The World has Gone Crazy – but I don’t need to tell you that!

So Gym’s, pubs, clubs and all meeting places have been shut down, and it is really for our own good, after all you don’t want the corona virus do you? the issue with this is that although life is changing in an unprecedented way it appears (through the front window) to be normal, peaceful and quiet, meanwhile the TV sounds and looks like the plot of a Hollywood movie, so it is difficult to get a handle on the reality of the situation.

The gym I attend was shut this week and fortunately for me they have taken the generous step of “hiring” some equipment out so I do have a bar and some 20k plates at home to train with, but before we knew that was going to be a thing I first went out and found myself a log, yes, a log, and I intend to find more, you see we have become so ingrained with the convenience of gyms and facilities that we have forgotten the very basics of why we can build muscle, Adaptation the muscle doesn’t care if you are deadlifting with an ivanko bar or a tree trunk, it reacts to something you can’t do by growing bigger and stronger in order to allow you to do it, your body is your greatest ally.

What the hell do I do with a Log ?

Here are my suggestions and the muscle groups this will use, remember that you are now working within “functional strength” so there is very little in the way of concentration movements but as well all know by now, when you recruit the vast majority of your muscle groups in a movement the effects on the body are increased, with elevations in BMR and testosterone production as well as growth hormone release.

  1. Lift above your head – Starting from the ground grip the log and lift so it is above your head horizontally (obviously balance will be a big thing here) and then pass it from shoulder to shoulder in an arc over you head, this will involve back and leg muscle as well as front delts to get the log in position and then delts and triceps as well as forearms to pass it from side to side.
  2. Bent over row – Easier with some grips but you can use rope or chain to wrap round the log to get a grip, I used chain, place the chain around the log taking great care to place the chains at the point the log is balanced, this way when you pick it up you will get even load distribution, then simply carry out your bent over rows.
  3. Squats – While not conventional these are easily achieved by picking up the log and rolling it along your arms until it rests on your upper chest, by slightly leaning back and opening up the chest cavity you will place the load in a balanced position then squat, for the squat monsters out there you may have to up the reps in order to compensate for the lack of weight.
  4. Deadlifts – same as bent over row really just deadlift it instead !
  5. Lift / Carry – with the heaviest log that you can carry, do just that, pick it up with your arms round it and walk, this is an amazing full body exercise and will help with core strength as well.

These are just a few examples and I have set myself a little challenge, rather than come out of this situation having to start again, I want to go back to the gym in better shape than when I left, remember the gym is the best place to build muscle it is just not the only place, and when this is all over these businesses will need us to go back as soon as possible, because while all this is going on they still have to pay the bills.

Boost Testosterone and build muscle naturally – at any age.

Ok so any age may be an exaggeration, we are looking mainly at men in the 30 to 55-60 range, which is typically when we all the majority of us start to have our second wind at the gym following the jibes about the ‘Dad Bod’ we are now sporting, unfortunately many of us go back to the gym and do not realise that (as sad as it is) the original flushes of youth have left us and our bodies do not react to training as they used to, infact from age 30 it has already started CHECK THIS LINK, but it definitely does not have to be this way.

Discussion

After 30 testosterone starts to decline, this means that where once in our teens or mid twenties we only had to look at a weight in the gym and grow, we now have to think things through and adapt to our the way our bodies need to be trained, more stimulus is required for the same effect and more nutrients are required due to less efficient metabolisms, and this is just taking into consideration natural decline, it is not factoring in any lapse in physical activity that may have crept in due to work commitments and families and so on, The task is to find a way of training, a method that can be applied that would maximise returns, actively boost growth hormone, testosterone production and sensitivity to nutrition, I give you Strongman Training, or large compound movements that require co-ordination from all muscles in the body.

Studies

Studies have been conducted on the subject and the results are nothing less than staggering as far as I am concerned, one study found that after a prescribed set of traditional strongman event exercises there was a 54% increase in salivary testosterone in a group of sixteen men between 24 and 44, even allowing for the small sample size of the study that is an astounding result, and it is backed up by many studies both scientific and anecdotal, as with most of these things the budget for study is limited so they are are never huge, but if you think about the occupations that mimic these types of movements, you see solid fit men well into their 50’s and 60’s, I am thinking about in the construction trade, farmers and road workers, I know that these occupations generally bring their own issues but these are more of a result of the extended period of exertion as opposed to the type of exertion.

Types of Exercise Suggested

As previously stated these are all big gesture compound movements and taken to failure, which is also easier to do with these exercises as opposed to say, Bench Pressing where failure can mean you are trapped under a bar waiting for somebody to let you out !

  • Farmers Walk
  • Chain Drag
  • Atlas Stones
  • Keg Carry
  • Tire Flip
  • Over head Press

These are just a few and I completely understand if you do not have the facility to do these at your gym, but there are ways to simulate the movements, you could use dumbells for the Farmers walk, and a squat bar for the frame carry, also concentrating on squatting and deadlifiting as opposed to leg press or bent over row, basically you are looking to engage the largest amount of muscle participation you can in a movement, it may feel odd after doing a lot of concentration exercise, but you can always put those in at the end, and benefit from the added hormone boost as well.

