Anthony Mychal Hybrid Blueprint

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Decided to do cardio…and my life may never be the same

Decided to do cardio

I made a dumb decision last week.

I decided to do some cardio.

“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. “People do cardio all the time.”

True. But I guess I’m not “people.” I haven’t done cardio in six years. Might be another six years before I do it again because I had an epiphany when I tried to do cardio last week.

This epiphany is what I’m going to share with you now. It’ll send some shivers through your system. Maybe not as fierce as it did me, but I have hope.

First, to preserve my own morals: a small piece of me decays inside when I use the word “cardio.” It’s a stupid word. You can read why here. And here. Even though it’s a stupid word, I’m going to keep using it because I feel like a doucher if I don’t. Kind of like someone at an uppity restaurant looking down on “peasants.”

Second, onto why I hopped on the treadmill for the first time in six years: I did it to get suprajacked.

I hover around 10% body fat year round. Some days you’ll see my abs. Some days you won’t because I like cookies. (And sometimes I drink too many stouts.)

I’m lean, but I’m not model lean. I don’t really want to be model lean either because I’d probably have an even unhealthier obsession with how visible my abs are on a day to day basis. It’s much easier for me to eat a jar of peanut butter and then act like being model lean is somehow beneath me as a physical virtue.

It’s been a while since I’ve been model lean, but I wanted to give it a go. I normally say that 10% body fat is the place to be, and that anything leaner isn’t going to be friendly to muscular pursuits. See talks on the solid base here and here.

But I wanted to try to prove myself wrong.

So in comes the cardio: incline treadmill walks.

Remember me talking about how long it’s been since I’ve done cardio? Well, tack on a few years and you’ll reach the last time I’ve walked on the treadmill.

But…idea!

Weighted incline treadmill walks. With added weight I could walk a bit slower and simultaneously read books.

Books are good. Reading is good. I was sold.

Few days later, there I was. Trudging along the treadmill. About 10 minutes in, my foot was sending me a message. In about five more minutes, you’re going to regret this. Ha! I can’t wait. It’s going to be hilarious. You’re going to be bested by the treadmill! Ha! You’re pathetic!

And for those that don’t know: I have a neuroma in my foot that said hello sometime after “the incident.” (“The incident” is on YouTube, by the way.)

I’ve been battling this neuroma for a long time. It’s beaten me down, largely because I’ve failed to listen to my body on repeated occasions. This past six months, for the first time, I’ve been sailing into the headwind. Holding onto hope.

Despite things looking up, it still only takes one little misstep for the snowball of pain. Just a hint of swelling leads to more missteps. More missteps, more swelling.

This time? I listened to my neuroma. I fought back. Look here you twerp. You think you’re going to get me. You’ve gotten me in the past, but not this time. I’m the master now. Get that? I’m going to own you. 

So I stepped off the treadmill and then said to myself, “Hmmmm…what can I do instead?”

What can I do for 30-40 minutes, 4-6 days per week…in the name of seeing my abdominal veins all the clearer?

And this was epiphany time.

My name is Anthony. I’m battling a neuroma. Battling. BATTLING. For the past three years, I’ve not had one step upon wherein I didn’t consciously think about my my foot position and prepare for pain. As if nail were hammered between my toes. Every. Single. Step.

Showering.

Playing beer pong.

Shopping for groceries.

The chance for pain. Always. There.

And here I am. About to spend 30-40 minutes of my life 4-6 times days week for the next few weeks (months?) walking on the treadmill…because, well, abdominal veins. 

But maybe…just maybe …I should spend those 30-40 minutes 4-6 days per week doing everything in my power to stop my neuroma from hemorrhaging? To stop it from existing?

Maybe I should go to a park with my sketchpad and Micron markers for those 30-40 minutes 4-6 days a week and finally do what made me feel alive in my past life.

Maybe…

But before you maybe your life away, let me clarify some things.

If you’re downing the idea of deeper abdominal grooves and sickly pelvic veins, you missed the point. The point isn’t to trounce any end. There may be a time in my life when grooves and veins represent a tremendous accomplishment and stand for more than I can fathom now, and will deliver +15 SELF ESTEEM and +10 DEDICATION and +7 WORK ETHIC.

And that’s the point.

You’re chasing a final boss.

It’s easy to pull any old boss out of a random hat.

But it’s hard to ask yourself, “What’s beating this guy going to mean to me right now? Is there something else — some other boss demon — I’m better off chasing?”

Because it’s always work to get to the final boss. And it’s work that can potentially be put elsewhere.

Beating any old boss is nice, but it might not level you up the way the right boss will. And we (I) often dance around the right boss because  finding it forces you look into your stinky bits — your insecurities, your fears, your existential stones — and face truths you’re more comfortable ignoring.

Maybe I’m afraid to tackle the neuroma because I’m afraid I’m stuck with it…and I’d rather live telling myself there’s still hope.

