Must-read book on physical fitness

The sun’s out in beautiful Copenhagen and I’ve been hanging out with the baby and a good book. My wife works every other Saturday which means I’m at home with the baby. I pretty much always go for a long walk and as soon as Laura falls asleep, I sit down with a good book. Great way to spend a morning.

Recently I’ve had this puppy in my pack:
Fit is authored by Kilgore Hartman and Lascek – names you may or may not recognize, so I’ll give you a (very) brief bio on them.

Kilgore: Wrote Starting Strength and Practical Programming with Mark Rippetoe.

Hartman: is a doctor in Exercise Physiology

Lascek: Studied under Rippetoe and worked for him for a couple of years and runs 70sbig.com. Has written a small handful books.

These guys are not just random bums, they know which way is up on a barbell for sure.

What ties them all together in a way is their connection to Mark Rippetoe, though they’re very far from being mini-Rips. You’re not gonna find any “YNDTP” statements in this book, and you’re not gonna find any insults. These guys are very nice and the book is great and informative.

What really sets Fit apart is the parts on cardiovascular training and specifically multi-modal or cross training. This book has none of the “DO STARTING STRENGTH OR BE AN IDIOT”-bravado, but instead focusses on meeting the reader at a common ground. For most people, simply squatting, deadlifting and pressing all the time is not gonna get them to where they want. Most people want something that gets the heart beating a little faster now and then.

This books describes in a detailed but readable way how to implement different kinds of cardiovascular training or even (*gasp*) CrossFit into your training without killing your precious GAINZ.

I’d recommend it to anyone interested in strength, health and fitness. Check it out here:

I hate to admit this

This is really embarrassing for me, but I gotta put it out there.

It’s no secret that I’m big on simple, old school strength training. That just makes it even more odd that I’m only just finishing up Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. Many years ago I wanted to get it, but got Practical Programming instead. Now I know that’s the wrong way to do it.

Starting Strength is really one of the first books you should read on strength training. But for some reason it’s a bit like the Bible – nobody has read it, yet everybody has an opinion on Rip’s teachings. Especially the “hip drive” part.

Rip puts it very clearly in the book though: the hip drive does NOT mean you change your back angle.

Instead of cueing “chest up” or something similar, Rip uses the hip drive. Why? Because an exaggerated chest up-position kills the power from the posterior chain. That simple.
You may not agree with the style Rip teaches the squat, and you may want to squat with a different (higher) bar position. That’s fine. I still believe you should read this book (multiple times) as it does a great job of explaining in detail the physics of lifting.

Something as simple as explaining WHY it’s safe to squat deep. Most people who train seriously know it, but if somebody you coach ask you why – you better have a better answer than “because I say so” or your coaching career is gonna be real short.

Rip has a reputation for saying “YNDTP” (You’re not doing the program) and being very set in his ways. I guess it’s got a lot to do with the retardedness of people on the internet. If one guy asks you if he can “run a little on the side” and you say “sure, you can run 2-4k on saturday at an easy pace” before you can drink a gallon of milk, he’s out there running 10k 4 days a week. Afterall, the basic program outlined in the book is not a “for life” kind of program. It’s an all-or-nothing assault on weakness and lack of bodyweight. Oh and Rip actually recommends that people with 20-25% BF control their carbs and eat a paleo-type diet WITHOUT the gallon of milk. The milk part is only for the skinny folks.

And you know what? It’s pretty good advice. If you can stay on a linear progression for just twelve weeks you’re gonna add 90 kg to your squat. You NEED tons and tons of calories to make that possible.

Starting Strength is not just a great book. It’s a great philosophy on how to approach strength training. Start off by going all-in on building a foundation. Disregard your abs – they’re easy to dig out again later. Keep adding weight and pushing your bodyweight up until you’re at ~20% bodyfat.

Stick to the linear progression as long as you can. Then dig deeper, eat more and stick to it a couple of weeks more. COMPLETELY exhaust the linear progression. Then reset and go at it again. Six months of basic barbell training is the best gift any training can give themselves when they’re starting out.

Everything is easier when you’re strong(er) and big(ger). Getting lean is easier, playing sports is easier, conditioning is easier and getting laid is easier.

What’re you waiting for?

Get the book here: Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training and get started. It’s NEVER to late to start over.

Bodyweight bonanza!

Recently I’ve been adding more bodyweight exercises to my training. I used to do quite a bit of BW-stuff, and I’d forgotten why. I hope I’ll keep the memory fresh this time around. I’ve also pulled up my old copy of this book:

I think it’s a really great book that’s easy to read, practically oriented and informative. It has 60 different progressions split into 6 exercise categories plus tons of other great information. With BW-training – inspiration for exercises is key as minor changes in leverages can make a movement a lot harder/easier and help you progress. I’ve also ordered a couple of other books as well as bought a couple of apps (I’ve provided links to these at the bottom).

What’s so good about bodyweight training, you might ask?

