Thursday, June 30, 2011

The by-product of weight lifting

I like the way I look. Sure, I'm the typical ectomorph and can't build muscle as well as my more genetically endowed counterparts... But hey, it's okay. When I first started hitting the gym it was more for killing time and improving how I look.

But as I progressed, my objectives changed. I'm now more concerned about getting as strong as I can get. I only do very basic, compound exercises: squat, deadlift, standing press. I add some basic bodyweight stuff like the humble pushup and rows. And of course, I throw in kettle bell swings as well.

I don't work on any particular body part.

Looking good is the by-product of lifting heavy.

Of course, diet plays a role. No doubt about that. Ectomorphs have some leeway when it comes to diet. We pretty much are able to eat anything without accumulating a tub of fat around our bellies.

But what I am trying to get at is this: forget about chasing the pump or working on certain parts of your body and ignoring the rest. Your body will only look disproportionate. Concentrate on getting strong and agile and before you know it you'll have your dream body.

P/s I don't look like Sarah O'Connor in Terminator 2. But I can safely say I look better than all of the sedentary girls out there. The only advantage they have against me is that they have boobs and I'm pretty much an airport runway.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Strengh Training Books

Let's face it.  Most fitness magazines suck.  They tell you to do 10,000 crunches and slave over the treadmill.  And when you don't get results they entice you to buy yet another useless issue and the vicious cycle starts all over again.

And then you have the internet.  The internet could be a good friend or a sneaky bastard.  It feeds you with a wealth of information.  But not all of the information are legit.  You have to sift through a lot of junk to get to the gems.

As for me, I prefer to read books to get some credible facts.  Ehem... since I got myself an iPad I have procured quite a few fitness books.  Some of which I've already read through.  And many more still to be read.  Here's a list of what I've read and what I'm about to read:

  1. Power to the People - Pavel Tsatsouline (I recommend that anyone who is interested in strength training to read this book first and foremost)
  2. Enter the Kettlebell - Pavel Tsatsouline
  3. Starting Strength - Mark Rippetoe
  4. The Poliquin Principles - Charles Poliquin
  5. Beyond Bodybuilding - Pavel Tsatsouline
Yeah I know.  I have quite a few of Pavel Tsatsouline's books.  He has a way of explaining complex fitness science concepts in a simple way.  It makes learning easier.  And it makes the information stick in your head.  That's what good teachers do.  

Do you have any fitness books that is a particular favourite?  Care to share?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Squats Update

Adeline and I had a little bet a while back. She was supposed to be able to deadlift 60kg for 5 reps by 16 June while I'm supposed to squat 50kg for 5 reps by the same date. Adeline managed to keep her half of the deal while I floundered.

The best I could do was 46.5kg for 5 reps. Probably my 1RM would be somewhere in the 50kg region. But not for 5 reps. Not yet anyway.

At least my squats are progressing. It has stalled for quite some time. I'm just glad I'm finally starting to chug along. Dare I say that I'm beginning to love squats more and more nowadays? In fact, today's my rest day and I was considering training squats just for the heck of it.

Unfortunately something came up, so I couldn't train. Oh well. Tomorrow's another day.

Anyway, below are some coaching cues that I've gathered from various sources that has helped me improve my squat technique:

1. Legs slightly wider than shoulder width
2. Toes should point slightly outwards.
3. When descending, make sure knees are out. Knees should 'travel along the foot'
4. Eyes should look somewhere slightly above eye level. DO NOT look down. DO NOT look too high at the ceiling either.
4. When ascending, hips and shoulders should move upwards together. Don't lift hip first then shoulders.

Anythings else you want to add?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Strength as a Foundation

There are so many ways to keep yourself fit.  Some are into yoga.  Some are into spinning classes.  Then there are those who are into running.  And there others who dig crossfit.  Me, I'm into weightlifting.  But you know that already.

It is unfair to say that yoga is crap.  Or spinning class sucks.  To each his own.  Having said that though, I believe that no matter what your chosen style of fitness is, you must incorporate strength training into your fitness regime.  It's common sense, really.

You need to be strong first in order to excel in your chosen sport.  Nobody ever benefited from being weak.

You like running?  You need the muscles to give you the kind of stride and endurance that will take you further faster.

You love football?  If you're a tiny prick you'll get shoved about more than you get to kick the ball.

You're into martial arts?  If you want a kick that would knock the air out of your opponent you gotta be strong.