Maybe I’m afraid to admit I want to build muscle…and I’d rather live telling myself looks don’t matter to me. Or that “performance” is more important. 

Maybe…

Maybe you should think about it.

With brutal honesty.

Are you fighting the right boss?

Nassim Taleb on embracing small fires

Nassim Taleb on small fires

Small forest fires periodically cleanse the system of the most flammable material, so this does not have the opportunity to accumulate. Systematically preventing forest fires from taking place “to be safe” makes the big one much worse.

-Nassim Nicholas Taleb via Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder

 

Been thinking a lot about this gem buried in Antifragile. (Wrote about antifragility before. Read here.) I like this metaphor because both outcomes suck. You’re not choosing between overtly Good (no fire) and overtly Bad (fire). You’re choosing between less sucky (small fire) and more sucky (big fire).

Gets you into the habit of embracing small Bad things knowing there are always big Bad things out there. Typical stoic thinking, which Taleb is beyond familiar with.

Rejiggering your mental configuration to embrace Bad is the first layer. Actually subjecting yourself to the small fires is the second layer.

Those drug commercials pop into mind. Taking our pills keeps you pain free all day! 

But should anyone that’s been numbing their body day after day really be surprised when they need back surgery? Knee surgery? Hip surgery?

We live in an age that makes it real easy to ignore the small fires. Do you wear a brace of some sort every day to compensate for weakness? Overdose on caffeine to compensate for no sleep?

I like to think our body has small fires in hopes of preventing big fires. So the question, for me, becomes: how often am I {upset} or {ignoring} small fires when I should actually be {thankful} for and {listening} to small fires?

How much of what I perceive as Bad is actually Good? Like, amazingly Good? And how much am I missing out on because of my inability to see small Bad as amazingly Good?

Most importantly: am I on the verge of an inferno?

Are you?

 

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Image credit: sun

 

Cage to King. What it Means to be a Brain in a Body.

Cage to King - Lion

Somewhere in the world, a lion wakes up every morning not knowing what it’s going to eat. Every day, it finds food. The lion isn’t worried—it just does what it needs to do.

Somewhere else, in a zoo, a caged lion sits around every day and waits for a zookeeper. The lion is comfortable. It gets to relax. It’s not worried much, either.

Both of these animals are lions. Only one is a king.

- Julien Smith, The Flinch

Seven letters. R-D-C-F-E-K-P.

Those seven letters mean nothing to you. You digested them. Nothing happened.

Seven letters. F-U-C-K-Y-O-U.

Those seven letters mean something. They affected you more than you know. Your heart beat jumped. You started breathing faster. Your pupils dilated.

Few are conscious of their body. Fewer are conscious of their brain. Fewest are conscious of the orgasmic unification of the body and brain.

You don’t appreciate your complexity or the capability squalling just beyond the skin of your fingertips. It’s a sleepy shadowed understanding of what it means to be human. It’s living in a cage.  

But you just have to reach out and clench down. White knuckled. And you do that with your fingers — fingers that are a part of your hand.  A structure with close to thirty bones and over one hundred ligaments controlled by nearly fifty electrical wires that can fire with choking violence. Or tickling tenderness, if you so please.

Either way your pupils come along for the ride. Your eye is capable of seeing 500 shades of gray. Capable of processing 36,000 pieces of information in an hour. They are the window to your soul, changing with the mental toughness of a task.

Which brings us to the brain. According to Roger Penrose, our brain is more complex than anything else in the universe. And not to mention the number of synapses in your brain outnumbers the starts in the Milky Way Galaxy. By one thousand times. 

This is what you’re dealing with. This is what you own. Your body. Your brain. Marvels of engineering. No machine compares to the living, breathing, functioning biological system of you. 

Forget cars. You own the most complex and sophisticated vessel in existence. No money down. It’s yours.

But it’s easy to overlook. Easy to be out of touch with what it means to have a body at brain’s command because we forget about things we can’t see.

We see flesh. We like flesh. We take care of flesh. Women wear makeup. We cut our hair. We like things we can see. We care about things we can see.

But we can’t see our guts.

And our guts are always whispering. Always feeling the world beyond our skin. Always thinking. Processing. Wondering how to change to better prepare for what’s out there.

It’s science fantasy. We don’t want to believe, as Robert Sapolsky wrote, that our mother’s chicken pot pie was once digested and transformed into our thigh bone when we were a kid. It’s easy to shove this psychedelic reality outside of our head because everything works without us even having to know how it all works. And that’s fine.

Until it stops working.

And that’s what happens. We don’t care until something goes wrong.

We take the car in for oil changes and regular maintenance to avoid big problems down the line. We can do the same thing with our body.

Unlike your car, your body fixes and upgrades itself.

…if you push the right buttons.

