Category Archives: Stretching

Is The Hulk better than Spiderman?

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I had the opportunity to interview Stan Lee in 2003, as I was still moonlighting for “Hollywood” red carpet premieres, as the Daredevil movie was coming out.

Daredevil was in his category of characters who would become superheroes by an amazingly coincidental concourse of circumstances, nothing short of magic. Instead of trying to rationalize with science he couldn’t explain or justify, he decided to come up with mutations, as part of human evolution.

His mutant superheroes were faced with discrimination in their story lines analogous to racism, homophobia or any other societal fails for human beings.

Allow me to regress and diminish the potential seriousness about the topic to something way less important, especially when terrorist attacks occurred once again, this time on Belgian grounds, using Stan Lee’s pantheon of characters as backdrop to make my silly, yet valid point: is The Hulk better than Spiderman?

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Judging from what I see, read or hear from some peers in the community, it would appear so. The balance weighs heavily in favor of the big green guy as being the only form of fitness that matters, that is relevant and all others are a joke. Yet, we could argue that Spidey’s strength, agility, flexibility, climbing and jumping abilities make him a lot more versatile, and his control over his body and actions make him more useful and functional than essentially a creature his alter ego can aim more or less.

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In the training, as well as “perception of what strength means” community, Hulkmeister represents what we should aim for, that his abilities trump and fix everything that’s wrong with us. And no, it is not stated in a way that implies the pursuit of strength, rather implies a certain physicality, which is extremely useful on a daily basis for any desk job (if you didn’t detect it, that was sarcasm).

 

Wait, I hear a fanboy mentioning to me that post-Banner can jump really f*$%&ing high and far. I had to use The Hulk because most people know who he is. So let me amend to this other guy (if you saw the first solo Wolverine movie, you may recognize the character), who is a slightly more realistic fictional character to make a point for something I see a lot of being sold as the end-all be-all supreme attribute of health: enter the Blob.

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Let’s get back to reality for a second. On one hand, being super strong and able to lift superheavy weights is pretty cool and plenty useful. On the other hand, being svelte, spry and mobile is useful, makes it easier to navigate the world around us, and is generally a greater indicator of health, especially when cardiovascular disease and other diseases tend to follow certain body types. To have the confidence to be proud of one’s strength achievements and get off your tush frequently to pick heavy stuff up and put it back down is admirable. But please, do not hide behind that strength under the guise of health.

There are still other things to consider, such as how the joints can only support a certain frame for so long, how taxing extra mass is on the body and wears out internal organs, and that carrying excess body fat is hazardous to your health. My job is not to motivate, rather educate and my intention is not to shame those who struggle with fat loss. As good coach will tell you, eat like an adult, get off your ass, exercise, rest and do not latch on to one aspect of fitness because it won’t get rid of whatever unhealthy thing you’re trying to fix by itself.

Look, everything has a purpose. A Lamborghini Aventador is beautiful, but it won’t take you far off-road. An oversized 4×4 Hummer is powerful and intimidating, but it won’t win you the Indy 500 or last long in a chase. The family crossover vehicle will carry your groceries, your camping gear, a few kids to little league practice, your office supplies and nowadays will pack enough powerful ponies under the hood without being too thirsty to hold its ground, even if it’s not as cool.

Georges Hébert discusses “strength” in his book on physical education for women:

“Physical strength, in its broadest sense, is made up of various elements [1], of which the most important ones are:

  • Resistance, endurance or breath, which allow the execution without failing of prolonged work, gymnastics or other, to sustain the same efforts and also to bear fatigue of any kind.

This element of strength, the most precious of all, depends greatly on the value and function of the internal organs. It is the natural outcome of regular and methodical training, as well as routine work of any kind; finally, it also depends on a hygienic and regular lifestyle, free of excess.

  • Pure muscular power, or simply muscle, which enables the execution with various body parts of sufficient efforts in many aspects: pull, push, squeeze, grab, lift, carry, throw, hoist, hit to defend, etc.

This element of strength depends directly on the degree of development achieved by the muscles, as well as the nervous arousal communicated by will, meaning the power of the nervous system.

  • Speed, meaning the ability to be able to do quick moves, rapid extensions, spring launches, sudden stops, etc.

This element of strength depends above all on the more or less high sensitivity of the nervous system, which transmits the command to the muscles to move into action. It also depends on muscular quality and more or less joint flexibility. Long muscles are more favorable to quick actions than short, thick, ropey muscles.

  • Agility, meaning the ability to not only to use one’s muscles and use one’s skills, but also to preserve strength to postpone the effects of fatigue.

