Anthony Mychal will help you build the body of your dreams. header image

Anthony Mychal will help you build the body of your dreams.

Anthony Mychal is a self-taught skinny-fat geek that built an athletic “X” physique
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Why you shouldn’t listen to your hunger

Yo yo yo. 

I never was a multiple “yo” guy. One is fine. I like one. But I’m useless stringing together more. What about you? 

Anywho…

Ant here.

Below is a snippet of second version of Big Win Fat Loss I’m working on. This is smack dab in a discussion about meal timing and meal frequency. 

I like the idea. I think it’s an important idea. So sucking it out from behind the pay wall and into the free world. As Mario would say…hewegoo ~

#####

Imagine a world where everyone acted immediately upon their sexual impulses.

You see someone you’re attracted to. You either (a) sexually assault the person, or (b) masturbate in public.

Not a very fun world.

But think about it…

We have sexual impulses and sexual desires hardwired into our DNA. If we didn’t, we’d be Emo Sapiens. So depressed about life we’d just cry in a corner.

Emo Sapiens would go extinct. And quick. No desire for sex = no babies = no human proliferation.

So why not act immediately on sexual impulse…?

Well…

There may have been a day when humans did such a thing. After all, the majority of human evolution occurred in a world that looks nothing like today’s world.

So us humans were gently shaped with certain traits advantageous for survival…in a world that looks nothing like today’s world. Meaning those same traits aren’t exactly lamb to today’s world’s tuna fish.

b4ij1xtl

Humans work on a different frequency than the one broadcast by the modern world.

Females are sent a Victoria’s Secret catalog every second. There are billboards. TV commercials. Radio commercials. Crowded cities filled with way more people than humans are used to being around.

(And porn is a click away. Don’t know if you were aware. I wouldn’t know though. My friend told me. That’s how I know. So I’m just spreading the word.)

The input we digest now is staggering.

And said sexual impulse happens (probably) a lot more because of the volume of sexual input in the world today is a lot higher than what it used to be.

So we don’t give in to our immediate sexual impulse. It would be nearly impossible to function as a modern society if we did. And we know passing on the urge won’t ruin our chances of reproducing in the future.

Now…

Being hungry is similar to being horny.

We get hungry for the same reason we get horny. Imagine never being hungry. You wouldn’t care about food. Another trait of Emo Sapiens.

Ever had an elderly family member lose his or her appetite? Happened to my grandma. Doctors recommend pounding milkshakes spiked with protein powder.

Without the energy and nutrients, humans become frail and fragile.

No food = no energy and nutrients = no human.

So the impulse is there…

And the huger story is quite the same as the horny story: 

The world us humans spent the majority of their time evolving within is a lot different than today’s world. Things we have were great for the old world. Maybe not so much for the new world.

There are billboards. TV commercials. Radio commercials. Crowded cities filled with way more food than humans are used to being around.

(And food porn is a click away. Don’t know if you were aware. I wouldn’t know though. My friend told me. That’s how I know. So I’m just spreading the word. My Instagram page? No. No food porn there. Nope. No beer either. It’s the pleats. Some kind of optical illusion.)

Our hunger mechanism isn’t fit for today’s world. Just like our horny mechanism.

The difference?

Where we (decently) regulate our sexual desires, we TERRIBLY regulate our hunger desires.

OHMAHGERD I’M HOOONGGRY. IF I DON’T EAT I’LL DIEEE.

Hunger is SUPPOSED to reflect a state of TRUE biological hunger. And maybe it did a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

But a lot of cultural customs have taken us away from truly communicating with our bodies.

We hardwire hunger into us with habits. Like Pavlov’s dog. Ring the bell, the dog drools. Without the bell, no drool. This is the world around us dictating when we are hungry. 

Same thing happens when the clock strikes 12:00PM for lunch…or whatever eating habits you’re used to rolling with.

And even worse? If you try to ignore these external cues (remember those?), you fall trap to pink elephant syndrome.

Try to NOT think about a pink elephant…and all you can do is think about a pink elephant. Try to NOT think about food…and all you can do is think about food.

A willpower killer = trying to IGNORE something. Much better to acknowledge, accept, and surf the emotions.

(It’s worth pondering: how many “bells” are in your life?)

