Archive for off the top of my head
About a week or so ago the New York Times had written an article about why women can’t do pull ups. As you can imagine this put the fitness community in a bit of an uproar and before I write up my response here is the article in quotes.
(This column appears in the Oct. 28 issue of The New York Times Magazine.)
While the pull-up has been used by everyone from middle-school gym teachers to Marine drill instructors to measure fitness, the fact is that many fit people, particularly women, can’t do even one. To perform a pull-up, you place your hands on a raised bar using an overhand grip, arms fully extended and feet off the floor. (The same exercise, performed with an underhand grip, is often called a chin-up.) Using the muscles in your arms and back, you pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. Then the body is lowered until the arms are straight, and the exercise is repeated. The Marines say a male recruit should be able to do at least 3 pull-ups or chin-ups, but women are not required to do them. In school, 14-year-old boys can earn the highest award on the government’s physical fitness test by doing 10 pull-ups or chin-ups: for 14-year-old girls, it’s 2.
To find out just how meaningful a fitness measure the pull-up really is, exercise researchers from the University of Dayton found 17 normal-weight women who could not do a single overhand pull-up. Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat.
By the end of the training program, the women had increased their upper-body strength by 36 percent and lowered their body fat by 2 percent. But on test day, the researchers were stunned when only 4 of the 17 women succeeded in performing a single pull-up.
“We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one,” said Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology and associate provost and dean at the University of Dayton, and an author of the study. But Vanderburgh said the study and other research has shown that performing a pull-up requires more than simple upper-body strength. Men and women who can do them tend to have a combination of strength, low body fat and shorter stature. During training, because women have lower levels of testosterone, they typically develop less muscle than men, Vanderburgh explained. In addition, they can’t lose as much fat. Men can conceivably get to 4 percent body fat; women typically bottom out at more than 10 percent.
So no matter how fit they are, women typically fare worse on pull-up tests. But Vanderburgh notes that some men struggle, too, particularly those who are taller or bigger generally or have long arms. This is related to an interesting phenomenon: if you compare a smaller athlete to an athlete who has the same exact build but is 30 percent bigger, the bigger athlete will be only about 20 percent stronger, even though he has to carry about 30 percent more weight.
“We’re a combination of levers; that’s how we move,” Vanderburgh said. “Generally speaking, the longer the limb, the more of a disadvantage in being able to do a pull-up. I look at a volleyball player and wouldn’t expect her to be able to do a pull-up, but I know she’s fit.”
Ok now that you’ve read that, nothing taken out of context since I pretty much just copied and pasted the article and put it into that block quote thingie on wordpress allow me to show you the world I come from before speaking on theirs.
(the epicness of Melody made it here once again)
Now I’d like to point something out, yes I am aware that women do generally have a harder time then men and that some people are better built for certain things then others. Me being 5’7 am unlikely to be playing pro basketball anytime soon for example…but that is neither here nor there.
First I am aware that they are probably trying to generate a bit of controversy with their title (and hey I am no stranger to controversy after all if you’ve followed me for any reasonable amount of time), but I’d like to point out a couple flaws that I saw in the article…I’m not in the mood right now to go digging for the exact studies so I’ll just take her word for it.
Before I proceed any further the official stance of StrongFirst™ is that we aren’t saying that anyone else is wrong…it’s just that we’re right. So hopefully I won’t step on any toes of professionalism here because it is relatively early in the morning.
Now first and this goes with a lot of different studies not just the ones quoted here, the programs that they use to try to determine certain things are well…stupid is a word that comes to mind but I won’t use it because I am trying to be a good boy since so far I’ve been good enough to make it onto Santa’s nice list for a change. So let’s go with “flawed” instead since it’s a bit more diplomatic (double points since being diplomatic was one of my new years resolutions this year…and going strong)
In this article it says that they focused on exercises that focused on biceps and lattissimus dorsi and did cardio to lose body fat. Seriously? Seriously? Good grief Charlie Brown. You focused on strengthening up all the different parts and hoping that the whole will come together as a result of it? How about if you want them to do pull ups, have them practice pull ups?
Admittedly getting to that initial hump of the single pull up can be a tricky process but there are ways to do it, isometric holds in the various positions of the pull up, dynamic isometric style work and that sort of thing, but trying to strengthen individual muscles is where strength training and bodybuilding differ. For one thing Central Nervous System does more than just recognizes which muscles to fire off but it also patterns which muscles to fire when and that sort of thing. That’s why movements must be practiced and that’s why FMS checks movement to make sure it isn’t dysfunctional.