Energetic, but clumsy individuals generally waste their strength without function or precise goal. They are often, because of that, inferior to those of medium strength who know how to better manage their efforts more adroitly.

  • Resistance to cold, as well as heat and any weather.
  • Energy and any other virile qualities: will power, courage, cold-blood, decisiveness, firmness, tenacity, the taste for action. Finally, self-control to dominate one’s fears under any circumstances, resist physical and emotional pain, etc.

An individual of medium physical value, but energetic, focused, courageous and tenacious, is always superior in life to an individual having exceptional physical abilities, but soft, lazy, scared and without mental toughness.

  • Knowledge of the process of execution of the fundamental exercises (basic educational exercises) and at the same time, a sufficient ability level in all of them.
  • Finally, sobriety, meaning temperance and moderation in eating and drinking, and frugality, meaning simplicity in choice of nutrition.”

[1] The Strength Code contains the detailed works characterizing strength and the practical tracking of those skills (another book to translate on my list).

 

Addition by subtraction, or how to simplify the workout for better gains of any kind.

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Regardless of what your ultimate goal is in fitness, maintaining all-around athleticism remains key for your daily activities. And frankly, there is no ultimate goal, because that means it would be the end, with nothing to look forward to beyond. Goals change. Life, give or take a few variables, on the whole, does not.

You need to eat, sleep, rest. Your health and work will change, and how you eat, sleep and rest will adjust, like your training program. Unless you are competing as an athlete or are playing a superhero on TV, you don’t really need to be this big, or that strong. Really, you don’t, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. You do need to stay mobile, stay strong, maintain your muscles, and you do need to walk up stairs, pick stuff up, hold on to things, carry them, run to or from something, even if just walking quickly or avoiding something. Stay Spry!

There is no hack for any exercise, other than for the sake of breaking form so you can find it again. Like saying “there’s no place like home” after you’ve been around the world.

Pick a few things, do them well, do them often. Like, five. Do them for a while. Don’t count the reps, just do as many as you can in a short, predetermined duration of time (10 minutes?) and stop anytime you know or feel your form looks like crap. Start maybe by doing it as well as possible, then when the clock runs out of time, do something else, and come back to the previous exercise the next day.

Rather than add more stuff to do, to eat, to supplement with, get rid of what’s not super essential. If you did a chest exercise, a quad dominate exercise, a back exercise, a shoulder dominant exercise and a hamstring dominant exercise and have time for something else, go twist, rotate, throw, jump, climb or punch. But don’t add another chest exercise if it doesn’t make you better at something else other than pushing the buttons out on your shirt.

Or, if you ran, climbed, punch & kicked, jumped onto or off of something, and threw something, broke a nice sweat, feel a little tired, with a grin and sense of satisfaction: you’re good! keep at it.

Ignore the magazines, the pressure. Easier said than done, right? Do the stuff mentioned above, I promise you the pressure eases up as the feeling of well-being increases!

“Oscars” of Fitness and Chris Rock comment about Kevin Hart

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How in the world did I manage to tie the 88th Academy Awards to this blog post? Is it about the fitness of certain male and female celebs for their superhero movie roles or fury road action?

Better yet, how am I, Mr Blond-haired, green-eyed white male connecting to Chris Rock and his on par tirade of Hollywood’s discrimination or lack of opportunity offering to minority actors? I particularly liked his opinion on not separating men from women actors, as it’s not a competition like track, rather an unnecessary disambiguation as performance is not tied to a person’s ability, other than to act.

No, I am only attaching myself to Chris Rock defending his integrity by saying that his refusal of hosting would not stop the Oscars from taking place, and that if he hadn’t accepted the gig, it would have (jokingly) gone to the extremely talented comic du jour Kevin Hart. Essentially, his ability to Always Be Ready and perform on stage regardless of the venue is where his art and craft come to life.

I was recently asked to participate and lead a fitness video for a popular fitness chain. My understanding was that it was down to me and some other guy, and since I haven’t heard back and the shoot is coming up very soon, I am guessing the gig went to the other guy. Now, I’m not going to name the fitness chain, and what I am about to write bears no negativity towards it. Like saying I don’t play the violin, but it doesn’t mean I have anything against playing the violin. Rather, the chain’s image and type of workouts doesn’t reflect what I personally promote with the Natural Method, my training programs and the methods I employ for myself and others. Even so, if you don’t know me (which is everyone in the world except for my FaceBook and direct friends, or my book and blog readers, this means nothing.

