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Do You Have What It Takes To Be One Of The Strongest & Most Mentally Tough Citizens On Earth?

Ever heard of the ancient Spartan Agoge?

If you haven't heard of it, and you have a deep-rooted desire to become the strongest physical and mental version of yourself that you can possibly be, then I'd highly recommend that you keep reading.

The Agoge was the rigorous education and training regimen mandated for all male Spartan citizens (except the firstborn son of ruling houses). The training involved learning stealth, extreme loyalty, military and combat training, pain tolerance training, hunting skills, survival training and social communication preparation.

The aim of the system was to produce hardcore physically, mentally and morally strong males capable to serve in the Spartan army. Because Sparta was the only Greek city with no defensive walls, these men would become the “walls of Sparta”.

The Agoge was legendary and prestigious throughout the Greek world, and many aristocratic families from other cities vied to send their sons to Sparta to participate in the Agoge. The Spartans were extremely selective in which young men they would permit to enroll, and such honors were usually awarded to the honored citizens of Sparta in other cities and to just a few other families of supreme ancestry and importance.

In other words, the Spartans wanted to produce the strongest and most mentally tough citizens on earth, and to do this, they used the Agoge, a system of training that became the envy of the known world.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because now you too can become one of the strongest and most mentally tough citizens on earth. The biggest, baddest, toughest, most mentally resilient, loyal, moral, competitive and extreme version of you.

Sound like a worthy goal? Sound like something you'd like to slap on your resume? Sounds like something that will make you feel unstoppable, bulletproof and capable of handling anything life throws at you?

Then keep reading.

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The New Spartan Agoge

The ancient Spartans may be long gone, but a modern version of their Agoge is back.

The new Spartan Agoge, which was recently announced by the Spartan Race organization, will be held in Pittsfield, Vermont, on the famous “farm” of Spartan founder Joe DeSena, twice a year, once in summer and once in winter – and the first ever Agoge begins this February.

Here's just a taste of what to expect:

To complete the Agoge, you must commit to a 60-hour Agoge when you register, with an option to complete your training at 24- and 48-hour marks (just in case 60 hours turns out to be too big of a bite for you to chew). If you make it 24 hours, you will have completed “The Agoge 24,” and if you make it 48 hours, you will be credited with “The Agoge 48.” If you complete the Spartan Agoge in its entirety, you officially achieve “The Agoge 60.”

In the future, the Spartan will host the Agoge in historic locations across the globe and even feature longer durations for those who have already achieved the Agoge 60.

To complete the Spartan Agoge, you must overcome mental and physical obstacles that aim to develop your body, mind and spirit. Want some nitty-gritty details on what to expect? Then go listen to the Obstacle Dominator Episode 48 and Episode 50, a free two-part audio series on the Spartan Agoge.

I must emphasize that this event is not the equivalent of finally “getting your butt off the couch” to lose a few pounds. Instead, you will need to undertake months of learning, training and self-discovery to earn what will become a coveted achievement (and I've got a bunch more tips for you in just a moment – tips that will help you accelerate the process of getting ready for this thing).

To gain entry, you must apply, submit a list of references, and have successfully completed a considerable number of endurance and intellectual challenges. For example, you could have developed perseverance, camaraderie, and leadership training through the military, or by completing a good handful of difficult Spartan Races or other obstacle races, some tough Ironman triathlons, the famous Navy SEAL Kokoro camp, or anything else that really makes your bad-ass-ed-ness resume pop.

Is that even worth the trouble?

I'd say so. After all, finishers of the Agoge become innovative thinkers, prudent risk-takers, and expert decision-makers. They will embody the Spartan Code, a code of honor and respect that breeds trust and inspires action. Most importantly, they become masters of themselves. That sounds like a pretty good crowd to be a part of, and it means this isn't just a masochistic sufferfest. Instead, the promise is that you will emerge with a whole new skillset of survival that will make you one of the toughest people on the face of the planet.

Oh, and that's not all.

If you actually manage to pull off the Agoge, you become eligible to get the coveted Spartan Delta.

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The Spartan Delta

And what exactly is the Spartan Delta?

Here's a video that sums it up:

In short, the Delta itself promises to be one of the most coveted and beautiful trophies in the world, and a sign to yourself and the rest of the world that you possess everything it takes to take on any challenge, period. Once you've gotten the Agoge out of the way (or saved the Agoge for later), the Delta basically involves building an unbreakable body, an unshakable mind, and a spirit forged in steel by completing the following:

-A Spartan TriFecta (Sprint, Super, and Beast spartan race)

-An Endurance TriFecta (Spartan Regular Hurricane Heat, Spartan 12 Hour Hurricane Heat, and Spartan Ultra Beast) e).

-A Spartan Training TriFecta (an SGX Spartan Coaching Class, Spartan X Online Course Completion, and, of course, the Agoge you just read about).

If half the phrases above sound like gobbledygook and you're not familiar with Spartan racing terms, you can click here to go delve into what each of the above components is.

But, in a nutshell, anybody who completes the Delta sets themselves apart in the endurance athlete, grit, military, obstacle racing, confidence, and mental toughness community. You become a leader, a model, a teacher, and a master of yourself.

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How To Prepare For The Spartan Agoge

Alright, let's just say, theoretically, that you haven't yet shrunk away from your computer screen to go hunt down a kale shake and a yoga class.

Let's just say this thing intrigues you.

Let's just say that you, like me, can't turn down a chance to live life the fullest and see what your body and brain are truly capable of.

If that were the case, and you're still reading, how would I propose you prepare for a challenge like this? In three steps that look, read and sound far, far easier than may appear, here are my recommendations:

Step 1: Review the best mental strength podcasts and articles I have produced. Here are the ones I recommend:

Look, Feel and Perform Like An Ancient Spartan Warrior – How To Become An Absolute Physical Beast

26 Mile Night Hikes, Surf Swim Torture, 450 Pound Giant Logs And More: What To Expect at SEALFit Kokoro Camp And 9 Ways To Get More Tough.

The Iceman Returns: Wim Hof On Climbing Frigid Mountains In Underwear, Eating Only Once A Day, Activating Hormones With Breathing & More.

Secrets Of The Navy Seals: How To Train, Eat & Think Like The World’s Toughest Fighters

How Breath-Holding, Blood-Doping, Shark-Chasing, Free-Diving & Ketosis Can Activate Your Body’s Most Primal Reflex.

Step 2: Get the ultimate combination of strength, grit and endurance by reviewing the following resources:

Train Like The Lone Survivor – 3 Books That Will Turn You Into A Beast.

A Legendary Strength Coach’s Secrets to Build Mass Fast Without Destroying Your Body.

How Underground Russian Techniques From Old Soviet Training Journals Can Turn You Into An Endurance Beast.

Top 10 Tips To Race A Spartan Beast.

-Step 3: Make your body bulletproof to injury and overtraining by reviewing the following resources:

Regularly do the Foam Roller Mobility Routine I describe in 5 Little-Known Ways To Biohack Your Workouts, Enhance Your Exercise Productivity & Maximize Your Fitness.

Regularly do heat acclimation workouts like this.

-How To Turn Your Workspace Into A Calorie Decimating Standing Desk or Treadmill Workstation.

26 Top Ways To Recover From Workouts and Injuries with Lightning Speed

25 Ways To Know With Laser-Like Accuracy If Your Body Is Truly Recovered And Ready To Train

To put the icing on the cake, you may want to add the brand new, fully updated version of my 450 page book Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life (New, Updated Edition) to your library. And actually read it (or listen to it while you're training).

Let's face it: if you really, truly want to show up for the Spartan Agoge or complete the Spartan Delta, there is absolutely nothing that is going to replace getting out there and kicking your own ass with gritty, bonified, physically and mentally difficult workouts. So you can't just sit at your computer and listen to, read or watch the resources above. Instead, review them, avoid getting sucked down other rabbit holes or distracted by shiny internet pennies, and start practicing and implementing what you learn. I'm serious: I know my own material and I've narrowed down the best of the best for you, so you don't have to waste time hunting down other stuff. 

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Summary

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm certainly in.

I've got my plane tickets to Vermont and you'll see me at the Winter Agoge.

I'll also be completing the full Spartan Delta.

And here are a few final resources for you to take a deeper dive, or to put your money where your mind is and register.

Click here to learn more about Spartan's 2016 “Year Of Resilience”

Click here for the official Spartan Delta information and sign-up page

Click here for the official Agoge general information page/schedule

Click here for the official February “Winter Agoge” page

Click here for the official June “Summer Agoge” page

So, what do you think? Do you think you could handle the Agoge? The full Delta? Do you have more training or other questions for me? Leave your questions, comments and feedback below.

Ben Greenfield’s Sauna Workout (The Exact Sauna Workout I Do Every Morning)

As I mentioned in my recent talk (pictured above) at the Biohackers Summit in Finland, I'm simply not a guy who leaps out of bed in the morning to charge up a mountain, do a Crossfit WOD, hammer on my bicycle, or throw a barbell on my back.

Instead, as you can read about in the article “My Exact Morning Routine Unveiled Step-By-Step“, I'm a big proponent of engaging in morning activities that don't involve running from an imaginary lion and instead involve activating the parasympathetic, “rest-and-digest” branch of your autonomic nervous system.

