Fat Loss

SAPT Exercise of the Week: Double-Arm KB Farmer Walk with Towel

Kent Blackstone 350lbs
Kent Blackstone 350lbs

As soon as I completed my first-ever farmer carry, the exercise was indelibly cemented into my memory as an all-time favorite, and one that I privately vowed to use on a weekly basis both within my own training and in that of our athletes and clients at SAPT.

You'd be hard pressed to find to find a better exercise that simultaneously develops core and hip stability, grip strength, shoulder health, structural soundness of the musculoskeletal system, promotes fat loss and lean body mass gain, gets you "yolked," and takes the cake for overall conditioning.

Not to mention (and stealing a phrase from my friend Tony Gentilcore), a heavy set of farmer carries will make any woman within a two-block radius spontaneously conceive. How about that one, science?

And, with large thanks to Dan John and his article, The Secret of Loaded Carries, the farmer walk has grown in popularity and an increasing number of people are appreciating how valuable they are.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of loaded carries is that they are SCALABLE. You can literally use them with anyone, for virtually any training goal:

  • An overweight client who's brand new to the weight room and seeking fat loss.
  • A football player looking to pancake some unsuspecting soul on the opposing team.
  • Wrestlers and MMA fighters desiring augmented grip strength and cardiovascular fitness.
  • A powerlifter looking to improve his squat, bench, and deadlift.
  • A fitness model preparing for a photo shoot, or college student fancying a sexy bod for the upcoming Beach Week.
  • A mother or father simply preparing for "Life"; wanting to better prepare for the ability to get through a day of yard work without crippling back pain.
  • And, while I have yet to find a specific research study on the matter, I'm convinced that a healthy dose of farmer carries, more than any other exercise modality, improves your sex life, along with making coffee taste even better than it already does.

I'm not kidding, you can use them for a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. At SAPT we have 11-year olds carry 10lb kettlebells, practicing good posture and walking mechanics; some of our high school athletes carry upwards of 410lbs with the implements. You can see the video below for a boatload of kettlebell (or dumbbell) variations you can use as part of a warm-up or conditioning circuit:

And while I LOVE the farmer walk implements, which allow you to really ramp up the weight (and subsequently, superhero status), I realize that many of you reading train in a commercial gym, and don't have access to the wonderful world of farmer walk handles. Enter....

Double-Arm KB Farmer Walk with Towel

This exercise was invented by your fellow wizards at SAPT, when, upon opening the facility back in 2007, the power racks didn't arrive forfour freaking months due to the company being complete dunderheads delay in shipment. What appeared to be a curse quickly metamorphosed into a blessing, as it forced the coaches to be creative with exercise selection. The KB farmer walk with towel happened to be one of the offspring of this surge in forced creativity.

Here it is in action:

(Note: If your gym doesn't have very heavy kettlebells, you can stack weight plates on top of the KB, as shown in the video.)

I really like this exercise because you can do it nearly any gym, and while it will provide nearly all the benefits of farmer carries (listed in the beginning of this article), this particular variation really, and I mean really, hammers grip strength. You'll literally have to "unpeel" your fingers from your palms when you finish. Not to mention, these really make for fun competitions among the competitive crowd, to see who can go the heaviest and longest before allowing the towel to slip out of the hands.

In fact, even though we now have the luxury of implement handles at SAPT, we still use this variation with near reckless abandon in our athlete's programs.

I like to do these for 2-3 sets of 30-80yds. (If you train in a gym without much walking room, you can just walk back and forth in a 5-10yd square. Who cares if you look funny.)

Give it a shot and hope you enjoy.

Joint-Friendly Conditioning, Part 1

Kieran Sprint
Kieran Sprint

Aerobic training, energy systems work, metabolic training, get-sexy-for-beach time. However you want to put it, it's loved by many, and even if for those who don't love it, it needs to get done.

Unfortunately, the large, waving red flag I continually see soaring above the majority of people's conditioning* routines, is that they quickly leave their victims injured and broken, rather than better equipped for the arena of athletics or simply leaner and healthier.