Had I gotten the gig, my answer to anyone wondering about why I’d do such a video shoot is simple: Always Be Ready! The process of becoming an all-around athlete via The Natural Method is to prepare you for any physical challenge life throws at you. The method was created to develop people who can protect themselves, their family, their community and ultimately, their nation. You’re not trained to battle only one way, but you need to be able to handle any kind of battle, right?

So, it doesn’t matter if you have to do some kind of workout that doesn’t directly reflect your philosophy or style (“sorry, bro, I only Oly Lift with barbells, running and kettlebells is for wankers”). If you aren’t able to perform for a general, all-around fitness task that’s thrown at you, your system doesn’t work, your method is a fail. Like the saying goes: you’re only strong in times of trouble, otherwise your strength is only a weakness.

Making it as a personal trainer is difficult. Heck, I even thing it’s harder to make it than being an actor (if you seek recognition and fame). I don’t have numbers to back this up, but I am pretty sure if you compare the ratio of celebrity trainers to the actual amount of trainers in the world vs the ratio of successful, famous actors to the obscure unknowns, the discrepancy is greater amongst trainers!

What would this have done for me? Well,firstly, it’s a paycheck and I am not against feeding my family. Secondly, getting your name out there helps you get recognized, and if you have a message to bring to a larger scale, it doesn’t hurt to have a platform and a captive audience! What your message is is entirely up to you, and that’s where your integrity comes from. Sometimes, we do have to be accept an opportunity and turn it into something great.

Now, I have no clue what I would have actually done for the fitness company, I do know that I would have done a great job and by kicking ass, I would have made my point that I was able to deliver and perform because of my ongoing preparation.

How your digital devices and apps do not move the needle.

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You downloaded the latest G50Xtreme workout series, you bought the compression training apparel, have the app on your smartphone and checked in via social media at your gym to keep yourself accountable, and posted a sweaty selfie so we know you didn’t just show up and lie. You’re doing it!

 

 

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You then grab a super-greens superfood drink, enter its caloric info into another smart app and track your intake of nutrients. Off to shower, a clean dinner of steamed veggies and grilled chicken or white fish with a sprinkle of pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and a small glass of Chardonnay (c’mon, live a little now, ya hear!)

You calculated at the end of the day that you burnt X amount of calories (and you’re on track), fulfilled your workout quota and beat it by 10% from last week, so now you can add a restorative session of yoga or Pilates. Book a massage, because your body needs it and you earned it.

Crash on the couch, catch up on emails with House Of Cards playing in the background on Netflix, finish up that presentation for tomorrow. Turn off the tube, but turn on the Kindle for a little reading on how to be more effective, assertive and confident (you’ll follow up with the podcast in the morning on your way to work). Sleep 6 hours or less, and after 12-16 ounces of overpriced coffee in the morning, it’s off to the races again. You sit for 8-10 hours. Wait, no, you have a standing desk too, because more and more offices do that, because it’s good for you.

How you doin’?

What are you working towards?

Why is the standing desk good for you? No need to tell me, by the way, I know you read the research, Self magazine and GQ tweeted about the benefits.

My question was about your workout: what’s it doing for you? Is your posture better? Fewer headaches? Good alignment and muscular balance? Right on!

Now, can you get those results without all the digital noise around you? Can you also apply your fitness to your everyday activities: do you hunch at your desk, do you stand evenly, is your neck bent at 45 degrees staring at screens, or do you practice good posture outside the gym, are you mindful when sitting, walking, standing, carrying your messenger bag?

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Bottom line: if you’re not getting the results, the digital gizmos and social media wear thin and become useless landfill fodder. Because if you’re so disciplined that you’re making progress, you don’t need them. And if you are not disciplined, no amount of toys will fill that gap between you and your goal.

Save some cash, save some time, reconnect with yourself and people without a crutch. Dumbo eventually learned how to fly without holding on to his feather.

How a complete “Natural Method” session looks like

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Home of the Natural Method

Not too long ago, I posted a blog about how Georges Hébert set up a complete session. If you go back and revisit that post with its vintage pictures, you will see that equipment was a bit different a century ago (like the mold below where you can pour concrete to make a construction brick). All goals are met, by the way, from developing strength, endurance, muscle mass, cardio, flexibility, agility (you know my FAST pillars by now), which incidentally leads to weight loss without it being the focus (all around athleticism leads to greater fitness, health and that leads to weight loss too!).

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One of the reasons I wanted to give people an updated version of his training program is simply because equipment has evolved. Now, we’re not going to go show you all the selectorized equipment options or machines which isolate muscle groups which have been developed since. Instead, the focus will remain on variety of free weights, whether it’s a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, sand bell, medicine ball etc…

One additional key is the use of technique. Again, using machines requires a much lesser level of attention to proper form, as it’s almost “done for you”, and if you are going to use free weights, form is essential.