Because, unfortunately, we don’t come with an instruction manual. We have no idea what we’re capable of. No idea how to change ourselves. No idea what button is responsible for what. Maybe even no idea that we have buttons to push.

When I was younger I wanted to be everyone but me. I was skinny-fat. Suffered from the usual teenage self confidence ruckus. Afraid to take my shirt of in gym class. Couldn’t do one push-up, let alone one pull-up.

And then I found something called tricking.

I became a stupid kid teaching myself how to do flips in my own backyard. No instructor. No blueprint. Just ambition.

And then I started to land some tricks. And then I learned how to backflip. And this lightbulb went off.

You don’t have to feel damaged, kid. You can change these things about yourself, ‘yaknow? You can change some things out here and it will change how things work in here. But you know what? You can’t expect to live the way you used to. You have to do some work. Change necessitates change.

I wish I could give you the magic pill you want. I wish I could give you weird tricks that actually blasted belly fat.

I wish I could tell you it’s easy. That you’ll never lose motivation. That you’ll never have to commit time. That you’ll never feel lost and confused and vulnerable. That you’ll never question whether or not you have an eating disorder. That you’ll never think about buying steroids. That you’ll never wonder why you don’t just eat microwave pizzas, watch Seinfeld reruns, and never care about any of this stuff ever again.

I can’t.

But what I can tell you is that you’re lucky. Because the clinically insane part of all of this is that you can change. You can pickle one of the most complex things in the world…

…and win.

You’re part nurture. Your environment shapes you. Every day. You’re never the same person two days in a row. Everything you do today will be in you tomorrow that wasn’t there yesterday.

This happens without thought. And now what you’re doing is consciously reaching into your guts, pushing some buttons, twisting some knobs, and probing for a certain kind of change. Perhaps permanent change. All by changing your environment.

But talk is cheap. There’s a creed. A popular one by a big company. And it’s wrong. It’s dumb. Here’s your new one.

Just did it.

Because that’s what matters. You don’t need permission. You’re going to make mistakes. That’s alright. Struggle is nature’s way of strengthening.

The world isn’t straight. It’s wiggly. There’s no such thing as absolute space and time. Everything is relative to you. Your environment. Your culture. Your fingerprint. It’s all yours. And it’s your job to find out what works for you.

The caged is fed their life; the Kings fights for their life.

Sometimes I feel like the dumbest guy in the room. I make mistakes. I’m a skeptic. Even of myself. I have a hard time looking people in the eye and telling them that some consider my life’s work nothing but vanity and narcissism—caring about the body and all.

You’ll get that. If you find a good way to respond, let me know. I just ask them why they mow their lawn, get their hair cut, wear clothes, and hold their farts in at dinner parties.

Not everyone can be King. Some are better off in the cage.

And you know what? Maybe this is about looking better naked. Most of us start there. But it’s about something more. It’s about potential. About upgrading. About having the power to change. About crafting a user manual. Your own user manual.

It’s about having complete control over yourself.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

We watch dancers. We marvel at their grace and fluidity. Their control over their body.

We see extreme sport athletes. We marvel at their bravery. Their control over their mind.

We see snake charmers. Fire walkers. The control over their emotions. 

We love it all because we silently appreciate how special it is to own parts of your being. As if the masses are doomed to live a life not only without the control, but also longing for the control.

You aren’t doomed. It’s possible to own yourself. To dominant some piece of your being.

All physical and mental upgrades are nothing more than you showing dominance over your body. And that dominance, that control, spills into the rest of your life.

This is what it means to be King. It’s not about ruling others. It’s about ruling yourself. It’s not about some sort of academic pursuit. It’s a way of life. And you don’t need to be an expert.

In the end, you only get one life. One body. One brain. This isn’t about following a certain set of rules. Or a certain program. The question isn’t whether or not you can follow a formula.

The question is:

Are you going to be curious enough to care?

 

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Image credit: lion

 

 

A lesson from the Nintendo [RESET] button

Anthony Mychal Reset Button

I loved the original Nintendo. Beyond Mario and Zelda, I played games like Blaster Master and Deadly Towers. In these games, there were no save slots. You played the game until you either won or died. When you died, you had to start over from the beginning.

I usually died.

I think I beat Blaster Master once. I was in my twenties. It took me months (also in my twenties and with a friend) to beat Deadly Towers. When we got to the boss (nearly impossible) we knew we’d never make it back. We also remembered that it took us months to get to the boss. So we cheated. We looked up how to beat the boss. (It’s not my proudest secret.)

Something fascinates me about the original Nintendo. You put a game in. You press the start button. These are givens. They have to be givens.

But that reset button…

You could just hit the start button twice. Turn it off, turn it on. But they made the reset button.

They knew you were going to lose. Going to get so frustrated. Yet maintain enough hunger that you’d want to play again so quickly that hitting the start button twice wasn’t an option.

I have a lot of Nintendo games I didn’t beat. I have no Nintendo games I never played. I probably hit the reset button on all of them at some point.