  1. Controlling your body is essential in pretty much any sport and in life. Weight training should always begin with a decent foundation of calisthenics.
  2. Bodyweight training will build strength and muscle, just like weight training. There’s nothing inherently muscle-building about lifting weights. Muscles respond to stimuli, not specific equipment. If you’re able to do ten push ups today and two months from now can do ten perfect 1-arm push ups on each arm, all of your beach muscles will be bigger and stronger.
  3. Bodyweight training is not about endurance!!!! I can’t stress this enough. For the uninformed it might be, but if you know exercises progressions, you can stay right in the 5-15 rep zone.
  4. Most bodyweight exercises have a balance/stability component, which makes them more difficult. This is good and bad. Bad for absolute strength/mass, good for longevity.

Depending on your goals (obviously) bodyweight training isn’t going to be the optimal training form, so don’t sell your Eleiko bar just yet. It does however provide a valuable tool in the toolbox and can be used (especially for athletes and older/banged-up lifters) be a great way to get some more work done, without loading up your spine.

smuknumse

Personally, I used bodyweight exercises to accomplish three things:

  1. Get me warm. This is an absolute must for everybody. I go through a list of about ten exercises I find invaluable. I also use calisthenics in my extended warmup. Though unintentional, this fits perfectly into Rooney’s hierarchy of training: 1. Feel good. 2. Relative strength.
  2. Feel good. There’s something almost magical about calisthenics that makes you feel better. They also usually force you to stabilize most of your body, which is a great way to strengthen yourself from feet to forehead.
  3. Cardio. A handful of rounds of something as simple as push ups, squats and sit ups will make you sweat and breathe hard. Just don’t go full retard and do insanely high reps – even though you’re just using BW, you can still get (very) sore. This is particularly true for lunges.

How does it fit in a “regular” training program?

  • As your first or second supportive exercise after the main lifts
  • Instead of everything but the main lift when deloading
  • On a separate weekly training day at home
  • As a short cardio piece at the end of a session

I don’t think anyone should go 100% BW, but I do think it’s a great supplemental way to train. It also has the added benefit of being pretty much the only kind of training where you get stronger as you lose weight, which is great motivation when you’re recomping.

Recommended books/apps:
You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises

Gorilla Workout app – great inspiration for short BW circuits. I use these for cardio and extra abz.

Sworkit – another great little tool. I particularly like the 5 minute stretch. Yay wellness.

Rooney’s Pushup Warrior – has a billion different pushup variations

Dan John’s “Intervention” – a(nother) book review.

Just four short days ago I got Intervention in the mail. I managed to sneak in quite a bit of reading time over those four days, but the book is very easy to read and understand. But it’ll grow on you as you apply its principles.

If you don’t already know DJ, you’re missing out. He’s a phenomenal writer and an absolute top-tier coach.

It’s very hands-on and practical and offers a ten question checklist and five principles you can apply to anybody. Very easy to use, but amazingly precise and innovative in its own simplistic way. That’s the beauty of DJ’s writings. Everybody can understand it, but getting to the realizations yourself might take a lifetime of training. Speaking of lifetimes of training, DJ has one on his resume and it shows.

This is by far THE best book on coaching myself and others I’ve read for a long time, and I’d say it’s a must-read for ANYONE who teaches any kind of fitness at any level. It’s that good.

It’s the kind of book you read and re-read several times over an extended period, because it’ll grow with you. It also doubles as a great source for looking up specifics.

This actually reminds me I need to read Never Let Go again. For aspiring coaches and self-trained athletes, I suggest you get Intervention first and work with the principles for some time. Never Let Go can be used for added flavoring.

The book is just extremely well-written with a great approach to teaching the five basic movements (push, pull, hinge, squat and carry).

Read it soon rather than later.

Jim Wendler “Beyond 531” Joker sets for dummies

So you want to do the Joker sets from Beyond 5/3/1, but can’t figure out how to structure them? I’ve got a few tips for you.

While I do realize that the entire idea about the Joker sets was to add an auto-regulating element to the program, I also know that a very small percentage of the readers of the book will actually be able to use it in a productive way. So I’ve given it some thought, and come up with a couple of tips to help implement them. After all, when we think about “Joker” sets – we’re not associating them with this clownshoe are we?

jester

1. Earning your Joker sets:

This one is simple – Wendler mentions it again and again. Always go hard on the 5/3/1-set. Joker sets are only supposed to be done on days where you feel “good”. Obviously, if you set a new PR, you’re having a good day. So rule number one is simple:

No PR – no Joker sets

If you can’t nut up and get a PR, you haven’t earned the right to move on up. Finish your workout and go home and eat, rest and come back stronger and more determined.

2. Staying inside of the general framework of the program

The 5/3/1 system is based on a three-week loading cycle, where you start off light(ish) on the 5+ week, go a bit heavier on the 3+ week and finally have a heavy week before starting over. To keep you (and me) from killing our progress by doing new 1-rep maxes each and every week, I suggest sticking to Joker sets of 5, 3 and 1 respectively. That means you work up in 5’s in week 1, 3’s in week 2 and singles in week 3. Rule two:

 Work up in 5s, 3s and 1s respectively.

