What My Workouts are Looking Like These Days...

It's been a while since I've written about my workouts. Lately I've been focusing on size more than anything else. The beauty of it is that I get to have a much more lenient amount of calories than normal. I'm definitely focused on keeping my waist size where it's at, but I am not as worried about etched abs or anything. 

Normally, I focus on low reps and high weight. But every now and then I'll get a little antsy and start knocking out some high rep ranges.

 

So, for 6 weeks I knocked out this routine: 

Monday:

  • Pre-exhaust cable chest fly, 4 X 12
  • Incline barbell bench press, 4 X 8
  • Decline dumbbell bench press, 4 X 15
  • Side raises, 3 X 25
  • Machine overhead press, 25-20-15-10

Tuesday:

  • Dumbbell rows, 4 X 12
  • Conventional deadlifts, 4 X 8
  • Lat pull-down, 4 X 15
  • Rev cable fly, 3 X 25
  • Shrugs, 25-20-15-10

Thursday:

  • Leg curls, 4 X 12
  • High bar beltless squats, 4 X 8
  • Leg extensions, 4 X 15
  • Calf raise, 3 X 25
  • Leg press, 25-20-15-10

Friday:

  • Cross body curls, 4 X 12
  • Superset with close grip bench, 4 X 8
  • Hammer curls, 4 X 15
  • Superset with skull crushers, 4 X 15
  • Ez bar curls, 25-20-15-10
  • Superset rope push-downs, 25-20-15-10

I did VERY little cardio (but who wants that anyway). Typically once a week for about an hour on the treadmill. 

 

After that, I rolled into the AR-7 workout: 

The premise is this: 

Do 3 rounds of each lift with 1-2 minutes of rest in between each round:

  • 1st round 7 sets of 7 reps, with 7 seconds rest of each exercise
  • 2nd round 6 sets of 6 reps, with 6 seconds rest of each exercise
  • 3rd round 5 sets of 5 reps, with 5 seconds rest of each exercise

Chest (Monday)

Flat Bench Press

Incline Bench Press

Incline Bench Dumbbell Press

Plate Push-Up

Chest Dips

Back (Tuesday)Sets/Reps

Medium-Grip Pull-Up

Reverse-Grip Chin-Up

Close-Grip Pull-Up

Seated Pulley Row

Reverse-Grip BB Bent-Over Row

Legs (Wednesday)Sets/Reps

Bodyweight Squat

Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Barbell Back Squat

Bodyweight Jump Squat

Core (Thursday)Sets/Reps

Medicine Ball Slam

Kettlebell Swing

Burpee

Leap Frog

40-yd Sprint

Shoulders & Arms (Friday)Sets/Reps

Barbell Military Press

Bodyweight Dip

Diamond Push-Up

Dumbbell Curls

 

 

This workout ain't no joke. I found out that Jason Momoa, the upcoming Aquaman, was knocking this out to get ready for his role. And who doesn't want to look like the God of the Sea? It definitely gets you sore and tired but I enjoy the change up. 

So, that's what I've been focusing on lately. What's your workout been like? 

When Motivation Goes Wrong

One of my favorite pre-training rituals is to watch one of the motivating videos on YouTube. Many of them reaming with challenges to better yourself, to become who you were meant to be, to live a life of legend. Many include scenes from Braveheart, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings or several of my other favorite movies. Along with these videos come suggested videos to watch, one in particular that caught my eye which was just recently released was entitled 'Bodybuilding Motivation - The History': *

The video starts off easy enough, though the bodies presented are as horrendous as they are ugly, but then something goes terribly wrong. The question is posed:The Ricky Bobby mentality of 'if you ain't first, you're last' leads to viewer to then be asked 'Are you ready to die to be number one!?' So, not only are the bodies presented those that represent the pharmacological inducement of body dysmorphia but they ask are you willing to die? The overwhelmingly simple answer ought to be 'NO!' I think this is a brazen example of the problem of modern bodybuilding. The process to become a champion has drifted into the medical world of illegal drug enhancement and in it's drowning wake the ideals of strength and health have been tossed and lost as a dream of a dead culture.

Not only is this ironic as many bodybuilders have given their life in pursuit of winning, it is also downright irresponsible. The growing number of teen steroid users is off the charts, the once grand vision of the beginnings of this culture have been lost to a majority of mass monsters, and the overall vision of what embodied beauty is has been skewed to a near unrepairable state. This nonsense of 'going to war' that these gentlemen speak of is a war against natural humanity, it's a decision to boast upon the foundation of overt drug use rather than actual hard work. I for one am tired of seeing such ridiculousness in the culture that I love. Perhaps the only real way of turning against this tide is to become nostalgic, not in order to be less a part of the times but rather to recover that which held reason and beauty above the limelight, above the cries for more, and most importantly above the sad reflection of a culture that has embraced death above a life worth living.