What I like about the reset button is that it’s a fresh start…but not really a fresh start. Hitting the reset button is different than playing a game in for the first time.

The reset button takes you back to the start screen, but you aren’t a complete newbie. You have some playing time under your belt. You might even know how to beat the first few levels in record time. (Maybe not record time…)

You’re starting fresh, but you’re not new.

Few of us hit the reset button in life. In training.

We keep playing the game despite being lost and confused. You aren’t dead, but you don’t know what to do. You retrace every single step you took.

Nothing.

Sometimes the best thing to do is hit the reset button. Start fresh. You might have to do things you already done. You might feel like a loser. But the reset gives you a fresh perspective. You might notice something you missed previously. Might talk to one villager in a different context that ignites something inside.

This is different from game over because with game over you have no choice: you have to reset.

It takes a bit more courage to reset when it’s not game over. You hold in that reset button. Teeth clenched. Is this the right move?

Game over is your ally. It smacks you in the face. You were’t good enough, but you’re free to try again from the start if you’d like.

Unfortunately, there’s no game over for us. We play and we play. We rarely ever stop to think: alright, alright…I lost. Let’s try this over from the top. Let’s scrap everything and do this differently the second time around because it’s scary.

All of the progress…gone.

But it’s not. It’s there. Somewhere. And even then, consider the point of it all. You’re stuck. Whatever you were doing didn’t work. Whatever you are doing isn’t getting you anywhere.

Why not start fresh?

Sometimes we need game over because, otherwise, we’d never have the stones to hit reset.

This is your game over…if you need it.

Myelination: a primer on how skills are built

Myelin and skill

Give up. Quit now. Stop. You’re stuck with the abilities you have now for the rest of your life.  If you aren’t good, you’ll never be good. Greatness is born, not earned. You can’t improve. Ever.

The born with – stuck with mentality was the commanding consensus on both skill and ability for a long time. The script has been flipped thanks to the discovery of myelin

Greatness may not be born at all, but rather learned over time with a certain kind of practice.

If you aren’t good, you simply need to make yourself better.

How?

By developing the skill.

By practicing the skill.

Drive to the grocery store

You’re at your house and you need to get to the store. There are a lot of routes you can take, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you pick one and you take it.

You take that road over and over and over. You get better and better and better driving that specific road. You know how to cut the corners, turn the wheel precisely around the bends, and barely stop at the stop signs where police don’t sit.

This is myelination.

(1) Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electrical signal traveling through a chain of neurons—a circuit of nerve fibers. (2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

-Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

Movement is a precisely times sequence of electrical signals sent throughout your body through your nerve fibers. They take a specific route that you tell them to take. Your body optimizes this route with insulation. More insulation makes for faster signal travel.

So skill? It’s all about you insulating the right pathway.

What is a skill…?

Everything is a skill. Moving your finger is a skill. Squatting is a skill. Pressing is a skill. Putting is a skill. Throwing is a skill. Gripping is a skill.

Simple skills are packaged together to create complex skills, but it’s still all about precisely timed electrical signals. Doesn’t matter if it’s simple or complex.

We often take the idea of a “skill” for granted, seeing only what we can’t do or what’s tough to do as skill.

Consider holding a pen and writing a sentence. This is a complex skill. Most wouldn’t even think of it as a skill at all though. We’re taught how to do it when we’re young ,and we repeat it so many times that it becomes easy.

That’s really the sauce of skill though: taking something complex and wiring it into your system so deeply that it becomes an unconscious happening.

As Daniel Coyle writes, in The Talent Code – the definitive book on myelination and skill – myelin doesn’t care about who you are, it cares about what you do. (By the way, every human being needs to read The Talent Code. Follow it up with The Sports Gene for the other side of the story.)

This is good because we can go from scrappy kids that can barely hold a pencil to older (still probably scrappy) kids that can form sentences and create artwork with the same pencil

The downside of myelin?

It’s good that myelin only cares about what you do.

But it’s also bad.

Because myelin doesn’t recognize correctness, it just insulates the pathway.

Ski slope myelination

You’re at the top of a ski slope with nothing but fresh powder below you. The path you take is your poison…until one is created. Once you create a path, your skis unconsciously follow the formed grooves. With every run, the path gets optimized.

This is good, right?

Absolutely…

…if you took the right path from the start.

If you didn’t? If you took the most off beaten, longest travelling, totally askew pathway? Myelin doesn’t care; it only knows what you do.

Myelin isn’t going to create the best path, it’s only going to optimize the path frequently traveled.

Practice only makes perfect if you’re practicing perfectly. Practice simply makes permanent. The only kind of practice that makes perfect, as the old adage goes, is perfect practice.

This is big because your body isn’t an Etch A Sketch. You can’t just shake yourself into a clean slate.

Myelin wraps, it doesn’t unwrap. 

