Category Archives: Health

It’s Not How Much You Lift; It’s How You Lift It

“It’s not how much you lift; it’s how much you look like you can lift.” — IFBB Pro Bob Cicherillo

I’m decently strong. I deadlifted 405 at age 22. I can do 20 full range chin-ups in my 30’s. With that said, I don’t really care. If someone were to ask me, “How much do you bench?”, I don’t really know. When I go through my workouts, I blindly select a weight, whatever feels right.

You see, for most people’s primary fitness goal (vanity, let’s just get that out of the way right now), lifting the weight should be a secondary goal. What you’re really doing is applying resistance to motor patterns. Muscles control skeletons, therefore, movement is created by muscles. The key is to feel the contraction of the muscles with just enough load applied, not arbitrarily lifting the weight by any means necessary.

When I workout in commercial gyms, most of the people on the machine before me use way too much weight. They are thinking about lifting heavy loads rather than contracting the muscles and it shows in their [lack of] development. So here’s my tip: focus on control and applying loads to intentional movements rather than lifting weight. The “how to” is a subject of hands-on training; but if you apply this to every set, every rep, you’ll be way ahead of the game. Your joints will be healthy. And the best part is, it doesn’t matter how strong you are; you’ll look strong.

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Long Live Nautilus

Hoist. Life Fitness. Cybex. Freemotion. Makers of quality fitness equipment, but all leave something to be desired compared to the original (and, in my opinion, best) brand of commercial strength equipment: Nautilus.

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The first Nautilus machines were built in 1970 by Arthur Jones. Revolutionary at the time, Nautilus machines offered several distinct advantage over free weights. Whereas barbells, dumbbells, and pulleys have a single direction of resistance (i.e. resistance moving in a straight line), Nautilus uses lever systems, or commonly bars rotating around axes (similar to how bones rotate around joints). With this rotary form of resistance, you get constant tension on the intended muscle group(s). Jones took this a step further with the spiral-like “cam” design (shaped like a nautilus shell), varying the resistance throughout the movement. In effect, you get a resistance profile that approximates the natural human strength curve. In real world terms, this means a smooth feel throughout the movement, a better pump, and accelerated results.

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An early Nautilus cam

Several generations later, Nautilus still offers some of the best commercial strength machines, in terms of biomechanics, comfort, durability, intuitive design, and even upholstery. Here is a highlight of a few of their equipment lines:

Nautilus ONE

The future of single station strength! Rather than using a pin to select from a stack of weights, Nautilus ONE machines use a dial. This is the most intuitive design I’ve ever seen and it requires virtually no maintenance. It’s adjustable even in 1 pound increments and  you’re able to “dial” the weight from the exercise position. The Nautilus ONE line consists of 16 different machines.

Nautilus ONE Abdominal Crunch -- "The Clamshell"

Nautilus ONE Abdominal Crunch — “The Clamshell”

Nautilus EVO

Previously called Nautilus Nitro, the EVO line is currently their flagship line, consisting of 25 different machines. The engineering and research that went into these machines demonstrate a commitment to biomechanical excellence above and beyond any selectorized equipment out there. If you have them at your gym, get on them and feel the difference.

EVO pec fly

EVO pec fly

Nautilus XPLOAD

Similar to the more well-known Hammer Strength (interestingly created by Arthur Jones’s son), the Nautilus XPLOAD is their plate-loaded line of strength equipment. The movements are very similar, but the plate-loaded machines offer a few advantages:

  • Zero friction, conducive to more explosive movements
  • Independent movement arms for a more balanced workload
  • Ability to use more weight

In my opinion, XPLOAD is superior to Hammer Strength, because the resistance gets harder as you contract, rather than “swinging” throughout the movement.

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XPLOAD Leg Press

I wish Nautilus machines were available in more gyms, so if you have them, take advantage of them. Or, if you’re a club owner, consider this objective review. They’re the most effective tools for many goals–among them, building muscle and preventing injury!

Here is their website: http://www.nautiluscommercial.com/

Is Subway Healthy?

Q: Is Subway a healthy place to eat on a regular basis?

A: Subway focuses on low-fat menu items, and that’s where their edge ends. People eat there because it’s cheap and convenient, but the ingredients are not the highest quality, and not all of the menu items are low in fat content (their cookies are delicious). My suggestion, if you do go there, is to get the “Veggie Delite” on any of the breads since none of them are really whole grain (my favorite is Honey Oat) along with low-calorie dressing. You’ll need to tell them to add extra vegetables, because I’m convinced that they’re trained to skimp on the ingredients. Better yet, go to your neighborhood grocer or farmer’s market and get a fresh fruit bowl, fruit, or a basic vegetable salad with added protein. Simple is healthy.

One Meal a Day for Optimal Health?

Eating only one meal a day for health and fitness seems like such a radical concept, but I’ve experienced success with it over the years. At the same time, I have eschewed commonly accepted dogma, such as:

  • Eat 5 to 6 small, frequent meals throughout the day.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  • Avoid eating at night, it will make you fat.

