BlackListed: Little Fitness Heresies

The Art Of Compromise: What Not To Do
So I might not add vegetables or fruits to someones diet plan. I might not even let them squat for 3 months. Fitness blasphemy the main-stream fitness “pros” would call it… but let me explain.

In training (working out and diet planning), the other side of the programming coin is what you do NOT do. Which gives meaning to what we HAVE to do. Progress isn’t about what you must, but also about what you must not. Not about what you’ve learned. But what you’ve maybe un-learned. Excellence isn’t always about accepting, its also about rejecting. Moving forward isn’t only about looking ahead, it’s also about not looking back. This negative space and phase space teeter-totter. Tensioned in dynamic struggle. A non-constraint that behaves AS the constraint that guides process. The sculptor chisels off, the painter leaves blank and the musician goes silent. A great coach does something similar with program design. And sometimes that is exactly what defines the masterpiece.

Re-Express Yourself: Training Is The Big Key
To achieve the power athlete look (swimmer, sprinter, tennis player, soccer player etc), stimulating the short term energy systems primarily to use glucose as a fuel is a fundamental key. It can help you re-express yourself physically. But you must have the power athletes basic training structure down as well. Not their routine, not their diet. But their training methodology and how they feed it. Yes, there is a real and appreciable degree of “phenotypic re-expression” that your physique has the plasticity for. Cell environment can be altered through training and this can direct how your genetic gestalt is expressed phenotypically. But know that it takes TIME. I’d speculate 3 to 10 years for full potential to express itself according to the “type” of training you do.

Metabolic Memories – Do You Remember?
Every hard diet and every extreme training program will change you. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes for the worst. But you will NOT go back to original factory settings, mark my words. The interaction leaves a metabolic memory. You ingrain and condition yourself to those specific/general conditions with general/specific psycho-physiological “reactions”. The more “extreme” the interaction, the more severe the response. The deeper the scars, the darker the bruises and longer lasting the hurt. Stay close to the extreme, because you need to push yourself to points of discomfort to benefit at all. Dance on it’s periphery. But certainly not any longer than is essential. All interactions over time, eventually, poison. UNLESS you change your expectations as the interactions change you.

Constraints Lead To Freedom – The Shackles Of Independence
There are many reasons I don’t allow for too much auto-regulation of training and diet. I believe in structure. I believe in regimentation. The regimented training and diet life-style, besides providing obvious aesthetic and CONSEQUENTIALLY, health benefits, is also a temporal regulator. My fancy schmancy way of saying that it gives your day and routine DISCIPLINE and structure. It’s the constraint that allows you to get more done, not less. Guiding you to specific results from your efforts. My 3 R’s work well here: Regimentation + Repetition + Ritualization = Results

At War With Your Body: How To Have Your Cheesecake And Eat It Too
A workout is about you figuring out how to compete AND co-operate with your body at the same time. All competition or All co-operation, will lead nowhere. Your body will react with injury or sloth to decay. Find the right balance and you can eat more donuts and cheesecake in life.

And that is always a good thing. Crushed by observing the proper technique in doing the lying triceps extension?

Stretching Things

To Stretch Or Not To Stretch – Is This The Question?

And is it the wrong one? This isnt about stretching. What the debate is really about is how to train so that the athlete can move into and out of end ranges of multiple motion planes simultaneously and/or singularly, while expressing speed and strength.

 So Let’s Ask A Different Question

Does the dead-lift stretch the hamstring? Yes. Does the Chest press stretch the pectoral musculature? Yes, indeed. And do you become what you train for? Yes again. Most extremely strong men, with very large dead-lifts for example, may not be able to touch their toes, because they stay within a plane and range of motion that does not require it; dictated by the height of the plate.

But if they were to train the dead-lift off of a platform so that the bar would be at toe-level or below, what do you think would happen over time? Would they become more adept at the coveted toe touch? Without a doubt. But there is more! They additionally would STRENGTHEN that range of motion through CONTRACTION out of that positional end point.