The grooves you make down the ski slope are there to stay. If you don’t groove the right pathway, it’s extremely tough to learn a new pathway. This is why motor repatterning requires immense volume and time. (As those of you that have my knee pain book know.)

As Buddy Morris once said:

“It takes 500 hours to invoke a motor pattern before it becomes unconscious. It takes 25-30 thousand reps to break a bad motor pattern.”

- Buddy Morris

If this doesn’t make you skittish about practice, I don’t know what will. It makes me scared. I don’t want to ingrain any bad patterns.  You shouldn’t either. But ingraining bad patterns isn’t the same thing as making mistakes. 

Make mistakes…small ones

Skill is about building a pathway. You don’t want a bad pathway, but you have to reach. Perfect practice makes perfect, but that doesn’t equate to consistent absolute perfection.

Perfect practice is all about the sweet spot.

“The sweet spot: that productive, uncomfortable terrain located just beyond our current abilities, where our reach exceeds our grasp. Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it’s about seeking a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions.”

-Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

There’s a range. You want to reach, but you don’t want to reach too far. When you can juggle two balls, you try to juggle three. Not fifty. Trying to juggle fifty would only confuse. It’s too far beyond the sweet spot.

“The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does.”

-Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

And while moving from two to three balls, you shouldn’t expect absolute perfection. You’ll screw up, but that’s what learning is about: making small mistakes, recognizing the mistakes, and then fixing them. Sound like antifragility, no?

Practice makes permanent, not perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. But perfect practice doesn’t mean perfection. 

This blows my mind, will it blow yours?

Skill is my baby. I could read book after book on how the body wires itself. I don’t know whether it comes from tricking or being a general physical-personal upgrade junkie.

A deep appreciation births for what your body is capable of when you understand just how intricate skill development is.  Skill is complex. Skill is a biological phenomenon. 

It’s not only about insulating, but also timing. Timing is vital because neurons are binary: either they fire or they don’t.

“Fields had me imagine a skill circuit where two neurons have to combine their impulses to make a third high-threshold neuron fire—for, say, a golf swing. But here’s the catch: in order to combine properly, those two incoming impulses must arrive at nearly exactly the same time—sort of like two small people running at a heavy door to push it open. That required time window turns out to be about 4 miliseconds, or about half the time it takes a bee to flap its wings once.”

-Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

I’m giddy just thinking about the precision our body has.  And I’m also giddy about the complexity. Skills aren’t binary like neurons.

Psychological arousal can kill skill. You’ve probably heard of the difference between gamers and non-gamers. Non-gamers are heroes during practice, yet can’t turn it on during the game itself. Why? Because their skill isn’t tuned to work alongside the high physiological arousal of competition.

During practice you can be lazy and relaxed. Your heart rate is lower. There’s no pressure. Your body works differently in that kind of environment.

Same goes for scenery. I’m sure many tricksters agree that scenery matters. If you learn a trick at a park always facing a certain kind of backdrop, when you move away from that backdrop you won’t be as confident.

There’s more here. I could go on forever, but I’ll spare you the time.

Realize the joy of having a body

You’re a transformer. You’re piecing yourself together. You’re plugging wires into sockets and then enhancing the connection between your pieces. Neurons that fire together wire together. What gets taxed gets waxed. 

“Traditional theory said that hardware was a limit. But if people are able to transform the mechanism that mediates performance by training, then we’re in an entirely new space. This is a biological system, not a computer. It can construct itself.”

-Ericsson in T Code

Reading about skill is one thing. So is admiring skill. ESPN’s Body issue came out recently, and I’m transfixed. It’s amazing to see how the body’s of different athletes look knowing that, underneath the hood, the wiring has some sort of influence on the output. It’s fascinating.

But do yourself a favor.

Don’t just gawk. Go. Maybe it’s time to start adding rolls to your training. Maybe it’s time to go play the violin.

It won’t always be easy. According to Coyle, “The best way to build a good circuit is to fire it, attend to mistakes, then fire it again, over and over. Struggle is not an option: it’s a biological requirement.”

Expect the struggle. It’s what gives you strength.

Go lay some myelin down in your own body.

 

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Photo credit: ski slope

 

Chow cheat code #1: use a bowl the size of your head

chow cheat code mychal vegetables

There’s been a steady climb with my vegetables consumption over the years. It started with nill. Hated ‘em. Found out a way to like ‘em (which is a cheat code in itself). Now? I have a simple way to deal with my vegetable eating.

  • Step one: find a bow that’s about the size of your head. Mine says it’s three liters.
  • Step two: fill the bowl with vegetables.
  • Step three: eat that bowl full of vegetables in one entire day, any way you can.
  • Step four: repeat day after day.

What about the cost of all these veggies? Isn’t this insane? Unfeasible?