And this circles us back to what Wansink warned: we are slave to external cues.

You can be sitting in your office, head down working, with no thought about sex. But if you happen to look out your window for a split second and see a naked woman streaking down the street, suddenly that’s all you think about.

Same goes for the truck driving past with the billboard on its side advertising for a quarter pounder with cheese.

So although hunger is this great evolutionary thing we have, the thing that differentiates us from Emo Sapiens, it’s worth understanding: 

The world our hunger mechanism was cultivated within is not the same world that’s now abusing our hunger mechanism.

Point of this talk =

If you absolve any cultural barriers attached to meal timing and meal frequency, you could say that humans have a built in mechanism to tell them when to eat: when hunger strikes.

But this is also like saying you should have sex when you’re horny. 

It’s true…kind of…

…but you need to wait for the right time and place to satisfy your urges.

And we’re good about doing this sexually.

Not so much with hunger.

We hate hunger because we’ve been culturally indoctrinated to hate hunger. But what if I told you hunger wasn’t bad? And what if I told you hunger was actually good? Necessary? Perhaps a cure for cancer?

What then?

Because it all might all be true.

#####

And that’s the end of the lesson, which leaves a marvelous cliffhanger for the next lesson. Because storytelling told me it was a good idea. Especially because most sport and fitness resources are drier than the Mojave. 

Anywho…

Next week, I hope to have episode one of #ASKANT up and running. There is still time to submit a question. Most of the work I’ve done to this point = logistics.

Until next week…

 

Ant, out ~

 

P.S. If you’re a Z2B owner, the hinge unit hath been unlocked! Official email will be sent to you on Wednesday. I’m going to comb it over tomorrow.

P.P.S. Some exciting things are happening. I can’t wait to share them with you. 

Why I’m not doing muscle-ups anymore (and my current training program)

This is a ‘lil thing about muscle-ups, but it’s not really about muscle-ups. You don’t have to be able to do muscle-ups to suckle the lesson outta’ this teet.

Incentive to suckle: I’m attaching my current training program. The one I built in lieu of my now somewhat normal finger.

You’ll also learn the first answer I give people that ask how to do a muscle-up.

Let’s begin…

I used to love muscle-ups. Here’s a vid from a while ago. Trying to be smooth and controlled.

Used to do them for reps. Could do around five or six consecutive ones. Used to do them for ring combinations. Like this. Used to do them every training session.

But I’m not doing them anymore.

Here’s why.

(Small backstory.)

I couldn’t use my rings for a while because I broke and dislocated my finger (see past letters).

Err.

I could use my rings. But I decided to forego above the ring work. Because, every once in a while, I’d have a neural fart. All would be going according to plan, but outta’ no where I’d spasm and lose good position.

Didn’t happen a lot. But it happened.

I didn’t want to have to drive to the hospital with a crooked finger again on account of a neural fart, so above the ring work was out.

No surprise: my ring abilities leveled down. Hard.

Rings are finicky. You need to be on the rings in order to get better on the rings.

Standard linear straight barbell exercise won’t help.

When I first got my rings, I could do dips with 100+ pounds attached to my waist. But I couldn’t hold the top position of a dip on rings for more than, uhh, two seconds.

Make that one second.

Alright, alright. You know how to tease the truth outta’ me.

Make that none seconds.

This is why rings are fun and invigorating.

In the nice and neat straight and linear world, you can do an exercise pretty well. Then you (try to) do the identical exercise on rings and get your face kicked in.

784eaa8a62387642f0b10b29d15605c9

It’s kind of like getting one of those metal puzzles…all of the rings and gadgets intertwined, your goal is to separate them. You look at the thing and think, Psssh…this is gonna’ be so easy.

And then it’s not. And then you throw the metal puzzle against the wall.

The gap between how you think things should be and how they actualy are somehow makes the situation simultaneously frustrating and invigorating.

It’s hard to hold yourself back from diving into the rings because you want to prove (to yourself) that you aren’t a piece of glass.

And that’s what happened in my situation. When I got my rings, I didn’t prepare. I just dove in. I had fun.

I don’t regret it.

James Clear wrote here about successful people starting before they feel ready.

You’d be a fool to waste momentum.

Momentum allowed me to fall in love with the rings. If someone told me to work on foundation moves for one year before ever trying a muscle-up, ring training probably would have become labor…not love.

