More Random Thoughts and Quick Hits

This week’s random thoughts are all over the place. I guess that’s the point though, right? Here it goes.

1. New video. Continuing on the theme of extended range of motion single leg exercises, here are some reverse lunges that I did the other day with the front leg elevated. This is another great one for building single leg strength and flexibility. To read more about the benefits of using an extended range of motion, click here.

2. Battling Ropes. This week I tried battling ropes for the first time as part of a conditioning circuit at the end of a workout. I’m glad I did, because I can see them being a great tool. They were much harder than I expected them to be. My shoulders were burning and I was huffing and puffing. This was great news to me because I am always searching for conditioning methods that don’t tax the lower body, and there really aren’t many good ones out there. I train my lower body quite frequently, and for that reason, I am reluctant to add in conditioning on days I train my upper body because I want my lower body to be able to recover without getting hammered every training day. Battling ropes could serve as a good way to circumvent this issue and get some good metabolic work after upper body workouts. Plus, I can see it having positive benefits on grip strength, which is a nice added bonus. It’s always pretty funny and beats the heck out of slogging away on the treadmill.

3. Do You Like Your Diet? This is a serious question. I got to thinking about this last week when I was sick with the stomach flu. For 7 days, on doctor’s orders, I followed the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast). The whole time I had food cravings like crazy and I could not wait to eat something different. Thing is, I honestly cannot remember the last time I had a craving. Why? Because I like the foods I eat each day. I eat well, but I make sure to choose foods I enjoy. This makes dietary compliance much easier. The minute I was forced to eat stuff I did not like, the cravings ensued. Now, I was sick and didn’t really have much of a choice, but I can tell you right now that had I been in good health, I would not have lasted long eating those foods.

Why am I telling you this? There are a ton of diets out there that have been proven to work, from low carb/high fat to high carb/low fat, and everything in between. With that in mind, when you are choosing a diet plan to follow, pick one that jives with your personal tastes and lifestyle. I see so many people treat their diet as if they are being deprived. They constantly complain and act as if they are being persecuted. This sucks for a few reasons. First, it is annoying for everyone else. Nobody wants to hear about your dieting problems. Just eat and get on with it. Second, if someone is complaining like that, chances are they aren’t going to last long before falling off the wagon.

If you absolutely love potatoes and rice and can’t bear the thought of loving without them, then you might be better off following a diet that allows you to eat carbs. Low carb dieters will swear up and down that carbs are the devil and will instantly turn you into the Michelin Man, but people have lost weight for years eating carbs in their diets. Think about it like this way: what is better, following a low carb/high fat diet and constantly cheating on it, or following a diet that allows for carbs in the first place? Try to shape your diet around your personal preferences. The best diet is one you will follow, and you will be far more likely to follow it if you enjoy it.

For more on this topic, listen to this interview with Alan Aragorn on Mike Robertson’s In the Trenches Podcast.

4. Come on mannn! I am really sick of hearing about Brett Favre. Whether it’s the ankle or this text message scandal, that’s all I ever hear about on ESPN. I realize he is popular and everything but it has gotten out of control. I’m sure this isn’t what he had in mind when he chose to return this season. I bet right about now he’s wishing he stayed home. I am starting to wish he did too.

5. Calf Training. Do we really need to train calves? This is a question I see debated a lot, and one I am conflicted about myself. It seems that most sports performance coaches say it is not needed while bodybuilders argue it is. I wonder if maybe they are both right though. This idea came to me yesterday while I was pushing sleds (hence the random thoughts title). Of course athletes and bodybuilders have different goals in mind, but that is not what I am referring to. I think we have to look at the training program on a macro level here. Bodybuilders lift weights, and with the exception of some low intensity cardio on the elliptical or treadmill, that’s about it. Moreover, their lifting programs involve a lot more isolation movements. Lower body training consists of squats, leg presses, extensions, leg curls, etc. My point: if they don’t train calves specifically, the calves won’t get much work so it is essential to work them on their own.

On the other hand, when you look at how an athlete trains, the calves are getting quite a bit of work without any direct “calf training.” For example, if you are doing agility ladders correctly, you are on your toes the whole time, which works the calves to some degree. Plyometric jumping, hops, and bounds? Those all work the calves. Olympic lifts? You betcha. Any movement using triple extension will involved the calves to a high degree since each rep involves you essentially doing an explosive calf raise.