This practice sets the standard for the entire rest of your day to be less stressful and more productive, and, as I discussed in the recent podcast episode #341 on how to hack your nervous system, even allows you to do things like decrease salivary cortisol, do more subconscious deep diaphragmatic breathing and produce more focused alpha brain waves during the rest of your day. So I typically save any hard workouts for the later afternoon to early evening, when body temperature peaks, reaction time peaks and post-workout protein synthesis peaks.

These days, nearly every morning, my parasympathetic nervous system, relaxation-inducing and stress-relieving activity of choice is a thirty minute sauna workout in this infrared sauna that I “biohacked” in my basement, and in this article, I'm going to give you the exact sauna routine I do every day.

Even if you don't own a sauna, you can do this same morning workout in your living room, basement, backyard or in the sauna at a health club. All you need is your body weight, and the self control to engage in deep breathing and focused movement for thirty minutes each morning. Enjoy!

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Let's start with why I choose to use the sauna so friggin' much. In the article “Ten Scientifically Proven Reasons I Am Addicted To A Daily Sauna” I delve into the nitty-gritty details and research, and here's a synopsis of sauna benefits I describe in that article:

-Increased lifespan with lower risk of sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease.
-Skin-based detoxification of heavy metals and environmental chemicals.
-Increased growth hormone production and muscle fiber recovery.
-Arthritis relief and lower muscle soreness / joint pain.
-Increased lean muscle mass and increased fat oxidation.
-Rise in white blood cell count and immune system integrity.
-Increased capillary circulation to skin for color, tone and skin repair.
-Relief of insomnia and enhanced deep sleep.
-Increased red blood cell production and endurance performance.
-Increased stress resilience from heat shock protein production.

In addition, here's a synopsis of what my former podcast guest Dr. Rhonda Patrick has to say in her article “Are Saunas The Next Big Performance Enhancing Drug?

-Enhance endurance by increasing nutrient delivery to muscles thereby reducing the depletion of glycogen stores.
-Reducing heart rate and reducing core temperature during workload.
-Increase muscle hypertrophy by preventing protein degradation.
-Cause induction of heat shock proteins and a hormetic response (which has also been shown to increase longevity in lower organisms).
-Cause a massive release of growth hormone.
-Improving insulin sensitivity.
-Increases the storage and release of norepinephrine, which improves attention and focus.
-Increases prolactin, which causes your brain to function faster by enhancing myelination and helps to repair damaged neurons.
-Increases BDNF, which causes the growth of new brain cells, improves the ability for you to retain new information, and ameliorates certain types of depression and anxiety.
-Causes a robust increase in dynorphin, which results in your body becoming more sensitive to the ensuing endorphins.

So if you're not already hitting a sauna at least once a week, you should be. And I'm really not joking, I'm now using the sauna every single day of the week for thirty minutes. But rather than staring at the wall or reading magazines, I get the most bang for the buck out of my sauna routine by doing the workout you're about to discover.

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Every morning I wake up, check my heart rate variability for five minutes while I journal and read, then I get out of bed, wander downstairs to the kitchen, and put on the coffee on. While the coffee is brewing, I do some easy stretching and foam rolling. I then drink my cup of coffee while reading blog posts, research articles and anything else relatively non-stressful, then I go down to the basement and turn on the sauna to pre-heat it. While the sauna is pre-heating, I use the restroom.

Then, I perform the following three times through, either doing deep nasal breathing or using an elevation training mask for the entire routine:

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-20 Hindu Squats

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-20 Hindu Pushups

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-60 second Boat Pose

-60 second Wheel Pose

-10 Lateral Lunges Right Leg

-10 Lateral Lunges Left Leg

-60 seconds of The Founder Exercise (from this book by Dr. Eric Goodman)

When completed three times through, all the steps above take approximately thirty minutes. To hyperoxygenate my body and get a final dump of blood vessel expanding nitric oxide into my system, I finish with fifty deep, rapid, hyperoxygenation breaths (described in detail here) and a five to ten minute cold shower or cold pool soak.

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So that's it.

When I finish this morning sauna routine, my body feels mobile, pain-free, full of energy, and “charged up” for the day.

A few questions came through in the comments section below which I think may benefit from addressed here, so here we go:

Q. Why not a wet sauna/steam room?

A. Here's why I don't use a steam room: I can never be sure of the quality of the water I'm sucking in. As I delve into in this post on “The Scary Facts About Gyms“, a wet sauna ensures you are breathing in flouride, chlorine, birth control pills, pharmaceuticals and anything else that happens to be in the water supply of the gym unless they are using a very good central water filter in that gym, which is usually not the case. However, if you put one in your own house and you can control any mold or fungi, it's not a bad option (although you do miss out on all the benefits of infrared).

Q. Do you take a cold shower after?

A. Yep, I take an icy cold shower or (if I can find the time) a 5-10 minute soak in the cold pool outside my house.

Q. For those without access to a sauna, how many/how much of these benefits could come with simply overdressing?

A. If you can get pretty darn hot while exercising, then you can definitely reap the benefits of heat shock protein production, blood flow, nitric oxide production, etc., but here's the issue (and why I choose the sauna): that can be far more stressful and conducive to overtraining than a relaxing (albeit hot) sauna session.

What do you think? Do you plan on giving this a try? Do you have your own sauna routine to share, or questions about mine? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to reply. 

If you want the same sauna that I use (The Clearlight Series Y Yoga Sauna), go to Clearlight website, and use code “BEN”, which gets you $450 off regular pricing, free shipping ($550) and a free ergonomic backrest (reg.$70.) Or call 800.317.5070 and tell them you want the “Ben Greenfield Special” – they'll hook you up. 

How Breath-Holding, Blood-Doping, Shark-Chasing, Free-Diving & Ketosis Can Activate Your Body’s Most Primal Reflex.

I'm infatuated with water.

Always have been.

But despite playing water polo in college, swimming in open water swim competitions in the Caribbean, competing in a decade of Ironman triathlons, taking daily cold water plunges, and even using the soothing sounds of water to help me sleep, I never really knew why I was so drawn to water until, last month, I read the book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.

In Blue Mind, author Wallace J. Nichols combines cutting-edge neuroscience with compelling personal stories from top athletes, leading scientists, military veterans, and gifted artists to show how proximity to water can improve performance, increase calm, diminish anxiety, and increase professional success – and why some people, like me, are genetically hardwired to have a strong, magnetic draw to water.

Perhaps this relationship with water is why one another favorite book of mine is also about the intimate and intense interaction of the human body and brain with water. That book is Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves, and last year, I released an intriguing podcast episode with James Nestor, the author of Deep.

During that podcast, entitled “The Extreme Sport You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, And How You Can Use It’s Renegade Techniques To Become Superhuman“, James highly recommended that I tap into the sport of freediving to become a stronger man, to become a better athlete, and to satisfy my primal urge to be in or near water. James even recommended a specific location that I should visit to learn exactly how to do this, a place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida called “Immersion Freediving“.

You're about to learn how that simple suggestion from James morphed into an incredible adventure that includes breath-holding, blood-doping, shark-chasing, ketosis, spearfishing and a reactivation of one of the most primal reflexes known to man.

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Now, allow me to clarify something: I don't want to be a competitive freediver. 

Competitive freediving looks like this:

Impressive? Yes.

Something I have a deep desire to do? No.

So, considering I have close to zero interest in traveling in a straight vertical line up and down in the ocean to touch a mysterious metal plate plunged at hundreds of depths of feet, why do I really want to learn to freedive?

Three reasons, really, and here they are:

1) Staying Calm In The Face Of Extreme Stress

As the Wall Streets Journal reports in the article “Why Olympic Athletes Are Learning To Hold Their Breath For More Than Five Minutes“, the goal of some of the world's best athletes who have turned to freediving to enhance their performance is to learn how to control breathing and stay relaxed under uncomfortable, extreme circumstances, then adapt those lessons to moments of panic in more familiar surroundings – like staring down an icy mountain slope and facing a series of death-defying airborne flips and twists.

A big, big part of freediving involves learning how to consciously and nearly instantly lower your heart rate, how to maintain control of your body and tolerate the discomfort when your diaphragm begins producing incredibly painful and disturbing contractions, and figuring out how to be a complete ninja when it comes to some of the world's top relaxation breathwork techniques, like box breathing, 2-2-10-2 breathing, pranayama breathing, purging, packing and a host of other respiratory weapons.

In other words, freediving teaches you how to rewire and take near complete control over your primal fight-or-flight instinct. I would very much dig having that skill.

Yep, freediving skills make you zen.

2) Activating The MDR

The Mammalian Dive Reflex, or MDR, is a deeply ancestral reflex in which your body changes its entire physiology to allow it to stay underwater for extended periods of time. It is exhibited strongly in aquatic, diving, underwater mammals like seals, otters, and dolphins, but it also exists in other mammals, including humans.

We all have the MDR when we're babies. Then, at about 6 months old, when it no longer serves us to suck in an enormous breath of air after popping out of our mom's uterus, we lose the reflex.

So why do I want my MDR back?

Upon initiation of the reflex, several changes happen to a body, in this order:

Bradycardia, a lowering of the heart rate, is the first response to submersion. Immediately upon facial contact with cold water, the human heart rate slows down ten to twenty-five percent. This means if your resting heart rate is, say, 50 beats per minute, it can slow to under 20 beats per minute. Elite freedivers have shown a heart as low as 8 beats per minute when diving deep. Seals experience changes that are even more dramatic, going from about 125 beats per minute to as low as 10 on an extended dive. Slowing the heart rate reduces the need for oxygen in the bloodstream, which leaves more precious oxygen to be used by your other organs.

