Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Thoughts on Theodore Roosevelt & the "Strenuous Life"

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, lived one of the most interesting lives of anyone in history. Born into wealth and sickly as a child due to asthma, he chose instead to overcome his condition through exercise and maintaining an active and strenuous life. Basically, he consciously chose to be awesome. His speech, "the Strenuous Life", extolled the virutes of living hard and never settling for anything less than greatness as a man. His philosophy was based on his own life and how ran the presidency.  He warned men in the early 1900s against sedentary and complacent lifestyles, which have become commonplace in today's society. Everyone could learn a lot from reading about  Roosevelt and the way he lived. Despite many health complications Roosevelt embraced a life of activity and constant movement, from sports ranging from boxing, jujitsu, horseback riding, hiking and rowing to the Rough Riders escapades and his famous feats in Cuba. He was also an avid reader and writer of nearly everything under the Sun. Roosevelt was a man of ACTION.

Historian Henry Adams describes him:

"Roosevelt, more than any other man..... showed the singular primitive quality that belongs to ultimate matter—the quality that medieval theology assigned to God—he was pure act."

Some quotes by Roosevelt to keep in mind:

Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.
Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.
It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.
I don't pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.
Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.
Get action. Seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster.
Going into the weekend with a lot on my mind and a lot of work to do, I try to keep the Roosevelt mentality in mind. As a transitioning Military Officer, there is always work to be done to get to where I need to be, from networking, job searching, hiring conferences and chasing job leads. It becomes easy and comfortable to come home and just relax. But success requires action, and we must shun the tendency towards comfort and embrace the strenuous life.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wednesday is a Good Day for Articles

Today seems to be a great day for good articles. Here's another one regarding "the best exercise you can do" from Marks Daily Apple:

"The single best exercise there is, hands down, is the one you’ll do."

This is so true. To expand from there, the best program or training template is one that you will adhere to and enjoy. I was reading an article awhile back that said the program is less important than the consistency with which you follow it. They also said you are more likely to be successful training in a way you enjoy than training in a way you don't enjoy.

The key is consistency. Find something you like and run with it. Success is not an accident.  Everyone has their opinions on the best exercise or best program, but the best is very individual. If you like working with kettlebells, then a program that doesn't use them will likely not be very fun and you will be less likely to put in the effort required to succeed, and will likely not follow it because you don't like it.

Remember, as stated in the article:
"Adherence Begets Success"
Pretty cool article on training outside on BreakingMuscle from Dan Vinson:

How Living, Working, and Training in the Wild Made Me Evolve

"Consistent times of low-intensity movement throughout the day will help you recover faster, improve mobility and make you healthier."

He brings up the  modern issue of the "sedentary athlete", guys who train hard then go sit for the rest of the day. We train hard when we are in the gym or field of play, then go sit for a long time typing reports and spreadsheets. I know this all too well working a staff job as the majority of my work is done facing a computer.

We have to make an effort to get up and move around. Take a short walk, do some push-ups and squats or anything to stay active. As he states in the article, you will notice how much better your recover is when you. My warm-up routine is a great way to stay active at work and keep the blood flowing at work or any time where you are sedentary (desk job, plane, etc.).


Hump Day Motivation

In proper hump day fashion, we ran McKelligon Canyon this morning.  It's the first time I have run since the 5K a couple of weeks ago, and I ran in Five Fingers this morning for the first time in awhile so I didn't want to push too hard. I ran about 4.5 miles in around 35 minutes. A good way to start the day and get over the hill of the week.

"The best way out is always through." -- Robert Frost

Friday, February 21, 2014

The True Meaning of Duty - COL Stuart K. Archer

A great commentary on duty:

Commentary by Col. Stuart K. Archer
305th Air Mobility Wing vice commander

8/19/2009 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST -- "Duty is the sublimest word in the English language."

I passed this quote daily for nearly four years. The quote was engraved on a plaque in my barracks at the military college I attended. Like most other cadets, I never gave it much thought and it wasn't until later in my four years of college that I actually made the effort to learn what "sublimest" meant. I naturally assumed that it meant something along the lines of "greatest" or "hardest." I eventually discovered that the word means "supreme" or "awe inspiring." The quote was attributed to Robert E. Lee, but over time I've seen it attributed to others. The source of the quote is much less relevant than what the words mean, literally, that duty is the most important word in our language, and thus, that a sense of duty is of supreme value.

