We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, January 14. 2021
As I have not really discussed in the past, there are plenty of gray zones between the three, and few exertions are purely in one category (excepting sprints which are real cardio).
Burpees might be the ultimate calisthenic. SEALS do a lot of them. The more you can do, the better overall shape you are probably in. My personal trainer/Boss wants us to do Birthday Burpees, meaning our age in burpee reps. As they say in New York, fugettaboutit.
I do sets of ten (with the pushups) in between weights sets on weights days. Might not be ideal to do that, but it is my routine, and I like routine.
Wednesday, January 13. 2021
Among the machine options, the rower and the stair machines are most designed to help build some strength along with the heart stress. The advantage of the rower is that it is pretty much total body, and when you up the resistance, it's some strength along with the cardio.
To beat a dead horse, cardio is meant to be about heart fitness, so if your heart rate is not where you want it then all it is about is physical endurance (which is not a bad thing in itself).
The Maggie's protocol advises sprints for cardiac fitness, not long-slow. Long-slow, like walking or swimming laps, is fine for ordinary endurance and maintenance. It all depends on one's goals.
I like mixing up my cardio days with variety to avoid boredom. Treadmill sprints, rower, stair machine, ski machine. Usually only 30 minutes, then I finish my hour with accessory weights.
Reminder for January fitness people: unless you are a unicorn, do not use exercise to lose weight. That's not what it is for, and it only works for the rare unicorn. Exercise can be good for muscle weight gain, though, especially weight training. Losing fat is about nutrition.
Sunday, January 3. 2021
Thursday, December 3. 2020
Tuesday, December 1. 2020
Sunday, November 29. 2020
I tend to think of bands as ways to intensify the calisthenics part of the fitness triad. Many people are not very disciplined with home exercise (including me), but anything stressful is good.
- Resistance bands with handles
- Resistance bands without handles
Wednesday, September 30. 2020
Deads strengthen the "posterior chain," from neck to the soles of your feet. We tend to view deads as a legs exertion, but no, not only. That's why they are an invaluable totaly body exertion.
That posterior chain of muscles is what it makes it possible to be bipedal and to stand up straight instead of slouching. It's counterbalanced by various anterior muscle groups, expecially the abs.
I am no body-builder guy, but after 4 years of including deads in my routine twice weekly (pushing the weights, admittedly, but gradually with high-rep days and low rep days), I can no longer button my dress shirts. 2" more. That's crazy, not what I wanted but it just happened. Brooks Brothers shirts ain't cheap, and I fairly often wear jacket and tie at work, especially for meetings when it is expected. I don't have a single dress shirt that I can button now.
Deads are the single best way, and most efficient way, to stay sturdy after age 40.
Thursday, September 10. 2020
If you work out, say, 4 1/2 hours weekly (on 4 days) you can maintain or improve your physical condition, so it is worth doing if you have ambition limits, time limits, or need rest days. Way better than nothing but you will probably be disappointed by the pace of your gains compared to a 6 day program.
Here's what we would suggest:
-2 conditioning classes/week (combo of calisthenics, cardio, and light weights). If gym-phobic, it's difficult to do on one's own. Long-time readers know what these sorts of classes involve.
- 2 half-hour sessions of powerlifts (squats, bench, and rows one day; deads, pull-downs, and triceps the other) coupled with 2 half-hour sessions of HIIT cardio - no time for long slow - plus two 15-min sessions of selected auxiliary exercises
- If daily walks, jogs, or some sports are also in your life, you would be doing more exertion than most people.
Monday, September 7. 2020
Yes, mood and attitude are part of general fitness. Mens sana in corpore sano.
Up here, it's hiking season, getting towards hunting season and skiing season. Carpe diem, readers. Life is short.
Wednesday, August 26. 2020
I think I can pass the Army test. NOT the SEAL test. Can't bang out 100 pushups right now, or carry a man on my back for five miles.
Sunday, August 23. 2020
To lose body fat, low carbs is the way to go. But the age-old notion that eating fats and oils makes people fat is nonsense.
Believe it or not, there is a thing called "Rabbit Starvation." You can starve to death on a diet of rabbit meat.
Best nutritional summary I've been able to come up with, applying to most active, exercising people: To lose body fat, low carbs. To gain muscle mass (heavy weights often, ie 4 hrs/wk): lots of all foods 5 times daily. To gain general Fitness for Life (with 2 days of cardio, 2 days of calis, and 2 days of heavy): 5 small meals/day - 2 of them being snacks like yoghurt and nuts, or half a sandwich), with plenty of protein. If too scrawny, hit the weights for 6 months and eat all you can. Nothing wrong with a Big Mac and Fries with a beer if that's your goal. Nutrition has to be in sync with your goals.
