Well, it wasn't exactly the most of pleasant and restful of nights for me last night, to say the least. Started off well enough actually, a few brewskies, part of what seems to be a good flick - - you know - - a typical Sunday night for most folks.
And what made it better was a great workout before the evening - - done in searingly hot and humid weather as usual, and with a few new exercises to boot. I've been concentrating on hanging leg raises these days (great, great exercise, and one which I detail in Fast and Furious Fitness extensively: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/4-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book), and I did an interesting variation of this exercise yesterday.
For those that don't know (and you should!) - - the hanging leg raise is by far one of the BEST exercises you can do for your core, and the variation that I did involves pulling your legs up to your chest while you hang prone on the bar. It's supposed to be an easy variant - - in theory, that is - - in practice, do them the right way, and they're anything BUT easy.
Anyway, I went to bed a happy camper, and woke up around 5 A.M. or so, thirsty.
Ok, no big deal, happens a lot, and off I trundled off to the bedside table to grab some H20. . .
Well - - I really should say that I STARTED making my way over to said table - - and - - BAM! OUCH!
I suddenly discovered I was unable to stand on my right leg - - unable to put any pressure at all on that leg - - and the left leg funnily enough was normal - - no problems on that leg.
But it's the pain I remember MOST vividly - - OUCH! It's not often that I scream out loud with pain, but merely standing on my right leg was causing me to do so (and if my neighbors woke up due to this - - and are reading this - - mea culpa, but at the same time, the pain was of a kind I'd never experienced before!).
It wouldn't go away no matter what I did, though it seemed to subside somewhat when I sat down in a certain position.
And finally, after much pummeling, screaming and "thumbing" deep into where the pain was coming from (the side of the inner right thigh), the pain died away - - somewhat.
I finally popped off to bed around 6:30 or so, and when I woke up, the leg seemed fairly normal - - at least compared to the night before when I could barely walk on it.
And my thoughts upon waking up were: - I CAN walk on it now - - but I CANNOT lift my leg off the floor without support - - so SOMETHING'S happened for sure.
Turns out I've got an "abductor muscle pull (or slight tear - - not sure which)" - - the muscle that runs along the SIDE of the thigh - - the inner thigh - - not the groin, but the part of the inner thighs which touch together when you bring your knees together.
Drat - - I don't need this, I thought. Lots and lots of walking to do in the next few days, and I sure don't need to be hobbling around while I do it!
Anyway, I decided to test the leg out with some simple walking on level ground and climbing a few flights of stairs, and strangely enough, I can do that without too much pain (or very little pain, actually). But try and lift the leg off the floor by itself - - and - - OUCH!
As to why this happened to an extremely active and conditioned person such as me (at least, conditioned in the things I do)?
Well, for one, I've been exhausted for the past few weeks (hectic, hectic, you know how that goes!) - - and perhaps this is one way my body is telling me to back off a bit?
Maybe - - but more importantly, I think the reason is the variant of the exercise I did. I know I was feeling a bit funny when I was drawing my legs up to my chest - - and holding - - the other afternoon, but I did not think much of it at the time.
Uh oh, mistake #2 right there (I'm sure you can guess #1?). . .
And the reason that I'm telling you this is simply to drive home the fact that you should - - ALWAYS - - LISTEN TO YOUR BODY - - no matter how good of shape you might be in, or think you might be in. Something I keep emphasizing in all my books and writing, but something that we tend to ignore - - yours truly at times as well.
Anyway, I guess I'll be taking a break today from my climb - - or if I do it, I'll be sure and take it easy today. Definitely no leg raises for the next week or so - - the nagging case of elbow tendonitis I'm dealing with is annoying but nothing to worry about - - but this could get a lot worse if I don't do the right things for it.
Sitting around is never the right thing to do, of course, and that isn't what I'm going to do. That is also why I went for a brisk walk on level ground this morning (along with a few stairs) just to "test" the leg out and see what sort of shape its in - - and so far, so good. I bet I'll be making a full recovery in a few days - - touchwood, of course!!
So, that's the update from here. If you work out today - - make it a great one - - and remember to listen to your body as well!
P.S. : - This email isn't to encourage anyone with a thigh or elbow injury to go out and climb hills or do pull-ups - - remember, everyone is DIFFERENT - - and you should ALWAYS seek medical advice for any injury you might have! That said, some MILD activity "just to get the blood flowing" is usually always a good ideas as well. . .
Well, it's been a while since the last email - - the summer is raging on here, hot, humid and - - well - - H..O..T!! So hot that the hill walk seems like I'm doing it in a sauna, albeit a "natural" one. . .PHEW!
Anyway, seems the heat is getting to some people's brains, and today's email is about one of the most STUPID, bar none, statements I've heard in the recent past (and going by the jokerishness going on during the past month or so, that is saying something - - but more on that later).
This morning, I was talking to a lady who I met a few days ago. We were talking "business" (read into that what you choose to, hehe) - - but after we were done, the conversation shifted on to other topics, and we soon started chatting about fitness.
Now, this lady isn't hard on the eyes to be honest, and that's putting it lightly. Great figure, no extra flab, etc etc - - as you might expect from a competitive swimmers, which this lady used to be in her younger days.