So you see, strength training is THE foundation of any kind of sport.  I strongly suggest you incorporate strength training into your fitness regime regardless of what you're into.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Journey of Learning

When I first started going to the gym I was like a headless chicken.  Unsure of what I'm doing.  Paranoid as heck.  I felt if I didn't hit at least half the machines available I will be wasting my time.  Luckily for me, I'm very inquisitive and it wasn't long until I started to go online to research about all things fitness related.

I count my blessings when I discovered a blog which seemed to be popular.  Lots of readers.  Lots of comments.  And more importantly, decent content.

I credit everything that I've learned thus far from that blog.  Because from that blog, I discovered other blogs, other fitness enthusiasts, other fitness experts.  The decisions that I've made, the things that I've learned... it may never have happened if not for that fortuitous day when I discovered it.

A weird thing happened though.  While I *think* I've advanced somewhat in my knowledge about fitness and (a little bit) about nutrition the blog that I used to frequent seemed to stagnate.  It's the same thing over and over and over again.  Nothing new.  Same old same old.  You get the idea.

The blogger has achieved tremendous success today.  And I'm very happy for the person.  When you work hard for something, you deserve it.  No doubt.

But at the same time I feel that we have chosen different paths: I am deemed what some may call 'hardcore' while the blogger has chosen to advocate more mainstream things.  And talk about things like how fructose spiked milk is bad for the children of the nation and how the government has this hidden agenda of making kids fat and stupid.  On another note, I wonder why the blogger kept quiet when the government made the initiative to ban 'sinful' food like nasi lemak.  Goes to show people only pay attention to the bad things and don't acknowledge the good ones.

But I digress.

I guess this is bound to happen when you embark on a journey of learning.  You can't expect your primary one school teacher to guide you all the way until you graduate from university.  As you become more knowledgeable you will of course seek those who are more knowledgeable than you.

It would be great if your initial teacher progresses at the same rate (if not faster) as you.  But sometimes it just doesn't happen that way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ramadan, Catabolism and BCAA

If you read my blog long enough you would know I used to take supplements and have now entirely stopped consuming them.  When I say supplements, I mean the likes of mass gainers, creatine, whey protein and what not lest anyone gets a bit anal technical about the term.  Anyway, I used to spend quite a tidy sum for mass gainers but it only served to aggravate my allergies.  It didn't help me in anyway in terms of gaining mass though.  Gee... how ironic.

However, the mass gainers were pretty useful during Ramadan when I had to ensure my caloric intake was sufficient to minimize the inevitable weight loss that I would have to endure during that one-month period.  Am I going to take mass gainers again?  No.  It's not worth suffering eczema for.

Enter BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acid).  I first knew about BCAA reading blogs by people who are like walking pharmacies.  I knew the rest of the supplements were pretty much crap but back then I have never heard of BCAA before.  So I asked around and did some research and in a gist of it, this is what BCAA does:

It helps a person reduce the effects of catabolism.

I could further write about other scientific aspects of BCAA but I'm too bloody lazy. So come this Ramadan I'm gonna get myself some BCAA supps and get into guinea pig mode.  I'll weigh myself at the start of the fasting month.  I shall take the BCAA capsules during sahur (pre-dawn breakfast) together with a decent meal of course.   I shall continue doing so throughout Ramadan and I shall weigh myself again at the end of the fasting month.

Will let you know if BCAAs were successful in reducing the inevitable catabolism.  Last year I lost 'only' 2kg. Pretty okay seeing that I am known to lose as much as 5kg.  May not seem much.  But when you're 48kg and you're down to 43kg, you downgrade from 'normal weight' do 'underweight'.

Okay that's my ramblings for today.  Tata.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Weightlifting saved my soul

"The iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body has been awakened to its true potential, it is impossible to turn back."
-Henry Rollins

How true. Lifting is by far the best thing that I have ever discovered for myself. How I wished I've discovered it sooner. Especially during my years spent in Hellhole (that's the uni I went to). Indeed, the iron has yet to fail to lift me out of any emotional rut that I sometimes find myself in. After every session I become so much more relaxed. Who needs a shrink when you have the barbell, eh?

How does lifting help me specifically? Off the top of my head...
  1. Gives me something to look forward to
  2. Makes me more disciplined. I've a feeling without weightlifting I'll go down a downward spiral of the typically unhealthy hedonistic lifestyle.
  3. Gives me a sense of achievement - very important for the typical Type A personality
  4. Provides structure in my life
  5. Introduced me to like-minded souls
  6. More self confidence
  7. A more effective outlet to release anger (I have a short fuse)
How has weightlifting helped you with life in general? Care to share?