Archive | Strength Training for Men

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Attention Surfers and Paddlers

Posted on 17 January 2010 by Jason White

surf lunge

Paddle: HARD is a one hour bootcamp designed specifically for aquatic athletes that paddle for their sport. We meet twice per week at Elysium Fitness at 117 West 72nd St. 2nd Floor. Wednesday night’s class is at 6:30 pm and Friday night’s class is at 7pm. The class begins with a movement preparation routine that warms up all the muscles and stretches tight areas.

It is followed by a core section that trains abs and low back muscles specifically needed for surfers (most famously and the part of the class with the most groaning is the “swim and pop” – 5 repetitions of simulated surf paddling followed by the all important “pop up” that every surfer needs to master to get in position quickly and efficiently).

We then play the “pushup game” using a medicine ball to challenge core and upper body strength.

The most challenging part of the class is a circuit that focuses on conditioning the pulling muscles needed for your paddle sports. There is simulated rowing, simulated surf paddling, and general conditioning to get you into great shape so that you can be more competitive in your sport, last longer in the water, and have more fun.

We finish with a cool down and stretch. The class costs $30 per session and you can reserve your spot by calling 212-721-1010. You must call to reserve before each class since there is room for only 8 athletes.

The class is taught by Jason White, CSCS a veteran New York Personal Trainer and Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach. He regularly surfs Long Island and is focused on helping as many people as he can to become better athletes and more competitive in their chosen sport.

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Unlimited Personal Power

Posted on 01 March 2009 by Jason White

The Feeling of Power

The Feeling of Power

I got invited out for Guinness night to celebrate the recent birthday of a friend of a friend. It was at this tiny trendy bar in the west village and plenty of fun. The birthday boy is young and handsome, surfs with us occasionally, models when he can get the work and revealed himself for the first time to me as quite the thinker. I always thought of him as a teensy bit on the naive side or perhaps just inexperienced either way when we got into a good conversation he started throwing down the ole conspiracy theory stuff:

“The power of this world is in the hands of the few. The corporations control everything. AIDS was created by a small group of scientists as a way to control the world. Puppet masters, politicians, oil companies, everyone else with more power and more money and no one wants to say anything because they risk being ostracized blah blah blah.”

I fought him as long as I could, but those conspiracy guys get a really tight hold and they don’t really let go. It bothers me, A LOT. I just can’t wrap my head around the notion that a few people can get so well organized that they can effect change on a global level AND keep it secret.

It seems hard enough for any organization to make any kind of decision that I simply can’t see anything resembling mass change and secrecy ever going hand in hand. The underlying principle seems to be a quality of victimization psychology that infiltrates the psyche of the conspiracy theorist. It results in the act of giving away personal power to “those guys” that control everything.

And it is this that brings us to the feelings of power and how to generate it.

First of all there are no “Those Guys” there is only us. Secondly Power is something we all possess. It is the power of choice. It is the birthright of every human being. It is active from the miniscule to the enormous, from the moment you wake up to the moment you pass from this plane.

Generating it is easy: Go to the gym.

Naturally you would expect that from your trainer, but the reason I think of my training space as sanctuary is because it is the one place where I know I can generate the feeling of being powerful especially when I feel like the world is a dangerous place.

Incidentally people for thousands of years have felt the world to be a dangerous place this experience is nothing new. Here is an interesting quote from War and Peace Tolstoy’s masterpiece written in the mid 1800’s about the early 1800’s Napoleonic wars.

“It was clear and frosty. A dark, starlit heaven looked down on the black roofs and the dirty, dusky streets. Only by looking up at the sky could Pierre distance himself from the disgusting squalor of all earthly things as compared with the heights to which his soul had now been taken. As he drove into the Arbat a vast firmament of darkness and stars opened out before Pierre’s eyes. And there in the middle, high above Prechistensky Boulevard, amidst a scattering of stars on every side but catching the eye through its closeness to the earth, its pure white light and the long uplift of its tail, shone the comet, the huge, brilliant comet of 1812, that popular harbinger of untold horrors and the end of the world.”