But then there’s the other side of the story…

Sometimes riding momentum and having fun isn’t in the best interest of long term development.

Diving right into ring training cost me.

I got a funky wrist injury that lasted about six months because I didn’t properly train false grip strength.

Muscle-up tip number one million: use the false grip. If you can’t muscle-up and want to muscle-up and you aren’t using the false grip, this is where you begin. 

false grip muscle up

Muscle-up tip number two million: train the false grip. Start from an inverted row position. Just grab the rings and dangle. Once you can hold this for one minute, you’re ready for more intense action. Take it to the pull-up position. Just hang.

falsehangs

I always battled elbow pain. And, perhaps most importantly, my progress was scatterbrained.

Such is the nature of being self-taught, but even after I found a system I could comprehend,  I didn’t want to regress to build the proper foundation…so I never did.

Hubris for the win!

I had nicks and bruises. But nothing bucked me off the saddle.

Breaking and dislocating my finger unintentionally bucked me to the Moon.

Now I’ve landed back on Earth.

It’s incredibly tempting to hop back on the rings and do what I was previously doing. Maybe flirt with some elbow pain. Maybe another wrist injury.

A cocktail I’m all too fond of embracing into the esophagus.

OK.

Geez.

You know me all too good.

did shoot the cocktail. I hurt my wrist a little bit. My elbows hated me. Yaddah yaddah yaddah. So I’ve decided to take a step back and work on the basics. Because I don’t want to be the same mediocre goober I was before.

I had the fun times.

Now I can be an adult.

There’s almost always a more “adult” path.

But I know, for a self-taught goober like myself, the adult path is like being forced to sit in public school when you’re inkling is to go alone and wander Hyrule.

lost woods

Sometimes you have to head into the Lost Woods, take the beating, and then realize, “Hmm…maybe there is something that there rigid classroom thingy offers after all.”

So I’m now doing false grip hangs. I’m doing ring push-up variations. I’m doing inverted row variations.

I’m doing the basics.

I’m swallowing my pride.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, there’s something you should know.

What often separates the best Pros from the average Joes: beating the basics into your bones.

At Spartak, the Moscow tennis club, there is a rule that young players must wait years before entering competitive tournaments. “Technique is everything,” said a coach, Larisa Preobrazhenskaya. “If you begin playing without technique it is big mistake.”

You might be surprised to learn that many top performers place great importance on practicing the same skills they practiced as beginners. The cellist Yo-Yo Ma spends the first minutes of every practice playing single notes on his cello. The NFL quarterback Peyton Manning spends the first segment of every practice doing basic footwork drills—the kind they teach twelve-year-olds. These performers don’t say to themselves, “Hey, I’m one of the most talented people in the world—shouldn’t I be doing something more challenging?” They resist the temptation of complexity and work on the task of honing and maintaining their hard skills, because those form—quite literally—the foundation of everything else.

Daniel Coyle, The Little Book of Talent

 

P.S.

I know gymnasts see the muscle-up as a peon skill, akin to these “basics” I speak of. But I’m not going to ruin my confidence by acknowledging such a thing. And I think we all know gymnasts are midgets trained as sorcerers the ancient art of black magic. They aren’t real human beings.

 

P.P.S.

For those of you in Z2B, the squat unit is now unlocked. Official email coming your way tomorrow.

 

P.P.P.S.

I suppose you’re still here for the training program, eh?

SUNDAY

A1) DEADLIFT

  • 1 set @ 3r
  • Add five pounds

A2) TUCK FRONT LEVER

  • 5-10 second hold
  • Make it easier, make it more comfortable, focus on technique and position—don’t even think about “the next progression”

A3)  FEET SUPPORTED HANDSTAND PUSH-UPS

  • Do a few slow reps

B1) RING ROW MUSCLE-UP TRANSITION

  • 3 sets @ 5r
  • Do slow

B2) SHOULDER DISLOCATES + BRIDGE WORK

C1) FRONT SQUAT

  • 2 sets across @ 6r
  • Add five pounds

C2) CHIN-UPS

  • 2 sets across @ 6r
  • Add one pound

D) BLAH

  • ANY BACK SHOULDER/BACK/BICEPS PUMP WORK HERE
  • HANG FOR 60s
  • QUAD/HIP FLEXOR POSITION WORK
  • SPLITS POSITION WORK