Look, I’m just as cheap as you are. I don’t take my health as seriously as I should. I sacrifice my health for “teh gainz” at times. But I always eat my vegetables by filling most of the bowl with cheap things. Cabbage and carrots are my fillers, lately.

I usually grab a head of cabbage, cut the thing in half, slice it up, and throw it in the bowl. This leaves me with some wiggle room. Whatever else I have, I’ll throw in there. Consider using the wiggle room for the more  top shelf produce. Buy some exotic things to get a variety of nutrients into your body.

And yes, this is all raw. It doesn’t have to be, but it usually is for me. I’ve grown into eating most of my produce raw just because I’m lazy.

I recommend this strategy for a few reasons:

First, the nutrients. Most people need more nutrients from food. I know a lot of people take multivitamins, but I believe there’s a difference between food and pill, regardless of what the labels say.

Second, the bulk. Eat this bowl full of vegetables (the size of your head) every day, and I bet you don’t eat as much of the other junk you normally would. This is another reason why I eat it raw. Downing raw vegetables is infinitely more filling than cooking them down into soup.

Third, well, poop. 

All in all, there’s a strange correlation between my vegetable consumption and my overall hold on my body composition. Correlations aren’t causation, but this is one of the tips I’m not afraid to Force choke someone over.

It’s simple. Don’t over think it. Bowl. Size of your head. Fill. Eat. Repeat.

 

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Consider this post a test. Do you like these short form nutrition and kitchen tricks? Let me know in the comments!

 

New tricking tutorials and some front split love

Just like I mentioned last week, I’m chugging away behind the scenes to get out some tricking love as the weather turns for those that live in my kind of climate. I have some new tutorials for you this week:

And as usual, you can check the full database here. My plan is to continue churning out tutorials until I’m done with most basic tricks. I’ll also be filling in the gaps with the videos, all the while putting out some other trick related content like how to start and some things you should know.

A big department there is flexibility, so here’s some magic for you there to get things started.

Also, expect some YouTube videos soon. Much like I used this blog to talk through skinny-fat syndrome earlier this year, my plan is to do a series of YouTube videos that outline my own “unified field theory.”

Much like Einstein had a vision that all matters of physics could be explained under one umbrella, this theory of mine is how I view nutrition, athletics, body composition — all of that and more — as one unified philosophy.

So you wanna trick?

You might have noticed that I’ve fallen short on some of my plans set forth from earlier this year about posting more frequently and in a shorter more note-like style.

It’s not because I’ve taken to laziness or because I don’t want to post my notes. It’s because I decided that I needed to finally start developing the foundation of something that has been a part of my for a long time, rather than become another news outlet.

I’ve put this off for too long, and I could put it off even longer. It’s not finished like I want it to be. Pieces of each tutorial are missing. Nevertheless, I have to put it out there.

I get asked about tricking a lot, specifically about how to start. I scratched this issue a few times, but never really planted my shovel into the ground.

Consider this the first load of dirt.

I started making some tutorials. You can see them here. They aren’t 100% finished, but they’re finished enough for you to get some value out of them. I’ll be working on making things prettier and more comprehensive in the coming weeks and months. It’s perfect time for those that live in a climate where the weather is starting to turn.

With this, I also have a lot of posts on flexibility and more athletic-oriented training coming. It’s all on the verge of being released, so just know I’m working hard (and I’ve been working really hard despite not posting as much). Most articles are about 80% finished, which is the good news. The bad news is that the last 20% is always the toughest part of writing anything.

All in all, I’m working on getting this new stuff out into the world while also making this place a little easier to navigate. I’ve written a lot of articles in the past few years, and I feel like there’s a lot of stuff here most people never uncover. Making this place flow better has always been a goal of mine, and that’s something I’m working on, too.

For now, I’ve personally categorized every article by a general bucket. You can see that archive here. Hopefully that beats the archive I already have categorized by date.

That’s really not all of the updates I could talk about, but it’s enough for now. I really don’t see how you couldn’t like what’s going to happen in the coming months.

I’m glad you’re here. And know that I’m doing a lot of things under the hood to make this place a lot better.

Is there a difference between barbell and bodyweight training?

barbell bodyweight differences

Last post we waxed some context by basically saying that both “barbell training” and “bodyweight training” are ambiguous concepts that need a stronger definition. Being an Olympic weightlifter is “barbell training,” as is being a powerlifter. Being a gymnast is “bodyweight training,” as is being a twelve year old kid struggling to do five push-ups while watching Dragon Ball Z. (That last example may or may not be self anecdote.)

So the first step is really clarifying not only where your abilities are now, but where you want them to be in the future — you need a some sort of compass guiding your way.

Beyond the philosophical introductory layer, we can start to look at the differences between barbell and bodyweight training. And this topic is probably best seen under the direction of the age old question:

Is it possible to get good gains with just bodyweight training?

Stated another way, is there something one does that the other doesn’t? 

In my opinion, absolutely. 

The body only knows tension…right?