*Note: I realize this term means completely different things to different people, and entire books could be written (and have been) on the matter. However, for the rest of the post, for all intents and purposes "conditioning" will be used to simply imply anything elevates your heart rate up for the purpose of  enhanced work capacity, performance, fat-loss, or health. 

Traditional running programs boast one of the highest injury rates among participants to date, and the incalculable group exercise classes and exercise DVD sets out there have people performing lunge jumps,  broad jumps, repeated box jumps, and other so-called "plyometrics" until they're blue in the face. Or, until their patella tendon shoots out front side of their leg, whatever comes first I suppose.

As as aside, please keep in mind that when I use the term "injury" I'm not so silly to presume that all of you out there undergoing a common conditioning regimen are going to become paralyzed or some equivalent of being blasted by the Death Star's ray gun, but it could be something as simple as tendinitis, tendinosis, back pain, or any developing some sort of "achy" joint in general.

So, given that you're likely either A) an athlete, or B) someone who cares about feeling, looking, and moving better, this begs three questions, along with the part of this article that you actually care about:

#1. How do you perform conditioning routines that reduce the risk of injury occurring during the process?

#2. If you're currently currently suffering any form of injury, how can you still become a mean, lean, fighting machine despite your achy knees, back, and/or shoulders?

#3. If you're a competitive athlete, how do you obtain enhanced work capacity, yet spare your joints and central nervous system in the process?

In general, you're going to want to avoid exercises that place high stress on the joints, and movements that, when performed under a state of fatigue, aren't likely to degrade in form. So running, jogging, flat-ground sprinting, and repeated jumping and bounding (incorrectly dubbed 'plyometrics' by the fitness gurus) are going to be considered "higher risk."

Oh, and I can't believe this should even need be addressed, but the olympic lifts for high reps are out, too.

So, what to do? Below are a few of my choice, joint-friendly conditioning options (feel free to chime in any of your personal favorites below), which I've divided into two "spectrums:" Beginner ---> Intermediate and Intermediate ---> Advanced. There's obviously overlap between the two categories, and everything isn't black and white, but hopefully this will help you get a decent idea of some of your options to toy with.

Beginner ---> Intermediate

1) Loaded Carries (Farmer Walks)

A bread-and-butter movement.  Quoting the man Dan John himself: "The loaded carry does more to expand athletic qualities than any other single thing I've attempted in my career as a coach and athlete. And I do not say that lightly."

Virtually anyone can do them, the majority of the variations are extremely joint-friendly, and not to mention they get the heart rate up at an alarming rate. The other week I took my farmer walk implements to the local high school track and walked 800 meters with them. The next day I no longer wondered what loaded carries were good for.

Below is a real quick video on a bunch of different variations you can  use if you don’t have access to implements. Note that you can certainly use a dumbbell instead of a kettlebell for a large majority of these.

Bill Hartman also wrote an excellent recent post on how loaded carries make for quite a remedial exercise selection. Check it out HERE.

2) Sled Pushing, Pulling, Dragging

This has to be one of my favorites, by far. Easy on the low back, shoulders, and knees. It’s relatively “dummy proof,” it teaches one to simultaneously flex one hip and extend the other, and produces very little post-workout soreness (extremely important for athletes in particular). Just last year, when I was dealing with a nagging leg injury that made squatting problematic, I was still able to push it hard on the sled while concurrently healing my injury.

3) Jumping Jacks. Who said it had to be complicated?

4) Medicine Ball Work. Note that I'd recommend sticking to overhead slamming until one knows how to use their hips (not low back) to do wall throws.

5) Airdyne Bike. 

6) Low-level + Low Repetition Bodyweight Drills in Sequence

7) Dynamic Mobility Work

Intermediate ---> Advanced

1) Any of the list above (sled work, farmer carries, jumping jacks etc.). It's all scalable, after all.

2) Crawls!

People usually make fun of these until they try them. They're deceptively challenging when performed for reasonable distances, and the beauty of them is they can literally be done anywhere.