So, here is an updated equivalent post, which also serves as another sneak preview of the upcoming book with the program design of Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education through his Natural Method.

WARM UP WITH FUNDAMENTAL EXERCISES

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DEVELOP ALL-AROUND ATHLETICISM WITH FUNCTIONAL EXERCISESC OMBATIVES: FOR SELF-DEFENSE, DEXTERITY, AGILITY, COORDINATION.

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WEIGHT LIFTING: FOR STRENGTH AND MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT

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THROWING: FOR DEXTERITY, POWER, HAND-EYE COORDINATION, AGILITY, MOBILITY

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CLIMBING: FOR ALL-AROUND STRENGTH, MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT, FLEXIBILITY, MOBILITY, OBSTACLE CLEARANCE, RESCUE

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JUMPING: FOR POWER, STRENGTH, DISPLACEMENT AND OBSTACLE CLEARANCE, AGILITY

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And of course, running (sprinting, jogging, racing) for speed, endurance, power, cardiovascular health, hygienic cleansing and waste elimination benefits through sweating etc…

Live the Natural Method

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ACE (American Council on Exercise) released its forecast of the top 10 fitness trends for 2016.

I didn’t really see what I have been exploring since 2008 when I realized what I knew from NASM was too reductionist, and had Wildfitness open my eyes to new ways, which were anything but.

Judging by Connor McGregor’s recent win, but more so the phenomenal boost “movement” received and the likes of Ido Portal and Erwan LeCorre latching on the the opportunity to grow their approach, I do believe that a return to the source is truly at the forefront of fitness. And judging by the warm reception my translation of Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education and his Natural Method approach to fitness, I feel I’m on the right path. Check out this post by Daring Standards.

I am extremely thankful for this, as it gives me a new purpose and a new drive to bring more of Hébert’s work forward. It is important to give him credit, rather than try to steal for oneself for marketing purposes. Ultimately, Hébert himself credits his predecessors, just like Pavel Tsatsouline did with his kettlebell training system, and related strength training Russian influences. Pavel improved and systemized, like Hébert did. Not everyone does like them, and instead covers up an existing system or style with a new name, or unnecessary complications, not actual updates.

Movement is essential, it’s simple, it’s life. This is why I put together this little slideshow that includes family pictures, where my kids get to run, jump climb, throw and my wife and I get to partake, carry them, throw them, fight with them etc. Towards the end of the slideshow, you’ll see my friends Nick Bustos, Melody Schoenfeld, Patrick Hartsell, Ron Jones and James Neidlinger in action, some photos not released yet, modeling the programming of Hébert’s method, with simple  updates, upgrades, modern twist and access to gear that always existed but was made more user friendly (I am not against progress…)

Enjoy!

Natural Method Beta-Testing Workshop

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Interesting fact about yesterday’s workshop. Wasn’t meant to be a huge event, rather a beta test group put together sort of last minute (logistically only, content was slightly accelerated because of the close attention to 6 participants). An element of mea culpa needs to be considered in the sense that this information is not only intrinsic to my being, it’s engrained incidentally since childhood P.E. and semi consciously letting my kids develop and allow the promotion of all that is taught (and I can expand later how kids are actually at the highest level of performance on some things, as Hébert essentially says “forget technique at some point, just do it, all right, you have been primed!”).
What I’m getting at is there is the performance of the moves, their simplicity and no need for an over explanation or an attempt to make it all “scientific”. Then, there’s the martial aspect (as one of the three objects of training: martial, pedagogical, corrective).
Martial meets pedagogical in the following sense: a punch is a punch is a punch. Be it jab, cross, hook or uppercut. The punch is the martial element. The pedagogical is the teaching of the punch. And amongst the martial artists reading this, can we agree that as simple as a punch is, it can take a long time to get someone to get how to do it right. A black belt is a person whose execution of the basics differs from a white belt (oversimplification maybe, I’m doing away with nuances as it would be a different topic of conversation).

Some attendees, fitness enthusiasts (clients, end users, not necessarily educators) got plenty out of the workshop, truly enjoyed it, made sense of the book better by getting the live instruction in person. But in the educators or “applicators” (physical therapy student), the “frying” of their CNS, their brain was such that it made me understand that the proper teaching of the content, for educators, needs to take the course of a few days. And those may need the prerequisite of frequent practice up until the point of a multiple-day event. One trainer actually felt like throwing up (because he came in with the educator mindset, while the others came with the “just do it and get a good workout while seeing what I should do more of” mindset).