On top of that a common cause of people not being able to do pull ups is weakness in the core. Watch a person who has a hard time doing a pull up and they’ll flail around on the bar like a fish trying to free itself from a fisherman’s hook. In gymnastics there is something called the “hollow position”. The hollow position keeps your body stiff as a board so that you can move it around the bar safely, effectively and gracefully. Their programming didn’t appear to have anything that did anything for the abs…in fact from what I saw steps were taken to try to remove this from the equation even though it’s a variable that can’t afford to be overlooked. I’m not sure what their version of a modified pull up is but I get this hunch that it doesn’t transfer over to the pull up. I found that putting bands under the feet doesn’t really either unless steps are taken to modify it even further.
And cardio to lower fat to try to do more pull ups? Come on now…First of all cardio is a very inefficient way of losing body fat and if cardio isn’t programmed in properly can literally rob you of your strength, which is exactly the thing that should be avoided when doing a study on strength like this one. Get Strong First and yes that includes strength mobility/stability too From the Strongfirst site:
Until one becomes “entry level strong,” e.g., a strict bodyweight military press for men or strict pull-ups for women, no priority other than strength can be justified for a healthy athlete. Science and experience have taught us that any athlete, even in ultra-endurance sports, who has not built a foundation of strength will fail to reach his or her potential. Strength has been compared to a glass that can be filled with other qualities; the larger the glass, the more endurance, sport skill, fat loss, etc. it can hold.
Just get stronger…think of the body as a whole. Remember a pull up and all of strength training is more then just your biceps and lats and whatever excess weight is on top of that, It is the ability to make your body work as a single, coordinated unit that crushes its enemies, sees them driven before them and hears the lamentation of their women (in this case it’s women who wished they could do pull ups)
And one more thing, besides the physiology and all that mumbo jumbo strength training starts in the mind. Unfortunately do to societal mores and that sort of thing women are given easier physical tasks in gym class…girl pushup for instance. A lot of them will go through life feeling the inferior of the 2 sexes and that’s a shame really. A strongman’s way of looking at things, it starts with the belief that you can do something, the action step of doing it and the determination to say it’s going to happen, because I friggin said so. Don’t use being weak as an excuse, don’t use being female as an excuse. Get Stronger end of story.
Societal beliefs and institutionalized definitions create a “weaker” sex, not genetics. Break the belief, discard the definitions. Weakness is a myth perpetuated by those who profit from their illusory domination. Defy the tyranny of their definitions of your secondary status, and reclaim your power. – Scott Sonnon
Oh and I expect better from you next time NY Times
oh and that’s chins with 3 fingers per hand on the bar, from 3 women who CAN do pull ups…one of them being 51 years young. Sometimes the iron sisters make better men then men. Photo courtesy of LeanBerets.com
Here’s a funny video I took of my cat Batman. I saw him playing with my trusty 24kg kettlebell and had to get a video of it.
Anyways don’t forget to download my 7 Strength Myths Busted Ebook by putting your email address in on the right side.
So a question was asked of me about mindset training and how it would relate to overhead pressing to get that one last rep in when you otherwise would have failed. Well when it comes to most of my training I like to cut the set short. Basically getting quality practice of an exercise down and avoiding failure because when you train to failure you train your muscles to fail and I want them to succeed. So I guess the direct answer for that would be…I don’t. However…
That doesn’t go with all exercises. An exercise like the swing for example tests your mental capacity because it doesn’t really follow the same rules as an overhead press and similar exercises. One of the things that is believed to cause muscle failure is lactic acid in the blood short circuits what causes muscle contractions or some complicated mumbo jumbo like that. With the kettlebell swing the rhythm of it supposedly flushes that out (with the exception of the gripping muscles because that is a static contraction but there are ways to get around that). So with the swing and it’s unique rhythm of tension and relaxation it changes what your rate limiting factor is (the weak link in the chain). It could be your grip, which one thing that could be done is to shake your hands out the way rock climbers do. It feels like your lungs will give out but it’s mostly in your head… which brings me to my next point.