Talking about the differences between barbell and bodyweight training starts with a heuristic often thrown around: the body doesn’t know the tools, it only knows the tension. 

The body only knows that it needs to strain a certain amount to overcome an unfavorable situation (like being nearly crushed by favorably arranged hunks of iron). It doesn’t really say, “This is a barbell. This is a kettlebell. This is a dumbbell. This is…,” and then go on to give special attention to one tool over another.

And because of that, the body doesn’t necessarily respond in any unique or special way to any one piece of equipment, which brings us to this:

There’s no difference between barbell and bodyweight training because it’s all about tension produced; as long as you’re producing the same tension, you’re good to go. 

Right?

The trouble with tension

The most tension my calfs have ever experienced come at 2AM in the form of muscle cramps, and I don’t really see those as training sessions. (Although maybe I should keep a post-workout shake on hand every night, just in case!)

This view of tension is a problem because everything becomes muscle, muscle, muscle. We break our training down by muscle groups. We massage muscles. We gauge fatigue on how our muscles feel. We look at muscle tension.

We ogle over muscles.

But training and tension taxes more than the muscle. Consider that the muscle itself funnels into a tendon and that tendon funnels into bone. All of these things remodel under stress, not just the muscle. And then there’s the nervous system, endocrine system, immune system — yeah, you get the idea.

Training isn’t necessarily about tension

Training is about stress.

In order to really compare the two, we have to take a look at the stress each form of training makes the body deal with.

STRESS GIBLET #1 – ORGANISM EFFECTS

Although you can tax muscles with bodyweight training, the over all systemic effect doesn’t quite match up to the blow you can deliver with a barbell.

You can produce tension in the upper body pressing muscles with a push-up, but compare the systemic effect of a push-up with something like a bench press. In a push-up, you only have a certain percentage of your bodyweight being born by the bones of your arm — a percentage that always depends on your own bodyweight. With the bench press, “weight” isn’t a limiting factor, so you can load up the bar with more than your bodyweight (pending strength), which generally makes for a greater systemic overload.

This systemic effect potential of barbell exercises often can’t be replicated with bodyweight exercises because you can’t “load” the system in the same way. (A lot of people smarter than me often say that loading the spine make for great neurological demand.) You might be able to create comparable tension, but that doesn’t exactly equate to comparable stress. 

In a sense, you can say that barbell exercises can be more fever (widespread effect). Bodyweight exercises can be more head cold (local effect).

STRESS GIBLET #2 – TENSION (HEADACHES)

Let’s jump back to tension. Beyond systemic effects, you might be able to create comparable tension with bodyweight exercises.

Might. 

To understand this, we have to bring back to the bodyweight levels from last article.

LEVEL 0

Bodyweight squats, push-ups, inverted rows, etc.

LEVEL 1

Cossack squats, chin-ups/pull-ups, parallel bar dips, etc.

LEVEL 2

One arm push-ups, one arm chin-ups, pistol squats/shrimps, etc.

LEVEL 3

Levers, planches, handstands, and other floor/bar skills.

LEVEL 4

Basically the third level done on rings, and other advanced ring skills.

It’s not simply about producing tension, it’s about being able to scale tension overtime to continually challenge the status quo of adaptation. These layers put scale and tension in perspective given your current ability.

If you’re below LEVEL 0, then working towards LEVEL 0 will likely give you the tension and stress you need to see change. Same can be said of LEVEL 1. But once you pass LEVEL 0 and 1, scaling tension and overload is tough.

I’d bet you’d gain muscle taking yourself from being able to do one push-up per set to twenty. But twenty to thirty? To one-hundred?

Not so sure.

And so when you get good in the LEVEL 0 and 1 range, often times high training frequency is one of the only ways to continue the overload. You’re not really producing the same high tension (because you’re stronger), and so the only way to amass more is to do more.

Of course, you can move onto a higher level, but that doesn’t come without hiccups.

LEVEL 2 STRANGENESS

Something funky starts to happen around LEVEL 2. It would seem that, given the skills are tougher, they’d naturally overload the targeted muscles more than the lower levels…but that’s not always the case. 

Let’s take the one arm push-up, for example. By all means, supporting more weight on one arm means more overload. It also means more responsibility for the bones, tissues, and entire upper body pressing structure.

Things look good.

Except that, for a lot of people, the limiting factor in the one arm push-up isn’t necessarily the pressing strength, but rather the torso strength and being able to lock down and stabilize the the offset loading. Same thing happens with the pistol squat. Single leg makes for more stress than any bodyweight bilateral version, but poor ankle mobility — not leg strength — is often the limiting factor.

Moving up the chain into LEVEL 3, a weak set of wrists can (and likely will) limit the maximum tension you’d be able to produce up the chain and into the chest and shoulders. I could go on and on, but the main message is that for a lot of bodyweight exercises, technique (on some level) interferes with the ability to produce decent tension.

