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Size is the Prize


I was talking to my wife the other day as we looked back on old pictures. I made the comment, "Wow! I forgot how big I used to be!"

Her smile turned to a remorseful frown as she sighed, "Yeah..."


Here's the deal.

I am 40 POUNDS lighter than the heaviest I ever was. I reached my weight peak of 217 at 7% bodyfat almost 4 years ago. Had I continued down the powerbuilding (powerlifting and bodybuilding) path, and gained a measely 5 pounds a year. I would be 237...

Why did I ever stop? Why did I not keep packing on the beef?

Simple. (I allowed myself to be a little b*tch)

I didn't spend enough time on prehab work, and didn't have enough diversity in my training, which eventually lead me to pulling my back (and straining my neck).

Now, I had pulled my back and worked through it before, but after enough times I got sick of consistently getting hurt, so I searched for something else - excusing myself from the pursuit of hypertrophy.

I turned towards general preparedness, starting with building an aerobic base on the airdyne bike, and daily calisthenics with integrated mobility work.

I stuck to that for over a year, lost about 30 pounds, and thought that was why I was loving the way I felt.

I sprinkled in some barbell lifting, drifting towards Olympic lifting - doing my best to stick to the foundations of CrossFit without becoming absorbed in the competition side of it.

Well, that lead to dabbling between CrossFit, the Movement Culture, the primitive fitness crowd, and once or twice an attempt to put on 5-10 pounds.

A few months ago I got back to building a general physical preparedness system with the foundational pieces of CrossFit, but after looking at those old pictures, I'm making sure to keep hypertrophy in mind as I do so.

(Ultimately, any reason to not keep hypertrophy in the picture is just an excuse to whimp out. It's HARD to pack on muscle. But it's not impossible. And it's definitely possible to have muscle AND be able to have a high level of physical preparedness. Any attempt to weasle out is just an attempt to take the easy path.)

Check it out.

The base of CrossFit's pyramid is Metabolic Conditioning - to begin this, I've been focusing on increasing my daily step total (with the line of work I'm in, I have to force opportunities to walk). I want to hit the 10,000 daily steps as a base number, and am working on increasing my weekly average 500 steps from the previous week's average until I get there.

This type of "conditioning" shouldn't have a major impact on my ability to gain muscle, and there's too many advantages (from the brain benefits [read the book "Spark"] to helping keep bodyfat levels in check to reducing mobility constraints from sitting less to making me feel good and getting my creative juices flowing to spending more time in nature [we live right by a couple of fun nature trails] and spending more time with the family).

After I've consistently hit the 10,000 daily steps average for about 6 months (I'm playing the long game and want to develop my connective tissue to bulletproof myself), I'll start sprinkling in running once or twice a week - I have a detailed aerobic program, but will get to that in a different post.

The next level of CrossFit's pyramid, though I don't believe it will negatively effect the first, is Gymnastics, followed by Weightlifting, but I see them as a progression of the same level.

See, before you Front Squat, you should have a solid Air Squat (before you add weight, you should master the root movement), and before you Air Squat, you should have a solid Assisted Squat. This is a rabbit hole, and I don't have it all worked out, yet, but I have some really solid programs to pull from.

GymnasticBodies Foundation series expands upon the classic Push, Pull, Squat system most people know, and even the Horizontal Push, Horizontal Pull, Vertical Push, Vertical Pull, Squat, Hinge system. It is based on 7 different movement patterns, and most exercises fall into one of them, but each starts progressions from the least CNS-intensive forms - Wall Pushups, Assisted Squats, etc. They have a great system in place for advancing each movement pattern, but their program is focused on Gymnastic Strength Training, not total general physical preparedness, so I'm using their system as a base, but then calling audibles when a movement changes patterns (after Air Squats, Foundation goes to Full Squats and then single leg squat variations, but I don't think these are beneficial to ramping into Front Squats, therefore I added in Front Squats after I mastered Air Squats, and now use the Full Squats as my means of getting towards Single Leg Squats - I know this may sound confusing, but it will make more sense when I outline my current routine).

I think with the progression from calisthenics to weighted movements, that I'll naturally start packing the beef back on, but I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the next couple months to monitor if the scales moving or not - I may add in some weights a little sooner than planned.

I used to believe the more party tricks you could do, the better. And that extra muscle would just limit what you could do. Have you seen a 250 pounder do a muscleup? Cause I have (Kali Muscle).

Now I think that if any party trick is so fickle that it can't be done unless I'm a little man that it doesn't deserve my focus.

I'm after the most benefit of everything. Muscle helps carry things. It helps push things. It helps with all sorts of things - even protecting joints and supporting life when you age. To avoid muscle so I can do a one arm pullup would be stupid.

I might as well use the advantages I have now as a 26 year old (natural testosterone levels), to build a hedge against being a frail old man.

For the nutrition side of things, I'm keeping it pretty basic compared to other diets I've done.

1) Eat real foods most the time.

2) Eat a little more than normal.

3) Eat mostly plants.

I do plan on keeping drinking Bangs - I don't know if I'll ever let these go, but I want to only have one a day... not three.

I also am starting the day with a Thrive Lifestyle Mix - but I'm not yet doing the pills or the patch, just the shake.

I may take an Activate a day - probably as a way to try weaning from Bangs.

I will pound down water - 8oz after every meal at least, and try to get 2-4 quarts a day.

I like keeping things as least rigid as possible, to allow me to tighten them down later if progress stalls and to keep my sanity.

I don't plan rest days, but I do take them as I feel worn down - I try to stay active though and go for an easy hike or play with the kids at the park if I can.

My routine has 4 different days, Lower, Upper, Core, and Handstand.

I cycle through my days in this rotation. If I don't take a day off for a while, this allows me to cycle between a more upper body focus and lower/core focus every other day - I expect as my lifts increase that I may take more of a scheduled day off, but so far this has been working.

Lower:

A) Single Leg Squat Progression from GymnasticBodies (GB) Foundation with Integrated Mobility

B) Front Squat - 5x50%, 5x75%, 3x5x100% (%s based on day's work weight)

C) Deadlift - 5x50%, 5x75%, 3x5x100%

[D) AirDyne Bike - Aeorbic Base development -- I'm deciding on doing this either every Lower day, or every Thursday]

Upper:

A) Hollow Back Press Progression from GB Foundation with Integrated Mobility

B) Rope Climb Progression from GB Foundation with Integrated Mobility

C) Straddle Planche Progression from GB Foundation with Integrated Mobility

[D) Superset of DB Curls 3-5x15 with DB Hammer Curls 3-5x15 - I'm deciding on doing this either every Upper day, or every Friday]

Core:

A) Front Lever Progression from GB Foundation with Integrated Mobility

B) Side Lever Progression from GB Foundation with Integrated Mobility

C) Manna Progression from GB Foundation with Integrated Mobility

Handstand:

A) Wrist Pushup Progression from GB Handstand

B) First Knuckle Pushup Progression from GB Handstand

C) Wrist Rock Progression from GB Handstand

D) Fingertip Pushup Progression from GB Handstand

[E) Movement Series Warmup from GB Handstand or Thoracic Bridge Stretch Series from GB or nothing extra]


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