See the video below for numerous demonstrations. I’d recommend starting with just the bear and tiger crawls, and make sure you’re keeping a stable spine throughout. The chicken, kangaroo, gorilla, spider, and scorpion wouldn’t be advised to those with injuries.

3) KB Swings

4) Burpees. Maybe. Just be sure you're achieving full hip extension at the top and not looking like a pile of doo-doo as you land from the jump and transition into the pushup. 

5) Sledge Swings

6) Hill Sprints

7) Jump Rope

8 ) Barbell (and Kettlebell) Complexes

9) Low-level Push/Pull/Hinge/Squat Patterns

I'll be back on Friday to briefly discuss a few options on how to string these together.

(Update: You can see Part 2 HERE)

Growth Hormone Response to Resistance Training

Lots of research has been conducted on how to elicit the greatest growth hormone (GH) response in the body. There are actually several GH isoforms, but by far, the most commonly studied is the 22-kD molecule that consists of 191 amino acids. If you’re attempting to get some more size on your frame, then you should be concerned about your body’s GH response to your lifts.

Rules of Thumb:

  1. GH is maximized via concentric muscle action, specifically.
  2. Men and women have similar GH responses to resistance exercise. However, women naturally have more GH at rest than men do.
  3. The idea the GH response is limited in “older” individuals is a fallacy. GH response is primarily linked to EFFORT, not age.
  4. Planning is crucial. If you are “winging-it” in the gym, you’re probably wasting your time - in terms of muscle growth. Everything is important: sets, reps, intensity, total volume, rest time, exercise selection. So, very difficult (some may say “insane”) set/rep schemes are in order. Ex. 10x10 @ 70% with 2-min rest or 6x15 @ 60% with 3-min rest.

Cocktail trivia you can breakout for your meat-head minded friends: growth hormone is secreted from the anterior pituitary, which receives its “orders” from a neural response initiated by higher brain centers – like the motor cortex – as they react to certain muscle actions.

One last tip: A Cup-O-Strength may be required to make it through 6x15 squats… hey, can’t hurt, right?

9 Days Until Your New Year's Resolutions...

Good morning, everyone! I hope you all have successfully avoided the long checkout lines, pepper-spraying loons, Wal-Mart stampedes and the cologne doused department stores (nausiating, right?).  I've already written down what it is I'm thankful for to share at next years Thanksgiving dinner...internet shopping.

So, incase you weren't counting there are only about 9 days until for the eighth year in a row you'll committ to "getting back into it" and losing that spare tire.  By the way, did you read this...

Don't let this year blend into your other failed attempts.  Contact us today and request a free consultation so we may earn your trust, and demonstrate to you that we posses something that the "other guys" don't.   

A protein shake and veggies for Santa and those deer,

Chris

Avoid Fatigue, Improve Your Sleep, & Manage Body Weight

By being aware of two things – 1. That your body has a pH, and, 2. That you should be striving to achieve pH balance – will help your body to avoid and manage stress more effectively while helping you to stay full of energy, have restful nights sleep, and manage your weight.When an acidic environment is sustained in the body (via diet and external stressors), health is affected as deep as the cellular level. Once this becomes the “norm” for your body, daily fatigue will exist. And because an acidic environment is a stressor in and of itself, cortisol levels will then rise and that will impair sleep patterns… so, now you’re fatigued from a poor diet and can’t even get a good night’s sleep. And if all this weren’t enough reasons to make a change, here’s the long-term bad news: acidic diets/bodily environments play a huge roll in America’s obesity problem AND will basically open the door and usher in disease into your body!

What should you do to improve your body’s pH profile? Take a look at this chart and start eating lots of foods from the alkaline-forming columns while making an effort to minimize/reduce/balance-out the acid-forming columns.