After the heart rate drops, peripheral vasoconstriction, which is a narrowing of vessels in your extremities, sets in. When under the high pressure induced by deep diving, the capillaries in your extremities start closing off, which stops blood circulation to those areas. Toes and fingers close off first, then hands and feet, and finally arms and legs stop allowing blood circulation, leaving more blood for use by your heart and brain. But your muscles can have as much as 12% of their oxygen storage in muscle, and so they can keep working long after capillary blood supply is stopped. Your body begins to become a highly efficient oxygen-utilizing machine.

Then the blood shift occurs. Peripheral vasoconstriction in the extremities starts as soon as you get in the water, pushing blood into your thoracic organs in your chest cavity, particularly your lungs. This engorges the alveolar capillaries in your lungs, increasing gas pressure and the pressure inside the chest. As depth increases, peripheral vasoconstriction and hydrostatic pressure on the extremities continue to drive the blood shift. When depth increases to the point where chest compression limits are reached, the blood shift accelerates. The blood shift keeps pressure inside the chest high enough to allow a diver to proceed deeper without the chest collapsing.

Your brain temperature is actually dropping this whole time. This is why both a conscious and an unconscious person can survive longer without oxygen under water than in a comparable situation on dry land,.The exact mechanism for this effect is likely a result of brain cooling, similar to the protective effects seen in patients treated with deep hypothermia. When your face is submerged in water, even it's not extremely cold, receptors that are sensitive to cold within the nasal cavity and other areas of the face relay the information to your brain, and your brain then kicks in to cause bradycardia and peripheral vasoconstriction. As you learned earlier, blood then gets diverted from your limbs and all organs but the heart and the brain, allowing you to conserve oxygen.

The net effect of all these adaptions is that you come up out of the water feeling like a completely zenned out monk. I've talked to guys who have done 10 day silent meditation courses, intense series of transcendental meditation, and brain electrostimulation for changing brain waves…and a few deep freedives get you the same thing.

But that's not the best part of teaching your body to  “re-activate” your MDR.

The best part of the dive reflex is a compression of your spleen. The deeper you go, the more your spleen compresses, and when this happens your spleen goes into hyperdrive and injects loads more oxygen-carrying hemoglobin into your blood. This is, effectively, the equivalent of blood doping, a banned method of artificially increase oxygen carrying capacity of the blood by taking illegal drugs or injecting your own blood back into your body. But you get this same effect free (and legally) by freediving.

So freediving activates your body's most primal survival reflex, in a much, much more powerful way than, say, splashing cold water on your face.

3) Spearfishing

Let's start here: I love hunting. I love the experience, the primal nature of it, the exercise, and of course, the fact that I can harvest my own tasty food with a bit of hard work and intelligence.

But hunting with a gun is boring. It's not relatively challenging to be able to harvest an animal that has no clue you're anywhere in the vicinity as you shoot it from 1000, 2000 or 3000 yards away. But archery? That's a different story. I love to bowhunt, to spot-and-stalk, and to hunt an animal from as little as 15 yards away.

Similarly, I love fish.

I love to watch fish, to swim with fish and of course, and to eat fish.

But a day of fishing leaves me about as excited, refreshed and fulfilled as a day of staring at paint dry. I'm simply not a big fan of sitting on a boat or standing on shore casting. That statement is not meant to judge fishermen: it's just the way I am.

However, I would say the rough equivalent of bowhunting on land is spearfishing in the water, and firearm hunting is to regular fishing as archery hunting is to spearfishing. Spearfishing has always intrigued me, and the best, most efficient, most successful spearfisherman are – you guessed it – freedivers (one interesting reason for this, whether you plan on spearfishing or not, is that when you're not all decked out in alien-esque scuba gear, fish actually approach you and swim with you).

Want to see more of what I mean? Check out “Spearing Magazine“, a publication full of spearfishing eye candy.

spearfishing

So it is for each of these reasons that nine days ago, I discovered myself standing, along with four friends who I talked into joining me, on the front threshold of the door of Immersion Freediving in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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Enter Ted Harty.

I and my four buddies knocked on the door of Ted's private home at 8am sharp for the start of our first freediving class, and when Ted flung open the door to greet us, I immediately realized he wasn't one of those super-skinny, mild-mannered freediving guys I'd seen softly speaking in freediving videos.

Instead, at over six feet tall and 230 solid pounds, Ted is a big, bold, loud, extroverted character. He looks like a boxer, and not like a guy who you'd expect to be diving at incredibly efficient oxygen capacity to depths deeper than most human beings have ever ventured.

But it was Ted who was about to open my eyes to a whole new world of freediving, and who I would spend nearly every waking hour of the next ninety-six hours of my life learning every possible closely-guarded breath-holding and deep-diving tactic.

Ted began his underwater career in 2005, as a scuba instructor in the Florida Keys.  Over the years, Ted became a Scuba Schools International Instructor and a Professional Association of Diving Instructors Staff Instructor.

But whenever Ted was on the boat and did not have students to take care of, he’d jump in with mask, fins and snorkel and play around on the reef, sans scuba equipment. As Ted highlights in this fascinating, quick video about his life:

“Sometimes I’d have just five minutes to swim around without all of my scuba gear. I loved it. I could swim down to the sand at Sombrero Reef and hang out for a bit at 20 feet. I wanted more. I wanted to learn how to stay down longer and how to dive deeper.”

So, in January of 2008, Ted took his first Performance Freediving International (PFI) course.

“I couldn’t believe how little I knew about freediving at the time. As a scuba instructor I knew more about diving physiology than the average Joe, but quickly realized I knew nothing about freediving. At the start of the course I had a 2:15 breath-hold, but after just four days of training I did a five-minute hold! I couldn’t believe it was possible.”

So next, Ted signed up for instructor-level courses at Performance Freediving. He was soon offered a job teaching with Performance Freediving, when he moved to Fort Lauderdale.

Then, in 2009 Ted went to PFI’s annual competition. At the time, he was about a 80- to 90-foot freediver and weighed 230 pounds. He wasn’t in good shape at all, but after three weeks of training under the tutelage of world-reknowned freedivers Kirk Krack and Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, he did a 54 meter (177 -feet) freedive.

“I was blown away by what I was capable of.”

Ted spent a year working with Kirk and Mandy, while traveling around the country teaching the Intermediate Freediver program. Then, in 2010, a much more fit Ted went back to PFI’s annual competition. That year his new personal best was 213 feet, and currently he's managed to up that to an impressive 279 feet.

tedharty

In June 2012, Ted was selected as the Team Captain for the US Freediving Team at the Freediving World Championships, and in 2013 he attained PFI Advanced Instructor and PFI Instructor Trainer, becoming the first and only PFI independent instructor to receive this rating.

Oh yeah, and Ted also holds the record for hypoxic underwater swimming in the pool, having done 7 full lengths (175 meters) without a single breath. 

But most impressive?

Ted has anemia.

This means his blood can't deliver oxgyen as efficiently to his muscles and brain as most of the world's population. Thes means he has a blood hematocrit level of 34, easily 1/3 less than most athletes. This is a condition that would leave most folks huffing and puffing for air after climbing a flight of stairs.

Obviously, anemia hasn't stopped Ted. And now he was about to share his secrets with us.

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Now, before you discover exactly what Ted taught us, you should know one other juicy, important detail about this freediving excursion, a detail that will especially intrigue the average nutrition nerd.

That detail goes by the word “ketosis”.

See, around the same time I recorded that first freediving podcast I mentioned earlier, I also released an interview with University of Florida researcher and scientist Dominic D' Agostino. In that episode, “A Deep Dive Into Ketosis: How Navy Seals, Extreme Athletes & Busy Executives Can Enhance Physical and Mental Performance With The Secret Weapon of Ketone Fuel“, Dominic highlights his research into the use of ketones to enhance breathhold time and reduce the brain's requirements for oxygen.

Apparently, Dominic's research seems to be suggesting the fact that diet-induced ketosis from a high-fat, low-carb intake, especially when combined with the use of nutrition supplements such as powdered ketones or MCT oil, vastly reduce the need for the brain to use oxygen to burn glucose. This is because the brain can use up to around 75% of its fuel from ketones. So a ketone-fed or a fat-adapted brain can be better equipped to withstand low oxygen availability and potentially support longer breath-hold times. Dominic's research also shows that in the presence of ketosis, the brain and body are able to resist the potential cell damage of long periods of time with low oxygen, also known as “hypoperfusion”.

As I learned in a tortuous lab experiment last year at University of Connecticut (gory details here), a high-fat, low-carb diet can teach and allow the muscles to tap into more fat for fuel, making your body crave less use of oxygen in the large muscles of the legs, arms or other areas that you've learned oxygen gets shunted away from when deep underwater.

A diet low in sugar and starch is also less acidic. This lowers carbon dioxide levels in the body, which could theoretically also increase breath hold time. This is because breath holding is normally terminated due to an urge to breathe that is mostly caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels.

Interestingly, most of the animals that regularly rely upon the mammalian diving reflex are marine mammals. Marine mammals, for the most part, live on almost exclusively fat and protein (e.g. fish) and yet are able to maintain a largely aerobic, (oxygen-based, metabolism – even while holding their breath.