Almost 200 years ago people thought Haley’s Comet foretold the end of existence. There are some now claiming the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 foretells the end of our world.

It’s rubbish. It is a collective conscious scare tactic. There is but one response I have to these fears: To control the things that I can control. I know I can go to the gym and make an attempt at my best. My best lift, my best effort, my personal record, my attitude and my intention can all be fine tuned and I can walk away knowing that I DID something worthwhile. I met in fair contest my greatest enemy – myself. I won the battle against negativity and the feelings of powerlessness that are generated by the fear that few control the many, that there is a power out there that seeks to control my life. There is no such power.

The only power that can control me is the power I give away.

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How New York Lifts Weights

Posted on 17 January 2009 by Jason White

Weight Loss and Strength Training New York Style

Weight Loss and Strength Training New York Style

After some of my recent posts I heard some feedback about this notion of pushing harder and making exercise more difficult. There is fear there for some people. Who wants to get hurt? None of us do.

But what’s the point of having a body that you aren’t thrilled with? What is the point of having a body that’s like ‘eh, it’s okay.’ Why not have the body of your dreams? It’s certainly the goal that I’ve been in hot pursuit of. It is certainly the reason why I started strengthnation.com. And I believe it is the reason for all of us to come together at a place like this or strengthnation.com and support each other in this effort. I think that attaining the body of your dreams is an honorable and worthwhile goal.

I understand that value is different for each of us. It also means that we have to come to a clearer understanding of what it means to push and how to go about it in a way that produces a result and not an injury.

I got an email recently that was from a man overseas who was having a little bit of trouble, kind of justifying what it meant to be intense. So we need to define intensity and define what that means. So let’s take a look at it from a purely mechanical point of view.

Intensity is referred to as the amount of effort in a given situation. Let’s call it a given lift. So, if we take for example, a bench press. Now, I can’t say do an intense bench press at one hundred pounds, because for some people that might not be very intense and for others, that might be so intense it’s impossible to even press it once.

So what intensity is a measure of, is typically a measure of your one repetition maximum. Your one repetition maximum for any given lift, is the most amount of weight you can successfully, with good form, lift for one repetition, not two. And that’s a big distinction. People have written a lot about intensity over the years. Mike Mentzer was famous for his one set protocol. And if you listen to the interview I did with Fred Hahn the author of Slow Burn on strengthnation.com you will hear how he promotes super slow training, which is the most amount of weight you can lift for more than sixty seconds, but less than ninety seconds. Doing very slow, very controlled repetitions. Perhaps one or two repetitions per set.

The theory behind it is that intensity is the trigger. Intensity is the trigger that tells your body whether or not to build muscle. And what we’re all trying to do when we go to the gym to lift weights is build muscle. Some people are trying to build enormous amounts of muscle. Some people are just trying to do enough weight lifting to stimulate muscle tissue to stick around, so that when they do their cardio and their diet and they’re losing weight, they’re not losing muscle, they’re losing fat.

So I’ll review that thought in a second, but I want to make sure we’re clear about intensity. Intensity is a measure of your one repetition maximum. So, if you can complete one repetition of a given weight, but not two, that’s as intense as you can get for that lift.

Some people train for single reps, especially power lifters train, gradually stepping up to a one repetition maximum. So that when they get to a meet or a competition, they can perform their biggest lift ever, their most intense lift ever. That’s part of a very specific training protocol. Most of us don’t need to do one repetition maximums, except when we’re checking in to determine how strong we are. And the reason why we do that is because a quality weight lifting program is going to prescribe repetitions based on a percentage of your one repetition maximum and your desired personal goals.

Body building type endeavors, muscle building type endeavors are typically seventy or seventy-five percent of your one repetition maximum. And you can usually do about twelve repetitions based on that number. And when I say twelve repetitions, I mean twelve, but not thirteen. So that’s a measure of intensity. And the lower that percentage gets, the less intense you are exercising.

So when you are trying to determine intensity for yourself, the most important thing to remember, is to perform with good form…in control. It doesn’t count if it’s bad form. It doesn’t count if you have to kick and scream and blah, blah, blah to get a second repetition or to even get your one repetition.