Then you have you have things like lunges, which again have you pushing off with your toes and finally sleds. I am new to the sleds, but I am always amazed how much my calves burn afterwards. So when we look at it this way, even if the athlete is not devotedly specific attention to working the calves, they are basically getting worked the whole workout. Just something to think about.

6. The NBA season is here! I am a football fan first and foremost, but I also enjoy watching basketball. I will admit I don’t usually follow it too much in the early part of the season, but this season is different. With all the hype surrounding the Heat, I must say I was excited to see how they would play in the opener. In case you missed it, they got absolutely trounced by the Celtics. That’s what I’m talking about! I am a big Celtics fan so it was great to see stick it to Lebron, D Wade, and company. I love watching Lebron and D Wade play and they might actually be the two most exciting guys to watch on an individual level, but when it comes down to it I’m loyal to my team. I will be curious to see how the rest of the season plays out.

7. New blogs. Check out the new blogs from Anthony Morando and Marco Sanchez. Both guys are strength coaches at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning and both have been extremely helpful to me during my internship. They are both very knowledgable and they are also great coaches and, more importantly, great people.

Anthony’s blog
Marco’s blog

8. What happened to Entourage? Is it me or did this last season of Entourage seem really short? Besides sports, that is really the only thing I ever watch on TV. I miss Turtle, Johnny Drama, and the rest of the gang.

9. Leg Training in Reverse. Anyone that reads this blog with any regularity knows that I am a big fan of single leg work. I have been doing a lot of it recently, but that does mean that I have abandoned bilateral leg training. Instead, I have been doing what you might call leg training in reverse. Most programs that utilize unilateral leg training use it as assistance after a primary bilateral movement. I have just reversed the order, meaning I start off with unilateral work and finish with a bilateral exercise. Here is my rationale. Single leg work allows you to overload the legs individually so you don’t need as much weight as you would for a bilateral exercise. By doing these exercises first, I fatigue the legs so that when I do my bilateral work, I do not need as much weight. I guess if you want to think in Weider terms you could call it “pre-exhausting” in a sense. This way, I get the benefits of both unilateral and bilateral training without stressing my back quite as much with heavy weights, which is always important for me given my history of back issues. So far it seems to be working out pretty well, and if nothing else I think it is valuable to experiment with different methods to see what works best.

10. The World Series. So apparently the World Series is going on right now. I stumbled across a game the other night while I was flipping through the channels. I almost watched some of it but decided instead to watch an infomercial for the Shake Weight. Yea, unless the Red Sox are playing, baseball is completely off my radar screen.

11. Check out my new article on Elitefts about 5 cool inverted row variations.

12. College football is in full swing. I love this time of year. It seems like every week another top ranked teams gets upset. This week it was Michigan State. The list of undefeated teams is dwindling and I can’t wait to see who is left standing at the end. I know one thing one. Cam Newton is the clear-cut favorite for the Heisman. I have been saying he is the best player in the country for the last 5 weeks but he is just now getting the recognition he deserves. He is an absolute freak athlete. Check out this video of him catching a touchdown pass against Ole Miss. Yes, you read that right. Catching a touchdown pass. But isn’t he a quarterback? Yes. Just proves my point: guy is a freak.

13. Halloween. I have decided to pass out Halloween candy this year. I am looking forward to seeing all the different costumes. You would think that when you get a whole bunch of kids together at night, they would be rude and obnoxious, but this has not been my experience at all. Most of the time, I feel like kids are becoming bigger and bigger punks, but I am amazed at how polite they are when they are trick-or-treating. I always hear “please” and “thank you,” which I rarely hear from them otherwise. It’s funny how people change when they want something from you. In any case, I think it will be a good time, and the leftover candy is always nice.

14. Help Wanted. Last month I asked for feedback from all of you about what you would like to see here in my blog and I received some good suggestions that I have tried my best to put into action. Now that there are more readers, I want to ask again for any feedback you all have, or what you like to see in the future moving forward. I have some ideas, but I want to hear what you all want to see as well. I appreciate all of you that have been reading and want to thank you. I have been receiving Facebook messages and e-mails but I think it would be great to have the comments in the blog itself so they can possibly spark discussions. Lastly, if you do not do so already, please subscribe to this blog by clicking “Follow” in the upper right hand corner of the screen. I would really appreciate the support and it gives me a better idea of who is reading. Thanks again.

That’s all folks. Happy Halloween.