If you look up duty in the dictionary, you may find that it is most commonly defined as "an occupation, a service, action, or task assigned to one, especially in the military." While this normally applies to something akin to guard duty or jury duty, one should think of duty in the context of its other definition as a "moral obligation" to a position, individual, or idea. A "moral obligation" carries great weight and consideration to those of us who wear the uniform of our armed services. As servicemembers, we are different from other professionals because that moral obligation is inherent in our existence as an organization. Duty in the armed services means much more than holding a job, it means much more than a 40-hour work week, or even feeling content with an above-average standard of work. Duty as an obligation means much more than just being professional, or being dedicated to one's profession, or simply serving your country in the armed forces.

What duty really equates to is a moral force that binds you to accomplishing your assigned responsibilities without regard to your own preferences, your own desires, or your own well being. Duty in the armed forces means not balancing personal obligations, career aspirations, or monetary enhancements with duty, but putting the service duty first. Duty means forgoing career-enhancing opportunities to fill short-term needs of the service. It means sticking with the service through adversity, through career disappointment, through personally discouraging times, and through political dilemmas. In the Air Force, these traits are captured in our key core value of "service before self," which truly embodies duty as an "awe inspiring" obligation.

Since 2001, most of us have served many days or months overseas. Many more have put in extra time in shift work or as augmentees outside our normal career field. We've missed time with our spouses, missed our kids' graduations, sports accomplishments, and numerous holidays. We've missed reunions and time with old friends. We're also tired from eight years of ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we're tired from the ongoing turmoil of terrorist threats and force protection policies. We see our contemporaries outside of the service content and satisfied, and rewarded for less enthusiasm and lower standards of performance. We see all this, and yet as a service we continue to perform, we continue to deploy, and we continue to serve. The one overriding attribute that separates us from those professionals outside the service is our sense of duty, that obligation to perform and continue despite our doubts and discontent.
As we near the ninth year of conflict, it's now that we must dig deep in ourselves and find those traits of dedication and duty that separate us from the rest. It's time for all to consider duty and service before self as the prevailing obligation in our lives. It's during these times we prove our worthiness to our country, our families, and to all those who served before us. Duty truly is the sublimest word in the English language, and as long as you remain in the service, it should always be foremost in your mind.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish Get-Up is a great exercise that is far underused by nearly everyone (including myself). It's difficult and complicated, but the benefits are endless. There is a direct correlation between improving at the get-up and improving at everything else.

This article by Shannon Scullin on the RKC Blog sums up pretty much every reason to be practicing and improving at Get-Ups.

I believe strength is the basis for everything, and strength comes from mastering muscle tension. The Get-Up is a great way to learn muscle tension. The better you become at get-ups, the better you will be at everything thing else.

Step-by-step guide from Pat Flynn:

Strength is the Basis for Everything

My personal conviction on fitness is that strength is the basis for everything. All other aspects flow from being strong. Strength is the most important aspect of fitness and directly leads into resilience and longevity.

Everyone should make getting progressively stronger a priority regardless of their ultimate fitness goal. Want to lose weight? Get stronger, build muscle and you burn more calories. Want to move better? Get stronger. Want to get faster? Get stronger. Want to look better naked? Get stronger. Want to decrease your chances of injury? Get stronger.Want to be a more useful human? Get stronger.

Obviously not everyone's goal is to squat 600 pounds, but increasing fitness and building a better, more resilient body comes down to simply getting stronger. That's why I believe everyone should be lifting something. Male or female, everyone should be picking up and moving heavy objects.

Get strong. You will look better, feel better, move better and be harder to kill. Now get after it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Exercise linked to better performance in school" --

This article hits close to home, as our daughter started kindergarten this year. Schools are reducing Physical Education requirements and time, and unfortunately this is affecting the health of children. Parents should encourage and facilitate physical activity, but it's important for schools to maintain PE requirements as it has shown to increase school performance.

"Singh and her colleagues reviewed 14 studies that compared kids' physical activity with their grades or scores on math, language and general thinking and memory tests.

Those included two types of reports. In 10 so-called observational studies, researchers asked parents, teachers or students themselves how active they were, then followed them for a few months to a few years to track their academic performance.

In the four other studies, one group of kids was given extra time for PE classes and other health and fitness exercises and their test scores were later compared against a group of kids who didn't get extra exercise.

Reports that only recorded whether or not kids were on a sports team didn't find a link between participation and academic success. But when researchers asked students how much time they spent exercising, they found that those with higher rates of physical activity did better in the classroom.
Three of the four studies involving an exercise intervention found that students given more exercise time scored higher on measures of academic performance.

