coming years in the CrossFit community and Physical Culture in general:

  • We’ll continue to see people leave mainstream and globo-gym fitness. More so, I think we’ll see people from other disciplines like bodybuilding, powerlifting and strongman adopt CrossFit methods to make their sports and training better. CrossFit methods work.
  • In the CrossFit community I think we’ll continue to see the drive toward specialization and sub-niches, particularly in the strength disciplines. I think there are going to be some CrossFit strength (Oh! I better brand that!) sub-niches springing up as things like powerlifting and strongman continue to infiltrate CrossFit.
  • I think the kettlebell community will remain relatively fractionated and unchanged. And most CrossFitters will continue to swing kettlebells ALL WRONG. I, for one, plan to get more Kettlebell Sport into my training this year and see where it takes me.
  • Within the next year or two, I think there will be more experimentation with supplements, gray-market pharmaceuticals and more in some CrossFit niches. Most notably, these will be the ones with a strength bias and a lineage that traces back to established strength sports.
  • Paleolithic diet and lifestyle are going to really take off and get big. Owing in part to CrossFit and part to the poor health that’s getting more and more prevalent around us, Paleo is going to get really big and popular. It will be interesting to see how anyone REALLY capitalizes on Paleo since you can’t really sell a supplement to people who eat a primitive diet.
  • I also think Robb Wolf’s new book – The Paleo Solution – will be one of the main factors in bringing the lifestyle mainstream. His style and attitude are so accessible and “un-guru-like” that I think he’ll break down a lot of barriers without even trying.



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Are we Paleo Dieters CRAZY or smarter than all of ’em?

I was reading Mark Sisson’s Weekend Link Love post this morning. Mark always has good stuff in these posts. I was intrigued and frustrated at the same time with one of the articles he put in a link for. The article was about an eating “disorder” called “orthorexia nervosa.” The article title was “Healthy food obsession sparks rise in new eating disorder – Fixation with healthy eating can be sign of serious psychological disorder.”

Here are some choice quotes with my comments:

Other eating disorders focus on quantity of food but orthorexics can be overweight or look normal. They are solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies…

So, being concerned with the QUALITY of the food I put in my body makes it possible that I have an eating disorder? I suppose the 75 or so diet books I have in my house would further solidify the case against me… What about the people who couldn’t give a shit WHAT they put in their bodies? What disorder do THEY have? And maybe, with the monster that is our industrial food establishment running lose, we SHOULD be concerned with the quality of food we put in our bodies. Being that 90% of what’s commonly available isn’t real food…

Orthorexics commonly have rigid rules around eating. Refusing to touch sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, corn and dairy foods is just the start of their diet restrictions. Any foods that have come into contact with pesticides, herbicides or contain artificial additives are also out.

Sounds like a healthy diet to me so far. Can you give me one single HEALTH reason TO eat any of those things? (Never mind how good that first cup of coffee tastes in the morning.) So, again, we’re making a case for avoiding unhealthy stuff being a disorder. I also avoid crack and heroine. Is avoiding those a disorder too? If it is, does Pfizer make a pill to fix me?

“It’s everywhere, from the people who think it’s normal if their friends stop eating entire food groups, to the trainers in the gym who promote certain foods to enhance performance, to the proliferation of nutritionists, dietitians and naturopaths who believe in curing problems through entirely natural methods such as sunlight…”

Yeah, wouldn’t want to treat anything through something crazy, untested and dangerous like sunlight. Stay out of the sun, but lets take half a dozen pills 3 times a day to fix the health problems we have that are mainly caused by diet. And where did these “entire food groups” come from anyway?

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes:

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)



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Overtraining and Adrenal Fatigue

Kettlebells, a Med Ball and a Chalk/Puke Bucket

My "Home Gym"

There’s no shortage of writing on overtraining as it relates to weight training, bodybuilding and even newer pursuits like CrossFit and kettlebells. Anyone who has spent time training hard in any form of athletics is going to be aware of overtraining and likely the symptoms of overtraining.

Currently, there’s a lot of talk about “Adrenal Fatigue” as well. A lot of the adrenal fatigue information is outside of the training world and it’s a pretty big deal in the “Alternative Health” industry. In fact, sometimes I think it’s just a catch-all diagnosis a lot of Naturopaths give when the don’t know what else to say.  But, there is also starting to be some good and real information and awareness of Adrenal Fatigue in the CrossFit community. This is mainly due to guys like Robb Wolf and OPT.

I’ve been thinking more and more about Adrenal Fatigue and find it interesting that 10 years ago no one had ever heard of it. At least I hadn’t and certainly the bodybuilding training community wasn’t talking about it. What’s interesting is I certainly HAD adrenal fatigue at a few other times in my life and guys like Stuart McRobert WERE talking about it. They just weren’t calling it Adrenal Fatigue – they were calling it overtraining. Once you change the term and understand the symptoms, you’ll find stuff about Adrenal Fatigue everywhere in good, complete and responsible training related writing.

