The Pursuit of the Daily Minimum

by Dan Earthquake on February 6, 2018

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Dan Earthquake Al Danny Kavadlo
Coach Wade regularly encourages keeping a training log.

It’s not a new idea to me: I’d had several periods of doing this over the years, but stopped completely in 2008. It was due to one of his articles that I eventually restarted counting in November 2014.

I realized that I needed to establish a value system that could be comparable over several years. Subjective input such as “felt good today” is too ambiguous to be of value to me in the future. There are all sorts of systems depending on the discipline. Cyclists, swimmers and runners often use watts expended, calories burned or distance traveled. Lifters/gym rats may use weight shifted. I decided to record sets completed (my basic set being 5), with pull ups, dips and pistols recorded as 1 per repetition. Intensity of effort could also be recorded but I generally choose not to, it being subjective. For instance on 11th November 2015 I did 131 ring pull-ups, the most I’ve ever done.

Three years of statistics show progress. I’m doing more volume – over twice as much in 2017 as 2015.

Fifteen free squats in a row in January of 2015 made my knees creak. I was doing the deck of cards for sets and dreading the pictures. Two years on and I’m doing assisted pistols with the knees much better. In late 2015 I came across a concept of establishing a daily minimum to aim for. This came from an interesting study by Matt Perryman in his book Squat Everyday – Thoughts on Overtraining and Recovery in Strength Training, which is very well thought out. I’d been overdoing it – I’d thought – as lots of things were aching. What I ended up doing after considering many things and looking at my training logs was to stop doing exhaustive sessions with rest days and transitioned into a daily routine.

In the past, I have practiced a lot of failure training, believing it was doing me good to exhaust myself completely with muscle soreness common for the following days. Injuries over the years from over enthusiasm and foolishness – vanity lifting – took its toll. That sort of training really doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Daily training with basic calisthenics wasn’t too hard to transition into. I’ll admit to getting caught up in chasing the numbers – 505 free squats continuously and 550 incline push ups gave me plenty of time to reflect on my soreness the following days.

Super-high reps have a place in training though, even if it is not always the most efficient way of training; sometimes it’s just too much fun to stop. My problem tempering my enthusiasm is solved by pursuing the daily minimum concept. Last year my total set value was 25,565. Dividing this by 365 days gives a daily average of 70. I have a “bare minimum” of 27 that I do for mobility/pre-hab everyday at both ends of the day. Studying my figures seems to suggest that 47 work sets on top of this is about optimum for me at the moment. That gives me 74 which if followed consistently will top last years total. There were days last year where I felt supercharged and did a few hundred sets. The following days were back to bare minimum and recovery seemed sluggish. The trick on the days of great enthusiasm is to stay fresh enough to be able to do the daily minimum the next day. Not as easy as it sounds.

Dan Earthquake Pull-up
Pursuing the daily minimum is a long term strategy with a lot of flexibility. I embraced the Replek concept that Karl Indreeide identified on this blog on July 21, 2015 – so much so I had to look up what it was called again. At weekends I sometimes swim or row a boat doing just the bare minimum. I count these efforts separately so this brings down the daily average. I adjust daily minimum for the rest of the month accordingly.
Eg: 20th January my total for the month was 1386.
31 days in January gives a total of 2294.
2294 – 1386 = 908
908/11 days remaining = 82.5 daily minimum.
On the 21st I did just 30 sets, then 93 on 22nd. On the 23rd I had a good day and did 174 sets. This meant the average came down to 76.4. I’m trying not to chase the numbers too much – rather I’m using them to smooth out the lumps. As I improve I’ll move the daily minimum upwards – or fill them with more challenging exercises. At the end of each month I look at the numbers and review what I’m doing. Coach Wade’s programming squares are good tools – measure what was done against what was planned – often they’re quite different.

