Monday, September 1, 2014

Reader Question: How Do I Get Over My Pullup Plateau?

Hey, Paul - question on pullups. Is there a regimen you'd recommend for someone who wants to improve? I'll alternate sets of pullups with other exercises (squats,bench, etc) until I get to 50, and over months I'd say I've gone from a max of 8 to a max of 11. Would you know a simple routine I could use to shake things up and break the plateau? Let me know if something comes to mind, thanks in advance, and Roll Tide !

Hi Fletch, thanks for asking.  I prescribe more variation.  Think of a three day rotation with some of these:

1.  Add weight.  Could be just a 10# plate in a back pack

2.  Add a pause at the top

3.  Do fewer reps per set - focus on explosive contraction/fast movement

On day four, go back to doing what you normally do

Occasionally do an EMOM - every minute on the minute for 5 to 20 minutes do 3-6 reps (start w 3 and work up in subsequent sessions).

The weighted pullup thing adds a new level of accomplishment - 100# weighted pullup?  You will tell all your friends

Louie Simmons: "Once you spell your name right, you can only spell it wrong."  IOW, once you get used to doing pullups like you are doing them, they no longer provide as much adaptive stimulus - thus the prescription for variation.

If you have the elastic bands CrossFitters and weightlifters often use, you can "band yourself" to add resistance with a different force curve.  The ways to add variation are only limited by one's imagination and determination to find a better way to train.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bodybuilder Goes CrossFit?

I've worked with a  lot of CrossFit athletes this year, helping several prepare fo the Canada East regionals.  I helped some with their Olympic lifting and others with their entire training.  I'll tell you this: I've trained figure competitors who go to extreme lengths in their dieting, cardio, and training, and quite a few of the CrossFit girls I'm working with have better physiques than the figure girls … and that’s without dieting.  Similarly, a former Canada national bodybuilding champion I know started training for CrossFit and she looks better - not just better, but also more muscular and stronger - than when she was bodybuilding! 
I always believed that CrossFit made girls look great and guys look small, in addition to making them lose strength.  I don’t' believe the latter anymore because some of the competitive CrossFit athletes are quite strong.  The average competitor in the CrossFit games can do a 245-pound snatch, 335-pound clean and jerk, 550-pound deadlift, and a 450-pound back squat. And several overhead squat in the 300s and front squat in the 400s.  Four of the guys I'm coaching can snatch over 225 pounds, which pretty darn strong!

This was an interesting read because I so rarely get a glimpse into the mind of the bodybuilder.  The focus on performance in CrossFit - no part of a WOD is build to make a body look better, the WOD is built to create performance - makes it a liberating way to train.

That said, most will not get the best results in body composition if they eat the same crappy foods that made them fat and sick in the first place.

So what I tell my folks is - train to develop the physical capacity you desire, and eat to be healthy (and more lean if you like that sort of thing).

Friday, August 22, 2014

"NERD Does CrossFit" - Changes

And sometimes they are great big GIANT leaps!!! Today was a Leap!

Fourteen years ago, I was put on my first blood sugar regulating med. I didn't think much of it at the time. I certainly didn't think I would be on it for the rest of my life. The thought just didn't occur to me. Before the year was out, I was on medication number two! Again, I didn't think much of it. Eventually, life happened, kids happened, bad food/exercise choices happened… and I found myself at the age of 41 on FOUR different daily meds. I can't really tell you how it happened, but there I was… and I wanted OFF! Thus began my search for… something different. I found Crossfit.
Three months into Crossfit, and attempting to eat better, I dropped med one. Six months into my often-failed attempts to eat better and Crossfit, med two dropped. Things were going well. Around the nine month mark, I was able to drop my daily shots. That was HUGE! I'd given myself daily shots since I was pregnant with the twins. But… there was one med left. I've been sitting on this med for over a year, waiting patiently to get rid of it. A few months ago, my doctor cut that med in half… and as of yesterday… IT'S GONE!!!!!!!
I did it! I really, really did it! I wanted OFF those meds and it took me 21 months to do it… and I did! :happycry:
My latest round of blood work was fantastic. My A1c is 5.5. I'm not even "at risk" for Diabetes anymore. My PCOS symptoms are generally under control. My fasting glucose has been consistently in the 80s. It's AMAZING!!!
I know I go on and on about Crossfit and Paleo/Primal, but it really has changed my life.

For me, this has always been the CrossFit dream.  To help other find the way to do what is necessary to save their own life, to not need the medications any longer.

Awesome physical performance?  That's cool.  Looking so good you feel confident?  That's cool.  Learning new movements and enjoying them?  That's cool.  Help a young person get close to their physical potential?  That's cool.  Make a community that folks take comfort in, celebrate in, and find is their "third place"?  That's very cool.  But the best - the best is going from sick to healthy.  The best is going from declining strength to increasing strength.  The best is having a vibrant, healthy body that feels good to be in, that is useful, that is not the limiting factor in your choice of how you live.

