Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Alex’s philosophers club: episode 1

I had a discussion with a 90 year old man on the bus the other day. Among many other things, we got to talk about training. Not very farfetched since I take any chance of hearing what someone has to say about it, good or bad. Apparently, he was a Greco roman wrestler in his youth, a bantam weight. You know, the 160 cm tall guys that hovers just around 60 kg most of the time. Now, you may think “that’s small! He’s not jacked! Why is this of interest?!”

(Note: 60 kg at that height, carrying just about NO bodyfat is not that small, but that’s a whole other story about how most (at least males) overestimate their lean body mass and underestimate their fat weight.)

This is of interest because when he was wrestling training, they also trained for strength. “What did you do for strength and conditioning then?” I asked. The answer was squats, pushups, wrestlers bridge (neck bridge) and carrying each other on the back or in fire man’s carry.

Ok, that’s simple enough. Some may think “No UFC-fighter’s 12 week to ripped abs grappler workout?!” or “No crossfit inspired metabolic conditioning with kettlebells and barbells and rings and boxes and ropes and cages and tires and sledge hammers and ropes?” Nope.

He continued to talk about how they trained. For pushups, they were expected to be able to do 100 in a single set. Not in 5 min, not during a whole workout, not with pauses – in ONE set. This was a standard level. For neck bridge, he could get up balancing on his head in a high bridge and rolling around the way you see wrestlers do. Sometimes a friend of similar weight would sit on the stomach for some extra resistance.

One day came the big guy at their club and sat on the bantam weight wrestler’s stomach while he was holding the bridge. When he had held it a while without collapsing, the big guy took his feet off the ground and put his whole weight on the little bantam in bridge position. The big guy was 110 kg and the bridge didn’t fall.

 I’m not sure about you, but I think these feats are pretty impressive for anyone!

This guy was made of steel at his prime, and he didn’t even know about activation exercises, body part splits, fast or slow twitch muscle, peri workout nutrition, supplements or even what exercises he “should” be strong in to be considered cool by others guys at a gym today. He just trained really hard with what he knew and got bullet proof in those movements simply because of old fashioned hard work. 

In what way is your or my training better than his was? Who decides what goals are worth training for and what measures are to be used? 

My point is to drop the mentality that you must follow something that someone else has decided. If you want to be bull strong in the neck bridge, get STRONG in the neck bridge! If you want a great handstand, work on being an awesome hand balancer. Like the bench press? Bench press a lot! The regular cookie cutter training program is not “better training” just because it’s standard procedure, so learn how to work out for you! 

The whole "why" of training has become all about following some pre made model of how you look, what you wear, how you behave or what group you consider yourself a part of. Training does not have to be conformity.

Remember the 110 kg neck bridge if you get astray......

....Then bang out 100 consecutive pushups.

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