The giants this sort of proposition suggests may have huge shoulders but they are hardly worth the effort to stand on. I think like many I want to see a culture of the body which I would gladly share with others, one that holds virtue and successful living right up there with the amount they can squat. One that asks questions about quality of life rather than seeing how close we can get to death's doorstep before it all ends. A move towards the good, true and beautiful might come as a shock to an industry which makes millions on the pragmatic forgery and displays them as achievable but such is the nature of truth, it hurts. I feel that this industry will continue to decline as a whole new movement is coming up in the ranks which is fatigued with the representation of the world they enjoy. If this industry wants my advice, go back to a time when physiques were judged less on their shock and awe and more on their ability to inspire. If you do that, then maybe videos and questions about death will be overlaid with a culture which all will want to partake in. Fitness and health was never meant to lead people away from just that: fitness and health.

Slow and Steady. Perfect Form. More Muscle.

I remember a few years ago I met up with a good friend of mine to lift weights. He was big on the P90X program and had incredible results from it. He is about 9 years younger than me and had just graduated high school where he was an all-state running back and an incredible athlete at one of the more prestigious large schools in Texas. Needless to say this guy was a beast, and still is. However, the day he wanted to come and work out, I told him I'd been doing full-body, HIT, slow routines and he agreed to go through my workout.  

The basis of the workout was that you did two sets for every lift, one warm-up and one working set. In the working set you had to do a two-second concentric lift and a four-second eccentric. In other words, two seconds up and four seconds down. We worked our ass off for about two hours going slowly and steadily. Towards the end of the workout we were spent but then I challenged him to go and take turns flipping this huge tire. We did two rounds of that. He was lying in the grass trying to catch his breath when it happened. Vomit. Blowing chunks. Screaming Ralph. I thought this was very interesting. Not because I haven't seen guys throw up during exercise before but because I had an incredible athlete just go through a program that objectively doesn't seem too difficult, but it wore him out. What was the difference between that and something like P90X?  It was the rate of movement and the extreme concentration on form and steadiness.  

I think it was my knowledge of exercises and the deep concentration I had. In other words, I tried to get a real good line of communication between the brain and the muscle. In fact, my saying is, No brain, no gain-not, No pain, no gain. I would concentrate very deeply, so I would be working that muscle only and get every rep out of it possible. Also, I would do my exercises real strict, real correct. You know, slow and perfect form-no cheating.
— Steve Reeves

The idea of concentrating on exercise movements as slow and steady isn't new. In fact, I'd argue that the jerky, quick bursts in terms of lifting is newer. However, the results and the hard work is something that has lasted many years. Reeves did it. Colbert did it. Even Sandow eluded to it. Arthur Jones studied it. The ultimate reason why slow and steady, perfect form movement is so effective is because the intensity required and the concentration of the mind is so abrasive to the physique that the muscle tears required for growth are inevitable.   

There is also an aspect of concentration that occurs in the mind-muscle connection that causes growth, simply because the focus of the mind causes the desired muscles to work harder. In other words, the more your mind is focused on the muscle doing the work, the more the muscle is going to work, and in terms of slow and steady movements the concentration is bound to happen. 

Many in the gym make the mistake of thinking that the weight going from point A to point B is the entire point of  lifting. However the 'how' that weight moves has a monumental effect on the desired outcome of bigger, stronger muscles. Next time your at the gym, try one set per exercise in a slow and steady manner and notice the difference. You may need to lower the weight but don't let your ego get in the way of muscle growth. 

Why the Classic Physique Will Never Die

In recent news the NPC (National Physique Committee) added a brand new class to their mountain of physique judging criteria. This new class is entitled 'Classic Physique'. The class is meant to have a judging panel who will judge to display of the human form upon a more timeless physique, as opposed to the monstrous physiques we see so often in the limelight. I find it interesting that the cry for the classic form has been so well heard that even the NPC, quite possible one of the biggest committees on the planet in terms of bodybuilding, was willing to add another class to their competitions. I think this news speaks to something greater than simply an outcry for less bulk and more form. The thing about the classic physique is that it inherently holds something that modern, pharmacological bodybuilding hasn't been able to fulfill since the 'classic' days, i.e. authentic, timeless beauty. 