Rather than tell you which way is right, here are some advantages to eating only one “main” meal, at night [Update: I now do my main meal as a late lunch, since I exercise in the evenings; but I make sure there is time to rest around eating]:

More energy

Digesting food is a more energy costly process than most would believe, so when you’re not busy digesting food, you have this energy available for mental and physical tasks. Furthermore, since exercising on an empty stomach is ideal, there is no issue of timing on when you last ate vs. when you’re exercising.

Better sleep

Because of the energy expended in digestion, food can be a natural sedative, which is perfect for insomniacs, as timing your meal in the evening can raise serotonin levels and help you fall asleep easier. The digestive process will continue throughout the night, and by the time you wake up, you’ll have an empty stomach, ready to be alert and wide awake.

Deal with cravings

Throughout the day, you’ll be exposed to a lot of temptation when it comes to food, so by holding off eating until the evening, you can make a conscious decision on what it really is you want to eat when that time comes. You might find that some cravings were merely incidental.

Something to look forward to

We’re all familiar with “comfort food”, so by having your meal as the last thing you do in the day, you’ll always know you’ll have something to look forward to. This would typically be a very satisfying meal if you’re eating the same amount of food in one meal as you were in 3 meals.

After reading this, you may not want to try the one meal a day way of living. However, if you do, realize there are several benefits and that it’s not detrimental to your health. Stay positive.

*People with blood sugar irregularities may need to be on a more frequent eating schedule. Check with your doctor.

‘I Am Bruce Lee’

I had the privilege of watching a limited engagement screening of the new documentary, “I Am Bruce Lee”. The film was very well done, inspiring, entertaining, moving, and showed a lot of clips/interviews that were never seen before. I encourage you to check it out when it’s released on Blu-ray. Everyone will get something out of it, whether you’re a Bruce Lee fan or not.

Rather than review the movie, I want to talk about how Bruce Lee inspires me as an individual and how I resonate with his philosophies.

Number one, Bruce Lee is definitely my body image role model. I could never get as big as Arnold, so I identified more closely with the sinewy build of Lee. I once said that my ideal is to be a beefed up version of Bruce, and the man had a mean lat spread (bodybuilders know what I’m talking about). It’s interesting to note that Bruce Lee was all about function over form, when it came to physique. That is, he made sure he carried just enough bodyweight to carry out the task [of kicking ass].

Bruce Lee was also a deeply knowledgeable individual, and shunned tradition for tradition’s sake. He embraced individuality versus being a follower, which I can definitely relate to. I think in order to evolve as a human being, you have to transcend those before you. This is never comfortable or socially acceptable, so Bruce Lee was always up against strong adversity in terms of his philosophies. However, all great minds once had their ideas rejected.

Finally, Bruce Lee had a powerful persona. I kind of wonder what it would have been like to meet him, as he seemed very intimidating. At the same time, he had a charm and charisma about him, and didn’t boast, which is why he has been described as a “coiled up cobra”.

Bruce Lee definitely had a strong impact on people around the world, not only martial arts. As a physical culturist, he’s truly a legend. 70 years since his birth, I’m carrying on his legacy in the art of expressing the human body.

Bodyweight Fluctuations – What Do They Mean?

Managing Expectations with Your Body

If you’ve ever been to a bodybuilding show or a fitness magazine photo shoot you will see the most ripped human beings on the planet. Fitness models and physique competitors attain a level of leanness and being “dry” (bodybuilding lingo for absence of water retention underneath the skin) that is surreal.

When you see these same people in the offseason you will see a different-looking physique altogether. That is because the levels that are now standard for competition and magazines/ads are generally unsustainable by even the most dedicated trainees. The offseason look isn’t bad; it’s just not the onion-thin skinned, anatomy chart defined physiques that you see on stage or in photos.

I can’t find much data on this but I can speak from experience: the body shape you can obtain is not necessarily what you can sustain. You might be able to diet your way to “ripped” but getting and even staying there requires constant hunger and obsession with food.

There are three categories of people who can sustain very low body fat percentages indefinitely:

1)      Extreme genetic ectomorphs

2)      Chemically enhanced (human growth hormone, thyroid, stimulants, etc.)

3)      SUPER active

What is a sustainable body fat percentage?

Though numbers may vary, I believe 15% body fat is more realistic than 10% body fat or less. At 10% body fat, you have definition everywhere: full abdominals, chest, back, legs, arms, shoulders, etc. Once you go beyond this, you’re approaching competitive territory. I noticed at this body fat percentage, while you look and feel amazing about your body, food will always be on your mind and I even became interested in foods I wouldn’t have eaten previously. At 15 percent, on the other hand, there is a good outward contour of the muscle groups in a well-trained individual–though there are not as many “cuts” on the physique, it’s still a lean/in-shape look in clothes. And you can diet down from 15% to 10% in about 8 weeks of being strict and consistent. I wouldn’t recommend going much above 15% because you will start to feel uncomfortable and measures of health (not to mention self-image) may start to suffer. Keep in mind staying this lean still requires some amount of effort–not extreme competition levels; but an overall dedication to a healthy lifestyle.

It can be hard to accept a more realistic body shape and size when you’ve experienced better, but it’s important to focus on your health and what’s realistic in the long-term. I know my performance is a little better at a more moderate body composition even if I don’t look as athletic. Stay positive.