Based on all this, the week prior to my freediving trip, I talked to Dominic and asked him how I could quickly get back into ketosis so that I could maximize my breathhold time and my tolerance to freediving. His reply was simple:

1) Immediately switch to 80%+ fat-based diet…

2) Take 2-3 servings of powdered ketones in the form of “KetoCaNa” per day (Prototype Nutrition was kind enough to give 10% discount with code BG2015)…

3) Use MCT oil or MCT powder liberally in smoothies, teas, coffees, etc…

Easy enough.

So I immediately cut sugar and starches, and shifted my diet to include meals such as fatty fish, walnuts and chia seeds, coconut milk, and copious amounts of decaffeinated “Bulletproof Coffee” (caffeine raises heart rate, so caffeinated coffee flies in the face of becoming a better freediver). Using this strategy, and based on my testing with a Ketonix breath testing device, I achieved a deep state of ketosis (3+ mmol ketones for you quantified geeks) within just 48 hours. Incidentally, this is much more immediate and deeper level of ketosis than I ever achieved in previous experiments sans powdered ketones and high MCT oil intake.

Hooray for science.

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Then, armed with a boatload of ketones circulating through my bloodstream and feeding my brain, I delved into Ted's class.

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Now here's the deal: out of respect to Ted's proprietary system and method of instruction, I'm not going to reveal everything that I learned over 96 hours of intense freediving instruction. However, there were some definite highlights.

Day one…

Ted began by scaring the hell out of us.

For the first three classroom hours of the course, we learned every possible method on the face of the planet to avoid something called “shallow-water blackout”. Shallow-water blackout is a sudden loss of consciousness caused by oxygen starvation, and this unconsciousness strikes most commonly within 15 feet of the surface, where expanding, oxygen-hungry lungs literally suck oxygen from your brain and into your blood.

In other words, you don't usually die underwater. You die on top of the water. 

Armed with sheer dread of passing out in the water, we proceeded to the pool for “static” breathhold training. Here are the basics of how to hold your breath for a really, really long time…

…relax by spending several minutes doing ventilation breathwork: 2 seconds in, 2 seconds hold, 10 seconds out, 2 seconds hold, repeat. Just try it. You may get so relaxed that your fingers get tingly. But that's not good. This is because you blow off too much CO2 you will start to have certain symptoms, and tingling in the fingers (along with euphoria and tunnel vision) is one of those symptoms. This is also known as “hyperventilation”, or “overpurging”, and if you start a dive with these symptoms you are putting yourself at risk for a whiteout, which is basically a blackout that occurs in the beginning of a dive.

…next, do five “purges” to blow off carbon dioxide: 1 second in, 4 seconds out. This type of purging can very easily be confused with hyperventilation, and I really don’t recommend you try it unless you’ve had formal instruction in how to do it the correct way, as it can lead the same type of dangerous issues I described above.

…finish with a deep, deep belly breath that you move up to your chest, your shoulders and your neck. You literally take a breath with your entire friggin' body.

Then…plunge your face into the water, relax every possible muscle, and wait for intense urges to breathe, painful diaphragmatic contractions, and a complete body freak-out to occur as you force yourself to zen out while sending your body a message that you've completely cut off its most crucial fuel source: oxygen.

Once you've got that down, you do a similar exercise, but this time you empty all the air out of your body, and then do it upside down. Here is yours truly, demonstrating.

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Allow me to make a very, very important point: don't try this on your own. You don't want to get your lifeless body fished out of a pool after you get shallow water blackout by playing around all by yourself with breathholds. And for Pete's sake, don't do it in your car either.

My first breathhold: three minutes. This was without the use of ketones. As a smart little guinea pig scientist, I knew we'd have another static breathhold session the next day, so I waited to use the KetoCaNa and MCT Oil, and spent the rest of the pool sesson learning some very crucial safety techniques.

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Day two…

We began with more time in the pool. My body was already morphing into a wrinkled prune from living in the water, and this freediving course wasn't even halfway over.

Breathhold number two, which I attempted 30 minutes after consuming a serving ketones and tablespoon of MCT oil…

…was 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Granted, I'll readily admit that adding an extra minute and fifteen seconds to my breathhold was partially due to becoming more comfortable with the training and partially due to my mammalian dive reflex kicking into hyperdrive. But I also highly suspect that ketosis helped.

After the morning pool session and a brief stop a sandwich shop, we headed to the ocean, where I was about to experience one of the most frustrating times of my entire sporting career (for those of who question the high-fat, ketotic virtues of a sandwich shop, please don't freak out too much: I ordered the tuna salad wrap and dumped my tuna out of the wrap).

Now allow me to clarify something: I've hammered through 5K open water swim competitions, hundreds of hours swimming in the surf, and freezing nights in the ocean during the brutal SEALFit Kokoro camp, but in my entire life, I've never ventured more than fifteen feet below the surface of the ocean. 

Nonetheless I felt ready. After all, Ted had taught me the “Frenzel technique” of equalization, and I'd been practicing it quite a bit on dry land. It basically goes like this:

-Pinch your nose and close your mouth…

-Close off your epiglottis (you know you are doing this if when you breathe out with a wide open mouth, you can stop the air)…

-Seal your mouth even further by performing a T-Lock (using your tongue to seal the mouth shut along the gum line just behind and above the teeth)…

-Use the muscles in the throat, cheeks and the tongue to compress the airspace you have created. You can push the tongue up inside the space, making a K-Lock (the movement you make when you say the letter K)…

-Ensure that your soft palate is open and neutral to allow the air which you are compressing to reach the openings of the sinuses and the eustachian tubes. The soft palate is open when its relaxed. Play with this sensation by feeling it move up and down when you either blow out through pursed lips (up position, not what we want), and when you breath out through your nose with an open mouth (down position, also not what we want). During this process find the neutral point, as this is what you need to leave it in while diving…

-Allow the air which you are compressing to fill the air spaces in your ears and sinuses…

-When you are doing this on dry land (with a half pinched nose) you should hear and feel a puff of air come out of your nose. You should also see the front of your upper neck area move up and down as you do this…

-You will need to re-load your mouth after you descend further, so practice filling your mouth with bits of air, then closing your epiglottis…

-Practice the whole technique with empty lungs so you know you are not cheating and compressing air directly from the chest and stomach, which shouldn't move at all…

Easy, eh? Now, do all this upside down while hovering over a six hundred and forty foot deep ocean.

You get the picture. And I failed. Big time.

On my first ocean dive, I made it to a grand total of  twelve feet. Then I spent nearly two minutes at that depth, making frustrated, desperate attempts to equalize so that I didn't rupture my precious eardrums. I came back to the surface sputtering, spitting and very disappointed in myself.

On the next attempt, I made it to  thirteen feet. At this rate, I'd get to the magic first-day-in-the-ocean goal depth of thirty three feet after an impossibly daunting number of dive attempts.

Still no dice.

Third attempt? Fifteen feet.

Not only was I was getting more and more frustrated that I couldn't equalize my ears, but I was getting seasick, blowing blood out my nose, and seeing sharks. Yes: sharks. Florida is the shark-bite capital of the world, and now my blood was floating around in the ocean, along with bits of tuna fish sandwich I was puking up.

Not a good day. I got back on the boat determined to practice my Frenzel equalization 500 times that night, while hanging upside down off the edge of my bed.

Day three…

I woke up bleary-eyed, exhausted and keeping my fingers crossed that the day would go better. We spent the entire morning in Ted's classroom, learning the physiology of freediving, the physics of freediving and even the psychology of freediving, including how to voluntarily shut down our “fight-and-flight” sympathetic nervous system, visualize, decrease our heart rate, kick more efficiently and much, much more.

Then, after skipping the dreaded sandwich and opting instead for more ketones and oil, I headed back to the thirty-minute boat ride out to the middle of the ocean with the rest of the class.

The rest of the day didn't go much better. This time, I made it to barely twenty feet, but only on the very last dive, and again with over two minutes of underwater struggling and frustration, and not the peaceful deep blue calm I had been hoping for.

See, voluntarily relaxing your fight-and-flight nervous system and doing perfect equalization to dive is easy in a dry-land classroom. But it's not so easy when you tear down the classroom, throw it in the ocean, then surround it with shark sightings, along with stinging jellyfish floating dangerously nearby and enormous swells drifting you seven miles out into the ocean.

At the end of day three, I posted this exasperated photo to Facebook:

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Note the caption:

Bleeding nose, torn up eardrum, on the fence about another day in the ocean…free diving is hard work!

I collapsed into bed, once again exhausted, disappointed in myself, worried about my ears and nose, wondering if I had brain damage, and finally drifting off to a fitful night of sleep.

Day four…

Day four promised to be the biggest day yet.

The plan? Spend the entire day in the ocean, practicing dive after dive after dive until we perfectly nailed eighty-four feet. I sat on the dock listening to Ted outline this plan, internally dreading another day of frustration in the water.

Before heading out into the ocean, we learned what Ted described as the secret sauce of every good freediver, an awkward, stomach-sucking pose in which you exhaust every last bit of oxygen from your body, then hold your breath in a crawl position as your body goes into painful, involuntary spasms. Ted described that this is how he begins every day, and suddenly my morning deep breathing and yoga routine seemed very ho-hum.

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We headed back out onto the ocean. On dive one, I made it back down to twenty feet, then once again simply writhed and struggled in the ocean, attempting to equalize.

I came up for air. The sky was overcast and grey. But the water was eerily calm. There was still time for more diving.