For example, in one report from the United States, second and third graders who got an extra 90 minutes of physical activity per week did better on a test of spelling, reading and math, along with gaining less weight over the next three years."

This article does not state anything revolutionary, as many of us are already aware of the benefits of regular exercise on not only ourselves but our children.

As JFK said:

"Physical Fitness is the basis for all other forms of excellence."


The link below is to a great thread on backpacking:

I'm an avid backpacker as I have had to do more than my fair share of involuntary ruck marches carrying a bunch of shit I don't need in uncomfortable clothes and body armor, but after a visit to the Grand Canyon over New Years I'm reconsidering it.

The thread has some great tips, advice and resources that also applies to the Military guys out there who have to ruck march on a regular basis. Check it out!

Some Thoughts on Squatting

I post on from time to time, and came across this thread not too long ago.

Kid posted an awesome video of him repping 315 lbs for 5 reps.

Obviously it generated a lot of comments, some good some bad. Due to the topic of his form being the center of attention, here's my take on it in response to some of the posts (my responses in red)

--On pushing the hips back, i.e. "Sitting Back" cue:

"I'm going to have to disagree with this. You're squatting fine. You have the ability to squat down into a full squat with near perfect bottom position. Sitting back will cause you to lean forward more, which isn't preferable if it's not necessary. The upright you are, the better. I only suggested a higher bar position since it may help keep you upright more as opposed to having the bar lower. But as I said, your squat is fine."

-- In response to: "I ask though, for him a lower bar placement seems to help me keep back on my heals. So why the high bar which has a tendancy to have you do the "good morning" motion?"

"I think the opposite. Low bar will likely have you good morning more simply due to the fact that you have more forward lean. you sit back on your heels more and your torso is more forward, therefore you tend to use the posterior chain. High bar usually has you more upright, your body is "stacked" if you will, weight is in the heel/mid foot, using more quad.

Again, I've seen the low bar-ish position with a "high-bar" style squat. Seen it work and in the OP's case it's clearly working well.

I'm of the opinion that the more upright, the better. In the long run the more upright and stacked you can squat the better off you will be in regards to mobility, posture, leg strength, etc. I also think the more forward you go, the more likely you are to get injured, from personnel experience. I have long legs, crappy ankle flexibility, and have to work hard on mobility. Without weightlifting shoes, my torso is about 35-40 degrees. With weighlifting shoes it's about 10 or so. The more upright I am the better. That's why I'm a fan of front squats. Forces better body position.

EDIT: I'm not saying that there is anything inherently wrong with low bar squatting. Some people will never be able to squat butt to ankles, upright torso, etc simply due to body structure. There's a really good article out there that makes this point using bones to show differences in limb length, structure, joint direction, hip structure, etc and how they will affect one's squat technique. "

This kid's squat is perfectly fine, and I also brought up the point that Szymon Kolecki, a Polish weightlifter, used to squat with a similar bar placement, albeit more upright, and seemed to do fine.

For squatting, find the right stance and technique that you are most comfortable with. For some people it's high-bar, for some it's low bar, and for some (like me) it's somewhere in between. I still believe that the more upright you are, the better. For some body types this will be more difficult.

Either way, find a squat technique that works and get squatting NAO!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Get Outside!!

I remember reading a quote by a weightlifting coach visiting the US years, about how success was directly related to the availability of air conditioned gyms. I made a resolution this year to get outside more. When I lived in Georgia, I used to train outside frequently with kettlebells and did a good bit of trail running. And in true New Years resolution style, I haven’t done it near as much as I would have liked this year.

 @ White Sands National Park Rocking a Serious Farmer's Tan

There’s something invigorating about training outside in the elements, whether it’s the cold of winter or the heat of summer. Even training in my garage with the door open is much better than training in a closed gym. It's refreshing and invigorating and almost primal. There's also value in learning to deal with the elements. In the Army I have trained in the extreme heat, cold, rain, shine, clear weather and bad weather. Obviously there are times when training outdoors in not possible or should be avoided for safety sake. However, whenever possible it's good to get outside, lift weights and move. Some parks even have a  designated fitness area.

I'm not much a runner. Even though I'm decently good at it and could likely be better, but I don't enjoy it much. However, I do like trail running. On the same line as training outdoors, running off road has a similar effect as training outside. There's something primal about running through the woods, dodging obstacles and climbing up hills. I always feel much more invigorated after working out outdoors. 

The Take Home: At least a couple times a week, train outside. Take your kettlebells or weights or just yourself to the park or trail, lift, sprint and move in nature.