 

MONDAY

A1) DEADLIFT

  • 1 set @ 3r
  • Add five pounds

A2) TUCK PLANCHE

  • 5-10 second hold
  • Make it easier, make it more comfortable, focus on technique and position—don’t even think about “the next progression”

A3) SCAP SHRUGS

  • On rings, do a few slow reps from the curl and row position

B1) RING PUSH-UPS

  • 3 sets @ 5s + hold support position for 10s after last rep
  • Make it easier, make it more comfortable, focus on technique and position—don’t even think about “more reps” or “the next progression”

B2) SHOULDER DISLOCATES + BRIDGE WORK

C1) GOOD MORNING

  • 2 sets @ 20r w/ 65 pounds
  • Compress as much as possible. Increase ROM with each rep.

C2) OVERHEAD PRESS

  • 2 sets across @ 6r
  • Add two pounds

D) BLAH

  • ANY FRONT SHOULDER/CHEST/TRICEPS PUMP WORK HERE
  • HANG FOR 60s
  • QUAD/HIP FLEXOR POSITION WORK
  • SPLITS POSITION WORK

 

WEDNESDAY

Repeat Sunday only do incline presses instead of overhead presses. Increase five pounds per week.
 

FRIDAY

Repeat Monday only do barbell rows instead of chin-ups. Increase two pounds per week.
 

NOTES ~

The aggressive linear progression comes from me starting from scratch on just about every barbell lift. And, in general, caring less and less about maximal strength. Lifts are done slowish with full range of motion. 

…and there you have it. Simple.

I launched a thing. It’s called Zero to Barbell. Here’s everything you need to know.

Got a text message from Steve Kamb a few days ago. Steve owns NerdFitness.com and hired me as his coach some time ago.

Here’s the text:

IMG_3656

You could say his training has been working a little too well.

I talk about building an “X” physique often.

When Steve came to me, I told him: be ready for a steady diet of barbell and bodyweight training.

Because in order of importance (for body transformation) it goes:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Iron
  • Food

Why iron before food?

Because what you do with your body tells your body what to do with food. 

(Picked that little gem up from a fella known as Amir Siddiqui.)

But what I’m saying isn’t new. Stuff has been around since the early 1900’s. Eugen Sandow used it. Worked back then. Works now.

Eugen_Sandow10

DIVE IN HEAD FIRST. AMBITION. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION! YEAH!

Eh…

Barbell and bodyweight training forces you to use your body in ways you might not be familiar with.

Overhead pressing. Squatting.

How often do humans have to reach fully overhead or squat all the way down to the ground in this thing we call modern “real life?”

Not often. Maybe never.

There’s no need.

Until some jackwagon like me tells you to squat and overhead press…with a barbell on your back or in your hands. In order to build muscle (in the right places) that even a tailor can’t quite understand.

Before you think about doing this wonderful stuff with extra weight, you need to think about doing this wonderful stuff without weight.

Are you able to reach fully overhead or squat to the floor…with correct mechanics?

Here’s a fun experiment.

Pin your elbows to your side. Bend your elbows to form right angles. Point palms to the sky.

elbows0

Now rotate your wrists so that your thumbs face each other.

elbows

Now keep rotating your wrists so that your thumbs point to the ground.

Uh oh.

I’m betting something quirky happened with that last challenge. Your elbows probably flared away from your torso.

But I didn’t tell you do flare your elbows. I just wanted you to rotate your wrists.

elbows3

Your body doesn’t give two licks about “mechanics” or “technique.”

It doesn’t roll over and die when confronted with a challenge. It does what it can do, as a system, to accomplish the task at hand. Right or wrong. Your body doesn’t think about long term mechanical implications. All it knows is the here and now.

So maybe it’s not so much about whether or not you’re able to do certain things, but rather if you’re prepared to do certain things.

Because I can run one mile…but I certainly ain’t prepared to run one mile. Different beasts. And you don’t want to confuse beasts. Unless you don’t care about your joint integrity.

If I had to summarize all of this…

Humans don’t come with an instruction booklet.

This is why Starting Strength is so dang popular. It says: this is how you perform the basic barbell exercises.