(Side note: Swimming is one of the very best exercises there is, despite the fact it doesn't do much for the legs - - goes against a lot of what I've said about leg training being the #1 priority, but swimming is one of the very few, if not the ONLY exercise which actually delivers a lot of the same fitness benefits that you get via other tough exercises - - but again, more on this later).
And so it wasn't a surprise that we got talking about fitness, starting with swimming, at which this woman appears to be FAR better than me - - and good on her for that.
"I knew it", I said. "You look like you love sports - - but I didn't know you liked swimming as well".
The usual giggle, giggle, and thank you, and we continued.
"I guess you go to the gym nowadays, since you don't swim competitively any longer", I said, more as an afterthought than anything else.
"Yeah, I do"
And so, we started talking about the various exercises she did at the gym, most of them being ones I wouldn't personally do, but hey, to each his - - or her - - own. And it wasn't all bad stuff to be honest, stationery biking, treadmill, etc - - not the best by a long shot, but if it works for her, hey...
"What about the Stairmaster", I broke in, as we were discussing the benefits of the treadmill. "I'm sure you use that, and..."
"Oh no", she said, looking a tad bit concerned. "Climbing stairs is bad for your knees, you know".
I shook my head. I was sure I had not heard her correctly.
She repeated what she said, and I shook my head again, this time in pure disbelief.
"Bad for you? Stairs are BAD for your knees???"
"Yes. My personal trainer, and the one before that said so".
"Ah", I responded, still trying to deal with this once-competitive swimmer imparting this bit of sage (not) wisdom.
But as the shock abated, I realized it wasn't her fault - - it was more her personal trainer's fault for spouting rubbish that has no basis whatsoever - - and whats sad is that 99.99% of trainers you'll see in the gym today are just as, if not MORE, clueless about what WORKS - - and what doesn't.
(Or should we say as opposed to hard work and "sweating it out" as a couch potato is to a brisk walk?)
And I looked at her legs, and it made more sense. She has "swimmer's legs" for sure - - slender, lissom- - legs that wouldn't look out of place in a fashion contest - - but at the same time, legs that don't scream STRENGTH - - and RUGGED POWER.
I then tried to convince the lady that she was being fed a crock, but though she listened politely, I got the feeling I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall.
Anyway, shortly after we exchanged pleasantries and departed, and that particular story ends there - - but that is where THIS email starts, to be honest.
I chose this topic to write about because there are LOADS of folks out there who believe that stairs are the worst thing you can do to your knees, when the truth is the exact opposite.
Look, fellas (and gals), training your legs is the NUMBER ONE, I repeat, NUMBER ONE priority in any sort of fitness endavour. I don't care if your training to be in the army, or sports, or martial arts - - or if your the blob that has just got off the couch for the first time in his life - - leg training is by far the most important thing to focus on, followed closely by hip, core and back work.
And there is nothing that quite hits the legs, back and core like a long, steep step of stairs climbed rapidly and repeatedly.
Well, because this exercise taxes the thighs - - which are by far the largest muscles in your body, and the muscles which really cause GROWTH - - and fat loss - - and release of HGH (human growth hormone) in liberal amounts all over your body.
Squats and rope jumping do it as well, but nothing really gets the heart rate up as efficiently as climbing stairs. And anyone that has experienced the heart pounding, "blood roaring in ears" feeling after a tough climb up a bunch of stairs knows what I mean.
As for it being bad on the knees, well, I haven't experienced any problems from my daily climbs up the hill. And neither do the thousands of people ascending the steep stairs leading up the mountain near where I live on a daily basis (both old and young) seem to complain about bad knees - - if anything, they seem to be enjoying far better overall health and strength than their counterparts on the machines in the gyms.
You'll hear some folks complain about "flexion" of the knees - - well, all I can say is that Nature gave us knees for a PURPOSE - - and your using your knees for exactly the same purpose that they were intended for when you climb stairs.
Your knees were NOT intended to stay "straight" on a machine while you "isolate" your muscles - - NO WAY, Jose!
And at this point, you might hear some say "Pooh! Swimming gets one fit as a fiddle, but swimmers don't have the sort of legs you mention - - what gives?"
Fair enough - - but google any competitive swimmers's routine, and you'll see that exercise on land is a priority for them - - especially LEG work.
Swimming is a sport where the legs don't get that much work - - the upper body does the bulk of the hard work - - but does this mean strong legs don't help a swimmer?
Again, no way, Jose - - them "frog kicks" and "dolphin kicks" will be that much more powerful with a pair of strong and sturdy legs as the "motor" behind the movement!
And if that still hasn't convinced you, take a gander at Fast and Furious Fitness where I detail how my daily hill climb has helped me get into the VERY BEST shape of my life - - at the age of 33, at that - - and if THAT doesn't convince you, then nothing will.
Or, well, wait a minute.
A hard climb up a hill in searing hot weather might - - especially if that hill has STAIRS on the way up.
But then again, that would mean HARD work.
Something that 99.9999999% of all "personal trainers" (UGH!) are opposed to. And something that most modern day trainees seem not to think much of either, preferring to "blast" out reps of whatever exercise they are doing on the latest useless machine in the gym while "ogling the babes".
And if you're the kind that fits into the above category - - well, no problems from my end, my friend - - but I wish you best of luck with the knee problems YOU WILL have if you continue using the machines and do no other work for your legs.