Thursday, August 20. 2020
An excellent essay or, more precisely, long excerpt from the book Exercised. One quote:
Wednesday, August 19. 2020
It's high-school physics applied to the body: Levers are classified according to the relative placement of the fulcrum, the resistance and the force.
Any form of exercise can be made more interesting by thinking about the sort of lever action applied in single-joint exercises (like bicep curls or calf raises) or the multiple lever actions applied in complex, multi-joint movements like squats or running.
If you are fortunate enough to use the services of a professional trainer, that trainer will not be focusing on your muscles. He or she will focus on the mechanics of your movement(s) - proper lever use - to make your motion or activity as safe and effective as possible. That's why a trainer will make frequent corrections to your technique: Palms out (or in), wider stance (or narrower), head up (or down), chest up (or down) etc.
Even if you are not a fitness person, everybody knows that there is a right and wrong way to pick up something heavy, or to get out of a chair. It's all leverage.
Friday, August 14. 2020
In line with the Maggie's fitness program, I only swim twice weekly now, with HIIT laps as my pure cardio days. One sprint per 2 laps. Weights and calisthenics on other days.
Tuesday, August 11. 2020
We have plenty of thoughtful readers who use weight-lifting as a part of, or as the entirety, of their fitness programs. That is one of the cool things about an eclectic website.
I take all of your comments on fitness topics seriously.
Clearly, upping my routine after a few months of just running and calisthenics was part of my DOMS. What my genius trainer did for me this morning was to run me through ten minutes of leg stretches and light Tiger Tail rolling before we went to bench press. The pain disappeared.
Go figure. He suggested a heat pad for 10 minutes, then some light Tiger Tail. And yes, he blames it on getting back to more intense work. My pre-April routine was disrupted by gym closure, road running instead of treadmill and stair machine, a week's vacation, and do-it-yourself calisthenics (sadly, not as intense as gym classes). I had been doing 3 days of weights, 1-2 days of calis, and 1-2 days of HIIT cardio. No problems.
Monday, August 10. 2020
So painful that I could hardly do my morning HIIT run this morning. I resorted to fast hill-walks because it seems to be recommended that you keep moving as best you can. Yes, I try to eat enough and to use creatine on weights days.
Seems to me that barbell squats are my culprit. I never get it from Deads or anything else. It lasts 3-4 days, and makes me feel like an elderly gent hobbling around like a crip.
Have any of our readers had this issue?
Monday, August 3. 2020
Sunday, August 2. 2020
I've been doing weights twice weekly in my genius trainer's garage since mid-March, and was running twice/week until it got too damn hot for me, and Mrs. BD and I switched to walks. Walks with a spouse are worth doing, but are not exercise.
Since my big gym has re-opened, apparently the calisthenics classes have been small, say 7 people instead of 30. Fine with me, but harder to hide. Trying to get back to 2 days of heavy wts, 2 days of calis, and 2 days of HIIT cardio. That's the Maggie's program for general fitness and conditioning.
Also, I need the stair machine. It's easy to tell, because when I do barbell squats I have stiff legs for 3 days. One day of soreness is fine, but not 3.
What about our fitness readers?
Wednesday, July 29. 2020
The Maggie's Fitness for Life program includes both. Still, we tend to agree that calisthenics classes offer more bang for the buck (or for the time.)
The logic is that 50 minutes of intense calis (with maybe only 6-10-second breaks between routines) is a good heart stressor while also working on athleticism, balance, flexibility, light-weight endurance muscle work, and body-weight exercises. In addition, most calisthenics classes include specific HIIT routines like rowing sprints. Obviously, each person works at his or her own level.
Some thoughts about it here.
If you take three tough calisthenics classes weekly, do you need to do your own HIIT cardio? Maybe not, because calisthenics classes that keep your heart rate up are stressful cardio. It depends on how intensely you want to condition, and on how ambitious you are. What sorts of circuits do typical calisthenics classes include? Rowing sprints, kettlebell swings, pushups, jumping jacks, jump rope, heavy ropes, body weight squats, heavy ball throws, sandbag slams, floor and core work like planks and crunches, hand weights, stretches, etc etc. Fun stuff, never boring because the routines are only 30-60 seconds each.
We do like the idea of one "long, slow" cardio hour, like swimming, jogging, high-incline walking, stair machine, etc as a recovery day from a week's exertions with heavy weights and calisthenics. There is evidence that "active recovery" like that makes for more effective physical recovery than doing nothing. A 4-5-hour hill hike is a perfect recovery activity from demanding workouts.