Another article I read recently entitled Self-Sculpture: Is Bodybuilding an Art? challenged it's reader to look at bodybuilding as much more than a vain, incoherent past time and see the inner-workings of what might really be going on. The question of, is bodybuilding an art, most certainly can be a narrative that most are either unable or unwilling to enter. However, I might challenge those who have an appreciation for art to take a step back and think about what the body is. The body, in its form and matter, is the most beautiful aspect of all of creation. St. Thomas Aquinas would argue that true art is that which leads us closer to our ultimate identity, which we Christians would say is a life in the love and person of God. As Imago Dei, we are given the profound opportunity to have something rare, something no other creature on this earth shares. Aquinas would argue that true art would require a certain amount of transcendency to be considered good, and when it comes to the body, this means form in it's most natural sense. In other words, the more we disfigure that which is already made in the image of the divine, the less transcendent it becomes and therefore the less it ought to be considered good and beautiful. In a certain sense, possibly the most important sense, beauty is indeed objective. 

The classic physique is that which aims to proportionate the human form unto it's utmost qualities. The body contains the ability to reach a look which is symmetrical, proportional and subjectively defined. When doing this each body is able to bring that which makes it unique but can then be judged under the light of the objective sense of beauty. I want to make the argument that the reason the classic physique will never die is precisely because it is timeless and it is timeless because it is authentically beautiful. Many look to the era of the 60's to say classic physique, such as Arnold and Zane, and while I do say that Zane would indeed fall under the classic physique, unfortunately drugs were used to attain it. However, if we go back to the days of Reeves, Eiferman, Ross, Colbert, and the like, we see a continuation of something that goes as far back as ancient Greece. In other words, the classic physique is a 3,000 year old tradition and isn't going anywhere. The transcendency of beauty cannot be wiped away in 40 years with the introduction of drugs into the sport, neither can the monstrous physiques we see today fulfill that desire within us to see something which draws us into a deeper sense of who we truly are. 

The introduction of other fitness regimens, such as crossfit, which express the desire for function is yet another reason why this ideal classic form will forever be a desire. Within the confines of the classic physique you have an individual that is still athletic, still can fit in regular clothes, yet has a body which shows discipline in all matters of training and diet. It doesn't put function over form nor form over function, rather it accepts the fact that one ought to lead to the other and the lifestyle choices of health only add to the incredible benefits of attaining a truly timeless body. 

If Steve Reeves Competed Today....

There's a lot of talk about the sway that modern bodybuilding has taken in the past roughly 20 years. The ideals of physique vs. size, the thoughts of balance and proportions have been a conversation that has needed to occur for a long period of time. Even Arnold recently spoke of the fact that the bodies on stage today have lost there quality, as no one outside of modern bodybuilding, that is the average person, would look at those bodies and say that they wanted to look that way. To be sure, most guys want to put on a little extra size and muscle but the vast majority today wouldn't desire the size or body of the top contenders in today's mainstream, championship bodybuilding. Even if they admire the hard work and dedication it takes to get to that level and that amount of muscle, I would argue that the heart of bodybuilding hasn't lost its core belief that beauty is still an objective thought. 

In other words, while the judges, fans and competitors on today's stage might hold that size is the most important, they will still look at the bodies from the 1940's and hold a certain amount of admiration. I firmly believe that in spite of some of the muscle madness we have experienced, we still know that while beauty might sway on the subjective senses, there is still an overarching ideal that not a single person can deny is true beauty. Many of today's competitors still hold men like Reeves, Park and Gironda as their heroes, however the problem lies in the fact that those physiques are no longer a viable competition worthy body on today's modern stage. So, to compete on a higher level, it's almost a guarantee that size will take place over objective beauty. 

If Steve Reeves competed today, he would probably be laughed off of the Mr. Olympia stage. That's not a shot at Reeves' physique at all, I think it goes without saying that he is my favorite competitor of all time. It is however, meant as both a gut check and a lens by which to view the modern stage. Where one man understood the physique as something that is transcendent and meant to inspire health and quality of life, the ideals have shifted towards shock and muscle size above all else. So, while their is indeed some subjective quality to beauty as each body offers its own unique presentation, we cannot ignore the objective side, which requires investigation and regulation. 

I love this sport. But I must admit that the fact that a man like Steve Reeves couldn't even compete on the higher stage today, creates a lack of interest in pushing myself hard enough to hit the big stage. And I don't think I'm alone in this. Perhaps we shall see a grass roots growth of all-natural, health-driven, quality physiques in the coming years, and I for one am thrilled when I speak to other guys of my generation who feel the exact same way. There's a shift in the bodybuilding mindset occurring, it is both driven by the past and hopeful for the future. In other words, the classic physique can act as a guide to create a new cultural physique phenomenon.  

Why Bodybuilders Ought to Pay Attention to the Spartan Up Ethos

Over the past year I have become enamored with an ethos, a way of life, meant to inspire and motivate others to embrace difficulty and to lead successful lives, whether it be physical, mental, business, family or otherwise the Spartan Up! philosophy is one that I highly encourage bodybuilders to pay close attention to. 

Read More