…which is great thing for a self-taught goober like myself.

But it’s not enough.

Because knowing how to do the basic barbell exercises doesn’t mean you’re prepared or even able to do them. The truth of the matter is that basic barbell exercises are still more advanced than the basic bodyweight exercises that enable the basic barbell exercises!

I get emails from lots of people all around the world. These people often want to pay me for a program. But before I make any program, I always want to see whether or not the exercises I’m going to program are being done correctly. So I ask for videos.

And I often find myself saying, “Gosh. There needs to be something that’s pre-Starting Strength. Something that uses mostly bodyweight exercises to set the stage for a looonnngg future of barbell and bodyweight training.”

Something that builds the body awareness and the positional capacity most barbell exercise demand. Something that diagnoses common mobility issues and also fixes them assuming a future of barbell exercise.

Otherwise you’re one of the people doing a bajillion mobility exercises for no good reason. And with no sensible progression.

So I did something rather sensible…

I created the thing I wanted to have. 

Zero to Barbell (Z2B) hath been born.

Z2B is an online course and a basic instruction manual for building movement capacity and body awareness for the fundamental movement patterns that barbell exercise is based upon:

  • Bracing
  • Squatting
  • Hinging
  • Pressing
  • Pulling

And if you don’t recognize one of these words, consider yourself gifted with your first red flag.

Z2B is designed to be done primarily at home. With minimal equipment. With no one passing judgmental glances in your direction. With no self-conscious delusions in a crowded gym.

I look out for my fellow self-taught introverted nerds.

Each movement pattern is built with a progressive sequence of exercises that are used to diagnose and tackle common mobility restrictions.

By the time you’re finished with Z2B, you’ll be able to walk into the free-weight area of any gym and not only act like you belong there, but also perform like you belong there. (And perform better than 95% of the people in the gym.)

Look…

Z2B isn’t the king kong ding dong silver bullet. It’s not going to overtly build you a ton of muscle because it’s primarily a movement resource.

(Even though there is a progression and build up to push-ups, parallel bar dips, bodyweight rows, and pull-ups…which certainly won’t hurt your muscular ambitions.)

But it’s going to build comfort and confidence in movement patterns that will transfer to barbell training.

When you’re comfortable at the bottom of a squat, you’ll be a lot stronger in the squat. And when you’re stronger in the squat, you’ll build more muscle in your legs.

So Z2B is sort of an investment in your future.

Think about the body you want ten years from now. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it move like? You need to start training TODAY with THAT body in mind.

This is NOT what most people want to hear, but Mark Twain had things figured out long ago.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

And if you want to know my secret to success: consistency.

Seriously. I’m not talking about magical exercises here. I’m talking about a pretty easy relationship between your body, your level of preparation, and exercises that have been around since 1900.

So here’s the dealio.

Right now, Z2B is in a “beta.” There’s dust. I’m still working on the thing.

But I want you to know that I’m all in on Z2B.

If you hang around the fitness scene, you no doubt live through the launch of programs. I love me some programs, but programs are finite. No program lasts forever. Some programs don’t even last eight weeks.

But…

Technique? Health? Body mechanics?

These things won’t go out of style. Technique is a lot more important than a program. Z2B lasts a lifetime. And I’m going to be standing Z2B’s side for as long as I can.

Right now, the only units unlocked are the “classroom” units and the bracing unit. The squat, the hinge, the press, and the pull will be released in one to two week waves upon this very day.

I’m doing this “drip” release for a few reasons…

First, because I’m still adding to the units mentioned.

Second, because I don’t want you to drown trying to do too much at once. You spread your resources thin, which leads to less progress, which leads to de-motivation, which spirals you into the abyss…

Think about something…

If you normally train a position or pattern for one minute every day, then you have 30 minutes accumulated at the end of 30 days. If you spend eight minutes on a position or pattern per day, then you have 30 minutes accumulated in FOUR DAYS.

This is as close to using cheat codes as you can get when trying to game your physiology.

Because this is a beta and dusty, I’m launching it ahead of schedule. At a discount. And a heavy discount, I dare say. Some eight week programs online are $200. This is a “forever” course and it’s not even close to that number. Not yet.

At least, not right now.

Doors will only be open until this Friday.