Your intensity level is an expression of your ability in its strictest form. For you, that might mean one single pushup from your toes. Touch your chin to the floor, nothing else touches and you press back up. Smooth and steady. You can’t do it twice. That could be your most intense effort. We all have a most intense effort, a personal best and that is going to be true for each and every one of us. That’s the grand unifying theory of weight lifting. Everybody has their own benchmark that they’re trying to lift against. That they’re trying to do better than. That they’re trying to achieve. It’s true for you, it’s true for me.

Typically, it’s measured in terms of body weight. If you can bench press your body weight, if you can bench press one and a half times your body weight, you are an incredibly strong individual. If you can squat twice your body weight or more, you are an incredibly strong individual. That is a measure of your intensity. So when I talk about intensity and when I say you have to up the intensity if you want to produce a result, what I’m saying is, you have to find your strictest form. Your best form. You have to find the most effort, the most amount of weight you can lift for that form and your goal. And then base your workouts on that.

And you can test and retest and test and retest depending on where you are in your strength development. But it’s very important that we understand this concept. Intensity is not an objective number (100lbs). It’s a subjective number (10 lbs more than I lifted last week!). It’s an expression of your ability in your strictest form to achieve a single repetition lift. And then you can base your repetitions for other workouts on that.

For example, seventy five percent of your One rep Max is probably going to be a muscle building type workout. If you are new weight lifting what we would do is we would get you in the weight room and say, ‘okay, press this and see how much you can press.’ We would find that one repetition maximum. And then probably start you off at sixty or even fifty percent of that one repetition maximum to develop your body’s ability to adapt to the form and the movement of weight lifting. But if you’re an advanced weight lifter, if you’re used to weight lifting and you’ve been doing this, then you should have an idea of your one repetition maximum for a variety of lifts.

Typically, I say the big three. Dead lifting, squatting and bench pressing. You should know at a given moment how much you can lift for each of those lifts one time. Quick side note…The interesting thing about dead lifting is that your hands might be the weak link in that factor. And your hands might fatigue before your legs, your glutes, your hamstrings, your quads fatigue, and you might actually have more effort in your body, but not enough in your hands to hold the bar. So it’s important to remember that intensity is a reflection of your ability with strict form to successfully complete one lift.

Now, if you are an advanced weight lifter, you can also up the intensity by getting gradually closer to one repetition maximums. So you can spend a few weeks in the hypertrophy phases of lifting at seventy five percent. Then you can step it up to eighty percent. Then you can step it up to ninety percent.

This is all carefully outlined in terms of the workout program for my Rhythm System E-Book which is on strengthnation.com. And it’s spread out over a twelve week period. Gradually getting more and more intense until you’re lifting at roughly ninety five percent of your one repetition maximum. That’s very intense.

Eventually you are going to be attempting these type of intense efforts. Your repetition scheme is probably going to be about two, maybe as much as four. That’s heavy, heavy lifting. And it does produce a result. And it produces a result whether you’re male, whether you’re female, whether you’re young, whether you’re old.

So it’s important to remember that intensity is an expression of your ability with good form. You can’t hurt yourself if you’re using good form. You can hurt yourself if you’re using bad form.

So let’s say you’re, you know, seventy-five years old, you’ve got a bad shoulder, you’ve got a bad knee, you’ve got a bad hip, but there’s things that you can still do within your range of what you can accomplish successfully without pain, is going to measure your intensity level. Does that make sense? I hope it does. And I’m glad it does.

Whatever it is that is the personal best for you is the same energy, intensity and passion that is the same personal best for me even though we’re all different bodies. We all have different body types. We all have different amounts of time and energy we are able to sacrifice in order to achieve that which we want. But in our efforts we are united. In our goals we are united.

And that is truly valuable. I know that over the past few weeks I’ve been talking a lot about goals. I’ve been talking a lot about intensity. We’ve been trying to debrief ourselves and come back from the minor abyss that the holidays may have been and get on a track that is going to produce for us results. All I am trying to do is my best. I am seeking the edge of my ability and attempting to live there. That is all you can do too.