Conclusion

I have switched to this way of training now (being a man of a certain age) and I have to say that initially it has been brilliant, after a workout I am actually more energised, my sex drive is through the roof and I am normally jumping around like tigger, it doesn’t always make me popular with the wife but all in all it has been a success for me and something I am going to continue, I have added some links below and I am going to do some articles on the different movements in the future, so happy training and remember as cliche as it is age is just a number, there is no reason why we should grow old before our time and start to slow down before we are ready to, with adaptation (a human quality we are all born with) we can continue living how we want to for almost as long as we decide.

Links

Photo by Binyamin Mellish from Pexels

Do your Trapezius muscles suck?

Mine do, they are kinda there but not really and they have an annoying flat spot in the middle, I am literally going to the gym today to train back and it got me thinking, should Traps be trained with back or shoulders ?, traditionally I and many others would train them with shoulders, 4 to six sets of standing shrugs at the end of the shoulder workout and then off home for a well deserved protein shake, but hang on are they actually connected to shoulders in any way ? well from a movement perspective yes, slightly, they are attached into the base of the skull and out to the clavicle and then to the spine about midway down your back, this presents a problem when arguing for the mechanical movement of standing shrugs.

You see, looking at this picture, traditional shrugs actually only work a very small portion of the trap muscles, and are more likely to contribute to a slightly wider neck than the big blocks of muscle we are looking for, additionally they also seem to serve no purpose (other than stabilising the shoulder joint against the movement) in any deltoid activity as they are not overlapping in any way.

So I would consider that if we are looking for synergistic training they should in fact be trained along with the back muscles as they play a role in all back exercises, in fact as they are responsible for movement of the scapula ( the muscle fibres both pull back and down toward the spine ) it is fairly easy to see that these play a huge role in everything from bent over rowing to lat pull downs and chins as well as single arm Dumbell rowing.

How to best Activate them

As previously discussed the traditional straight backed approach doesn’t actually cut it for this muscle group as you are only activating a small portion of the muscle group, sure due to the nature of the muscle fibre it is easy to move a lot of weight over a small distance, but ultimately once you have fed your ego you must eventually move onto building some muscle, looking at the structure you need to draw the shoulders up and back to completely engage the large mid portion of the muscle ( the one that provides the size ) and for the lower portion of the muscle, you would try and pull down from only the shoulder, these exercises may look a little odd but once your traps start growing people will start to copy I assure you.

Concentration Movements

  • Shrug – Instead of the traditional standing shrug, you should bend slightly from the waist and allow your hands with the Dumbells in them to hang naturally down, obviously you should not lean to far over as you are looking to move the weight with the same shrugging motion just in this modified position, I would also take whatever weight you are using now for shrugs and halve it too, you only have one back let’s make it stronger not damage it completely.
  • Trap Pulldown – This is the one that will get a few odd looks as people will genuinely wonder what the hell you are doing, but seated on the lat pull down keeping your arms straight, you are looking to extend only at the shoulder and the shrug in reverse, so bring the shoulders down and squeeze to the back at the full contraction.

Compound Movements

As a side note and to further illustrate the point, the Trapezius muscles are also heavily involved in the following exercises / movements

  • Bent Over Dumbbell Rows – and to a lesser extent bent over Barbell rows due to the lack of mobility of your hands with the latter.
  • Cable Seated Row – again the pulling back of the arms and squeezing toward the centre of the spine activates the Trapezius.
  • Chin-ups – These hit the lower Trapezius along with their seated counterpart the lat pull down.

So I hope that has been informative and I am open to any questions regarding the above, always be careful when training and always be extra careful when changing a movement / introducing a new position into a routine, as there is only a small difference in the positions it may be easy to think that you can handle the same weight as previously but remember the idea is to concentrate on a muscle group more targeted than before and so this my cause injury if not used to it.

Update After Trying my Own Advice

So often people write these guides and you sit and wonder if that is how they train or if they have even lifted a weight in their life, and of course quite a few haven’t, or at least they do not follow the routines that they put out it is all just for money.

So this, and all other training tips are as a result of considered thought and trying to work out how to do everything as efficiently as possible to achieve maximum results in the minimum time, this the trainee superhuman after all!

So I have updated this post with the findings from last night (at the time of writing)

The action of bent over shrugs feels massively unnatural, this is mainly because we are always taught that we should keep the back straight, in fact the very action of leaning forward immediately puts tangible stress on the middle of the Trap muscles, the important thing to remember here is not to bend to far over, concentration exercises are all about putting the muscle group in a compromised position where they can receive little to no assistance from supporting muscle groups, once in the correct position though the feeling as easy to identify, and the significant drop in the amount of weight I could handle showed just how weak the muscle actually was compared to what I originally thought, the numbers are standing shrug 40 to 50kg for 12 to 15 reps, bent over shrug 24 to 32kg for 12 so as you can see it was significant, today the muscle actually feels sore, all the way from the top of the structure (at the base of the skull) down to the middle of my back and extending out to the scapula, so I am fairly confident that this has had the required effect, it has also occurred to me that the strengthening of this muscle group will counteract office back strain where we tend to sit hunched over a keyboard all day long, by strengthening this part of the Trapezius we keep the top of the back flatter and avoid shoulders naturally falling forward.

So again hope this has been helpful, please let me know if not, or if you have any comment or suggestion on other training routines.