A quick recap

The body doesn’t know tools, only tension…but there are two caveats:

  1. Tension is nice, but it doesn’t represent the totality of what’s going on inside the body – the total stress. 
  2. Even though bodyweight exercises can produce some worthwhile tension, they can also be self limiting.

Naturally, this makes it seem like I’m flushing bodyweight exercises down the toilet, but I’m not doing that at all. (So to all you zealots ready to bash my face in: have patience.) Some of the bodyweight training’s supposed downfalls are actually upsides. And besides: barbell training ain’t perfect either. This is why I think combining them both is ideal, and that’s something we’ll keep unraveling next time.

The basics of combining barbell and bodyweight training: qualifying context

combining barbell and bodyweight training anthony mychal

A lot of the questions I get asked pertain to the relationship between bodyweight and barbell training. Some of the hard hitters include:

  • How do you merge both?
  • Which is better?
  • Is there a way to get gains with just bodyweight training? Or just barbell training?

Being my contextually obsessive self, I have a hard time answering these questions because it’s like asking about ingredients in a recipe…without actually having a recipe.

And so, most often, I’m sure I answer in some snide philosophical tone that makes it seem like I’m dodging the question, even though in reality I’m just saving myself from my own self induced existential crisis. So before we start to tackle the bodyweight and barbell bucket, let’s start with some context.

BB + BW Combo: the barbell side of context

What does “bodyweight” training mean? “Barbell” training? We need to qualify these things before we do anything else.

Barbell training seems obvious enough, but it’s not. Bodybuilders, powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, and even CrossFitters—all of these athletes use the barbell for a high percentage of their training, yet each athlete spats out differently.

Plopping bodyweight training atop an Olympic weightlifting ethos of pulling from the floor, putting things overhead, and squatting with a high frequency is different than plopping it atop a powerlifting ethos of more benching is different than training like ‘roided up bodybuilder that hits every muscle group hard once per week.

Qualifying barbell training is important because it usually determines (a) not only lifts that are prioritized, but also (b) training programming. The biggest implication of all of this being stress, and how to manage the stressors that each philosophy brings about.

If you’re a powerlifter that can’t give up bench pressing, then you’re in a different situation than a goonie like myself that holds no allegiance to any sort of sport. I can pick and choose my spots given my overall interests and goals, which is why I have barbell stones that err on the Olympic weightlifting side but aren’t fully immersed there.

BB + BW Combo: the bodyweight side of context

Qualifying bodyweight training is more frame of mind than anything else. One the questions we’ll eventually get to (and one I’m asked a ton) is whether or not it’s possible to get gains with just bodyweight training.

There are two unknowns to that question, and we’ll deal with this one first: what does “bodyweight” training mean to you? Doing a push-up is “bodyweight” training, but so is doing an iron cross.

Bodyweight skills, in my opinion, have tiers:

++++++

LEVEL 0

Bodyweight squats, push-ups, inverted rows, etc.

LEVEL 1

Cossack squats, chin-ups/pull-ups, parallel bar dips, etc.

LEVEL 2

One arm push-ups, one arm chin-ups, pistol squats/shrimps, etc.

LEVEL 3

Levers, planches, handstands, and other floor/bar skills.

LEVEL 4

Basically the third level done on rings, and other advanced ring skills.

+++++++

This classification will pop its head back up again for different reasons, but primary point now is that if you have a LEVEL 4 frame of mind then you’re in a totally different place than someone with a LEVEL 0 frame of mind.

(For curious minds: the levels aren’t linear. You don’t have to accomplish LEVEL 2 before moving to LEVEL 3, for instance. The classification has a different purpose beyond progression.)

BB + BW Combo: the end game

The last initial contextual layer is qualifying the end game: what gains are you seeking? Prioritizing skill development is different than prioritizing hypertrophy is different than wanting a combination of both.

For instance, CrossFit merges barbells and bodyweight training, but I’d never do CrossFit. Yet I merge barbell and bodyweight training—see how context is an important thing to tackle?

This sort of reroutes back to the above two buckets, in a way. CrossFitters compete in certain lifts and events and not others. There are not a lot of high level bodyweight skills in the sport, as the muscle-up was a long time pinnacle of bodyweight investment. For a gymnast though, a muscle-up is a ground zero fundamental skill.

BB + BW Combo: recap of context

Before going anywhere with a barbell and bodyweight conversation, you have to hit those three layers of context:

  • What kind of barbell training? What to do value? How does that determine how you’re going to train and the stressors you’re going to put on your body?
  • What kind of bodyweight training? Where’s your head at? LEVEL 0?
  • What’s the end game? Do you want to prioritize barbell training and use bodyweight as something “extra?” The reverse? What do you value and to what end?

And I think that’s a decent enough launch pad. We’re in a much better spot now to talk about merging both barbell and bodyweight training.