And if you are in the tiny minority? The "Fast and Furious Fitnes" minority, if I might say so?
Well, there's nothing to say in that case - - except a (virtual) shake of the hand, and pat on sweaty back - - and back to the workout, as it were!
Well, that's it for today. If you hear a personal trainer spout more nonsense like this, smack him as hard as you can before running - - that'll be your "good deed for the day"!
P.S.: - I speak about Fast and Furious Fitness in this note, and you can grab your copy right HERE: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/4-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book. This is NOT for the 99.999999% I just mentioned - - but if you don't fit into that category - - well - - there's no better read for you. Again, that link is http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/4-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book . . . rush on over, and grab your copy NOW.
Was at it today after my hill climb (done earlier than usual - - and the heat - - well, let's just say it was SOMETHING ELSE - - YOW!), and saw a young, skinny and nattily dressed "whipper snapper" out and about in the workout area where I exercise after climbing the hill.
The entire area was pretty much deserted today, given the extreme heat (and humidity) - excepting for said person and me, that is.
He was sitting on a bench in the shade watching me exercise, but soon started to stretch, and I could tell he wanted to join "the fun" as well.
And soon, he sauntered over to the monkey bars where I was diligently swinging myself across back and forth, two bars at a time (a technique I've been working over the last few days to get down pat - - still haven't got there - - but I will), and attempted to do the same.
Now, lest you think this email is going the "clown" way (as in, this fellow started to fool around, show off, etc), it isn't - - he actually tried pretty hard, and actually did a pretty good job of swinging himself across the bars once before he let go.
And what I found interesting was he didn't do what 99.999% of folks normally do in that situation - - which is to throw in the towel before they even start i.e. before they even get used to the monkey bars (and believe you me, done right, monkey bars exercises are nothing short of cruel, unrelenting and TOUGH).
He did one more set. Then one more. And then another. And so did I, each of us taking a break during the other's set.
But he was doing one thing wrong - - he was not gripping the bar correctly - - and that is something I've seen many, many people do - - even folks who've been exercising for a LONG time.
Being that he was actually trying to learn the exercise and get better at it, I showed him a simple tip - - a tip that I speak of a LOT in both the pull-up and grip manuals I've authored - - a tip that makes your pulling exercises easier and harder at the same time, if that makes sense.
Easier to grip - - yet harder to grip - - and for those of you that think I'm speaking Latin - - well, I'm not - - but the reason I'm telling you this is not so much because of the actual tip itself, but because of the "root" issue - - and here, that root issue was this dude was not GRIPPING the bar correctly.
I speak a LOT about gripping the bar correctly in my courses, and with good reason.
Grip the bar HARD. Grip the bar LIKE YOU MEAN IT. Grip with PASSION. In fact, the right grip can literally cause your forearm strength to skyrocket in very little time - - and yours truly is an example of this.
Other hand, grip the bar the wrong way, and though you might be able to pound out reps or otherwise do OK at an exercise, it's a recipe for disaster in the long-term. And neither are you getting the benefits you should in terms of wrist and forearm development if you just sort of "struggle" to hang on to the bar, or if you just "limply" hang on.
Worse, a poor - - or incorrect - - grip can actually lead to other problems - - like, elbow tendonitis for instance - - and again, thats something yours truly can bear testament to - - since I'm been dealing with a dodgy elbow for the last couple of days myself.
How did you end up getting a case of tendonitis, you might ask?
Well, dear reader, though I do ALL my exercises in right form, I do end up goofing sometimes. And thinking back to a couple of days ago, I believe I goofed while exercising on the monkey bars after rain a while ago.
The bars were slippery, and not easy to hold at all, and while you might think that makes for a better workout it doesn't for these exercises, and before I knew it, I ended up pulling an elbow and not even knowing it at the time - - though I sure did the next morning. OUCH!
And today, I thought I wouldn't be able to exercise at all on the monkey bars - - but funnily enough, a strange thing happened.
I decided I'd give it a try anyway and see how it were. After all, I can always stop if it hurts too bad, eh?
And what I also did was to focus EVEN MORE on my grip, and gripping style - - I literally tried to "be" my forearms during the sets if that makes any sense.
And I ended up getting through a pretty darn good workout (albeit without the variety of pull-ups I normally do - - I stuck to regular pull-ups today) - - which might seen strange considering I just said I had a case of tendonitis - - a painful one, at that.
But what will sound REALLY strange is that I hardly feel any pain at all in the elbow now.
That's right. Four hours or so after my workout and other activities, the pain is FAR LESS - - and this after a hard workout!
Sure, I still have a bit of pain, but it's nothing compared to what was there before.
Perhaps this was my body's way of telling me that I goofed a couple of days ago? To - - maybe - - CONCENTRATE - - EVEN HARDER- - while working out?
I think it was, and I'm glad my body told me - - now that I think about it, yes, I do end up ignoring my grip at times (though nothing like what most people tend to do) when I'm extremely tired, or towards the end of a set - - not good, and something to keep in mind for me for sure.
So that's the tale for today - - tendonitis seemingly "banished" by doing pulling exercises the RIGHT way (that, and training the young whipper snapper of course, who by the way was still at when I left - - good on you, my friend).
