Yet another hot and muggy day here in Southern China, so hot that the term "sweating buckets" doesn't do justice to how hot one feels when exercising in an intense manner. My shirt was sopping wet by the time I got through HALF of my hill climb, and it seemed to weight a couple of kilograms or more by the time I was done. Whew!
Never did manage to get through the "pulling part" of my workout though - thanks mostly to an incessant drizzle that wouldn't (and still apparently hasn't) let up. Boo!
Anyway, the mailbox is overflowing with questions from readers that want to know - - let's take a look at two interesting emails from different corners of the globe.
The first email comes from Rich (presumably in the U.S.) -
"I subscribe to your newsletter and enjoy your inspirational personal workout stories.
In the article entitled "The old man I met a couple of months back in China", you mentioned a hamstring stretch that he did that also stretched his entire core, lower back, chest, calves, and shin.
When you find the time, would you write another newsletter describing that stretch.
I look forward to reading your future newsletters.
Rich, thanks a million for the positivity and kind words. Before I describe the stretch the old man did (does, actually), be advised this this stretch is a somewhat advanced stretch and you a) need to work into it and b) DEFINITELY, and I mean DEFINITELY - - let me say that again - - MOST DEFINITELY - - need to be WARMED up and ready for the stretch.
This is NOT one of those stretches that one does straight out of bed, to put in another way - - you need to be warmed up for it, and do need to have a (or work up to) a certain level of flexibility to do this correctly. I usually do it after my hill climb and before my pushups.
To do this, find a railing, or other "broad" surface at about chest height and lift one leg up slowly, while keeping it straight so that the heel of your foot is resting on the railing (or said surface). Keep the other leg ramrod straight, and at right angles to the first one.
From this position bend forward (and again, LEGS STRAIGHT!) and grab the ankle (or heel of the foot is you can) of the outstretched leg with BOTH hands, and bend forward so that your chest and upper body are in line with the outstretched leg.
Stay in that position for as long as you can. When you start, you likely won't be able to do this at all, or if you can, you won't go beyond fifteen seconds or more provided you maintain proper form. But thats OK. Work up to it, and work into it - - this one simple movement will increase flexibility by leaps and bounds through your ENTIRE BODY.
Sounds simple, you say? Well, TRY IT, my friend - - and if you want to make it tougher, do what the old man does - - which is to throw one's leg up - - ramrod straight, NO bending at the knee on either leg - - onto a surface ABOVE HEAD HEIGHT, and then repeat the above movement.
WHEW - - talk about a hamstring stretch from "hell"!!
And now, as a bonus, I'll throw in another similar stretch that will stretch your chest and shoulders out (in addition to the rest of your body) like nobody's business. This one is somewhat easier, but not a lot easier than the one the old guy does, though some folks may find it tougher.
Stand together with your feet shoulder width apart, and keep your legs perfectly straight - - NO BENDING whatsover at the knees again, and raise your arms straight over your head while clasping your fingers together. Now, bend FROM THE WAIST - - keeping the legs perfectly straight - - and try and touch your clasped palms to the floor, and hold the position for time.
As you get better, bring your legs together. Your eventual goal is to do it with your legs together and palms flat beside your feet.
So, that's that for the "hammy" stretches - - great question, by the way, Rich.
And now for another great one from "Sujit" in India: -
"i have been reading your newsletter on bodyweight training and i should tell you i just love to read what you write about workout....i enjoy reading your workout experiences like the one in china....this is the first time i am writing to you as i got some queries which i think only you can clarify...hmm i read your last mail in which you stressed the importance of slow deadhang pullup and handstand for mass gains...for last 1 week i have started doing slow pullup with 4 sec to go up hold for 4 sec at top and again down and i cant do handstand pushup so i am doing assisted handstand....my query is can these two workouts build muscle mass if i work hard at these two exercises ??
and my second query is what bodyweight exercise should i do for my legs for putting on mass...squats are not helping me in gaining any mass ..please help me out..."
Sujit, thanks so much for the positive words. To answer your questions: -
1.YES, the exercises you mention WILL build muscles - - slabs of solid muscle all over your upper body, to be honest, if you keep at it and keep improving with every workout. Of course, I'm referring to REAL muscle - - not the comic book "Micky Mouse" bloated muscles the "bodybuilders" in most modern gyms have.
In other words, YES, you'll build solid, functional strength with these exercises, and lean, toned, POWERFUL upper body muscles, much like a jungle cat's with these movements.
2. Though some may not notice, Sujit has just revealed one of my "secrets" to superior strength - - which is the timed hold he refers to at the TOP of each pull-up as well as during the movement - - great stuff, Sujit, and this is guaranteed to build super strong forearms as well in addition to the muscles you are targeting. Not to mention a grip like steel - OUCH!
3. If you cannot do handstands as yet, you really need to work into them, as (and as I've said many times before), handstand pushups and pull-ups are one of the, if not THE, most powerful exercise combos out there for the upper body. You may want to check out my "Shoulders for Boulders" course which gives you simple and easy to follow instructions to build up to doing handstand pushups for REPS - - at which point you'll be buying new shirts since the old ones won't fit you any longer - - guaranteed!
Shoulders like Boulders: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/products/87-shoulders-like-boulders
Of course, a proper diet is of paramount importance as well in terms of your goals which is to build high quality functional MUSCLE. And the Simple and Effective Diet should help you with that: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/84-the-simple-and-effective-diet
4. In terms of mass for your legs, yes, squats are an effective way of gaining quality muscle mass in your legs. Are you doing them with bodyweight, or are you doing the "weighted squats" with a barbell on your back? I prefer high rep bodyweight squats over weighted squats any day - - not to mention the LUNG POWER the former exercise builds as opposed to the latter, which is still beneficial if done right - - but not nearly as much.
You are probably aware from the Great Gama, a legendary wrestler from the Punjab in India. Gama is reputed to have done THOUSANDS of these bodyweight squats (as well as bodyweight squats with heavy bricks/stones tied around his neck) on a daily basis, and his leg development was second to none - - and he was one of the best wrestlers that ever lived, PERIOD.
And while squats are an excellent way to build muscle mass in your legs, hiking up steep hills at a rapid pace (my own preferred means) will do it just as well, and works better for some folks.
Rope jumping is another time tested way of building muscle mass in the calves and thighs - - look at any professional boxer, and you'll realize that this simple exercise is virtually limitless in terms of potential.
And of course, sprints if you so prefer - - there are many ways to skin the cat you are referring to.
Great questions guys - - and keep them coming in, and I'll answer as many as I can in my daily e-mails.
Tomorrow's (or the next) post will deal with a guy that I see working out beside me on a daily basis in the park - - a guy that does the SENSIBLE thing for a change. More on that later!
All for now - - if you work out today - - make it a superb one!!