There is nothing I do that is original. I have shelves of exercise books and twice as many that I gave away that didn’t suit my practice. I’ve trained with strongmen, powerlifters, bodybuilders, runners, triathletes, swimmers, martial artists and had the benefit of many good coaches. All of us are composites of the people we admire.

I’m 44 this year. I started doing isometrics when I was 3 – before I knew what they were. Calisthenics drills came at 7 in judo class thanks to Ted Spacey – I still do his wrestlers bridges every night. Pull-ups started at 16. Last year I did my best pull-ups ever! Best of all, it’s still fun and I only do the basics. Odd sessions with Jim L. (who does some of the CC3 drills) and PCC Steve Llewelyn remind me that I’m just scratching the surface of what is possible.

Dan Earthquake And Steve Llewellyn

***

Dan Earthquake is involved in event safety and hosts winter swimming training camps for Channel Swimmers. In 2013 the Channel Swimming Association awarded him the trophy for “Greatest Feat of Endurance” for his 21hr 25 minute crossing of the English Channel. For more info, visit http://www.danearthquake.com/

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Strength for Life

by Marc Ayala on January 30, 2018

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Marc Ayala Strength For Life

It’s a new year, and gyms across the country are flooded with folks who’ve made the decision to change their lives. Unfortunately, these pursuits often start off well, but end up gradually fading away – often, before February even begins.

There are myriad possibilities for why so many of these efforts don’t achieve their goal; unfortunately, the first thought is often that the person is lazy, unmotivated, etc. While that may be the case for some, I have found that there is a factor that seems to be even more significant: the lack of a deep understanding of the process.

The fitness industry has done a poor job in terms of educating those that have a true desire to improve their physical being. New gym members are left to fend for themselves among the sea of machines and exercise equipment. To all of those afflicted by this current state of the fitness industry, I propose the following potential solution: strength training. Not the sort of strength training that is so often thrown into discussions of diet and health as an afterthought. I am referring to the deliberate, gradual improvement of your ability to exert force onto the world around you. This has the potential to change your body, bolster your confidence, and open doors that you thought to be cemented shut.

What We Want

We all want to be able to look in the mirror and have an instant, unmistakable sense of pleasure and contentedness with our appearance. When we think that we look good, we assume that others probably think that we look good as well. And nothing boosts this pleasure more quickly than a compliment from a friend or colleague.

We want to be independent. Not in the sense of paying your own bills and coming home at any hour of the day, but a sense of real physical independence: the ability to be able to shovel out your car after a snowstorm, walk up a flight of stairs without an escalator or handrail, or to be able to open a pickle jar. In an age where you can find someone or something to do anything for you – for a fee, of course – we are gradually losing our ability to thrive without depending on others. How amazing would it feel to be able to shovel out your entire driveway after a blizzard, then have the strength of body and character to shovel out your elderly neighbor’s driveway and enable them to make it to their grandkid’s first ballet recital?

How We Get It

Strength is the ability to exert force onto our environment and effect change. It is what allows us to explore and manipulate the world at will. Who would ever want to be prevented from living up to their fullest potential by something that they have direct control over? Unfortunately, thanks to the flood of conflicting information in the world, we often have no clue where to look or how to start on this endeavor. Fortunately, with a little bit of patience, a hearty dose of effort, and some good ol’ discipline, the plan that I propose here can get you there. Let’s get started!

Kavadlo Brothers Raised Pushups

Push Me, I Push Back!

The ability to push through our hands and influence the environment around us is so incredibly important, yet unappreciated until one can no longer do so. The ability to push doors open, push yourself up off of the floor after falling on ice, and countless others are examples of the need for pushing prowess. How do we improve our ability to push? We practice pushing!

Elevated Surface Push-up

Find a box, table, or anything sturdy that is roughly hip-height. If too challenging, use a slightly taller surface. Place your hands onto the edge of the surface with your palms lined up with your shoulders and squeeze it.. Brace your body into a steel beam with legs locked straight, ankles squeezed together, abdominals clenched, head up tall . Lower yourself slowly under full muscular control until the lower part of the chest touches the surface, elbows within 4-inches of ribcage. Return to the starting position slowly, without bouncing off of the surface. Momentum is the enemy here.