Now, please note that I'm not recommending hard exercise to cure tennis elbows or other cases of tendonitis - - far from it. I'm all for heeding my doctor's advice - - but sometimes, just sometimes - - the unconventional is what works best, and this certainly was the case for me this afternoon!
All for now -- back again soon!
P.S: - Again, grip training is one of the MOST IMPORTANT parts of your workout- - BAR NONE (or very few)! And the ultimate in grip training can be found right HERE: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/products/8-gorilla-grip/
We've all heard it - - the magic number, that is. 500.
500 pushups. 500 reps. 500 squats. The number 500 has somehow assumed "mythical" (if I might use the term) proportions in training "lore" - - and with good reason - - doing 500 reps of a certain exercise is anything BUT easy. And if we're talking pushups, 500 pushups WILL give you a HECK of a workout - - see http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/blog/item/47-500-pushups-a-day and http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/component/k2/item/87-more-on-doing-500-pushups-a-day for more on this!
Anyway, today's (second) note is not about pushups - - it's about WALKING.
Yes, that's right - - walking - - that oft ignored, simple, yet amazingly effective exercise that we can ALL (provided we have a pair of intact legs!) do on a regular basis.
And though walking might seem like no big deal to some, have you ever stopped to wonder about how many steps you can walk without stopping?
That's right - - not "reps" - - steps - - or "paces" for our friends from the U.K. - - can you walk 300 paces without halting? Or 400? Or 500 - - or more?
Well, I don't know about you, but I counted my steps today as I moseyed up the hill - - I was going up one of the paths without stairs - - a path I use on the days I don't go up the route with stairs (though the lack of stairs certainly does NOT make it any easier to puff up the slope).
I thought I'd do 300 at a time for fun.
100...200...300... - - the magic number (for me) just came and went before I knew it.
And soon enough, I was at THE magic number - - 500. But I didn't stop there.
I managed a total of NINE HUNDRED steps - - UPHILL, at a steady pace before I finally stopped to catch my breath - -and give my aching calves and legs a much needed break.
From that point on, the route joined the "regular" route with stairs until the top - - probably another 400 or so. I didn't count, but that's a rough estimate.
And at the top of my hill I checked my watch, slick with sweat - - and - - YES! I had done it - - I had surpassed my previous best of 13 minutes - - ended up with a 12 minute climb today.
Now that's something to feel good about - - or at least, I feel good about it. And those of you that exercise on a regular basis will know the feeling of exhilaration that accompanies a PR - - be that any form of PR (weight lifted, or seconds shaved off your run/climb, et al).
And why do I mention this along with the "500 steps at a time" topic?
Well, simply because walking can sometimes get to be so "easy" for some that you actually end up slacking - - and missing out on some of the benefits this exercise has to offer (multiplied manifold, of course, if you're walking up hill).
Oh, thats just a simple walk. Pff!
Oh, walking! Hmph! How can that possibly help me!
On the other hand, TIME your walks - - and COUNT your steps - - and you might just find you get a way better workout than you do if you're "just walking".
And that, my friend, is a tip I thought I'd share with you (and one I've used myself many a times as well).
All for now!
P.S.: - I speak about the many benefits of walking in Fast and Furious Fitness - - walk on over HERE to reserve your copy: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/4-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book
Judging from the reader feedback I've gotten so far, a LOT of you seem to enjoy my posts describing my workouts (and sometimes, life in general) in Southern China, and for those of you that enjoy that sort of thing, this note will be right up your alley.
For those that don't - - well, you might want to read it anyway - - if just for yet another reminder to avoid doing "bunny curls" at the gym, and so forth, hehe.
Anyway, I've been noticing a strange guy wheedling around the park on one of those "one wheeled cycles" that seem to be the rage for some people these days (though for the life of me I can't figure out why).
This guy looks like the epitome of the "roid crazed" bodybuilder I talk so much about - - shirt stretched tight over "puffed up (to the max)" pecs, huge arms, a broad upper back and legs that. . . well, legs that look rather like chicken legs compared to the rest of his "physique".
(and given that the bulk of the work they get is holding him up on the motorized tool he so proudly struts around on, music playing to the max, that isn't surprising, is it?)
Anyway, this dude whizzes around the local park quite a bit, and I've noticed him often after returning from my daily climb, usually just before I start part #2 of my workout. And a couple of days back, this dude stopped right by the monkey bars (where I was working out) and parked himself on a bench nearby, flexing his "massive" biceps as he did so, hoping to catch the passerby's attention with every pose he struck.
And catch their attention he did - - though not for the reasons he'd want. With his sunglasses, shaved head, massive upper body and stork like legs and music that blared nonstop through his phone - - and of course, his "one wheeled cycle", he WAS the center of attraction, but again, not for the reasons he'd want.
I mean, it was one of the ONLY times where I can remember breaking down laughing during a workout - - but more on that later.
Anyway, I noticed the dude "sizing" me up from a distance, and he was soon at the monkey bars, music in tow, preparing to do a set of pull-ups.
He grabbed the bars, and hung for a second or so, or what seemed like it.
And then, he proceeded to emit a set of curious sounds.
"UGGH! GRR!! MMMPPFFF" (all this before the actual pull-ups, mind you).