On dive two, something clicked. Perhaps my mammalian dive reflex kicked in. Perhaps my sympathetic nervous system was finally responding to my ventilation practice. Perhaps my body's neuromuscular system was finally learning to relax. I made it to forty-five feet, turned, smiled at Ted's camera, and returned to the surface, where the rain was lightly falling.

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Eighty-four feet still seemed far away, but forty-five feet was progress, and over three times deeper than I'd ever gone in my life.

On the next dive, I ventilated for five minutes… 

Two in, hold two, ten out, hold two.

I purged…

One in, four out, one in four out, again, again, again.

I took my deep breath…

Belly, chest, shoulders, throat, suck, suck, suck, equalize, go.

I dove with my eyes closed. Fifteen feet. Then thirty feet. Forty-five feet passed by. Then sixty feet. And then, at a tranquil, peaceful beautiful blue depth of sixty-six feet, I did an underwater fist pump, and kicked back to surface with plenty of air to spare and a big smile on my face. I was actually learning to freedive.

I surfaced to loud shouting, hand waving, a churning sea, and this dark black sky I photographed with my phone:

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Ted checked the weather radar, and it revealed funnel clouds. Yep, that means tornado-warning for you Western-state folks. The boat captain was waving his arms and yelling at us to immediately get in the boat, and I wasn't about to hesitate.

I swam like hell to the boat, pulled myself in, and then spent the final hour of my freediving course holding on for dear life as the boat motored back twelve miles to shore in lighting, pelting rain, dark thunderclouds and extreme gusts of wind.

Eighty-four feet would have to wait, but when it comes, I'll be ready.

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So what did I discover in this adventure?

First, and quite interestingly, I've learned the body can massively increase breathhold time through a combination of mammalian dive reflex activation and some very probable help from ketones. I'm staying in ketosis indefinitely as I continue to experiment with the new supplements and testing techniques that make it far easier to hack one's way into high-fat dieting.

Second, after countless hours of breath-counting, ventilation, breath-hold, inhaling slowly, exhaling slowly and nasal breathing, I've developed enormous amounts of patience. The day after the freediving course ended, I went on a sixty minute run while breathing through my nose the entire time, and felt afterwards as though I'd finished a relaxing yoga class. The next day, I ventured into the gym, lifted weights with the same technique, and was shocked when I looked at my watch and saw that I'd spent ninety minutes working out with calm, patient focus. I've discovered a whole new approach to breathing for cortisol lowering, for workout focus and for daily patience that gives me monk-like perseverance in the face of extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme depths and extreme stress. And I've even downloaded an apnea app to my phone to practice full-body writhing breathholds while I watch Hulu.

And perhaps most importantly, I've learned how to activate and control the most primal reflex known to man and the reflex that Olympic athletes around the world are now pursuing: the mammalian dive reflex.

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What's next?

Stay tuned for a detailed podcast with Ted Harty coming soon, in which Ted and I will reveal many of the tactics I breezed over in this article, tactics that will help you whether you want to manage stress better, become a better athlete, increase your blood oxygen levels, or freedive. In the meantime, you can check out Ted's classes at ImmersionFreediving.com.

Stay tuned for a follow-up Q&A article to reply to the many questions I've been getting about ketosis and ketones.

And of course, stay tuned to my Instagram account in the near future for some entertaining spearfishing photos.

In the meantime, do you have questions, comments or feedback about free-diving, breath-holding, ketosis, spear-fishing or more? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to reply.

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Unlocking The Mysteries Of Strength Training For Endurance Athletes.

A quick discussion at the starting line of a triathlon or other endurance race, a review of any forum devoted to endurance sports, or an article in any running, cycling or triathlon magazine tends to expose you to the same standard strength training advice over and over again…

sport-specificity dictates that endurance athletes don't need to be lifting heavy stuff…

do high reps, low resistance for endurance and low reps, high resistance for strength…

…strength training will make an endurance athlete bulky…

…there's no evidence that strength training makes you faster…

…show me one professional endurance athlete who lifts heavy weights and is successful…

…and a host of other comments that my podcast guests and I delve into on today's show.

My first guest, Caleb Bazyler is one of the lead authors of the article Strength Training For Endurance Athletes: Theory To Practice. This up-to-date treatise of the latest, well, theories and practices, inspired me to get Caleb on the show, along with his sidekick Jacob Goodin, who helped create the plan in the article and edited some of the manuscript.

Caleb is currently completing his PhD at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science in conjunction with the Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education. Jacob designs and implements programs for middle and long distance runners and is finishing his master's degree at ETSU. Finally, my third guest on this show is Chris Taber, who is the strength and conditioning coach at ETSU.

In our discussion, you'll discover:

-Why there's so much conflict among coaches about the role of strength training for endurance athletes…

-The exact mechanisms via which strength training could theoretically lead to enhanced endurance performance…

-Was the length of endurance performance taken into account in the studies you found (e.g. Ironman vs. a 5K run)…

-The important difference between two different types of strength training for endurance: HFLV and LFHV, and the effects of each on endurance training…

-The kind of strength training that you should do if you don't want to get bulky or gain too much muscle mass…

-What the ideal strength training workout scenario for an endurance athlete should look like…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Weight Training For Triathlon: The Ultimate Guide (book by Ben Greenfield)

Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education Facebook page – a non-profit organization committed to service, research and coach education. We are also a designated Olympic Training Site.

-This episode is brought to you by Sheer Strength Labs, where you can get everything you need to enhance performance in both the bedroom and the gym – from nitric oxide, to creatine, to testosterone booster. Click here and get an automatic discount.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about strength training for endurance athletes? Leave your thoughts below!

Chewing On Sourdough, Deadlifting Kids & Shiver Yoga: The Top 10 Instagram Photos of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Instagram Channel.

A year ago, I didn't know what Instagram was.

And then I discovered what Instagram's creators describe as:

“…a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”

So for the past several months, I have indeed been using shots of my life to share fitness, nutrition and human performance tips via photos (and 15 second videos) on Instagram. You're about to discover the top 10 Instagram photos of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Instagram page, along with a takeaway tip from each. Enjoy, and big thanks to Jessica from TeamRenon for all her help with my Instagram-age.

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1. New Tire Toyz

Why not start with a video? In my podcast with strength coach Zach Even-Esh “Underground Strength Training Secrets: How To Get Strong And Stay Strong Using Training Secrets Of The Athletic Elite.”, we talked about research that proves Strongman style training, during which you flip tires, carry kegs, hoist rocks, drag sleds and do other macho deeds, has been shown to be just as effective for maintaining strength as traditional weight lifting, and may even be better at boosting testosterone and growth hormone. Finding free tires to flip and drag is as easy as visiting your local tire store and asking if they have any old tires that you can haul away.

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2. The Tempting Sourdough Loaf

I generally avoid wheat, but if there's one type of bread that I'll eat, it's a traditional fermented sourdough loaf made from a local organic Palouse red wheat. Want to try your hand at making your own? A pretty close approximation to the recipe we use can be found in the article “Could This Baker Solve the Gluten Mystery?“, and we also discuss why sourdough is better in the podcast “How To Make Bread Healthy“.

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3. The Box Breathing Boys

Box breathing is not only a big part of my own morning routine, but is also something I do with my 7 year old twin boys. Before each of our father-son weight training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, and while driving to tennis on Wednesday and Saturday, we do 5 minutes of box breathing as a 4 count in, 4 count hold, 4 count out, 4 count hold, using the “Pranayama app” to guide us.

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4. A Big Ass Salad

Sometimes you just need a Big Ass Salad, and I have one for lunch every day of the week, just about 365 days a year. What’s in this one, you may ask?

-Spinach
-Parsely
-Tomato
-Celery
-Purple Carrot
-Stuffed Olive
-Garlic
-Hemp Seeds
-Pecorino Cheese
-Olive Oil
-Balsamic
-Tahini
-Homemade Sourdough Croutons
-Avocado
-Sea Salt
-Black Pepper
-Turmeric

BOOM. Big Ass Salad.

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5. Football Field WOD

I often post a WOD (Workout Of The Day) to Instagram, and when I discovered that a brand new football field had been built across the street from Grandma's house in Ft. Lauderdale, I brought the boys over for a blistering hot afternoon body weight WOD:

Step 1: Find football or soccer field.
Step 2: Complete the follow AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) for 45-60 minutes.
      -1 lap around field at tempo pace
     -10 inverted pulls on uprights
     -100yd sprint across field at max pace
     -30 leg levers -15 burpees
     -Bear crawl back

Then simply sit back and wait for the rhabdo to set in.

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6. River Deadlifting

As I mentioned earlier, my kids lift. To reduce any potential for growth plate compression, they don't lift heavy weights, but simply lift lighter weights with a focus on excellent form. In this shot taken from my son River's deadlifting set, the workout was like many of the weight lifting sessions I oversee for them: simple and straightforward.

-5 minutes box breathing

-Mobility: 20 deep squats and 20 walking lunges

-5×5 deadlift

Usually, I'll include a “finisher”, such as racing and down the stairs 3 times, doing 20 burpees, or a partner carry.

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7. Beet Juice & Protein Concoction

Ever been looking for some kind of pre or post-workout concoction and realize the cupboards are just about stripped bare of coconut milk, nut butter, raw almonds, yogurt, or just about anything else you mix together for a healthy smoothie? In this case, using about a half can of Beet Performer (a sponsor for my triathlon team) and a giant scoop of Thorne Vegan Chocolate Protein, I discovered a new recipe for a beet-chocolate pre-workout recipe that actually tasted surprisingly good.