 So Do You Need To Stretch? Still A Firm, No

If you want improved range of motion, then simply improve the range of motion of the loaded exercises you use. You accrue the added benefit of actually “strengthening” those end ranges, instead of just lengthening. Lengthening without avoiding strengthening. The holy grail.


The one thing to keep in mind is to not consider ANY exercise as axiomatic or essential. You can literally “create” odd exercises that seem to mimic the patterns in the sport (without exact duplication attempt) and load them (safely) to be able to apply the concept above. Additionally, the sport ITSELF could (and maybe should?) serve the purpose of providing flexibility enough. And if it isn’t, then are you practicing incorrectly? There is much more to this debate than stretching. The word itself may be limiting our thinking and creative solution finding to the problem of how to combine range of motion with strength and speed. More soon…

Concentration curl is the most effective in building bicep peaks, giving arms a more

Biased Biofeedback

Auto-regulation Is A Bias

Using heuristics for deciding we produce errors due to biases in thinking.
– Daniel Kahneman

To me auto-regulation and feedback self-assessment has real value and real problems. I’m prone to the boredom-bias, the novelty-drive and the shiny-new program syndrome myself. So I write today to not down-play the value of auto-regulating training AND diet, but to realize it is very, very easy to miss the target, mis-judge and mis-fire. To be completely and utterly wrong about the signals of bio-feedback such as fatigue, irritability and strength decrease.

You see, if the ideas of confirmation bias and the biological fallibility of our intuitions and our psychology are correct, and we are easily led to believe things that we should not, due to problems in our ability to analyze critically, then how can we assume trusting our own bio-feedback is ever going to be truly accurate?

You Can’t Use Your Mind To Understand Your Mind?
The heuristics of bio-feedback assessment can only be interpreted in context of the entire socio-pyschological thinking pattern at the moment of interpretation – meaning your thinking and feeling system is trying to understand your thoughts and feelings. The ease with which this can lead to a misinterpretation is astounding once you realize that the perception of feedback is a pattern drawn out on the background of our emotional experience. The more you analyze it, the more the background takes over and the more fuzzy the feedback pattern becomes, until it actually blends into the background itself as a smudge mark, instead of a sharply informative outline.

Then What Should Be Done? Hire An Eye In The Sky

Ideally that feedback comes from someone with an expert eye and so every world-class sports champion has a coach. If you practice without such feedback, you don’t get to the top ranks. – Daniel Goleman

The value of getting coaching is that the coach does not have to view the feedback from the same background of emotion and experience that has birthed the feedback in the first place. He can help you sharpen the lens of perception so the fuzzy pattern becomes clear enough for the message to be read with more accuracy and precision. All so that the proper “response” to the feedback can be planned, mapped and executed for an optimized continuation of progress in all forms quantitative and qualitative.The lying triceps extension is the most effective way to build up on triceps mass and?

Aesthetics To Strength

The purpose of this blog is to look at established ideas with new eyes, under a new light and from a different vantage point, at the risk of fitness industry heresy. And now, time to tear apart, deconstruct and re-assemble yet another classic fitness world paradigm.

Train For Strength And Expect An Equivalent Aesthetic Improvement?

The idea seems harmless enough. Even almost makes linear sense. But is simply not true. I first learned of this concept from my mentor Scott Abel. Looking further back in time, many great coaches understood this intuitively/tacitly, especially Vince Gironda.

In time I hope the argument I present adds to the case against strength focus for aesthetic improvement.

But It Makes Sense?

What can seem perfectly logical can sometimes be perfectly not. Two things to consider, before we move on:

1- Just about everyone would “prefer” to look better, than be stronger. The myth, though, is that they must be stronger to look better. There is a grain of truth to that. But it is NOT the full story. And the half-truth leads to more misery than joy.

2- That strength is assessed via barbell movements is a problem. The barbell is no axiom. It is no fundamental. It IS a metaphor for a status drive – it says, “who can use ME to lift the most”. A vulgar display of barbarism, nothing more.