And then, he "jumped" up to the monkey bars, chest flopping around as he did so, and held himself there for a minute, furiously grunting and moaning as if he was trying to lift King Kong on his back.
(and just so you know, the sunglasses stayed on while he was "exercising").
Down a few inches, and up again. Down, and up. Down, and up. And then I heard a loud thud, as the "man mountain" fell down to the ground, much like the figurative ton of bricks, and furiously started flexing his biceps, and wiping imaginary sweat off his brow.
(and that, my friend, is saying a lot considering that the humidity levels here are over 90% - - not to mention the actual temperatures themselves - - I seem to start to drip with sweat even after a mild walk - - let alone a vigorous workout!)
Actually, I'm exaggerating when I say a "few inches". Those "massive arms" could barely go up and down more than TWO inches, if that, and that was the extent of his pull-ups before he moved on to the dipping bars.
The strange grunts emanated from him again, and he jumped up to the "top" position of the dip, and furiously held himself there, contorting his face, looking every bit like a gorilla that has bitten off more than it can chew.
But he never did a single dip.
A few seconds later, the contortions were replaced by a wide grin, and the dude starts to "pedal" on the dipping bars, moving his legs slowly around, much like a dowager slowly cycling through the neighborhood market.
No - - I'm NOT kidding you - - that was his version of the "dip", and it was at that point that I burst out laughing - - hey, some things are too much for even yours truly to ignore, and laughter is good for health anyway!
After that he looked around, grinned at all the onlookers snickering behind him, and made his way down the path again, ruffling his "hair" (though he had none), and ogling all the women as he did so.
Sanity returned to the place for a while - - or at least until he showed up again - - but that's a different story altogether!
Anyway, now that you guys have choked on your morning coffee (or evening brew of choice, hehe), here's something else I saw. Something that might inspire you - - at least, it did me.
A couple of afternoons ago, I was completing my daily stretches at the top of the hill, when a couple of ladies came over by me, one dressed in semi-formal office wear, and the other dressed smartly in a tank top, shorts and sports shoes. Green sports shoes, if I recall correctly. . .
I was going through my daily stretches - - the sort I described a few emails ago (visit http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/blog/item/172-reader-q-and-as for more details on the exact stretch) - - and the lady (the one in the sports attire) started her own routine.
And it was a simple enough routine, yet the ease with which this lady did it literally FLUMMOXED me - - and I mean every word of that sentence.
She stretched the way I mention in the above link - - but she did it while throwing her leg at least five inches or so above head height, and doing so as casually as you might pop a can of beer, for example.
And the stretches she did after that - - well, let me just say that I attempted to follow along and despite my many years of experience in this field, and a fit body, I fell flat on my arse the first time I attempted to do what she did.
"Ta Hen Chuang (Mandarin Chinese for "you are very strong")", I found myself saying, as the two ladies giggled at the foreigner trying to do what they were doing, and not really succeeding, to say the least.
"Bu Shi. Yi Dian Dian", giggled the sports "girl" (Not really. Just a little).
A little, my rear end, I thought, as she then walked over to a wall nearby and every so casually walked backwards down it, ending in a perfect gymnastic bridge.
And THEN - - she walked away from the wall - - BACKWARDS and on all fours, at that, so she was in the bridge position without any support - - and then she placed her entire weight on her forehead, much like what is done in a wrestler's bridge.
(For those that are wondering, the "bridge" is a fantastic exercise for the back, and I talk about it in Fast and Furious Fitness).
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture here. Can we say SUPER FIT!!!?
Now, judging by this description, you might think this lady looks like the Chinese version of Jane Fonda - - and I wouldn't blame you for thinking that way - - but amazingly enough, she DOESN'T.
She was NOT one of the "toned and lean" sorts you hear about so often - - and neither did she have "rippling muscles" (or muscles that showed at all, for that matter).
Oh, that's fine, some of you might say. She's probably young and flexible, and...
Hold on, hold on. Hold "yer horses" as they say - - this lady was - - get this - - 35 years of age, and the mother of a four year old child!
And again, she looked normal - - in fact, some might even say she had a bit of extra "padding" in the wrong areas - - but the things she can do with her own body would put many a trained gymnast (and certainly our pal on the one wheeled cycle) to shame within a matter of minutes.
I got to talking to her a bit, and though my very limited Chinese prevented anything in the way of advanced communication, I did learn that she grew up working in the fields. Hard, manual labor from an young age and an interest in sports led to the inevitable, and today, she doesn't even need a warm up before jumping into a serious stretch (well, not much of a warmup, at any rate).
So that's the other "story" - - always best to showcase both sides of the coin, hehe. I'm sure those of you that work out in gyms have similar stories to share - - and if you do - - well - - send 'em over, and I'll try and publish as many of them here as I can.
As for who to emulate - - well, I don't think that one needs to be addressed, to be honest!
All for now - - Stay tuned for more "blasts from the present" (if I might use the term, hehe) in terms of the madness (as well as some amazingly GOOD stuff) I see going on around me as I slog through my daily workout routine.
Hasta la vista - - and if you work out today - - make it the BEST one - - and avoid "them" one wheeled motorized cycles while exercising, hehe.