Goal: 20 repetitions. Then, use slightly shorter object and build to 20-repetitions. Repeat until using knee-height surface easily.

Standard Push-ups

Begin kneeling in an all-fours position with the hands directly beneath your shoulders. Next, extend one leg at a time back until the toes are dug into the ground and legs locked straight. There should be a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders when viewed from the side. No bellies sagging toward the floor, no bent knees, no drooping head. Lock your legs straight and try to feel the muscles on the fronts of the thighs tighten. Squeeze the butt muscles and tighten the abdominals as if bracing for impact. Pull the back of the head toward the ceiling, without lifting the chin. It should feel as if you are giving yourself a double-chin. Now, squeeze the floor and slowly lower yourself until your chest gently kisses the floor.. Slowly push into the floor and ascend until full arm extension.

Goal: 20+ repetitions

After becoming proficient in these three foundational pushing motions, you will have now earned more definition in your arms, shoulders, and chest, as well as the ability to push back when the world pushes you. Congratulations! You have earned it.

Kavadlo Brothers Pullups NYC

Pull Yourself Together

There is nothing like the ability to wrap your hands around the world around you and pull yourself through, over, and beyond. See that tree branch? See if you can pull yourself up into the tree and afford yourself a bird-like view of the world around you, only accessible to those with the strength to handle anything that the world presents to them. As a nice side effect, you’ll also build a serious set of arms. Time to pull!

Australian Pull-ups

Find a sturdy table, a horizontal bar, or any other object that is between hip and sternum-height that you can grip with your hands and hang from. Grab the object and walk your feet under it until your lower ribs are under the edge of the object. At this stage, your legs should be straightened, arms should be straightened, and hips should be elevated and perfectly aligned with the knees and belly-button. Pull the lower chest to the edge of the surface and pause firmly against the surface. If these are too challenging, use a taller surface.

Goal: 20 repetitions

Negative Pull-Ups

Stand on chair or similar object in front of the Pull-Up bar and take a narrow, underhand grip on the bar. Either tip-toe or use a small hop to get the chin over the bar with the elbows fully closed and in tight to the ribs. Hold this position as long as you can, not allowing the shoulders to shrug or the body to swing. Allow yourself to slowly descend toward the ground inch by inch.

Goal: 60-seconds

Pull-Ups

Begin hanging from the bar with fully straightened arms. Next, squeeze the bar as hard as you can and pull like your life depends on it! Going from straightened arms to chin over the bar is an amazing achievement for anybody, no matter which sex or how old. Take pride in the fact that you can maneuver your body around the environment at will. Got any room left in those shirt sleeves now?

Goal: 10+ repetitions

Kavadlo Brothers Squats DC

Strong Legs, Limitless Reach

Legs are the unsung hero that everybody relies upon for quite literally everything that we do, yet put little care into strengthening them. See that mountain? How about hiking to the top and basking in the glory of conquering nature’s skyscraper. Or being able to play tag with your kids?. The legs have an amazing potential for strength, endurance, and versatility. It would be shame to waste that potential. Let’s build those wheels!

Brisk Walking

This is where is all starts. Walking? Really? Yes. The best way to get better at traversing the world with confidence is to practice traversing the world with confidence. Stand up tall like there is a book on your head and you don’t want it to fall. Pike your feet up and never allow them to drag. Let the arms swing by your sides naturally. The swing of the arms is a good sign of the expressiveness of a person. Show the world that you are full of life and vigor! Walking gently builds the endurance in every joint in the body through low stress, high repetition motion.