I just wanted to finish with that incomplete thought from above and that is on the subject of lifting in a way that retains muscle while burning fat. When you are dieting specifically to lose weight lifting becomes the pivotal factor upon which your success is determined. It tells the difference between someone who is simply smaller than they were before the diet and someone who looks ripped, defined, toned, healthy and in shape.

You see weight lifting when done properly with a diet and cardio program will help your body retain muscle tissue. In the event of caloric deprivation your body your body will attempt to make up the deficit by converting muscle into fuel for locomotion. this has the unfortunate effect of making you smaller but not less fat. If you want to get that lean, in shape look then the weights will tell your muscles to stick around and afford your body the chance to use its stored fat to make up the caloric deficit making you leaner and more toned.

So throw that idea in with the intensity concept and yuo are well on your way to becoming a leaner, healthier, better looking, better feeling version of your pre holiday self.

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How to create a beautiful body

Posted on 08 January 2009 by Jason White

Pushups in the sunlight

Pushups in the sunlight

I marched in the Gay Pride Parade. It was summer, about 1995 My roommate at the time was gay. This was back when I first got in New York City in the mid nineties when security was a lot more lax in terms of public events, so we just kind of walked into the parade and joined up with everyone and walked down the street and it was fantastic, tons of fun!

I will never forget the Roxy float because the Roxy float had all of their go-go boys employees on the float dancing to house music dressed in bikini bottoms, like little Speedos, and their bodies were absolutely unbelievable, spectacular. And I remember thinking “my god, I want to get a body that’s worthy of getting up on a float.”

They didn’t have anybody up there that was scrawny or fat or whatever. Fit, fit , fit guys and it blew me away. I was like “Dammit. I’ve got to get up there! I mean… I’ve got to get a body like that. How do I do that?”

And that was part of the commitment that I had already started. I saw what I wanted, I knew what I wanted and I went after it. And the reason why I bring it up, I’m just trying to illustrate a point here, and that is that almost fifteen years later I still have not relinquished my commitment to obtaining a body like that and as a result of that desire I am enjoying some of the best health I’ve had in years and years and years and I’m probably the fittest that I’ve ever been.

And being that fit is part of the commitment that I am really, ultimately, grateful for having made and having stuck to through thick and through thin.

You know, workouts aren’t always exciting. As a matter of fact, frequently they stink. Working out is hard. It’s difficult. If you’re doing it properly it should be painful. Not painful in like a joint kind of sense, but painful in a sense of “Oh my god! I’m pushed to the edge of what I think I can do.”

I typically get like that before a leg day. Before I have to train legs I know it’s going to hurt. I don’t want to have that big heavy weight on my back to do squats or I’m nervous about getting under the leg press with five hundred pounds on it, but all those feelings are important.

It’s important to recognize the difference between not wanting to work out and lack of desire to workout.

One is because you’re just not properly motivated because you haven’t been thinking about what you want to obtain and the other is not wanting to work out because your nervous system is really stressed out. You’ve worked out too hard, you haven’t gotten enough recovery, you haven’t eaten properly, you haven’t slept enough, your body still needs more rest and your desire is pushed too low.

You have to determine which of those things it is and once you get to your workout you have to make sure that you are adequately pushing yourself. And when I say adequately pushing yourself, what I mean is you’re pushing yourself the proper amount. You must be striving for a level of intensity that you did not meet in your previous workout, so each workout is building on the last.

You are trying to get better, trying to get stronger, trying to get more powerful. It means you have to ask your body to do something above and beyond what it was capable of doing previously. This might mean, and this is a very subtle movement: adding a few extra pounds on the bar. It could be as simple as doing an extra set. It could be as simple as doing an extra repetition or two.

Just enough. You need to get just enough to stimulate your body to say “okay, that’s new. I’m not used to that. That means that I have to push harder. And – and if this is going to be the normal requirement then I’ll have to build more muscle right?”