That's why I coach CrossFit!  That's why I love the CrossFit phenomenon.

Come see us so we can ignite your transformation and create a future of vibrant and growing health.
Call/text: 207-449-8996
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Milestone: 200000 Page Views

Thank you dear readers for coming to see us and read along as we learn about health, fitness and nutrition!  If you are in the Brunswick area, come join us for CrossFit, we look forward to seeing you.

I feel funny celebrating page views when some gyms get that many hits a month (in the DC area for example).  Writing an obscure blog from a small town to varied readers with an interest in paleo and CrossFit makes 200,000 a big number to me.

Perfect Health Diet

"[We held a retreat] and one of the things that came out really quickly was it turned out to be super for weight loss.  And again it wasn't designed to be a weight loss program, you could eat as much food as you wanted.  And yet we had great weight loss results.  So I started thinking more about why is this working so well for weight loss, and started thinking about the obesity problem."
In the video, he gets into two questions: What are the most puzzling issues in weight loss?  What are the most important facts?
Pull it up on your phone and drink it in.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Saturated Fatty Acids

The linked article contains a nice analysis of health correlations related to saturated fatty acids (SFA). SFA's have been vilified as causatory agents in heart and other vascular diseases.  However, the analysis points out that the correlations with disease are strong with SFA's that are produced by the body as a result of carb, sugar and alcohol ingestion, vice ingestion of fats.  By contrast, blood SFA's that are associated with fat ingestion are inversely correlated with the aforementioned diseases.  In a way, this is just a BFO - blinding flash of the obvious - as it's been long known that blood triglycerides, including the SFA palmitic acid, are very well correlated with disease and metabolic syndrome. The nice thing about this analysis is it finds the same conclusion via a different methodology.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Simplest Change

Each of our clients wants to lose fat, except maybe one.  Most are already working within the paleolithic model of nutrition.  Some are having spectacular results, and that is putting smiles on both of our faces.  Some are stalled out.  Today's post is about the simplest change one can make to reaccelerate fat loss.

That change is to have a breakfast of only protein (some, 15-30 grams) and fat (a lot).  Why will this help?

First, let's get into how you body fuels itself.  The number two metabolic priority (in terms of urgency) is getting sugar to the brain.  The brain needs approximately 600 calories worth of fuel daily.  That's about 25% of the total caloric requirement for most folks.  If the brain does not get the necessary fuel, it will cease to function, you will fall down, and the ghost might leave the machine, depending upon how fuel deprived the brain is.  To keep this from happening, you were engineered with a redundant fuel system, that allows you to make brain food from fat, carbs or protein.

Most of your body runs best on fat as fuel.  The engineer's intent seems to have been that you would not need to eat or store much sugar, and that the sugar (not in large supply until very recently) you ate or stored would be used primarily by the brain.  The first contingency for lack of available carbs/sugar is that your liver will convert fat into ketone bodies, which can be an alternate fuel for the brain (in fact, there's some evidence the brain is most healthy when fueled by both sugar and ketones).  This system is what lets a person survive day after day with no food available (remember those stories of 60+ days in a life raft?).  If you ever face that situation, the body will also catabolize muscle to make protein and sugar for the brain.  So in all you have three ways to store energy - fat is the biggest source and the best fuel.  Sugar is the smallest source and is a preferred fuel for the brain.  Muscle is the desperation fuel, "for emergency use only."

Now let's get back to why keeping carbs out of your breakfast will help you to burn fat.  First, all night long, since you are not eating, your body has to start converting to fat burning (you know people have a serious sugar problem when they cannot sleep through the night without sugar cravings).  When you "break your fast", if you give the body sugar, it will stop running on fat.  If you give your body too much sugar, it will get busy converting that sugar into fat.  If you give yourself a moderate protein, high fat breakfast, this can keep your hunger at bay but let the body keep burning stored fat for brain fuel.

So the easiest, simplest, change to start burning more fat is to have a carb free breakfast.

If you want to take this one step further, stop eating by 7 or 8 PM.  That way, you may go as long as 12 hours from last meal of the day until first.  That also invites your body to get good at burning fat, and if you don't eat carbs until lunch, that's a 14-16 window of no "carbage".  This kind of carb fasting is very useful for those who want to get healthy and lean.  Why does this help with health?  In short, the number one driver of disease in our nation is metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by loss of glycemic control (that is to say cycling high and low blood sugars).  The above described carb fast interrupts the cycle of excess sugar/carbs, and restores normal blood sugar levels for many who are dangerously close to metabolic syndrome.

This is also why exercise alone does not work for fat loss or health - if you continuously over-eat sugar and carbs, you will not get glycemic control and you will not have your best health no matter how intense your daily workouts are.

If you want to take this another step beyond a carb fast, push your breakfast back by one hour each day, until you can go food free for 14-16 hours.  This path can be risky for some, so if you want to do this, come talk to me first.  You can also search this blog to find prior posts about how to start intermittent fasting.

Are you ready to make the simplest change?  If so, get going and let me know what you learn!