 3. Don’t go to failure

This one should be easy, though I’ll mention it anyways. Don’t go to complete failure. Technical failure, is ok. This one is twice as important for the lower body lifts, where a death wish can take you far beyond good form and waaay into “L’Arc de Triomphe” territory.

Don’t go to failure (or beyond) – this goes for the 5/3/1 sets too.

The wrap up:

The Joker sets is a free pass to work up and lift heavy weights. We all want to do that. These three tips will keep you inside the general framework of the program, while allowing you to add some weight to the bar on the good days. At the end of the day – this is the Joker we want to be:

joker

You can get the book Beyond 5/3/1 here, and read my review of it here.

Books, books and more books.

I’ve now dedicated an entire page on the blog to books. I’ll post short updates as I chew my way through books and/or remember good ones I read in the past.

You can find the page here.

I probably wont spam the blog too much with updates on that page, so check in occasionally for inspiration.

Happy reading.

<3

Jim Wendler “Beyond 531” a review

“Go be average on your own time, Fitness Hipster. We are training, not fitnessing”

I’ve been a fan of Wendler’s writings for a long time. I’ve previously detailed some thoughts about 531 and CF in this post.

Pretty much out of the blue (at least for me) Wendler launched “Beyond 531” a few days ago. I loved the original book, but found the 531 for PL and the 2nd edition to be a bit disappointing.

beyond-531-cover1

As soon as I got the book, I dug into it and I managed to finish it in a couple of hours of reading. As usual, Wendler’s style is easy to read and comprehend, while still offering plenty of detail to get the exact point across.

Wendler continues to repeat the mantra of training maxes, starting light and beating rep records, but also really goes in-depth with the importance and application of mobility and flexibility work. He even suggests yoga! 🙂

The variations:

What really sets this book apart from the others is the ENORMOUS amount of spin-off routines. Want more volume? Higher intensity? back-off sets? It’s all there. In several different formats. There are actually so many variations that picking one could be a problem in itself. This also opens up the possibility for the more experienced lifter to mix and match approaches, which is something I really like personally. I’m not a huge fan of pushing my SQ and DL to the limit every week, but I would like a bit more volume than the original program. Even though my training is loosely planned until November, I’ve started drawing up a routine for myself based on some of the variations.

The variations include : SSS (strength, speed, singles), Full Body, Spinal Tap training, five different deloads (to make them suck less), First set last, pyramids, dynamic work and paused work.

There’s more too.

The “joker” sets:

The joker sets is a completely new concept, that allows you to go outside of the program and really push it a bit more if you’re having a great day. This is great.

Unless you’re a fucktard obviously. More on this later.

Challenges:

Most people like challenges and short 4-6 week programs are extremely popular. Probably because most people really can’t handle the thought of trucking along with the same program for years. Ironically, that’s very appealing to me, though I’ve managed to fuck up 531 with my extreme idiocy I feel like I’ve matured and I’m now at a point where I can get it to work. Especially with all the variations.

Back to the challenges. There are 5: The BBB (aka hypertrophy) challenge, the strength challenge, the Prowler challenge, the 100-rep challenge and the 531-rest/pause challenge. Combined with all the variations, there’s just so much stuff to keep you entertained.

The philosophy:

Wendler has a unique way of passing on his experiences under the bar. His recommendations are sensible, without being overly conservative and are based on good old-fashioned lifting, running and stretching. Nothing really fancy here, just hard work and dedication. We all need more hard work, more dedication and more consistency.

The “problem”:

There’s just SO MUCH STUFF! Seriously. There’s gotta be training programs, challenges and variations to keep you entertained for some four or five years. Do you even have the mental capacity to envision where you’ll be at in five years? 🙂

Another problem is with the joker sets as you can potentially fuck up everything with these. They’re an extremely powerful tool for the smart lifter, but I’m pretty sure they’re gonna kill a Crossfitter or two along the way.

If you’re a fucktard, don’t do joker sets. 🙂

Heavier weights:

What many people find “boring” in the original program is that it’ll take you so long to get to the 1-3 rep range where they think they build strength. Obviously you also build strength in the higher rep ranges, but yea – people like lifting heavy stuff. This book has at least a handful different variations, that allow you to hit weights at or above your training max. How’s that?

Who’s this book for?

The title suggests that it’s for people who completed 531 and/or are “done” with the program, but that’s far from the truth. “Beyond” in this sense means “building on” or “what I’ve discovered through 5 years of using the program”.

The book is for beginners and advanced lifters looking to take it back to the basics and work hard on the main lifts. The programs in the book will get you strong and big no matter who you are.

Summary:

The original book was an eye-opener for me and it represented a different approach to training entirely. It had some limitations, mainly that the outline was very basic and open to interpretation. This new book fixes that with a massive amount of templates. It builds on the original book so nicely that you sort of wish 531 for PL and 2nd edition never really happened. You close your eyes and forget them, and for that brief moment, the stars align. This book will give you the tools to structure your training towards any kind of goal for life. For life. You don’t really need anything else (but I sure do recommend that you keep reading).

Buy the book here.

This book is definitely worth the money if you’re into strength training. No doubt about it.

PS: there’s no mention of Crossfit at all. Thank you Jim! <3