If you want in now, click THIS LINK to purchase. After your purchase, you’ll be redirected to a screen with a blue button that says “Download Product” or something similar.

Click this blue button. You’ll be redirected to the course area and get details on how to register your user name and password in order to get access to the course.

If you don’t like dust or the idea of a beta, then that’s cool, too. The price of this thing has nowhere to go but up, but if you want to wait, then you can wait your pants off.

If nothing else, think about how comfortable you are as you train. There should be no second guessing your ability to hit positions or your confidence with technique.

If there is, something is wrong.

Z2B can make it right.

<3

Goals are good, but they aren’t enough. (Here’s the one other thing you need.)

Goals are childish.

Important? Absolutely.

But childish.

Goals are one of the first things you’re asked about when you get into fitness.

What are your goals?

A construction worker might wanna’ get rid of chronic back pain and get lean. A new father might wanna’ barbell and bodyweight train for muscle in the most time efficient way…maybe even from home.

A first year college kid might wanna’ sleep around without getting STDs.

You get the idea.

Goals are the Land of Oz to Dorothy. Movie would have sucked if there was no Land of Oz. No one cared about Toto and Aunt Em. The real action was with Oz the Great and Powerful.

Goals are the guide, but also childish.

A five year old has goals.

Mommy, mommy, I wanna bicycle!

We should rename goals for what they really are: wants. And wanting is easy. I want a lot of stuff.

I want one million dollars. I want an infinite supply of peanut butter. I want to drink imperial stouts. I want to look good naked. I want to deadlift 600 pounds and then immediately do ten consecutive backflips.

I got lots of goals.

And now that my goals are established…

…what’s next?

Usually nothing.

Goals sit in the back skulls gathering cognitive dust. Because goals guide you to where you want to go, but they don’t tell you HOW to get there.

This is why you need systems.

Dorothy wanted to get to the Land of Oz. Cool. How was she going to get there? The yellow brick road. 

yellowbrickroad

Once you have goals, you need systems. The gist of a system = HOW you’re going to reach your goals.

Want to be more muscular. OK. How are you gonna’ make it happen? I’m going to go to the gym four days per week and touch a barbell in some way, shape, or form.

Want a more “X” shaped physique? OK. How are you gonna’ make it happen? I’m going to stop flat benching. I’m going to incline press at least once per week. I’m going to do rows with flared elbows once per week. I’m going to do chin-ups as if they were heroin (and I was a heroin addict).

Want to lose body fat? OK. How are you gonna’ make it happen? I’m going to start every meal with two fist sized portions of vegetables. I’m going to eat until I’m not hungry instead of until I’m full.

Starting to get a hang of the difference between goals and systems? Good. Because we aren’t done here. Not by a long shot.

It’s one thing to identify a system. It’s another thing to use a system.

And when it comes to using systems, most people make one giant mistake.

They rely too much on willpower.

Better systems = less willpower.

I’ll explain it in full next time.

General organism strength: the what and the why

Not all strength is equal.

So…

  • You can get stronger using a pec deck machine.
  • You can get stronger using the bench press.
  • You can get stronger using push-ups.

You can build strength lots of ways, but the effects will vary pending what you’ve gotten stronger at.

We’re talking about strength because strength is good for physique and performance. (Although, surprise surprise, the relationship isn’t linear.)

But now it’s time to talk about the exercises to use for strength training, otherwise you can be hammering away at “strength training” without getting as much benefit possible.

I kind of blew the pooch earlier: freeweight and bodyweight training are different beasts than most other forms of training.

And this is where using machine training as a reference point becomes useful.

You can feel the burn on machines, man! And they’re so much safer than those circular hunks of iron! Right? So if you can still feel your muscles work, then what’s the matter?

But there’s something special about you moving and controlling your body through gravity…and then beyond gravity. And when you think about freeweight and bodyweight training, that’s all you’re doing.

Every time you stand up from the toilet, you’re working against gravity, but—really—it’s similar to lifting a barbell. Imagine yourself on Jupiter, standing up from the same toilet. If you weigh 220-pounds here, you’d weigh 529-pounds on Jupiter.

Sit on the Earthly toilet, load up a barbell with a cumulative 309-pounds, and then put the barbell on your back. You have Jupiter living conditions. Now stand up.