With calisthenics, the less spare fat you carry, the better you will do and the more quickly you will move. To shed spare fat, cut the food volume and get rid of those carbs. (Our readers know what carbs are: fruit, juices, grains and grain products, beer, root vegetables, anything with sugar, etc.)
Tuesday, July 28. 2020
I've taken fitness classes which only use bands for resistance. In a way, band workouts are calisthenics with extra resistance.
For general fitness, bands are all the equipment you really need to buy unless you are in a serious muscle-building program. Believe me, the guy in the video did not grow that muscle bulk with bands alone.
Friday, July 24. 2020
Bernarr McFadden invented the American fitness "movement" around the turn of the century.
Not too different from today's fitness gurus. He got women on board with it too, back in the time when prosperity had been signified by a belly for men and women. The opposite, now.
Entertaining podcast: The Crazy, Forgotten Story of America's First Fitness Influencer
Wednesday, July 22. 2020
I never had a flab or weight problem, but before I got into my program I had a weakness and endurance problem which kinda depressed me. Sarcopenia due to physical neglect.
After around 4 years of my almost-daily weights/calisthenics/cardio program, I have gained only about 6 lbs. Probably lost some fat that was not obvious to me so maybe 7-8 lbs. of meat. I do not have a beefy build, so there are natural limits.
Also, probably from weights, my neck size has gone up over an inch. I can't button my dress shirts. Is that bragging? Also, my sports jackets are tight in the shoulders. Trust me, I am not over-muscled by a long shot, just fit, energetic, and functional.
I have enough dress clothing (and every other sort of clothing) to last the rest of my life and more, whether it fits perfectly or not. I am done with new clothing forever. Except maybe workout stuff - they seem to wear out fast. The sneakers, mainly.
Tuesday, July 14. 2020
Singles are excellent, serious cardio. Often, people who get their singles under good control aspire to do double-unders. It's natural ambition.
Where there is some air conditioning in summer, I like jumping for cardio. I enjoy working on my variations, but I still can't get consistent doubleunders.
Friday, July 3. 2020
Wednesday, June 10. 2020
We've written about this topic in the past, but it's worth reviewing the misconceptions about cardio fitness and cardio exercise. (Remember, in our view, "cardio" should be only 1/3 of your exercise program beacuse it does little for muscle and bone strength, and little for athleticism.)
Any exercise, from walking to weight-lifting, makes more demand on heart function than sitting or lying down. So cardio exercise has a spectrum from very light to maximum intensity. Simply put, the core purpose of "cardio" exercise is to maintain or upgrade heart function (cardiac condition is measured by things like a Cardiac Stress Test with Echo, Stroke Volume, Cardiac Output, cardiac vasculature, and left ventricle size to some extent). Like weight-lifting for skeletal muscle, it requires stress, relative to your conditioning and medical condition.
With lighter stresses (eg non-sprint, endurance-oriented swimming laps, jogging, rowing, stair machine, elliptical, etc) we are putting our hearts to some use, but we are working more on general time endurance than cardio. (Lots of people do those things thinking that they involve fat-burning, but don't count on that to work if you do 1 hour/day.) For people who are not training for specific goals, building endurance is great for life. Nobody wants to slow down or feel tired during ordinary recreational activities like sports or hiking. These non-sprint exercises aim for around 70% of one's max heart rate to make it worth your precious time.
The higher the physical demand - the intensity of an exertion for your level of fitness - the more you are training your heart rather than just using it. The highest levels of exertion (say, with sets of deadlifts near 80% of your max, or with 30-second sprints) are anaerobic and can push your heart rate to 90% of your max. That heart-pounding rest time or slow time is to catch up on oxygen.
For endurance, an hour of lap swimming, cycling, jogging, elliptical, stair machine, ski machine, rower, etc at around 70% of your max heart rate is where you ought to be, if in decent health. Over time, you will need to raise the speed to get to those heart rates. These exercises do nothing much to build muscle or bone strength.
For maximum cardiac fitness (with bonus endurance benefits as well), mixing in sprints which get your HR to 80-90% of your max should be included. Bursts of intensity. In the Maggie's Fitness for Life program, the other good sources of intense cardiac stress are the powerlifts and calisthenics. Ideally, some of all of those because there is more to fitness than cardiac fitness. Fitness is a package deal.
An interesting detail is that to up your game in any area of exertion, it's always a good idea to do what you do not usually do. Explosive linebackers get better with distance running, distance runners get better with weights and sprints, heavy lifters get better with calisthenics. Balance.
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