Fitness Anywhere After a Night Out

Meanwhile in Russia...

Meanwhile in a Russian Gym....
What was your workout today?

Monday, February 10, 2014

My Current Routine

This is my current routine. The assistance exercises may vary depending on where I train and the equipment available, but the main lifts are constant. It's a 5 day per week schedule. Around the beginning of March I will drop the barbell lifts down to 3 days a week with 2 days strictly dedicated to kettlebell lifts and focus on the 1-3 rep range. This may happen sooner depending on how I am feeling.

The last 3 days are the "Russian Bear" routine from Pavel Tsatsouline's Power to the People. There is a top set of 5, then drop to 90% of that for a set of 5, then 80% for sets of 5. I usually get between 5-7 sets. The idea is that you do as many sets of 5 as you can. Once you can't do a set of 5, you stop. So far this has been working well. My goal has been to add some mass and get my strength back up to where it was a year ago.

My current routine is as follows:

KB Swings 3 x 10-15
Back Squat: 2,4,6,8,8,6,4,2 (increase weight 2-3kg each week)
Sumo Deadlift 3-4 x 2-3 (Heavy

Power Clean + Push Press 8 x 1-3 (work up to 1-2 rep max or sets across at designated weight)
Bench Press 8 x 3
Row 4-5 x 5-8
DB Overhead Press 2-3x8-10
Curl 2-3x8-10

Thursday ("Russian Bear" for Squats)
Hang Power Clean  4-5x2-5
Back Squat 1x5; 1x5x90%; 5-7x5x80%*
Romanian Deadlift 3-4x5
Calf Raises 3x8-12

Friday ("Russian Bear" for Push Press)
Push Press 1x5; 1x5x90%; 5-7x5x80%*
BB Row 4-5x8
Incline DB Press 3x8-10  // 2xKB Clean or Pull-ups (weighted)
Battle Ropes (Tabata Style 20/10)

Saturday ("Russian Bear" for Deadlifts)
KB Swings
2xKB Complex (ex: Swing+Clean+Squats+Swing; reps and volume varies)
Deadlift 1x5; 1x5x90%; 5-7x5x80%*

It is a lot of volume, which is why I will be dropping the volume down soon. I will retain the Russian Bear routine and follow sets of 2-3.

Feel free to ask any questions! Happy training!

Top set of 5 last week!

Simple All-Purpose Warm-Up Routine

Warming up is a vital and often overlooked element to fitness, especially with anyone who is limitedon time. This is a simple warm-up routine I use prior to strength training sessions or upon waking. The repetitions are a recommendation as you can do more or less of each exercise depending on what you want to focus on.

5 Hindu Squats
5 Hindu Push-Ups
10 Push-Ups (Elbows Tucked In)
10 Mountain Climbers
5 Cossack Squats
5 Bodyweight Squats

Depending on many repetitions of each exercise you do, this can take no more than a couple of minutes. This could also be workout if you choose to expand on it. Either way, this is a great way to warm up for working out or a way to wake up in the morning and get the blood flowing before you take on the day. Try to increase the number of repetitions or rounds you do gradually. Try it every day for a week and see how much better you feel and move during the day!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Training Tip: One Full Rest Day Per Week

It's Sunday, and my wife and I are relaxing while our daughter is at a friend's house. I've been using Sundays as my weekly full day of rest for the last few months, and I think it's important to emphasize a full day's rest at least once a week.

I used to train every day. Even if it was some kettlebell swings, pull-ups and push-ups on Sunday morning, I "worked out" seven days a week. I'm not a fan of "off" days, but I've come to realize how important at least one full day of rest is, not just for the physical aspect but for the mental recovery aspect as well. You don't think about training at all, you just relax. Have brunch with friends and family. Some static, non-strenuous stretching in the morning or at night prior to bed as fine and will help your recovery as well. I'm not talking a full on yoga session, but some stretches to open the hips and hit any trouble areas. Don't go overboard though.

I will write more on rest and recovery later, but the take home is to take a full day's rest at least once per week. Your body will thank you for it and you will see a huge difference.

Coronado Island Sunset 2012

Welcome to Eastern Strength!

Welcome to Eastern Strength. This blog is dedicated to strength training, nutrition and the art of lifting heavy stuff in order to live a healthy and strong life.

I have relaunched this blog a couple of times over the last few years as I've changed my life's direction, but at this point I know where I want to go with it. I wanted a way to combine my love of lifting weights and fitness with my love of all things Russian (i.e. the East). So that is what I intend to do.Stay tuned for more to come Tovarichshi!