How’s this different than, say, machine training?

Because you have to consider the totality of stress. And there are two factions of stress.

Local stress is strain on the structures involved. You can make a simple muscle contraction very locally stressful just by contracting as hard as you can.

  • Flex your bicep as hard as you can.
  • Lockout your knee and flex your quad as hard as you can.
  • Stand up, then try touching your heel to your butt — contract your hamstring as much as possible.

Global stress goes beyond and looks at how the exercise effects you, as an organism. Because training stress is much, much, much more than muscular stress.

As Buddy Morris once said:

The stress of training is greater than that of a broken bone because it encompasses the entire system. It encompasses the cardiac, cardiopulmonary, detoxification, hormonal, metabolic, central nervous system, neuromuscular, and […] immune system. That’s all affected by training. And those systems do not recover at the same time.

So, yes, training directly stresses the structures involved. The bones, the muscles, the tendons, the ligaments, et cetera…

But it also stresses structures that influence the rest of your body. The nervous system you use to contract your muscles in a squat is the same nervous system you use to write with a pencil.

Training causes different degrees of total organism stress. This global training effect was coined general organism strength (by a pretty famous sprint coach named Charlie Francis, I believe).

Every exercise delivers a local hit (to the muscles and structures directly involved) as well as a global hit (to the entire organism).

Think of getting the flu. Your entire body goes out of whack (fever-global), but there’s also a very specific response to the thing that’s doing the damage (antibodies-local).

Your body is selectively dealing with a specific pathogen (benching stressing the chest and triceps), but you also have a fever because of the general immune response.

This is why sedentary people can get stronger in the squat (or even the bench press) by bike riding. The activity stresses you, as an ORGANISM, on a global level. And if you aren’t very trained, this global stress bleeds throughout your entire body.

Charlie Francis had his sprinters do heavy bench pressing a few days prior to a competition to serve as a general-global hit to the organism. This kept his athlete’s “fresh” and “trained” without stressing the legs.

Global stress also explains the crossover effect. If you have an injured limb, training the uninjured limb also strengthens (or retains strength within) the injured limb.

And even more? Pavel Tsatsouline often says, to retain strength during an absence from training, train your midsection and your grip.

Think of general organism strength as a power level or a “level” in an RPG. It tells you about your potential abilities, but, at the same time, it tells you nothing about your specific abilities.

Dragon_Ball_Kai-1

In general, exercises that have low global impact are for the birds. This is why methods like dynamic tension by Charles Atlas didn’t quite prove effective.

But what impacts global stress?

Lots of things:

  • Used percentage of maximum ability (% 1RM). The closer to your max you train, the more global the stress gets.
  • Number of muscles involved. The more muscles that are involved, the more global the stress gets. So a deadlift (in which your legs, back, and grip are heavily taxed) is much much much more stressful than a bicep curl.
  • Body position (standing, seated). Standing exercises are typically more stressful because there’s more muscle mass involved. Takes a lot of energy to stabilize your body in space.
  • Total weight lifted. A bench press can be more taxing than an overhead press even though it’s done lying down simply because you can press a whole lot more weight during the bench press.
  • Specific muscles involved. The hand and feet are neurologically intensive areas. If you do a lot of intense grip work, your system will be more fatigued than if you could have gotten away without using your hands. (Think of a deadlift with straps vs. a deadlift without straps.)
  • Level of psycho-physiological arousal. Bashing your head against the wall and listening to Trivium will zap you more than being relaxed and listening to classical music. DON’T LET THE RESIVOIR DOGS KNOW YOU’RE LIFTING.
  • Complexity of movement. Complex movements are more stressful. More joints, more muscle mass. But also more mental energy (to fathom the complexity).
  • Novelty. New things are more stressful than old things.

The best way to think about it: how close am I to moving my body through space in a way that opposes gravity?

The more supergravity the conditions, and the more holistic the conditions (spread across your body), the bigger the general stressor.

Ah, yes — perhaps now you see a little why getting stronger within freeweight and bodyweight training are preferred.

Now, this isn’t exactly shelling out the darkest parts of my programming philosophy. I’ll get to that soon though. (Hint: slow cook the global, make it boring…have fun with the local, keep it fresh.)

First, onto the why of strength. Next letter, of course…