Sunday, November 23, 2008

Death by Truck Ramp!

As you probably know by now, I'm an outspoken critic of most traditional forms of cardiovascular training. One of my blogs, 10 Reasons I Don't Do Aerobics, caused quite a furor, overloading my mailbox with missives from both nay-sayers and supporters. The exercise physiologists (whose livelihood depends on convincing us this exercise is so important) were hands-down the most upset.

Yet people in the physiology community conduct experiments and studies because their positions require they "publish or perish". These studies are typically run by students (as part of their education and training) and are, for the most part, unsupervised. To meet their deadlines, the students may fudge the data, as students will. I'll say it: Most of the studies conducted are worthless.

So, if you can't trust science, who can you trust? Old school trainers, who've been in the field a long time, have tons of in-the-ditches experience and empirical data about what does and doesn't work. Guys like myself ain't gonna have jobs for long if they aren't consistently producing good results for their clientele! As I travel across the country in my little RV, I have the opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals running gyms based on the same principles I espouse. I hear story after story of clients abandoning what passes as mainstream fitness to start training anew with the exercise models I preach--with terrific results! What passes for training, even personal training, in most gyms is for the most part, utterly worthless.

Most people haven't the access to some of these cutting-edge, alternative gyms, like Gym Jones, Monkey Bar Gym, Maxercise, Recreate Fitness and Prime Physique. These are five examples of phenomenal venues producing the fat loss and fitness gains most people desire.

But you don't need any gym at all!
With the phenomenon that is online personal training you can benefit from the decades of personal training and coaching experience of hard boiled trainers like myself and your home (no matter what or where that may be!) becomes your gym--no membership required! You'll become one of the growing numbers of people realizing most gyms aren't even conducive to hard-core beneficial training. In fact, the required exercises are typically discouraged in such gyms!

Some of my--and my young assistant's--most tremendous workouts were completed out-of-doors while traveling cross-country. Obviously, this requires a fair amount of creativity on the part of the ol' Coach, who surveys the terrain and sees a workout opportunity at every turn...and every turn-out!

When I look out the window and see a construction site, I see not building materials but odd objects needing to be lifted. When I spy boulder fields and scree along the mountainside, it's a world of large, smooth stones to shoulder. Roadside warning signs? Forget 'em, I see only the sandbags anchoring the signs, hogging all that gravity! Public parks and rest stops? I possess the uncanny ability to ferret out the pull-up opportunity, using everything from swing sets to picnic kiosk cross beams, tree limbs...and the odd stall bar in the men's washroom.

Often, these workouts are impromptu, spur-of-the-moment affairs. One such workout introduced itself on the drive from Salt Lake City to Portland. As we were climbing a picturesque mountain range, I espied a runaway trunk ramp. A thing of beauty, I tell you! My teen assistant, who'd
already been chauffeuring me a number of hours, was getting feisty and in need of a break. We pulled alongside the runaway ramp and Lil 't quickly donned her workout togs with my gentle--yet persuasive--prodding, heh.

Teresa loves a good workout, and physical exertion in general, thus she's made great progress under the Coach's tutelage and finds herself now, at 40+, in the best physical condition of her life.

One of the most results-producing cardio, and fat burning, exercises are hill sprints. The trunk ramp, though daunting, was the perfect venue for this unparalleled expression of fat combustion...providing actual runaway trucks are as uncommon as we hoped! Although a runaway truck would bring the motivation to a whole new level!

After a warm-up of the Maxwell Daily Dozen, Teresa sprinted from the bottom, as far up the ramp as she could, in 45-seconds. She noted the spot she hit each time I called out the time, then she'd return to the bottom of the hill and immediately perform an upper body exercise to balance the tremendous leg, hip, hamstring workout she was getting during those arduous uphill sprints. It didn't take long in that thin mountain air to get Teresa a-panting like a puppy dog.

Despite the chill (and the fact that she opted for minimalist workout attire) there was a thin veneer of sweat on that silky skin and the ol' Coach felt stirrings as he ogled his assistant!

The workout went like this:

10 sprints, coupled with 10 upper body exercises:

2 pushes
2 pulls
4 core
2 combination push-pulls


1) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
a) Hindu Push-Ups, on push-up board
2) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
b) Jungle Gym Rows
3) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
c) Chatturanga (yoga-style)Push-Ups
4) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
d) Curl Grip Rows
5) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
e) Full Sit-Ups, non-anchored
6) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
f) Continuous Clean & Press with boulder
7) hill sprint, 45-sec/return, 45-sec
g) Alternating Elbow-to-Knee
8) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
h) Continous Clean & Press w/ boulder
9) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
i) Elbow Plank then Side Elbow Plank, L/R
10) hill sprint, 45-sec/ return, 45-sec
j) Elephant Walk Outs

This was a fantastic workout requiring no equipment and though enhanced with a Jungle Gym and Push-Up board, they are by no means required.

We hit all parameters of fitness. There was a great deal of athleticism involved, including the anti-aging boon of utilizing those all-important fast-twitch muscle fibers, along with the upper body, core and back work most every woman so badly needs.

Compare this workout to the average woman's gym hour spent mindlessly running the treadmill or stairmaster, plugged into the excess inputs of television or iPod all the while shuffling along at a pitiful pace, burning a pitiful number of calories and deprived of any muscle strengthening benefit whatsoever. If she does any weight training at all, it's ridiculous movements,
with light loads, in bad form, copying some silly, body-building or Shape magazine-style workout.