So that’s what you’re striving for. Within your workout you have to be able to ferret out that quality of motivation and make sure that you’re not succumbing to the icy grip of fear. And I say icy because it slows you down, it makes you cold, it makes you slower and frozen. You don’t want to be frozen with fear when approaching your workout and that’s why I’ve talked about using the analgesic of a mental image of the most powerful body that you could possibly possess: strong, fit, beautiful, excellent. The kind of body that wants to be on a float, on a Roxy float in a Gay Pride Parade or whatever… you know, it doesn’t matter, the cover model for a fitness magazine… or whatever you feel like, it doesn’t matter as long as it personally motivates you.

You have to use that because your body will tell you: “I don’t want to do this. This is going to be hard. I don’t want to breathe heavy. I don’t want to feel the pain in my legs. I don’t want to feel the pain in my glutes. I don’t want to be heaving for breath. I don’t want to…”

When your blood pressure gets elevated, when your heart gets pumping, when your lungs are gulping, gulping, gulping for air it’s painful, it hurts and the only thing that can assuage this pain is your desire, your desire to become better than you were the day before. It’s critical that you think of your working out in this manner.

I recently had a client ask me “How come it’s not getting any easier?” I said I know it isn’t getting easier, do you know why? It’s because I’ve been gradually making your workouts harder. Just when you think it would be getting easier I’ve made it harder. She said really? I said yes, if you think back to when we started, the things that you were doing were not nearly as intense as the things that you are doing now. It’s important to remember that and it’s important to remember that because if you’re working out properly it will always be hard. It will always be difficult. It will always be challenging.

That’s the point. The only thing that gets easier about working out is that you become more comfortable with the discomfort of working out. Invest a little mental preparation before your workout. Get the fire stoked. Use a little visual imagery. Get the imagination engine fired up. It turns on the central nervous system. It prepares the muscles for what you’re asking them to do. It prepares your spirit for what you’re asking it to do: To strive. To rise. To reach. These things are critical, absolutely critical.

If your workout is a good workout, if it’s the correct workout for you, if it’s challenging for you, if it’s written the right way then you should have a bit of trepidation before your workout. Each one of your workouts should frighten you just a little bit. “Oh man, I’m not looking forward to this. This is going to suck.” If you can do that you are on the right track. Then all you have to do is manage a few of those workouts and get used to the rhythm of it. It’s going to be stressful, it’s going to be difficult, and you are going to struggle (oh man!).

And then you’ll become more comfortable with the idea of pushing harder and pushing harder, trying to get better, trying to get stronger but guess what? All the cards are stacked against you! Aging, general decreases in hormone production, not getting enough sleep. Crud, now we are in trouble.
Eventually maintaining your body through working out is going to dominate your life. That’s good. You want it to.

Your main priority should be to make sure that you’re adequately cared for, you have shelter, you have good employment (right?), you’re spiritually satisfied, you feel like you’re contributing or whatever that means to you, you feel like you’re participating, whatever that might mean to you… and after that nourishing your body, exercising your body, then optimizing your body for performance. And I don’t care if you’re an accountant and you sit at your desk eight hours a day. Optimizing your body for performance is the key to health and happiness and longevity.

You know it works! It really does!

It’s super, super satisfying! You know me, I’ve been regaling you with tales of skateboarding and snowboarding and rolling around town and going crazy and – and finding out that I have stamina. Finding out that I can recover faster. Finding out that all this working out is paying off because it’s developed the foundation for me for an active lifestyle and I’m loving that, absolutely loving that!

What’s not to love about it? Activity is freedom. The motion of your body is freedom. More fit is more powerful, stronger. It’s freedom. It’s more ability.

The more able you are, the freer you are and the freer you are the better you feel. And I’m not saying you’ve got to chain yourself to the gym. I’m not saying you should eliminate your entire social life and forego all pleasures in order to obtain the one pleasure of working on your body. I’m not saying that.

I am saying if you dedicate yourself to the mental imagery of the strongest, most powerful you that you can be you will put your choices on automatic and those automatic choices will lead you to more and more challenging workouts and you will eventually reach that place where you will have sacrificed as much as you’re willing to sacrifice in order to gain the satisfaction that you’re willing to gain… and what could be better?