Is Adrenal Fatigue really just another name for Overtraining?

I originally approached Robb Wolf about nutrition coaching. We’ve done a bunch of phone sessions at this point and the results have been great. What I didn’t expect is all the training advice he gave me. The basic deal is, I’m supposed to be doing powerlifter and strongman stuff at a relatively low intensity and my CrossFit Met Cons are no more than 1-2 a week and always less than 75% perceived effort. Somewhat of a difficult prescription to take, but definitely needed. In fact, when I do over do it with the training I can really feel the fatigue the day after. The point, according to Robb, is to train and stimulate the body – and have fun – without dipping too deeply into my reserves. No “seeing the White Buffalo in the sky” after a Met Con as Robb would say.

Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. If you constantly crush yourself in your training you won’t really be able to progress. This brings in the concept of Periodization as it relates to training as well. Periodization of training and effort is a whole other topic – and an art and science – in and of itself…

Finding some classic and definitive work on Overtraining

I’ve recently been reading some of Stuart McRobert’s outstanding older stuff. Notably Beyond Brawn and Further Brawn. There is so much great stuff in there! Stuart is huge on avoiding overtraining. Rightly so. If you are overtrained you simply WILL NOT progress in your chosen endeavor – whether that’s powerlifting or weight training where the goal is more weight or reps or CrossFit where the goal is (usually) a faster time with the weight held constant. Overtraining will pretty much kill your progress in whatever you’re trying to excel in.

Here’s Stuart’s take on the relationship between training, gaining and resting from Beyond Brawn:

“As long as you’re truly training hard and seriously, and really are eating, resting and sleeping well, if you’re not gaining well, then you’re almost certainly overtraining. You need to find the amount and frequency of training that does the job of stimulating increases in strength and muscular size, but without exceeding your ability to recuperate. Some people need to abbreviate their training more than do others.”

Stuart makes a great point that is profound on a number of levels:

1.    His statement really makes you look at your program. If you actually ARE eating and resting as you should and training hard, then not gaining means only one thing – you’re overtraining. Could it be any simpler?
2.    Since most CrossFit types are probably training “hard and seriously,” Stuart’s statement pretty much leaves you with eating, resting and sleeping as the places where you’re messing up.
3.    There is some implied “individuality” in here when he says “Some people need to abbreviate their training more than do others.” As a side note, guys like Robb Wolf and James “OPT” Fitzgerald have elevated individualizing program and diet to an art form. This kind of stuff is what’s been missing from athletic training since day one.

For Stuart and in the “bodybuilding world” in general, the most common variable to work with is training frequency. I can remember in my peak bodybuilding days (Is bodybuilding even relevant anymore?) that taking an extra day off from training was enough to ensure a great workout when I went to the gym next. In fact, when I got into the Dorian Yates and Mike Mentzer “Heavy Duty” style training I made my best progress ever. And that was with a MANDATORY 1 day off completely between workouts and sometimes 2 days.

But bodybuilding doesn’t live here anymore

What I want to add to all of this is that there’s more to adjusting your training than just frequency – particularly within the context of CrossFit style training and training in multiple disciplines (CrossFit, Mixed Martial Arts, Kettlebells and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in my case). When all you do is “weights and cardio” 3-4 times a week, regulating frequency makes sense and can be pretty easy to do. But what happens when you train more days than not. What about multiple sessions per day? I’m not talking about typical gym obsession or that weird reverse anorexia some would-be bodybuilders get. I’m talking about when you have several disciplines you’re training in, multiple training goals and need to keep regularity and consistency in your training schedule.

Today was a scheduled training day but I was very overtrained from the previous week. Rather than skipping training today (regulating frequency) I opted to leave frequency constant and train lighter and easier instead (regulating intensity). At first this might seem to be antithetical to most training doctrines. Power and weightlifters will tell me I’m wasting recovery on sub-maximal poundages when I could wait a day or two and hit a more intense workout. CrossFitters would say similar because, well, every second counts and why come in and train with the intention of taking it “easy?”

I think this method – regulating training load rather than frequency – has some distinct advantages:

  • It keeps you in the groove. Particularly in martial arts, kettlebells and CrossFit, there is A LOT of stuff to learn and perfect. Too much time off can really get you out of your groove and feeling like you’re rusty and clunky on everything that requires any technique. Pavel calls lower intensity practice-style training “greasing the groove.” There’s so much technique to learn and perfect, these lower intensity “practice” sessions can keep technique progressing while your body gets a rest from higher intensity training. Robb Wolf talked about this very same concept in his Paleolithic Solution Episode #33 podcast and I’ve blogged about the topic of becoming more efficient in response.
  • For me there is also a big mental and adrenal health component to all of this. Mentally I feel better if I train every day or close to it. I also feel energetically better throughout the day on training days. And therein lies the problem. You can’t train intensely every day and, if you tried to, any mood or energy benefits would quickly evaporate as you fatigued and fell into overtraining and adrenal fatigue. So, very often, the “technique” or efficiency work can have a place in getting the body some work without digging into reserves.