In this extreme high-intensity workout, your lady friend can hit every parameter of fitness in less than 40 min and continue to burn fat for hours later. Not to mention the effect of the altitude! This is one of thousands of versions of this type of workout I provide to my online clients--and they're seeing their hard-won results.

The only equipment you really need is some type of pull-up bar, a Jungle Gym, Push-Up board and a few kettlebells.
Some luxuries include:

You can get everything you've ever wanted in the realm of the physical body with this simple list. Combat athletes will want to add clubs, mace and climbing rope...and a sledgehammer!

The above can be purchased on even a modest budget, often second-hand.

Do yourself a favor: get out of the gym and get out in nature. Stop the ridiculous, marathon gym routines. Forget the aerobics, they're a waste of time. Start working out in a productive way.

In Strength & Health!

Coach Steve

P.S. I'd like to announce the sale of my Gladiator Seminar DVD! Coach Zach Even-Esh and myself provide more than eight hours of instruction to help you come up with your own creative, innovative and revolutionary ideas for your own unique training regimen. Imagine: two of this country's leading fitness coaches right in your own garage sharing the outstanding information presented in this seminar. It's the next best thing to having been there in person. I don't kid you: there's nothing like hands-on BUT this DVD package comes close!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ancient Tools for Modern Warriors

Those of you who regularly read my blog know my penchant for ancient workout techniques. I prefer those exercises and exercise systems which have stood the test of time and I've a particular fondness for the Indian wrestling systems. Wrestling was a highly developed art with near-religious connotations. There have been several books written on the subject and one of my favorites is The Wrestler's Body, an anthropological study of the ancient Indian wrestling culture. Many of the techniques go back thousands of years and were instrumental in preparing young warriors for battle. Some historians claim yoga asana practice originated in the wrestling akharas, (which is easy to believe since the original yoga postures described in the ancient texts were 7 or 8 seated positions.) The wrestling workout sequences are known as vayam and consist of: body weight calisthenics, primarily dand (aka Hindu push-ups) and bethak (aka Hindu squats) The system also contains elements of yoga asana, such as bridging exercises and other calisthenic-like moves, variations of which you see in Western yoga classes. But the wrestling system went much further, including swinging heavy clubs and maces. Also included was heavy object lifting, like round stones, sandbags and partner exercises. Additionally, gymnastic exercises were included, like tumbling and rope climbing. The system worked extremely well, producing phenomenal wrestling champions. One such champion of the Indian physical cultural system was the Great Gama, the Lion of the Punjab. Gama was undefeated over a 50-year career. He was widely feared by potential European and North American challengers and most avoided him. He was especially known for his strength and stamina and represents the epitome of what this system can produce.

I have studied the Indian system in depth and used it myself for years. I see it not only as an excellent training system for combat athletes--especially grapplers--but as a great overall health and thus anti-aging regimen. On my way to Portland OR, after spending time with Mark and Lisa Twight of Salt Lake City, I was blown away by the beauty of the Columbia River gorge. One spot had a dock jutting out over the river and it at once brought to mind a scene from a venerable Indian movie, The World of Apu, which some readers were generous enough to send clips from for the gada blog. In one scene, the camera pans over youthful Indian wrestlers performing their ritual exercises on the dock overlooking the Ganges river in Benares. I was taken by the moment, mesmerized even, and thought to myself, "I can have my own holy Ganges river experience right here on the mighty Columbia!"

I grabbed the wheel of the RV, hard, and had my assistant/chauffeur promptly exit to a placid rest area on the river's edge. I gathered up my modern-yet-ancient training tools and hauled them down to the wooden dock. There, I worked my body like a wrestler of long-gone times, at one with the river and my own nature. There's something so serene--yea, magical--in standing over a body of water. I felt incredibly uplifted and energized. This is what your ageless athlete did:

1) Rope skipping, 6 min non-stop
Lifeline Heavy Speed Rope

2) Hindu Squats
200 reps 6 min non-stop
w/ pranayama breathing
1st min: Ujaayi breath for heat

3) Hindu Push-Ups
100 reps
dockside, using the dock as a push-up board,
just like the scene from the movie
Once again, synchronizing breath & movement

The tradition was always to do half as many push-ups as squats.

4) Alternating Shield Cast
15# clubs
*in India and throughout the Middle East, they use large wooden clubs, sometimes colorfully decorated. I used Clubbells.
100 reps in 20-rep sets for 5 rounds

In the ancient vayam training system, a premium was placed on high-repetition movements, which builds tremendous tendon strength, mental toughness and the all-important strength-endurance required for extend bouts of grappling.

5) Gada swinging
100 swings, 50 each direction
20-rep sets x 5

6) Double Clubbell Swipe
100 reps in sets of 20
15# clubs

When I finished, I felt fantastic. I'd worked up a tremendous sweat despite the chilly drizzle coming. I stripped down and plunged into the cold river, bringing a sense of near-euphoria. Now I'd purified my body, along with my spirit, and was ready to present a fantastic kettlebell certification at Nate Jeffers' Recreate Gym in Portland OR! Enjoy the slideshow on the right==>

Nate and his wife, Tina, own and operate an incredible gym. It has everything I love. They've really expanded their kettlebell expertise and hosted a wonderfully successful seminar. Everyone learned a lot and proved their mettle in Coach's final, grueling graduation workout, maintaining terrific form and mental toughness throughout. I was proud to certify 14 new MaxBells instructors. If you're ever in Portland, I highly recommend you contact Nathan and Tina and check out their gym.

If you're interested in hosting a workshop, contact, connect with my teen assistant and she'll set up a way to mainline a shot of the ol' Coach into your neighborhood!

In Strength & Health!