As you probably know I have been training for a side gig as an oldetime performing strongman. Not the same type of thing where you see the big polish guy on tv lifting up cement balls in a contest but more like the Mighty Atom back in the day, Slim “the hammer man” after him and Dennis Rogers. The slogan that my teacher Greg Matonick also known as NJ’s Superman uses is “What’s impossible to you is normal to us.”
Now I often times get the question “What is the secret?” Well I guess if there is a secret other then being strong, knowing leverage and body mechanics and that sort of thing it is what has been called “hysterical strength”. Not that much is known about hysterical strength because it can’t be clinically replicated (putting someone in a life or death situation in order to get that part of your brain to kick in…just wouldn’t be ethical).
Hysterical strength is what happens when you hear about when a mother who never trained in their life picks up a car off of their children or someone fights off a wild cat and that sort of thing. Now the Atom believed that it could be accessed without being put in that situation and I’m inclined to think he is right. He was a 140 lb. man that could do things that are impossible and his students have done things that are impossible.
How to access this dormant super power? That’s a tricky question that I am still trying to uncover. I’ve sort of accessed it a couple times with some of the particularly thick steel bars, the horseshoes and the steel bars on the bridge of my nose. I’d say it’s a multi part process. It starts with belief, if you believe you can then you can. Next up is to push through and don’t let anything stop you no matter what.
There are little voices that are subconscious that tell you that you can’t do something. If you are observant you might notice it. It’ll say things like “it’s too heavy” or “No that’s impossible”. These are self protecting mechanisms that prevent us from over stepping ourselves unless absolutely necessary but it’s learning how to control those voices that are the difference between Clark Kent and Superman. The few times that I’ve accessed that part of my mind…it’s quiet, simple and focused…like there is only one task.
Here’s what is going on in my head when I am bending a steel bar with my nose. I can feel the pressure of the bar on my nose but it doesn’t hurt but is uncomfortable, I can feel it give way to my power, I can feel myself lose leverage and I readjust my grip. What I don’t hear are the things people are saying around me. It’s almost like there is nobody else there. To prep myself for it I put the bar on my nose and feel my adrenaline kicking in and I think to myself “I am going to pull down with everything I got and I don’t care how much it hurts.” Believing you can and doing it no matter what. Seems to be a good way to look at success with anything doesn’t it?
So awhile back I had hired a business coach to help me brand my business and one of the things that he asked me was “Why is it that people listen to you? What type of people do you attract online?” Well to be honest I didn’t really have an answer. I just kind of do what I do and say what’s on my mind, and some people follow me. So I asked some questions to find out.
Probably the most common response was that people were tired of the lies and gimmicks that run rampant in the fitness industry and that they saw me as an honest guy that happened to know what I’m talking about that genuinely wants to help people and had an entertaining writing style.
Awhile back I did an unfavorable write up on p90x plyometrics X and recently it’s caught a lot of people’s attention many of which I guess I hurt their feelings.
Personal attacks began which to me demonstrates the depth of their intelligence or lack thereof. I guess they didn’t read that I had said that p90x actually does get some pretty good and legit before and after pics. In a day and age where on a bag of peanuts you have to put the disclaimer of “Caution, may contain peanuts” I shouldn’t have been that surprised.
So let’s set the record straight in as basic terms as I can come up with…
p90x plyometrics x is not real plyometrics
neither is p90x yoga x
or kenpo x
The results from p90x aren’t from the muscle confusion marketing gimmick…they are from…wait for it…hard exercise + nutrition…the hallmark of any halfway decent fat loss program.
BUT despite all that, unlike many late night products, the results in the p90x before and after pictures as far as I can tell real….that’s the most important part
Now…why would I do unfavorable review about p90x plyometrics x?
Well first I am an honest guy and that was an honest review even though it wasn’t what a lot of people want to hear.
Second, p90x gets 2,240,000 monthly searches with low keyword competition and it made it low hanging fruit for me to piggy back traffic off of p90x’s notoriety and present some alternatives.
Third, it’s a bit of fun for me to ruffle your feathers and a lot of people played right into it (owned!).
Fourth was to sneak in a way to educate people that might be interested on what true plyos really are and explain it which just happened to be very different then what p90x plyometrics x is. Note…plyos are heavily abused and there are a lot worse offenders then air guitar squats and some other things on the plyometrics x dvd and in general there are a lot worse programs out there that people could make the mistake of following. Jillian Micheals and Bob Harper…yes that was a dig towards you.
oh and I think p90x is a better program then insanity for the record…because it balances the pushing movements with pulling ones.