A non-weightlifting version of the “hard all the time” mistake would be something dumb I did last year. I love to run. I’m not particularly good at it, but I really enjoy running outside when the weather is nice. I don’t run more than a few miles at a time and I like to do hills and somewhat challenging routes. It’s a “brief and intense” version of running as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, last spring I was running about 4-5 times a week and was progressively going further and doing more difficult runs. I did one great run of about 40min with a bunch of hills – probably the hardest one I’ve done in a long time. The mistake I made what that I tried to make my new personal best my regular route. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB! I should have taken a day or two off from running and then done SHORTER and LESS CHALLENGING runs while I recovered and consolidated those gains.

Stuart McRobert also talks a lot about cycling of training intensity and a “gaining momentum” within weightlifting. I reread that chapter in BRAWN and had the realization that the “gaining momentum” period he’s talking about is very likely brought about by a period adrenal rest and recuperation from the lower training intensity as well as the adrenal stimulation from the lower intensity exercise. Most of the Adrenal Fatigue books I’ve read recommend “light to moderate” exercise to stimulate and heal the adrenals. If you look at the lower intensity “gaining momentum” part of a workout cycle you can pretty easily correlate that with a high degree of adrenal recovery and gentle, healthy stimulation from exercise. This sets up a healthy hormonal environment that supports the very hard work to come in the later stages of the cycle.

So now what?

I’m still working with this concept a lot and I’m not sure I can give any really firm recommendations. What I will say is to start looking at how you have your training intensity cycled – no matter what type of training you do – and begin thinking about how you can cycle your intensity, periodize your training and get some lighter skill-based work into your training.

It’s a hard thing – to back your training off – when you want to progress. But in many cases, the way foreward is a few steps back.



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What is a “Caveman Diet” Anyway?

These are the questions that come to me at odd times. I was about to get into the shower when, out of nowhere, I had the thought: “Does the term ‘Caveman Diet’ really have any value or meaning? I’ve been guilty of using the term myself a few times. When you’re talking to someone who doesn’t really know what a Paleolithic or Paleo Diet is – and might not even know what “Paleolithic” means – sometimes it’s easier to just say “Caveman Diet” and leave it at that. But this got me thinking about the different diets and the names we have for them.

In some cases, there’s a marketing or branding thing going on. Dr. Loren Cordain wrote “The Paleo Diet” and that’s a brandable name. In fact, it’s trademarked. The “Paleolithic Diet” is basically the public domain version of that name. And it means the same thing. Now, in the CrossFit community, everyone just says “Paleo” and that’s that. Even people who would differentiate themselves from Cordain and “The Paleo Diet” brand will shorten Paleolithic to Paleo in conversation.

One thing I can say for sure about the term “Caveman” is that the media likes it. Probably because it’s descriptive, simple and piques curiosity. They can even incorporate a little Geico humor into article titles: “Paleolithic diet is so easy, cavemen actually did it.” I say, anything that gets the Paleo (there, I used the “slang” myself) community some good press is great. This is a real movement that’s happening and I believe the implications are going to be huge. But, the question remains: “What exactly is a caveman diet?”

With that question in mind, I decided to some digging.

The Caveman Diet

Early this year, The New York Times did a piece called: “The New Age Cavemen and The City.” It was definitely a good article (And it was in the Fashion section of all places!?!). John Durant from hunter-gatherer.com was front and center in the article. They also mentioned Cordain and Tony Budding from CrossFit got to comment too. But all through the article, the authors and the interviewees revert back to the “Paleo” term. As a side note, I checked google AdWords today and “Caveman Diet” is searched over 22,000 times a month – someone is talking about it. The New York Times article had some other interesting stuff in it including a mention of Art De Vany. I hadn’t heard of him until now and his blog looks pretty interesting. I’ll be checking that out later.

More digging didn’t really turn up much. As far as I can tell, Caveman Diet is interchangeable with Paleolithic or Paleo and no one is really trying to brand it. Or, if they are, they’re not doing it very well because I can’t find anything but Paleo references in articles that come up for “caveman diet.” I will say that newspaper articles with Jim Durant seem to include the Caveman Diet term an awful lot…

As a funny aside, WebMD has an article called “Eating Like a Caveman” and referred to Paleo eating as “The Flintstones Diet.” Some friends of mine joked once that Fruity Pebbles must be Paleo…

I see this as an exciting time. The world is changing rapidly and a great diet and lifestyle – Paleolithic – is getting a good amount of positive exposure in the press. It works for me…

I predict that, sooner or later, the Paleolithic way of eating will be widely recognized as the template for a healthy human diet and the technology we currently communicate with is going to drive that recognition. Ironic, to say the least.



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