P.S.: - Our facebook page is a wonderful way to stay up to date with "what is going on at Fast and Furious HQ's" - - https://www.facebook.com/fastandfuriousfitness
Well, we're finally back online, and with a new look at that - - a look that (judging by the emails I've got so far) some of you seem to be enjoying more than the previous version of the site.
Whew - - what a battle it was to finally get online again, but it's DONE for now, and I hope Fast and Furious Fitness doesn't have to "move" again anytime in the near future!
Anyway, let's start things off with some reader feedback - - specifically, a great question from Tom in Newark. He wrote in saying that he loves pull-ups - - and that they are his favorite exercise, but he had a question. Are pull-ups better when done with a "hammer grip" (parallel, with the fingers of both hands facing each other), or is it better to do them with a regular grip (palms facing away)?
He also goes on to state that doing the hammer grip pull-ups seems to hit different parts of his back than the regular pull-ups do, and that both complement each other.
And he finished off by saying he's building some super gripping power with a combo of these two exercises (and a few others thrown in, these being the main ones though) alone.
Great question, and one I've often pondered myself, and my answer is - - Tom, they're BOTH good - - and they're BOTH variants you should practice on a regular basis.
You've also let one of my "secrets" to improving at pull-ups here out of the bag - - that being to work the hammer grip pull-ups to improve the regular pull-ups, and vice versa.
And yes, the hammer grip pull-ups DO hit your back differently than the regular pull-ups. The regular version seems to "spread" your lats out more, while the hammer grip pull-ups seems to "lengthen, stretch and strengthen" (no other way to put it on this one!) your lats a lot more. And they BOTH hit your lower back pretty well.
The parallel grips also seem to lend themselves to higher reps than the regular grip pull-ups, though interestingly enough, that doesn't happen ALL the time for me - - only on occasion. I'll elaborate more on that later though.
The only real area of difference is the abdominal region. I've found that the regular grip pull-ups tend to hit the "front" of the stomach as a whole a lot more, as opposed to parallel grip which seems to tax the "obliques" a lot more - - a good thing, by the way, since THOSE are the muscles (along with the transverse abdominal muscle resting deep under the superficial "six pack" muscles) that really pull your waist in - - as well as add REAL POWER and STRENGTH to your entire core.
And contrary to what most people think, BOTH are great ways to develop crushing grip power - - of course, if you do things the right way. There is a secret that one needs to know - - and MASTER - - while doing pulling exercise - - something so simple you'd think it was obvious, but something that (amazingly enough) I see ignored on a regular basis.
I detail that secret in Gorilla Grip - - a must have if you're (like Tom is) interested in developing crushing gripping power - - you can grab your copy right HERE: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/products/8-gorilla-grip/
But otherwise, both are great versions of the same exercise, and I recommend practicing both versions if you can on a regular basis. Just make sure you do the exercise in PROPER FORM - - no "kipping", no "swinging up with the legs" or the other foolishness I notice and write about on a daily basis.
Kudos on the gripping strength you've developed - - add some monkey bar work in there, and you'll soon be on your way to tearing wrists off in no time, hehe.
And that, dear reader, is that for now. Back again with more!
P.S: - Our Facebook page is a great way to stay informed on what is going on at Fast and Furious Fitness HQ's - - stop by and check it out - - https://www.facebook.com/fastandfuriousfitness
More of the usual foolishness at the local park today as I prepared to commence my daily slog up the hill. I was already sweating before I started - - it's THAT hot and humid here. Sort of like a blanket of "heat and humidity" (and of course the ever present smog/pollution, hehe) wrapped around you as you exercise intensely. . .
Anyway, I passed the chinning bar on the way to the hill, and I saw a fine young (not) gentleman literally "frogging" his way up to multiple reps on the pull-up bar.
What do I mean?
Well, this fellow was LITERALLY doing a "frog kick" with his legs to get his chin up above the bar, and uttering strange noises as he did so, as if he was working his entire upper body really hard.
And when he was done, he barely broke a sweat - - not surprising, me thinks.
Anyway, I've written enough about the nuts who seem to think the "rep" is all that counts, and form be "damned", and as promised, I'm going to write about a welcome surprise that I've been getting over the last few evenings in the park.
This middle aged Chinese gentleman usually shows up in the park around the same time that I do, and can be seen valiantly working his pull-ups in the same area as I do. As in, the monkey bars - - with THICK bars!
He can't get a single rep in as of now. In fact, it's all he can do to even pull himself up halfway, after which he falls from the bar like a sack of bricks.
This is mostly because he is overweight and out of shape - something which is clearly evident, and YET, I rate HIS attempts on a FAR, FAR higher scale than the other clowns who "frog out" repetitions.
Yes, even though he can barely hold onto the bar for any length of time.
Well, because he TRIES - - and does so in a genuine manner. No preening, no posing, just a STRUGGLE to get that first rep in - - as it SHOULD be.
And more importantly, he tries to do the exercise in proper form. He starts out with a dead hang and THEN tries to pull himself up from there, and isn't concerned about the fact that he isn't succeeding in his efforts - as yet.
And he shouldn't be - - if he keeps this up, and incorporates some hill climbs into the mix to lose the flab around his midsection, he'll soon be pumping out GENUINE reps like nobody's business.
This dude isn't worried about "impressing" the girls, and he isn't worried about "how he looks" upon not being able to complete a single rep.
