We’re Almost There…

Does anybody else feel an enormous sense of anticpation around this time of year?  The suspense has been building for a while, and here are a few things that I’m looking forward to:

  • The end of the semester.  It’s finally wrapping up, and some A’s are coming in, but I can’t wait to finally say ‘Good riddance!’ to this past fall.  I’m just looking forward to a motor development and kinesiology final.  Can’t. Wait.
  • Winter Break.  We’re in the middle of the most festive time of the year; how can you not love it?!?
  • Scarlett Johansson.  If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve heard that she and Ryan Reynolds are splitting up.  I can’t wait to pick out the flowers for our wedding.
  • My 100th post! You’re currently reading my 99th post, and I’m looking forward to the 100th!  I’d also like to really strap in and generate some great content that makes you laugh while you get lean.  Look forward to lots of new things during winter break.

Alright, let’s get into some material now; you DO want to learn, right?  I had two conversations in the past few days that may give you some ideas for exercise selection and philosophy.  The first one involved somebody who had plateaued.  We were casually talking, and he brought up that he just wasn’t making progress anymore.  After he explained a little bit of what he meant, he told me that he was trying to put on mass so that he could get stronger.  The logic is simple; build big muscles, then make them stronger.  It’s the most often followed protocol for periodization, right?

I’m not a fan; in fact, I think you should get stronger so you can get bigger. It’s like The Fast and The Furious.

Getting bigger to get stronger is like putting a giant engine in your car.  Getting stronger to get bigger is similar to tuning the car you started with.  Most people just want to put in a bigger engine; indeed, that’s the goal of my friend.  Unforunately, as the engine gets bigger, it doesn’t get more powerful.  This doesn’t really make sense, and so it stops getting bigger.  There you have it, plateau city.  How many people TRULY train absolute strength as a component of their training programs?  Not many.  Compared to muscle size, most people are far weaker than they should be.  (If you’re wondering, I’m including myself in that generalization as well.)  They haven’t maximized the performance of the mass that they DO have, resulting in training loads that are inadequate to stimulate growth.  This isn’t going to do it:

If you’re wondering what IS going to do it, I have a simple answer: Picking up the heaviest thing you can find!  This would require training primarily with compound movements, which is what you should be doing anyway.  Sets of lower reps, ranging from 3-5, work wonders for turning up your central nervous system and making you stronger.  You can lift the heaviest weights that you can in that rep range, or you can lift lighter weights and raise them as quickly as possible.  Calculate 50% – 65% of your 1RM on the given lift, and use that weight, but raise it as fast as possible.  Even though you’re moving a sub-maximal load, you move it with all-out intent, and this cues your brain to recruit as many motor units as possible.  Yea, you just got stronger.   More people should focus on getting strong(er).  If you only want to get stronger, then train or strength.  If you want to get bigger as well, train for strength, and eat more food.  It’s not really that complicated.

Our second topic is on calf calve training.  I was discussing calve training with a friend at Adelphi, and he asked me what I do.  I’ve been asked the question before, and it usually infers specificity, so I told him that I don’t do anything!  It’s true; I think isolated calve training is a pretty big waste of time.  Why are you going to spend the time doing every standing and seated calve raise variation known to man when you can squat big, split squat big, and sprint.  (I guess you just finished reading why in the last section…)

Your squat numbers should be way higher than anything you can calve raise.  Those are for sissies anyway.  We can also assume that your bilateral lift numbers are much higher than your unilateral lift numbers.  I’m going to use some hypothetical numbers to explain why your calves get kicked in the a$$ when you squat.  Let’s say I’m squatting triples and I take 405lbs.  I get under the bar, walk it out; hip, hip, hooray; walk it back in.  Even if I only took 3 steps each way, I just did 3 1000lb calve raises per leg. (I’m ~190lb at the moment.)  Without the threat of serious bodily harm, there’s not a chance that’s going to happen with a true calve raise.  Start squatting heavy, and walk out your squats.  Your calves will feel it.

I also find that single leg work treats my calves pretty well.  Most people find that their ankles go crazy when they go into split stance positions, as the lower leg musculature works to stabilize the ankle.I find that lunge variations are the best at this.  Reverse lunges are preferred over the forwards lunge in my book, but both will do the job.  Barbell reverse lunges are one of the best bang-for-your-buck exercises out there.

If you know how to run, and you know how to sprint, you know that your heel doesn’t touch the ground.  You may be aware that when you’re sprinting your body transmits some very significant forces.  There are a few ways to increase these forces: Youc an run faster.  You can get heavier.  You can run uphills.  Guess which two I like the best… If you’re sprinting, you should already be running as fast as you can.  Since that is taken care of, next let’s talk about hills.  Here is my very specific, very detailed, highly scientific analysis of hill sprints.  It should answer almost every question you have about them.

Find a steep hill.  Run up it as fast as you can.  Repeat 8-15 times.  Don’t throw up.  Repeat, no more than every 2 days.  Watch fat disapear. Watch legs get huge (if you’re eating a lot.)

See how easy that was?  Hill sprints are seriously awesome, they help you suck less, and they can be incorporated into almost any fitness program.  For the purpose of today’s post, they’ll also help you get your calves ridiculously awesome.

I need to run to work now, so I can spend 4 hours writing exercise programs and teaching some lovely folks how to do TRX body saws, dumbbell bent over rows, and cable anti-rotation presses like the champions that they are!  HIP, HIP, HOORAY!!

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