Workout basics - May-June 2002

My current workout is based around a one-week cycle with lots of variety.

The underlying principle is to exercise in ways that mimic how an adult male would have worked, rested and played in Paleolithic times.

Work would have been intense: sprinting over short distances, fighting with other men and prey; carrying a heavy load unaided (such as a carcass); relocating a rock or large bough to where it was wanted.  Walking over rough or hilly terrain.

Resting would have included stretching (look at a pride of lions), grooming (watch a troop of chimps!) and enjoying good weather.  There would have been one-or two day stretches after a successful hunt with no work at all, just eating and resting.

Playing would have been important in three ways: (a) playing with children (both gently and rough-and-tumble), (b) more physically demanding activity involved in training teenagers for adulthood and (c) showing off, exercises of skill, strength and dexterity to convince men that one's position in the community was deserved and also to impress the women.

Very little drudgery (that came with farming and, later, with the industrial revolution)!

Where does this lead us?

Think of what you last did when you had to exert yourself outside the context of planned exercise: pushing a stalled car or shifting a piano.  If you push a stalled car, you get the best grip you possibly can, you apply all the power you can to your legs for 7-10 paces.  If it hasn't started, you pause for a few seconds than you throw yourself back into it again with 5-8 paces, another brief pause then you give it all you've got once more.  Nowadays we call that "reps" and "sets".  You might repeat that four to seven times.  Then you rest for thought - "Is there a smarter way?" you ask yourself.  Note the features:

  maximum weights, speed (but not jerking).  You might be saving a life!

  just as many reps and you can push out while retaining full effectiveness (if you are doing more than seven reps, you aren't trying hard enough over the first six ... add some more kilos)

  one to five sets

  applying the whole body, no isolation work; draw on neuromuscular co-ordination (get out of that Smith Machine!); move awkward and difficult objects.

Here is an outline of where I'm at in May 2002.

Monday morning: Body core day

(1) Pavel Tsatsoulines "Russian Full Contact Twists" - a warm-up of 5 x 20kg on an Olympic bar, followed by 3 sets of 5 x 30kg and round off with a blast of 5 x35kg

(2) Swinging chin-ups - 3 sets of up to ten reps.  Hang from one end a chin-up bar, facing along the bar, pull yourself up so your eyes are level with your knuckles at the same time as you swing your feet up so they, too are level with your eyes and you have kept a rigid body throughout the swing up and down again.

(3)  Dumbbell presses.  (No standard bench presses)  A couple at 25kg to warm up, as many as I can at 40kg, a short rest followed by as many as I can at 37kg.

(4)  Cable pulls.  35kg; grasp the U-handle with both hands with the weight stack to your left side.  Pull the cable for the full distance so it is as far from where it started as possible.  If you started at the top left, you should finish down outside the right shins.  Keep control on the way back.  Two or three sets of five reps.

(5)  Dumbbell swings.  Sorry, Pavel, I haven't got any kettlebells.  I'm using 25kg dumbbells at the moment and when I get my balance right at the top of the swing I'll up that.

Anything else that looks like fun.  One or two exercises that I haven't tried for a while, preferably involving whole of body co-ordination.

Tuesday morning: I ride my bike to rowing (well, no one's fully Paleo!) and train in an eight for an hour, then cycle back.  There are some good hills and sprints along the way, and a bit of quick thinking needed in the commuter traffic.

Wednesday morning: Presently this is legs day.  Dead lifts!  Pavel advocates deads.  Art de Vany says any man should be able to lift twice his body weight.  I'm presently at 76kg and am lifting 185kg.  My sequence this week was 1 at 130, 1 at 185, 3 at 175 finishing off with three rapid sets of 146kg.  For all of these I dropped the weight; I didn't lower it.

I followed these with some body-weight variety: swinging chin-ups, one-legged squats and pull-ups (feet up on a chair, hanging from a bar in the squat rack, hitting my chest firmly against the bar.

Thursday morning: As for Tuesday.

Friday morning: Normally this is abs day, but I'm having fun lately toting 50kg of water up a hill near my home.  It's a good climb and takes 30-31 minutes.  I empty the water out and the run down the hill sets me up for the day!

Saturday morning:  I drive to rowing (1 1/2 hours), shop for meat, fruit and vegetables on the way home.

Saturday afternoon: to the gym for abs and experimenting with new movements for about an hour.  Huw invented Xis (named after the Greek letter): lie face down, arms and legs out, raise your body off the floor, "jump" a few inches off the floor with hands and feet, bringing the feet together and the hands together out in front of your head.  Out and in, out and in 20-50 times.  Breathe easily.  Go for rhythm.  I'm also doing some gymnastic-type movements swinging from the chin-up bar as well as chin-ups with 20, 40 and 60kg weights (I can manage just half a single at 60!)

Sunday morning:  Up the hill again with 50kg.

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Page updated 23 May 2008