I would except the martial arts crowd, as we are used to a different approach than the standard trainer approach.

But it makes sense to me with my 28-yr martial arts background, and the fact that Hébert was Navy, that the teaching of the Natural Method may be more akin to learning a martial art than teaching a barbell deadlift, kettlebell swing or snatch, or other lift.

It’s hard to just do a little 4-hr, even 8-hr preview. To truly get the most out of Hébert’s work, it does require a solid retreat, immersion process. I am looking to hear what participants feel like a few days after. My own Indian clubs certification was alike, where my brain was fried, but soon after, things “made sense”.

WEEKLY PROGRAMMING according to the Natural Method

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Weekly programming consists of 6 daily sessions of roughly an hour, each divided into one or several takes.
The first 5 sessions are identical to the model described in the DAILY PROGRAMMING chapter.
The 6th session is more specifically reserved for long distance runs, games, sports and manual labor of all kinds.

Example of weekly programming:

Monday: hour-long complete session in 2 takes:
1st take: fundamentals.
2nd take: functional training.

Tuesday through Friday: same.

Saturday: Long distance run. Games, sports, manual labor.

Sunday: rest

Available on Amazon Kindle now!

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Here it is, folks!

After hours, weeks and days of translation work, practical application, field testing on myself, peers and clients, the release of the first book of The Natural Method trilogy is here for you to download for the whopping price of $1.99! A bargain basement price if you consider the cost of the original work and the slowly climbing prices of vintage fitness books.

Just like with any method or system, it is important to understand it, assimilate it and even at times question it before going out and teaching it. I invite all readers to do so first by digesting the information and even apply existing knowledge to it. After all, while the exercises themselves are not new, be it for familiarity of execution and alternative warm-up drills (all of which will be covered in the second book due in January 2015), the layout, organization, sequence of training and intensity management of exercises outlined in this first installment are of benefit to all in the fitness industry.

Group ex, one-on-one, novice to expert, scoring and measuring tools, it’s all here today, courtesy of one of the pillars of our fitness History.

Get it now for less than a trip to your local name brand java joint!

 

Lesson model and order

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This is an excerpt from the book, Chapter IV. It charts the order of drills and explains the intensity variations for optimal performance within the session, from warm-up to cool down.

SECTIONEXERCISESGOALS AND BENEFITS
1
  1. Any kind of walking.
  2. Corrective exercises.
  3. Flexibility and mobility of the arms, leg and trunk.
Correcting mindset, warming up the body and general loosening up of the body (aesthetic benefits).
2
  1. Basic arm and leg movements, simple or combined, free hand or with gear.
  2. Lifting.
  3. Throwing.
  4. Combatives: boxing and wrestling.
General and symmetrical development of all the body parts. Joint flexibility (aesthetic benefits).Skill development and coordination in order to improve fighting, lifting and throwing abilities (functional benefits)
3
  1. Suspension/Hanging.
  2. Supported/Planks.
  3. Climbing variations.
  4. Balancing drills geared also at overcoming fear of heights/vertigo.
Specific development of the upper body, trunk and core musculature (aesthetic benefits). Sense of equilibrium, agility of all kinds for climbing or scaling (functional benefits).
4
  1. Hopping.
  2. Speed training.
  3. Short distance runs.
Intense action on the major systems of the body: cardiovascular and respiratory (hygienic benefits).Improvement in normal and work pacing (functional benefits).
5Trunk and core specificEmphasis on back, thoracic and abdominal musculature development (aesthetic benefits).
6
  1. Jumps of all kinds: with or without momentum, with hand support, on moving or fixed obstacles.
  2. Velocity/speed   and distance running (like in Section 4).
  3. Swimming.
  4. Games utilizing running, jumping, swimming, fighting actions etc…
Same benefits as in Section 4, but more intense.All the exercises in this section produce hygienic, aesthetic and functional benefits.
7
  1. Breath work.
  2. Marching/Walking.
Restore the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.Breathing education.

 

 

 

Thus:

–       Exercises in Section 1 simply serve to warm-up and loosen up the body.

–       Exercises in Sections 4 and 6 on average require greater effort than those in Sections 1, 2 and 3.

–       Section 5 is positioned on purpose between two sections of more strenuous nature (jumping, running etc.) because the exercises in this section require little effort but provide the body with the necessary relaxation characterized by a lowering of the heart rate.

–       Finally, exercises in Section 7 are geared towards restoring the breath and lowering the heart rate before resting. They can be performed during the session when the taxing efforts of a particular exercise require restoration.