Not for him the nonsense of "I did a 100 reps, I'm better than you!".
Just silent, hard work - - and THAT, my friend, ties in nicely with the topic of today's e-mail, which is basically that you have to start SOMEPLACE.
Hey, we've ALL been there - - no-one is born looking like a human Hercules, and it's a fact of life that some of us have to work way harder at this than others that may be a tad bit more genetically gifted.
That's a fact of life that we can't change, and quite frankly, I've never bothered wasting brain cells over it - - and this is coming from someone who is a hard gainer in the true sense of the word - - ME.
I mean, my forearms have ALWAYS been weak, ultra weak in fact from what I'd say - - and yet today, I've got a stronger grip and better upper body development/strength than a lot of "naturally" gifted folks.
And it doesn't matter what your current strength levels are, or how you "look in front of the girls", or "how many reps you can do NOW", or whether or not you have a family connection to the Pope (ok, I made that one up).
What matters is that you WANT - and TRY - and TRY in the right manner.
What matters is that you know you have to start someplace. I did - we all did at some point.
And most of all, what matters is the will to SUCCEED, and IMPROVE, despite seemingly insurmountable odds in your way. I talk about will power a LOT in Fast and Furious Fitness - - in fact, it's one of the "commandments" that are an absolute must to read even before you start on the exercises and workouts outlined in the book.
Fast and Furious Fitness: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/83-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book
And that, my friend, is why I bring up the middle aged Chinese gentleman who I'm sure will improve within a few weeks, faster perhaps if he takes my advice on incorporating some cardio into his routine.
I also gave this gentleman a tip or two on HOW to grip the bar when doing his exercises - - advice he was more than happy to accept, and advice that has him firmly on the path to a rock solid grip and super forearm strength down the line.
So remember - it doesn't matter what your current fitness or strength levels are. In other words, you have to start SOMEPLACE - and so long as you have the right attitude and the gumption to forge ahead no matter what - well - NOTHING can stop you from achieving your desired goals!
And just so you know, this philosophy is applicable to all areas of life - - NOT just fitness.
All for now! If you workout today, make it an excellent one - - and write in and tell me about it!
P.S.: - Working on grip and forearm strength is a great place to start, and I've put a course out there that tells you exactly what and how to do to get started: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/products/89-gorilla-grip/
I've been getting a ton of questions as of late about grip training (one of my favorite things to do, by the way).
Those that read my daily emails/newsletters know the emphasis I place on grip work - - developing a rugged, powerful grip being one of the very, very best things you can do for your overall levels of strength and muscular development.
And I've had many an email on this topic as of late - - to many to even address in my daily communications, to be honest.
Questions such as "How on earth do you do those thick bar "walks" you keep referring to"?
Or, "how exactly do handstand pushups build the grip?" (a very common one, by the way)
And most recently, feedback from a reader in Turkey who states that he wants to build a strong grip, but that he's been unable to reach the levels of development he's wanted to despite spending MONTHS working out on the machines in the gym.
And so I've finally finished a project of mine (one amongst way too many - - that sound familiar??) that I've been working upon for a while now - - namely, "Gorilla Grip", a concise, NO FRILLS, NO FLUFF, and NO NONSENSE forty three page training manual detailing SIXTEEN exercises that if done correctly and regularly will give you a pair of forearms that "Farmer Joe" (or even Popeye, if you so prefer) would be proud of - - but more importantly, STRENGTH and ENDURANCE to match.
Yes - forty three pages of hard hitting, no-sense training information for all you grip fanatics out there (and there seem to be a lot!) - - exercises that have been forgotten by the "muscle media" for the most part.
Exercises that are HARD, and are NOT, I repeat, NOT done sitting down or lying on a bench.
Exercises that will make you SWEAT. Exercise that make you HUFF and PUFF like a runaway locomotive.
Exercises that make you develop those nasty calluses on your palms.
But most of all, exercises that FLAT OUT WORK - - and my own experience and comments about having a ferocious grip are proof enough.
Of course, you'll never ever develop a grip like a real gorilla no matter how hard you try - - but this course WILL get you to near superhuman levels of gripping power that most folks will never ever attain.
Click on over to http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/products/89-gorilla-grip/, and order NOW - - you'll be glad you did!
I look forward to hearing about your succes!
P.S.: - Our facebook page is a great place to discuss all things fitness related - - you can find us on Facebook right HERE: - https://www.facebook.com/fastandfuriousfitness . . .
P.S #2: - That link again is http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/products/89-gorilla-grip/. Order now, and get started on the road to superior forearm strength, power and development.
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!!
This is something I've been meaning to write about a LONG, LONG time now, but haven't had the time to do so.
The park that I partake of my daily walk in has plenty of folks of all age groups exercising on a regular basis (which is a great thing). You'll find folks out for their walks (and/or Tai Chi, bodyweight stuff, et al) even on days so hot that you literally feel like a sponge that is slowly, but surely being SQUEEZED, dripping sweat with every movement.
And that is one area where the Chinese score over a lot of other countries - despite the recent surge in couch potatoes (young 'uns at that) and folks getting lazy, by and large, the Chinese still believe in daily exercise as "part of their lives" as opposed to a lot of developed countries where exercise is treated as something you have to "fit into your schedule" (and consequently becomes a chore).