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8. A Bacon Bloody Mary

After the Southern California Spartan Race, my wife and I visited Blackbird Tavern in Temecula and dined on roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower-three way, pork rinds, and this amazing Bloody Mary spiked with a bit of extra protein. I believe it goes something like this:

1. Add Worcestershire, soy (or coconut aminos if you'd like), black pepper, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, and horseradish to bottom of cocktail shaker.

2. Fill shaker with ice and add vodka, fresh tomato juice, and juice of one lemon wedge.

3. Shake well.

4. Taste for seasoning and heat, and adjust as necessary.

5. Serve with giant wedge of bacon.

Of course, eat breakfast afterwards.

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9. Shiver Yoga

Long before “snowga” took the world by storm, I was wandering out on my back patio in the early Spring, Fall and Winter with a pair of socks or sandals, shorts or boxers, and showing as much skin as possible to get a doubly whammy effect of yoga practice and cold thermogenesis. I still do it 2-3 times per week, usually fasted in the morning with a bit of caffeine in my system to maximize the fat oxidizing effect. This also works quite well when combined with Iceman Wim Hof's inner fire breathing techniques.

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10. The Dip

Dancing does the heart good.

So does love.

Why not combine the two? I'm serious. If you're not dancing regularly with your loved one, you should be – even if it's in the comfort of your own home wearing a silly cowboy hat.

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What do you think? Do you use Instagram or have favorite Instagram accounts you follow for health, nutrition or fitness advice? Feel free to share your links, comments and questions below!

The Best Exercises For Your Body’s 7 Trouble Spots.

A while back over at Get-Fit Guy’s Quick & Dirty Tips I wrote a two-part series telling you how to effectively target 7 trouble spots. It was such a popular series I decided to combine them into a single article here on Ben Greenfield Fitness. Trouble spots are areas on your body that don't look the way you want them to. These can be body parts that are simply too fat or skinny, not curvaceous or toned enough, or simply too weak and prone to injury – the type of troublesome issues that really bug you about your body! Have you ever wished you could just walk into a gym and get a customized list of the very best exercises to target your specific trouble spots? Consider this post your go-to guide for the best butt, hip and thigh exercises, the best calf exercises, the best chest exercises, the best shoulder exercises, the best back exercises, the best arm exercises, and the best ab exercises.

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How to Find Out How Much A Muscle Contracts

Sports and exercise scientists utilize many different tools and methods to help them determine how much a muscle contracts during a specific movement, how many calories a specific movement burns, or how much stress is placed on a joint during a movement. One of the most popular and effective tools used to measure muscle utilization is electromyography, also known as “EMG.” EMG simply measures the electrical activity produced by muscles, and is performed using a special instrument called an electromyograph. The electromyograph creates a record called an electromyogram, which scientists then use to quantify the strength or quality of a muscle contraction. EMG signals can also be used to analyze medical abnormalities, the activation level of different areas of a muscle, the order in which muscles are recruited, and biomechanical abnormalities from injuries or poor movement patterns. So what can EMG tell us about the best exercises for 7 popular trouble spots? Many studies have used EMG to study the extent to which certain exercises activate certain body parts. So if we know which exercises cause maximum activation of a specific body part, we can use those exercises to create the best workout plan for that specific body part (or trouble spot)! Below, you will find a list of trouble spots and the best exercises for each.

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Butt, Hip, and Thighs

deadlift1 In a previous Get-Fit Guy newsletter, I revealed that 2 different exercises cause your glutes to grunt the hardest:

  1. Prone bent leg hip extension against manual resistance. Yep, that’s a mouthful. Basically, the move involves getting into a crawl position with hands and feet on the ground and then kicking out behind you with one leg – against a partner who is manually resisting your kicking force. Of course, you could also do this exercise against resistance such an elastic band, as I describe in the article “How to Tone Your Butt,” but it’s not quite as effective as having a partner resist your kicking force.
  2. Standing butt squeezes with a wide stance and feet turned out. This one is a bit hard to describe, but I’m going to give you the description from one of my favorite butt-experts – Bret Contreras, who says:

“From a standing position, take a moderate to wide stance and flare the feet out slightly. Now squeeze the glutes as hard as possible for 30 seconds. Make “fists” to increase the neural drive through irradiation. Just do this one time.” Want even more butt tips? Then check out the episode “How to Get A Better Butt.” In addition to your butt, it’s important to target your hips and thighs. It turns out the very best 2 exercises for activating your hips and thighs are the deadlift, in which you simply lift a heavy weight from the ground, and the glute ham raise, which is a special apparatus at the gym that is also known as the low back extension. For the deadlift (which I also list as one of my 2 favorite exercises for getting a flat stomach), the basics are simple. You just pick a weight such as a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell or any other heavy object off the ground while using good form that relies on your hips and legs, and not your lower back. For the glute ham raise or low back extension, begin by adjusting the equipment to fit your body. With your feet against the footplate in between the rollers as you lie face down, your knees should be just behind the pad. Keep your back arched as you begin the movement by flexing the knees and driving your toes into the foot plate as you do so. Keep your upper body straight, and continue until your body is upright, then return to the starting position, keeping your descent under control.

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Calves

calf-raiseNow that you know how to target your butt, hips and thighs, there’s one other section of your legs to worry about: your calves. Believe it or not, working your calves is not rocket science. The most effective exercise for your calves is the standing calf raise – which simply involves rising up onto your tippy-toes while you’re in a standing position. The beauty of this exercise is that you can do it anywhere – while taking a shower, brushing your teeth, waiting in line at the grocery store, or even while doing other exercises at the gym – such as doing a standing calf raise while you press dumbbells overhead. For even more activation, you can stretch your calves prior to going up onto your tip toes. To do this, stand on the edge of a stair, box or other platform and dip your heels as low as possible before contracting your calf muscles and rising up onto your toes. Go back slowly to the starting position as you breathe in by lowering your heels as you bend the ankles until calves are stretched. You can also make this exercise more difficult by adding weight, which is often done by using a weighted standing calf raise machine at a gym.

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Chest

The best exercises for your chest (affectionately called by fitness geeks “the pecs”) are the dumbbell bench press and weighted dips. dumbbell-benchFor the dumbbell bench press, you lie down on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand with your arms flexed at 90 degrees. Then, as you breathe out, use your chest muscles to push the dumbbells up as you extend your arms. Get close to locking your arms at the top of the lift and squeeze your chest, hold for a second, and then begin coming down slowly. Ideally, lowering the weight should take about twice as long as raising it. For weighted dips, place a bench or chair behind your back and another bench or chair in front of you. With the benches (or chairs) perpendicular to your body, hold on to one bench on its edge with your arms fully extended, your hands close to your body and separated at shoulder width. Meanwhile, your legs should be extended forward on top of the other bench. Your legs should be parallel to the floor while your torso is perpendicular to the floor. Then put a dumbbell or any other weight on your lap (this works best if you have a partner put the weight in your lap) and slowly lower your body by bending at the elbows until you lower yourself far enough to where there is an angle that is slightly less than 90 degrees between the upper arm and the forearm. Then simply push yourself back to the starting position while exhaling.

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Shoulders

lateral-raiseWhen it comes to your shoulders, you’d think a basic overhead shoulder press would be the best way to go, but it turns out that to get a nice, toned triangular look in your shoulders, you actually need to do 2 types of “raises” – both a lateral raise and a rear raise. You need to perform 2 different exercises because the deltoid muscles in your shoulders a.k.a. “delts” are actually comprised of 3 distinct sets of muscle fibers – each of which can be targeted with different moves. So you need to come at your shoulder from a variety of different angles. For a lateral delt raise, simply stand with your arms at your side holding a weight such as a dumbbell in each hand, then, keeping your arms as straight as possible, raise the dumbbells out to the side until they are parallel to your shoulders. Finally, slowly lower the weights back to the start position. The movement for a rear delt raise is very similar, but this time, you’re bent over with your butt out behind you and a straight back, and you start with the dumbbells hanging below your chest. Then you raise the dumbbells (as if your arms were airplane wings) towards the ceiling while squeezing your shoulder blades together.

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Back

Your back is comprised of many different muscles, but when it comes to your posture, how you look in a t-shirt or swimsuit, or how you look with your shirt off, there are 3 specific muscle groups that you really need to target: your upper trapezius a.k.a. “traps,” your mid-trapezius, and your latissimus dorsi a.k.a. “lats.” pull-ups1The trapezius is a large muscle that extends from the back of your head all the way down to your mid-back, and is responsible for moving your shoulder blades and supporting your arms. Your latissimus is the larger, flat “wing-shaped” muscle that extends from your spine all the way out to underneath your armpits. One of its primary purposes is to engage in upper body pulling. A nice, toned trapezius and latissimus dorsi form the foundation of a good-looking back! Nothing beats a basic shoulder shrug for the upper traps. This exercise is as simple as it sounds. Simply stand with a weight at your side and shrug – with a goal of driving your shoulders all the way up to reach the bottom of your ears. Hold for 1 or 2 seconds, then lower. For the mid-traps, you’ll want to do bent-over rows. There are many versions of bent-over rows, but my favorite is to simply bend over with a straight back, in a lunging position, with your body weight supported over both legs. In this position, you should be holding a dumbbell in one hand. Then simply row that dumbbell as high as possible, as if you were starting a lawnmower.  Hold for 1 or 2 seconds, then lower. Finally, for your lats, there is nothing better than a pull-up or a pull-down (and I am a firm believer that everyone should have a pullup bar like this hanging in the door frame somewhere in their home). For either of these exercises, try to grip the bar that you are pulling towards your chest with a “thumbs-off” grip, because this will activate more of your back muscles.