Highly Alkaline-Forming

Alkaline-Forming

Neutral

Slightly Acid-Forming

Highly Acid-Forming

Asparagus

Squash

Flax seed

Adzuki beans

Commercial breakfast cereal

Beets

Sweet potatoes

Hemp seed

Black beans

Pasta

Bell peppers

Amaranth

White chia seed

Black-eyed peas

Refined wheat flour

Broccoli

Buckwheat

Coconut oil

Chickpeas

White rice

Carrots

Millet

Macadamia nuts

Lentils

Beef

Cauliflower

Quinoa

Walnuts

Pumpkin seeds

Pork

Celery

Wild rice

Buckwheat flour

Sunflower seeds

Poultry

Chicory

Sesame

Agave Nectar

Brown rice

Shellfish

Cucumbers

Apples

Dried Herbs

Oats

Butter

Dill

Avocados

Miso paste

Spelt

Cheese (all types)

Dulse

Bananas

Spices

Chickpea flour

Cream

Green beans

Berries

Hemp flour

Milk, pasteurized

Leeks

Cantaloupe

Cold-water fish

Artificial sweeteners

Mixed Greens

Cherries

Venison

White sugar

Onion

Dates, Figs

Wild game

Candy

Parsley

Grapes

Milk, raw, unprocessed

Coffee

Peas

Nectarines

Synthetic multivitamins

Margarine

Sea Vegetables

Oranges

Peanuts (roasted)

Zucchini

Peaches

Prescription drugs

Stevia

Pears

Soft drinks

Gingerroot

Persimmons

Soy protein isolate

Green tea

Pineapple

Whey protein isolate

Fresh herbs

Pomegranates

Rooibos

Flax Oil

Yerba mate

Hemp Oil

Pumpkin Seeds

Almonds

Coconut

Peaches

I’ll leave you with a bit of – as a professor of mine always said – “Cocktail Trivia” - Did you know that it is impossible for cancer to form in an alkaline environment? Think about it.

This is a call to arms against New Year’s resolutions!

Ready to freak-out…New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner!!!  Did you just break-out in a cold sweat?  Did you just un-tuck your shirt to more seamlessly blend the muffin top into your lower extremities?  Are you slowly moving towards your snack drawer to dispose of the various half-eaten processed delicacies stroon about…ya, I’m on to you.  Folks, this is a call to arms against preventing what you really want for yourself; to once again have a waistline; finally beat your friend “Svelte Jerry” in your weekend tennis match, and not worry about your knee exploding in the process; to not live in fear of your annual check-up.

My friends, climb aboard the SAPT rowboat, and like GW crossing the Delaware, we’re gonna sneak-up and ambush our opposition...failed New Year Resolutions, no more.  Don’t wait for the bleating attempts by surrounding commercial gyms to wrangle you into some membership you’ll never use, because at that point it’ll be too late (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it). 

HEALTHY HABITS MUST BEGIN NOW.  Trust me, it’s the only way you’ll be able to curb, and defeat, your unhealthy infatuation with snickerdoodles, the little cookies with Hershey kisses on top, and the latest “housewives” series?   You know why, because GOING COLD TURKEY ON JANURARY 1ST DOESN’T WORK!

What you need is plan, something to guide you through the season of endless fruit cakes.  Perhaps something like an SAPT individualized training program?  You need some motivation, and a sense of accountability.  Perhaps the knowledgeable SAPT staff and encouraging-positive room dynamic created by our semi-private training model would do the trick?  What you need is a reason to have only a small slice of cheesecake instead of the entire pan?  Perhaps knowing that the SAPT Prowler (our weight sled) is in your metabolic finisher tomorrow and you’d rather not taint our pristine turf with bits of graham crack crust and heavy cream (too far (?)…probably)?  Perhaps viewing the incredible physical transformation of SAPT’ee lifer, Ron Reed, in the video below will stoke your fire:

Ladies, and gents, the solution is simple, set yourself up for success by enrolling in one of our adult training structures.  We understand that change is difficult, but as it’s been proven to us time and time again, with a little help and guidance, SAPT’ees can accomplish some pretty amazing things.  Let us help you.   

Cue “Rocky” soundtrack,

Chris