But that isn't the topic of today's post.
A few weeks ago, I puffed up the hill, and almost collapsed once I was at the summit. It was an especially cloudy and muggy day, extremely overcast, and one could barely even BREATHE (you know, the sort of humidity that "clings" to your lungs) and that doesn't make climbing a steep hill any easier.
There weren't that many people that day, except for a few young men "lounging" about, if I may term it as that.
And as I completed 25 strict, letter perfect pushups, something I tend to do after a hill climb (and before my pulling movements), they looked on in amazement as if to say "in THIS heat? No way!?"
But one of them soon got down from his "perch" on a nearby railing and started to follow suit - and pounded out what seemed like 70 or so "rapidfire" pushups.
Or so he claimed.
His compatriots cheered him on, but to me it felt like watching a circus show - rather like watching a human machine gun hurriedly rep out half baked pushups, the arms barely bending, the chest so far from the floor that you could stick a barrel in the space - - and most of all, the horrible, jerky, up and down motion where the person exercising uses momentum rather than strength to complete whatever "movement" it is he is doing.
Uggggh, I thought.
But I'm used to this sort of foolishness, and I just sort of shook my head ruefully and didn't say much.
Fast forward a couple of days, and I see a wiry guy on the pull-up bar, a slim fella with very little fat on him, someone you'd think should be great at pull-ups done in proper form.
But as he "jumped" on to the pull-up bar, I watched from a distance, warming my grip up for a few tough sets of the monkey bars, and I soon found out that his fitness levels were nowhere near what I thought they should - or would, for that matter - be at.
Our friend completes the first rep by literally "jumping" half the way, and then goes half way back down, and then kicks both legs furiously, sort of like the "dolphin kick" when performing the butterfly in swimming, and that kick gets him to rep #2.
He gets to rep #4 or so like that, and then furiously contorts his face, scowling, and letting out "oohs and ahs" for the benefit of a few girls who had stopped to watch "the monster crank out the reps".
He finishes 20 or so reps like that, and then jumps down from the bar (the last 5 reps being half-half reps, in that neither did his chin get over the bar, and neither did he go even halfway down), grinning at the simpering women, and at that point I couldn't help but laugh, though I turned around quickly, not wanting him to notice.
But notice it he did, and he came on over to the monkey bars, which are three times as thick as the regular pull-up bars most folks prefer.
He jumped up, but fell off the bar quickly, much like a limpet detached from a tree trunk.
"That's not easy", he grimaced, staring at his hands (baby soft from what I could tell). "That's too hard on the palms!"
And as he said this I repped out a few "back and forth" reps across the monkey bars, swinging my way across, and the guy kept staring.
Then, he jumps on to the bars again, and starts to rep out pull-ups in the same shoddy manner, and at that point I stopped him.
"Not that way", I said, somewhat irritably. "All the way up, and THEN (this is the part he most hated), go ALL the way DOWN!"
He gaped at me as if I had asked him to dive to the bottom of the Pacific.
"Down", I repeated.
And after about 5 rounds of this conversation, he finally did lower down to a "flexed hang" letting out a genuine gasp this time.
He then flailed around with his legs for a while, but not even the most desperate of kicks could get him past half way point on this particular rep.
And he soon dropped from the bar like a dead weight and glared at me, as if I was responsible for his "failures" in front of the girls.
Soon, he walked off, muttering something about my calloused hands being "horrible".
Ok...horrible they are, but they sure can GRIP!
Now, the point of mentioning this jokerishness is not to poke fun at the two fine men I just spoke about, but rather to emphasize that "cheating" a.k.a "bouncing or kicking" your way through reps does YOU no good.
It may stroke your ego for a while, but when you do the exercise in right form, you'll soon find out that ALL your "effort" thus far has been in vain. More importantly, bouncing and kicking on pushups and pull-ups (for instance) is a great way to lead to shoulder and tendon injuries - not something you want for sure.
So don't be the guy that "bounces" out 50 plus reps and preens in front of the women. Be the guy who pumps out 15 slow, letter PERFECT reps, and BUILDS from there.
Don't be the guy who "kicks" his way to 20 half baked chins. Be the guy who spends hours honing his grip on THICK bars, more time in the dead hang position, FEELING his lats, and PERFECTING that first rep before moving on.
In other words, check your ego in at the door when training hard - and this goes for trainees at ALL levels.
Concentrate on the workout itself - - and the numbers will come. Believe you me, the numbers will come!
And here's a parting shot - if all this sounds too "silly" (pff! I'd rather "pound" out the reps rather than worry about this nonsense, some might say!) - just go back and read my post a while back on the "old man I met in China" right here: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/blog/item/167-the-old-man-i-met-a-couple-of-months-back-in-china. Read the part about a letter perfect handstand, the vice like grip - - the entire post, actually, and then read THIS one again, and that'll say it all.
Or at least, it should!
And thats it for today. Back again with more!
P.S.: - Pull-ups are one of the hardest movements for folks to even complete, let alone complete in proper form, but the benefits from doing these right, and doing these regularly are manifold. And the same holds true for handstand pushups. Weave a workout around these two movements (remember the leg work!), and you'll be looking like a human gorilla in no time at all!