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Arms

To get nice arms – or to justify wearing that “Welcome to The Gun Show” t-shirt, you’ll want to work both your biceps and your triceps. chin-upThe very best exercise for the biceps (the front of your arms) is similar to one of the best exercises for your back: a chin-up. So what’s the difference between a pull-up and a chin-up? A pull-up is performed with your knuckles facing you, while a chin-up is performing with you knuckles turned away from you. If you can’t do a chin-up, just do a cable pull-down with your knuckles turned away from you, also known as a cable underhand pull-down. For your triceps (the back of your arms), triceps extensions are the best exercise. A simple version of the triceps extensions exercises that you can perform with minimal equipment is a standing overhead triceps extension. For a standing overhead triceps extension, stand with your elbows overhead and a dumbbell (or any other weight) grasped in both hands, and lower the weight back behind your head by flexing your elbows. Try to get your elbows bent to 90 degrees. Then raise the weight back over your head by extending your elbows.

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Abs

A simple search for “abs” over at the QuickAndDirtyTips website will reveal a number of articles I’ve written on that ever-elusive goal of a flat stomach or a six-pack abs, including “How to Get Abs Like Magic Mike” and “How To Get Washboard Abs – Fast!” But what does electromyography reveal about maximum activation of abdominal muscle tissue? It turns out that the 3 exercises that maximally stimulate your stomach are hanging leg raisesweighted crunches, and ab wheel rollouts. For a hanging leg raise, grasp and hang from a bar with slightly wider than shoulder width overhand grip, then raise your legs by flexing hips and knees until your hips are completely flexed or knees are well above hips. weighted-crunchesFor a weighted crunch, simply hold a weight (a barbell plate, dumbbell, or medicine ball works quite well) to your chest and perform a crunch. And finally, an ab wheel rollout uses that funky contraption that looks like some kid accidentally left their tricycle wheel at the gym. An ab wheel is basically a small wheel with a handle through the center of it (I've been using one called an “Ab Carver” by Perfect Fitness). To do an ab-wheel rollout, begin by kneeling on the floor (you’ll want a mat under your knees – trust me)! Grasp the handles on either side of the wheel with an overhand grip, then keeping your arms straight, roll the wheel out as far as possible as you extend your body forward. This is harder than it sounds! Next, bring your body back up to the starting position by flexing your abs. Warning: Doing this exercise properly is not for the faint of heart!

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Summary

I put out a lot of content over at Get-Fit Guy, I realize that so much information can be overwhelming to sift through, so I want to give you the easiest website to go to for navigating all the tips: just click here to check out all the Get-Fit Guy Episodes, including podcasts, podcast show notes, and previous Get-Fit Guy newsletter episodes. You’ll also see an iTunes button over there that lets you automatically subscribe in iTunes, along with a free newsletter sign-up option. And feel free to leave your questions, your comments, your feedback and your trouble spots below!

How To Keep Running From Destroying Your Body

For the past 28 days, I've been trying out a new protocol.

Each of my days starts with about 5 minutes of a mobility overhaul program I've been following.

For example, on Mondays I do something called a “Couch Stretch”, followed by a “Two-Ball Smash & Floss” on my shins.

On Tuesdays, I have a T-Spine Global Smash and a Global Gut Smash.

Wednesdays is a Plantar Blitzkrieg.

I've grabbed all these weird, new moves from page 250 in the new book “Ready to Run“, in which author Kelly Starrett lays out a month long, day-by-day Mobility Overhaul Plan.

Kelly, who is also the author of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller “Becoming A Supple Leopard“, just wrote this new book for runners, and it's designed to help you cross the bridge from the injury-ridden world of the modern runner to the promised land that the new fad of barefoot running has led us to believe exists, to live a running life free from injury, to unlock all the athletic potential that may be hidden within and to allow you to run faster, more efficiently and for longer periods of time.

Kelly travels the world teaching his wildly popular Crossfit Movement & Mobility Course and also works with elite Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard forces, athletes from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and national and world ranked strength and power athletes. He also consults with Olympic teams and universities and is a featured speaker at strength and conditioning conferences nationwide. Kelly believes every human being should know how to move and be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves, and in our discussion we talk about neutral feet, flip-flops, couch stretching, VooDoo flossing, Kelly's daily mobility routine and much more!

Do you have questions, comments, or feedback about how to keep running from destroying your body? Leave your thoughts below, and be sure to grab the new book “Ready To Run“. Also, you can click here for the previous “How To Crush The Beef Jerky In Your Quads & Become A Supple Leopard” mobility podcast I recorded with Kelly last year.

readytorun

The Top 10 Full Body Fitness Workouts Of The Year.

It's probably no secret by now that this weekend I am racing at the Spartan World Championships in Vermont.

And if you read this blog regularly, you know that I've just finished an intense crucible in California called SEALFit Kokoro, I'm still racing triathlons, playing in tennis league and now gearing up for hunting and snowboarding season.

So as you can imagine, my workouts are varied, entertaining, and somewhat unorthodox – but perfectly programmed to give you the ultimate mix of strength, speed, power, endurance, durability, coordination, fat loss and flexibility. In today's article, I'm going to share with you what I consider to be my top 10 full body fitness workouts of the past year. Hopefully these workouts get your wheels turning, and perhaps you can even choose one or two to try this week.

By the way, I post every workout that I do 365 days a year, and photograph my main meals for the members of my Inner Circle, which is just 10 bucks a month. And be sure to check out the end of this article, where you're going to learn how to get a free signed copy of my book Beyond Training!

Incidentally, you may notice that I don't run much. I don't like to run much and even in my peak Ironman racing weeks would run a maximum of 25 miles a week. Nowadays I run about 8-10 miles a week max. So if you're looking for a high volume run program…go elsewhere. ;)

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1. Battle Rounds – perfect when you have one set of dumbbells and you want a lung-sucking workout that includes some significant load lifting.

Preferably wearing Elevation Training Mask, do 3-5 rounds for time of:

-50 leg levers

-40 mountain climbers

-30 burpees

-20 kettlebell or dumbbell swings

-10 dumbbell manmakers (40lb men/25lb women)

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2. Bike & Burn – works very well if you have an stationary bike or bike setup on a bike trainer in a backyard or park.

-100m heavy sandbag or rock carry

-5 minute bike at tempo pace

-15-25 pull-ups or 3x rope climbs

-5 minute bike at tempo pace

-Uphill drag with chain attached to cinder block (or just pull anything you can find up a hill or for a distance)

-5 minute bike at tempo pace

-15-25x tire flips

-5 minute bike at tempo pace

-Repeat for one additional round if time permits

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3. Sandy Stairs – all you need for this is something heavy to carry and a flight of stairs. You get to work your core during your “rest periods”.

-Find a flight of stairs, preferably 3-5 flights

-At bottom of stairs, do 5-10 sandbag, rock or dumbbell clean and jerks (here's how to make your own sandbag)

-Carry sandbag to top of stairs. Carry sandbag back down stairs. 

-Set sandbag down and hold plank position for 60 seconds.

-Repeat for as many rounds as possible in available time.

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4. Body By Science – straight from Doug Mcguff's book and much harder than it looks if you choose a challenging resistance and go as slow as you can go. The Tabata finisher is my evil add-on.

-5-10 minute bike warmup, then 10 seconds down, 10 seconds up per rep for just ONE round of the following:

-8 reps machine chest press

-8 reps machine row

-8 reps machine shoulder press

-8 reps machine-assisted pull-up

-8 reps barbell squat

-Finisher: 1x bike or elliptical tabata set of 4 minutes of 20 second hard, 10 seconds easy

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5. Park Family Workout –  a good way to help make your kids superhuman

Bike or run with kids to park (or solo if kids aren't your thing), then do 3 rounds of:

-60 second handstand pushups against tree or wall (kids can easily practice this)

-Sprint to fence, then balance on fence for a 10-20 foot walk (kids can balance on curb, sidewalk cracks, etc. if fence is too high)

-Sprint to bar, beam, tree branch, etc., do 5 pullups (kids can simply hang for as long as possible)

-Sprint to bench, 10 spiderman pushups (kids can do regular or knee push-ups)

-Put kids on back, sprint 100 yards with kid on back, then drop down and bear crawl 25 yards, then stand up and finish by sprinting 75 yards (still with kid on back)

-Finish circuit with 10 box or park bench jumps (kids can do step-ups if necessary)

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6. Curtis Operator WOD straight from “8 Weeks To Sealfit” – this thing is long and takes some pretty significant patience but is a big “fitness breakthrough” style workout. 

-100 reps of power clean then, with the barbell or two dumbbells racked on your shoulders, front lunge left leg, then front lunge right leg, then push press at 115 lbs. That's one rep baby.

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7. 5×5 With Sprint Finisher – very good combination of strength, speed and muscular endurance.

5 sets of 5 reps of:

-Benchpress

-Deadlift

-Backsquat

-Shoulder Press

-Power clean

Finisher: 10×30 second sprint at 8-10mph on 8-10% incline

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8. Hotel Room Workout – I travel a ton and do body weight workouts like this quite a bit. I've also done similar workouts (without the cold shower of course) in airport terminals, parks, etc.