But moving on…

The consequences of focusing on the pursuit of strength are more negative than positive for your physiology AND psychology in terms of wear and tear and mental stress (knowing you have to lift a certain amount of load on a certain day, rather than fatigue the musculature  is an enormous mental stressor). The most important consideration? That risk of injury is higher. Much higher. Because the focus is on an external variable, the quantity of contractions under high load rather than an internal variable, the quality of contractions under ANY load.

Strength is important to develop, but silly to chase.

The truth? Training for strength will generate aesthetic physique improvement as a mild side effect of straining against loads. This holds true for the general population, which includes everyone reading this; the gifted could be bothered less by my assertions. If you are going to focus on strength and all the physical and psychological pitfalls of this pursuit FOR THE PURPOSE of aesthetic enhancement, then a mild side-effect, (rather than an actual magnitudinally equivalent effect), is not and should not be good enough.

Is Increased Load More Progress?
To use strength gain as a yard-stick, rule of thumb or as a measuring rod of progress, is to be duped by this Joker of the physical quality world. Not only is strength nearly always in flux, and unpredictable even by experts of the strength game, but it is sometimes in stasis. While the body never is.

Anyone who has touched the ceiling of the Strength and Speed cathedral in our collective minds, the imagined peaks of physical expression perfection, the ones who have come closest to “world record” strength and speed levels, will tell you the price they pay in injury management is not worth it. As early as in their mid-thirties, the aches begin, the joints limit and the muscles fear load. Anyone with any wisdom, who has truly been there, done that, will tell you that living in pain for the rest of your life is too high a price to pay for something as artificial as loads lifted in perfectly controlled environments, for reasons that are as immature as they are selfish.

But I digress.

The Path of Least Effort
Moreover, strength enhancement is about LEVERAGE, and how to create it within the limitations of your own biomechanical milieu. If you focus on load lifted, you must find the path of least effort per unit of load. This leveraged path to push maximal weights is usually always going to mean, your weakest link muscle-chain remains under-loaded and under-developed. Accumulate enough wear and tear, and your strong link eventually breaks down. Combine this break-down with developmental imbalance and joint centration issues (which are probably leading contributors/factors in joint degeneration) due to the imbalance, and you realize you’re laying the foundation for destruction.

Strength As A Mild Side Effect? Aesthetic Enhancement As The Strong Effect

The best way to approach fitness is to focus on aesthetic enhancement FIRST, and to stimulate a strengthening side effect consequentially. To create a recursive loop that initiates from the focus of contraction quality rather than load quantity.

You do NOT need great strength levels for optimal physical development. Not at all. I made this mistake for 10 years myself. As a matter of fact, I completely gave up on the idea of maximal load lifting 3 years ago and have focused exclusively on contraction quality since then.

Moving on, a training program that focuses on muscle contraction quality over load quantity is basically a program that is focused on aesthetics. A program that is focused on multiple and weak plane of movement patterns, over the few and strong movement patterns is focused on aesthetics. A program that is focused on mild rest periods, rather than maximal recovery between sets. A program focused on medium repetition numbers, rather than low numbers to hit high weights. A program not restricted to barbells as some sort of essential, but rather on any tool that will stimulate the muscle in the plane of movement chosen. A program that appreciates the qualitative assessments the mirror provides instead of the quantitative assessment your log book hides. A program that “realizes” the fluctuating nature of maximal strength and provides freedoms within to adapt your stressors to your day to day state.

Once you focus on these things, the stimulation of your physiology will automatically accrue strength over time. As a side-effect of your drive to chisel the best physique possible using natures ultimate canvas, your body. And with NONE of the deleterious  side effects.

A biological win win, in every sense of the term. To your forehead while keeping your elbows tucked.

Training Or Diet: Where Should Your Focus Be?