What could be better than that? Nothing!

So really, ultimately, this little pep talk has really been about accepting the fact that working out sucks. It’s hard, it hurts, it’s difficult. If it’s easy and you’re going to the gym and you’re not getting results or you’re working out outside and you’re not getting results or whatever you are doing… if it’s easy forget it, it’s over.

It’s got to be challenging. You’ve got to get to the end of that and think “oh my god I can’t believe I just did that.” And you should be able to accomplish that in the gym within forty-five minutes at the most. And it’s exciting! It’s exciting!

For example, on Friday I was doing my arms workout and I’ve been trying to balance out my arms to make my triceps bigger and what I realized is that it’s very easy for me to lift heavy biceps. It’s much more difficult for me to lift heavier weight with my triceps. All sorts of problems occur. If I’m doing a rope pull down then the amount of weight I can press down with my triceps is getting to the point where it’s starting to pull my body off the floor, it’s starting to pull me off my balance so much that it’s hard to control the weight, it’s hard to get a full contraction in and feel like I’m really digging deep into the muscle tissue.

So what did I do? I just added and extra set. In my circuit I did lateral raises, bicep curls and triceps rope in the overhead position. So for every one I did of the shoulder lateral raise and the biceps curl, I did two triceps extensions. I did my ten reps, took a thirty second break, did another ten reps just to insure that I was digging into the muscle tissue, very simple. I just added extra sets. So I did six sets instead of just three. This was adequate enough to stimulate the muscles beyond what they were normally used to doing.

They’re used to doing just single sets in a rotation. See how simple that is? Just a simple, little change is enough to create a level of intensity that will propel the body beyond what its accustomed to doing and into that realm of “oh, this is new, I’d better compensate for this.” That’s the voice of the muscles by the way…”oh this is new.” And that’s what you want.

Stimulating your muscles in this way will insure that the stimulation pulls available dietary proteins into the muscle for rebuild and repair. That’s what you want to do. Does that make sense? I hope it makes sense.

Oops. I started off wanting to throw down a few practical tips just to make sure that you’re getting the kind of results that you want to get and we ended up in a more motivational story. I think it is just because I see so many people missing the simplest thing in the world… choice. I see so many men and women my age “getting older” like their body is this thing they have no control over. I don’t mean control like some kind Orwellian 1984 control, but when a person takes the time to learn about how their body works and what kinds of stimulation produce results then they are working with their body and guiding it’s ability to respond to resistance training and in effect controlling how they live.

I tend to talk and think in these terms, in ethereal, spiritual, and motivational kind of terms and I try to infuse my clients with the same level of this desire: To get up on a float in the gay pride parade.

I also realize everyone needs practical information so that you can actually go and do something in the gym or wherever it is that you’re working out and make whatever adjustments you might want to make to your exercise or diet in terms of creating a better a result. Most of us I think are looking for that fat loss result. We want to be strong, but mostly really we want to look lean. I mean you could argue that the majority of the country doesn’t want to look lean. They’d rather look humongous or even slightly overweight because it seems like that’s what everybody’s doing, but if you’ve read this far then you’re definitely on the side of “I’m looking for lean” and that means you’ve got to make adjustments and you’ve got to make sacrifices.

Just a quick word of warning: If they tell you it’s easy, if they tell you it’s fast they’re all selling you lies. They just want your money. I’m not trying to sell you lies. I’m trying to tell you the truth: It’s hard, it’s difficult and it takes time.

BUT

The results are immeasurable, the satisfaction worth any price, if you can make the kind of sacrifices that are going to produce results. So in order to obtain the kind of results that produce a leaner body you’ve to make the adjustments to your diet and your exercise program and the easiest adjustment you could probably make is to insure that you create a fat burning environment.

Which we will cover next time. In the meantime… Begin to notice how you are feeling about where you are at. Are you satisfied? Have the countless choices you have made to end you up in front of these words been the kind of choices that reflect inward to a sense of pure satisfaction?

A revolution is afoot. People all over the world are participating in making the kinds of choices that lead them inexorably towards freedom, ability, and satisfaction. Are you one?

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