Goal: 60-minutes

Assisted Squat

The ability to go from a standing position to a campfire squatting position under full control is crucial for maneuvering the world. To achieve the full squat requires a proficient degree of ankle, knee, hip, and spinal mobility, as well as strength. To build this ability, walk up to a door frame or anything that is about hip height that can support you pulling against it. Place your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with the toes either facing straight forward or slightly turned out. This will vary person-to-person, so try both ways. With a firm grip on the object, sit your butt backwards toward the wall behind you with the chest lifted proudly, then slowly descend until the backs of the thighs touch the calves. Your heels should be firmly planted into the floor. Your knees should be perfectly lined-up with your feet.

Goal: 60-second hold

Full Squat

Once you have held the bottom of the squat for 60 seconds with the arms straightened out in front of you, attempt to stand up by keeping the chest lifted and straightened the knees and pushing the hips forward toward the object in front of you. Congratulations! You just went from a full squat to a stand. Now, slowly sit back and down into the squat again, pause for two seconds, then stand up. This ability will keep you strong and limber for life, so long as you keep practicing and utilizing it in your worldly adventures. You’ll also build one firm set of legs!

Goal: 25+ slow repetitions

What Now?

So, you can now push back against the world, pull yourself over, around, and through it at will, as well as climb it with ease. What are you going to do with your newfound abilities? The world is out there, waiting patiently for its beauty to be appreciated. The doors of possibility have now been opened! Don’t let them go to waste!

***

Marc Ayala, PCC, is a personal trainer located in Boston. With a love for reading and research, he is constantly on the quest for more knowledge and sharper skills. Marc is passionate about uncovering the physical potential in his clients, pushing them to levels of strength that they never thought possible.

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Time Goes By: The Top Ten PCC Blogs of 2017

December 26, 2017
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What is time? Are our lives just a series of randomly occurring events? Or perhaps our experiences are inter-connected by some odd, invisible thread. Who knows? Maybe any “timeline” at all is purely a human invention—our best attempt at comprehending the way that affairs unfold. Or not. I sure as Hell don’t know! In any […]

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December 5, 2017
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It has been well documented that exercise is good for our physical health but more recently the benefits of exercise have shown to have a great impact on our neurological and mental health. Stress, anxiety and depression are conditions which are incredibly common in modern day western society. Our bodies and brains are susceptible to […]

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November 28, 2017
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Suspension trainers are the multi-tool of the calisthenics world. You can do hundreds of exercises with them for almost any goal imaginable. They are ideal for mimicking classic weight machine exercises like chest flys, triceps extensions, and core work. Suspension trainers give you hundreds of exercises that can enhance and supplement your training. Suspending your […]

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Borrow These Calisthenics Cues From the Recent NYC PCC

November 21, 2017
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One of my absolute favorite parts of any teaching situation is the opportunity to troubleshoot and help teach the troubleshooting process. This not only helps the participants with their own workouts, but teaches them how to help their clients make big changes quickly. And whenever there’s a new group of people at a PCC, there […]

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My Get Strong Transformation Challenge Story

November 11, 2017
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“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” -Zen proverb I bought Get Strong when it first came out at the introductory price, and eagerly read it in a day or two. I was no stranger to calisthenics and it looked like a great program… that I would start as soon as I finished […]

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Getting Started with the Freestanding Handstand

October 31, 2017
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I didn’t grow up as a gymnast. As a kid, I played basketball and soccer, but was fairly uncoordinated and had very little body awareness. In fact, handstands didn’t even come on the radar for me until my mid 20’s, and at that time I had just barely built up the strength to do proper […]

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PCC Torrance: Once In A Lifetime

October 17, 2017
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And you may find yourself in another part of the world… That’s what tends to happen when we instruct Dragon Door’s Progressive Calisthenics Certification, the first and best bodyweight training certification on the planet. In fact, in the nearly five years since its inception, the PCC has taken place in dozens of cities and numerous […]

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Embrace the Journey – Lessons from the Pull Up Bar

October 3, 2017
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“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki Too often in life we want to rush ahead. We want to be better, more informed, more polished. What we don’t always want to respect is the process required for getting to that point. Our strength and […]

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