What Your Body Does With Food Depends On What You Do With Your Body

The Time Before Time

Researchers Frank W. Booth and P.Darrel Neufer have written, “Many of the metabolic characteristics of moderns humans evolved to support high levels of work efficiency and physical activity, a fact that undoubtedly contributes to the health problems facing sedentary 21st century societies.”

The fitness world has forgotten its roots and renounced its past. That it was birthed from the PHYSICAL CULTURE of a by-gone era. A time when people like you and I, engaged in and believed in the benefits of exertion, such as aesthetic enhancement, strength and robust health. When people like you and I, tacitly understood that the body needed caloric expenditure along with ingestion. A time when people like you and I, took responsibility for the caring of our bodies into our own hands. Literally.  Today the fitness industry does not understand or recall that it was NOT birthed by the modern DIET culture. Where instead of figuring out how to expend calories through physical work, we are more worried about how to avoid ingesting calories so as to avoid any physical work at all.

Today: The Forgotten Importance of Physical Work

Taking in the very best of foods in absentia of vital activity essentially accomplishes nothing short of wasting vital dietary resources. Physical activity, not silver bullet diets, prompt signalling for DNA sequencing of appropriate, healthy proteins – and a healthy nutrient dense diet backs that up. — Ken O’Neill 

We live in an age where we are experiencing a food bonanza and a physical activity famine. The illogical focus of the fitness industry has been the opposite – they focus on the bonanza and disregard the famine. Every physical trainer is a pretend-nutritionist. Why? Because the reductionist science-mind focuses on nutrients, minerals, vitamins and different fats which then allows for the birth of mountain-heaps worth of potential marketing material in the form of articles and blogs. This promotes the “expertise” of said nutrition guru and convinces you, the consumer,  of the one thing you want to hear more than anything else – that an easy dietary fix is required instead of straining, stressing and suffering for real physical change through exercise.

Your Diet Plan Must Be Dictated By Your Training Plan

The diet should NEVER be designed a priori to the program. The food plan must fuel the training plan because it is the training plan that will create the physique; a physique that REQUIRES good amounts of the “right” foods to meet it’s physical exertion needs. The training shovels the fuel in the right direction for complete aesthetic enhancement  strength and health. Your food plan, of course, must follow for the best expression of your physical self, but there is no dramatic phenotypic re-expression without high-stress, high-volatility generating stimulus. The internal environment needs to be de-stablized with applied stress for a transitional shift to a specifically adapted state. Note I said, SPECIFIC. The type of training you do is CRITICAL.

Only the correct training program can deliver your aesthetic destination to you. The diet helps clear the path, but it does not forge it.

More on what type of program does what soon…

Palms facing down and move it back over the head a little.

The Basic Axiom: The Fission Fusion Training Model

Biology Feeds On Instability

Biology can turn piss to wine. Poison to elixir. Threat to strength. Instability to stability. So long as the dose doesn’t exceed today’s capabilities, the system will return ready for greater challenges tomorrow.

The basis of my Fission Fusion Training Model works by cycling two primary stress signatures. But that is for another post…

Till then know that your biology can only do two things essentially:

– Ingest energy
– Expend energy

These two energy conduits are the dynamic duo of your metabolism. Your metabolism being a struggle between anabolism and catabolism.

And it is around these two that we shall design our intentions of physiological manipulation to redesign the system, your body and mine.

I use very high volume and high intensity (a qualitative measure, not a percent of max) training to stress the systems energy expenditure conduit. And very low calorie eating on these same days to ADD to the total stress per day, stressing the energy ingestion conduit.

The stability of an organism lies in resilience, the homeostatic capacity to reestablish itself. – Carl Woese

Away from the iron, I will release the pressure valves and cease training and increase the calorie counts to push the body towards a state of healing and recovery.

There are multiple ways to stress the binary relation of the energy conduits, depending on the client’s objective, long term and short. The principle to be applied can only be extracted from WITHIN the clients psycho-physiological gestalt. But the above should serve to elucidate the point; that training, is playing chess with stress. Developing your triceps adds to the handsome appearance of your arms and enhances!