A short time ago I was interviewed for Garage Gym online and was asked about my stance in p90x and if you had read it you might have recalled me saying “If the worst thing people did was p90x then the industry is still a lot better off then people trying to take acai berry extracts and doing Hip Hop Abs (another Beach Body product).”
So because p90x actually does help people, even if it’s not real plyos, or yoga, or kenpo, and because p90x does not have over 200 cases and counting of exercise induced rhabdomyalsis and because an unfavorable review might prevent someone from buying p90x and mislead them into buying some BS kettlebell program like KettleWorx, Kettlenetics or the Situation Workout (I’m saving a review for them later) they probably wouldn’t have the attention to detail to learn safe technique anyways, and because a girl I’ve become friendly with said “please” in a way that makes it hard to say “no”. I am going to plead to Tony Horton who probably won’t read either post to please forgive me anyways.
Tony, if you can hear me, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings even though I doubt you read my post. Please forgive me and keep “bringing it”.
And please cease the attacks on this “worthless nobody”, my narcissistic ego can’t possibly take it anymore. Sticks and stones may break my bones but comments on my blog from someone without a face will make me cry myself to sleep. Maybe I should go bend some spikes or roll up a frying pan or something to make me feel better.
Thanks for being awesome…or forgiving…which is divine and all that stuff.
Hey there and Happy New Year!
I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written you but I been uber busy which I’ll get into some other time. Over Christmas break my sister gave me the movie Green Lantern on Blu Ray. Now truth be told I need to watch it again because when I popped it in I was exhausted and fell asleep.
Now from what I caught of it and I don’t want to ruin it for you so I’m only going to give a couple details in case you haven’t seen it yet…the Green Lantern’s ring runs off of willpower which is green and it’s weakness is fear which is yellow. In the movie (and this does spoil it a teeny bit) they are afraid that they are running out of will power to fuel their rings which sucks for us all since they are the defenders of the universe. If they fail, we are screwed.
Now how does this relate to your new year’s resolution? Well much like in the movie we only have so much will power to use before we run out and end up giving in so one way of succeeding is to limit the amount of will power you actually need. If you are on a fat loss program, get that chocolate out of sight and therefore out of mind.
Now if you have been following me for any period of time you may have heard me speak of the “terminator mentality” which is a disciplined like a cyborg, concentrated focus on achieving your goals. That will lead to success but it’s meant as a short term solution till you can get to a place where it becomes a habit which is much easier to maintain and can be fit into a lifestyle. Limit your temptation, and you are less likely to cave in.
Now another thing about will power is that much like anything, if you practice building it you can. Start with the idea of success in mind and straying from the course becomes less likely. When I start out a new client I’ll ask them what their goal is not just for me to plan a course to get there but also to remind them of their dream when the going gets tough so that they can power through it. You can train yourself to power through. Just like with anything take it one step at a time but start with the goal in mind.
I’ve recently started strongman training. I have am lucky in that I have a coach willing to teach me the secrets of the old time performing strongmen and I’ll reveal a bit of it here. First you have to have a base level of strength. Second is the technique to pit your strength with. And Third is you have to have a will power greater then steel. I won’t go into technique since I just started learning this 2 weeks ago and I wanted this to be about will power anyways. The way I would describe it is you are pitting your strength against the steel and it is fighting you right back. Just when you think you can’t bend it, you just hang in there a little bit longer, and that’s when it gives up and bends. I got to say it feels pretty awesome to conquer steel.
Now back to the whole green lantern analogy…You can’t let fear prevent you from achieving your goals. In our brains and brawn we have all sorts of protective mechanisms that act like a governor of our strength and just about any kind of success in life. Don’t let the fear limit you….make it motivate you so that failure isn’t an option.
Now since I won’t go into technique I’ll provide you with a great resource about bending steel that I picked up last year. Jedd Johnson is a strong dude with a strong grip and put out a dvd awhile back called How to Melt Steel With Your Hands (Nail Bending Dvd) and it’s got some great stuff in it. It’s interesting that he talks about it melting because when you bend it, it actually does get warm where the bend occurs.
Well anyways work towards your goals and physical awesomeness to you!