At conference, sneak up to room before breakfast, after lunch and before dinner for:

-10 lunge jumps per side

-15 burpees

-20 box jumps onto bed

-25 chair dips

-30 jumping jacks

-2 minute cold shower 

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9. Hotel / Stairs Workout – very good option for when the hotel gym is crappy.

-Run one flight of stairs one step at a time. Stop on landing for 20 second isometric squat.

-Run next flight of stairs two steps at a time. Stop on landing for 20 push-ups.

-Run next flight of stairs by box jumping as many steps at a time. Stop on landing for 20 mountain climbers.

-Repeat for as many flights as possible.

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10. “Recovery” Workout – a rest day still means you can put work into your body.

-Pool – 20×25 meter repeats with no breathing, underwater or freestyle

-Sauna – 30 minutes of box breathing, 4-8 count in, 4-8 count out

-Cold shower – 5 minutes

-Finish with full body foam rolling session

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What do you think? What are your toughest workouts? Your key workouts? Your favorite workouts? Share in the comments section below. I'm going to choose my favorite, or most insane, and send you a signed copy of my book “Beyond Training“. Let the sufferfest begin!

Why You Should Train Like A Powerlifter If You Want To Get Faster.

Powerlifter

Sometimes I forget how important it is to lift heavy stuff.

But I recently read a book called “The Speed Encyclopedia”. The book is the most comprehensive guide I’ve ever read for anybody who wants to move faster and it reminded me why it’s so crucial to move heavy stuff around, even if you’re not doing it in your sport (and even if you think it might make you injured, a myth which is about to be dispelled below). In the article below, written by Travis Hansen, author of The Speed Encyclopedia, you’re going to discover why it’s so important for you to “train like a powerlifter”.

Enjoy.

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Why You Should Train Like A Powerlifter If You Want To Get Faster

Strength training is simply the ability of the body to develop more force in movement. This style of training is also most athletes’ missing link to getting faster.

But very rarely do I witness athletes lifting hard and heavy like they should, especially enough to increase speed.

And no one (and I mean no one) embodies this approach better than a powerlifter.

Yes, you read that right: a powerlifter!

To clarify, powerlifters gear their programs and approach around improving three core lifts: the bench press, deadlift, and squat. That’s it. There are other exercises involved of course, but everything they do is centered on performances in these three exercises. Their methods have been explored and validated, and they absolutely work, and always will.

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Doesn’t Lifting Heavy Weights Increase Risk Of Injuries?

Now I’m pretty certain that many will be rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, and quite possibly shouting obscenities as they read this, since heavy weightlifting is automatically associated with injury and extreme fear from the general public. Fair enough. I used to perceive the sport in the same way until I realized my own ignorance and all of the unprecedented value powerlifting provides to an athlete, and we should be crediting this culture for their philosophy. All I ask is that you please hear me out and get outside your comfort zone for a moment, and honestly consider all that I am about to share with you. I absolutely sympathize and understand why so many do not embrace the notion of lifting heavy weights, but there is no question on the positive and substantial effect that a modified style of this type of training can have on athletes. If you are not training heavy then you are making yourself weaker, slower, unhealthier, and less capable and athletic in competition. Period.

There generally tends to be two primary reasons why coaches, athletes, trainers, and parents dismiss this type of training from their athletes’ training model, regardless of the type of sport. The first is injury risk. This is a fair assumption since many tend to get injured at some point in the training process.
 I’ve been there.

However, if your program design and technique are where they should be then this should not be a problem, and the risk of injury is drastically reduced. Many studies have measured the rate of injuries associated with weight training compared with the rate in other sports. For example, a study published in the November/December 2001 issue of The Journal of American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons cited research showing that in children ages 5 to 14 years, the number of injuries from bicycling was almost 400 percent greater than the number of injuries from weightlifting.

And there’s more.

In a review paper on resistance training for prepubescent and adolescent athletes published in 2002 in Strength and Conditioning Coach, author Mark Shillington reported in a screening of sports‐related injuries in school‐aged children that resistance training was the likely cause of only 0.7 percent (or 1,576) of injuries compared with 19 percent for football and 15 percent for baseball.

The truth is that weight training and competitive lifting sports are among the safest activities an athlete can participate in. This fact is known worldwide. For example, renowned Russian sports scientist Vladimir Zatsiorsky in his book Science and Practice of Strength Training has this to say about the dangers of weight training. “The risk of injury from a well coached strength training program has been estimated to be about one per 10,000 athlete‐exposures, with an athlete‐exposure being defined as one athlete taking part in one training session or competition. Compared to tackle football, alpine skiing, baseball pitching, and even sprint running, strength training is almost free of risk.”

Every single time someone comes to me with a present underlying injury, there is always something definitively wrong with either their lifting technique or program design, or both. And just so we are on the same page, program design refers to the specific structuring of all of the training‐related variables (exercise selection, training frequency, rest period, training volume, type of workout, skill focus, etc.) that dictates how our body will respond and adapt to the training we are performing. If any of this is improperly assigned then we will not benefit as much from our training and we could risk potential injury.

After a decade of training athletes, I’ve more than realized that this is the most difficult part of being an effective coach and getting the results you and the athlete both want. Program design is an art that requires careful and precise understanding of all scientific parameters or guidelines. I view it as a tax return. If one number is out of whack then the whole return is compromised and we receive a bad outcome, by either paying more money or not receiving as much of a return. Training works in much the same way. Many times, a model will be strong in certain areas, but lacking in others and the result is not what it could be. Lastly, strength training is one of the best forms of exercise for injury prevention and general rehabilitation treatment, contrary to popular belief.

The reason is pretty simple. With bigger and stronger tissues (tendons, ligaments, muscles) derived from strength training, our collective body structure will be more resistant to all of the external forces and demands being placed upon it in sport and training, and we will be far less likely to get injured. I always elect to use the analogy of a bigger rubber band versus a smaller one to my athletes when attempting to convey the message that strength training will make us healthier. Which one will tear first if there is an equal amount of effort placed upon each? Obviously, the answer is the smaller rubber band. So as long as our program design and technique are fantastic, then building a dense body structure is going to help keep athletes healthy over the long term.

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What If Your Sport Doesn’t Require You To Move Heavy Stuff?

The next concern that coaches or others have with powerlifting or lifting heavy weights is “specificity.” In other words, they feel that squatting and deadlifting have no bearing whatsoever on whether or not an athlete can run faster or perform sport‐specific movements better. But wait, everyone believes in stretching and that is not specific to the act of sprinting, right? Again, I can understand this perspective in that many are fearful of heavy weightlifting, or they are simply ignorant, but the fact of the matter is that movements do not have to always be exactly the same to translate and benefit one another.

Powerlifting and speed training are no exception, to say the least. Let me pose this question before I get into the science: why does nearly every legitimate Division 1 football program integrate heavy weightlifting into their off‐season programs, and why are these guys constantly the fastest people in sport outside of sprinters, who also utilize heavy weightlifting? Of course – it gets them stronger, but if you were to ask any of the unbiased, informed, and objective athletes and coaches, I am sure they would tell you that it helps make them much faster as well.

Aside from personal experience here, I’ve heard it from too many of my athletes in the past and present. It’s something that you truly have to experience to appreciate completely. A large majority of speed development systems to date completely disregard heavy weightlifting, and it’s at the expense of each and every athlete entering that program looking to get faster and it re‐embeds the long‐held notion that speed cannot be taught, learned, or improved that much, when it definitely can.

Now to help refute this commonly held misperception, we need to consider and introduce 3 unique functions of muscles in the human body to better appreciate what “non‐specific” training exercises can bring to the table.

#1‐Muscle can move in multiple directions.

#2‐Muscles move through large ranges of motion.
#3‐Muscles move through a variety of different joint angles.

This is extremely important information in refuting always being “training specific” in the context of developing speed, and even other areas of training. I will be providing you with specific evidence here shortly, but the fact is that the muscles that we utilize heavily while deadlifting or squatting are the exact same ones that we will call upon when the time comes to run sprints of all distances, contrary to popular belief. Of course the direct activity levels of each of the individual muscles are going to be a little bit different at different phases of each movement, as well as the angles and ranges of motion, but the simple reality is that it’s the same muscle groups working. Always keep in mind that muscles are very versatile and adaptable in nature. This helps simplify many of the confusing movement comparisons listed in literature.

To help reinforce this notion, below is a series of EMG reports for what would be typically known as very “different” movements. Electromyography is a technique used mainly by researchers to test the specific skeletal muscle activity in target motions. Please note that all muscles in the entire body are active in these movements, but I’m only going to share the results of the lower body since this is the main driver in sprinting.

Back Squat:
In 2002, Caterisano and his colleagues found that “as squat depth got deeper, the gluteus maximus becomes more active during the concentric contraction phase of the lift. Muscular contribution shifts from the biceps femoris, vastus medialis and lateralis to the gluteus maximus. This suggests that the gluteus maximus is the prime mover during the concentric phase of the squat, and the other muscles play a secondary role.” What this study found is that the hips, especially the glutes, are more active than the quads in a back squat movement performed correctly.

Conventional Deadlift:
In 2002, Escamilla performed a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. This study found the majority of muscle activity was in the quadriceps and gluteus maximus when greater knee flexion angles were present, whereas the hamstrings were very dominant with less knee flexion during the deadlift.

Vertical Jump:
There was a study conducted in 2011 that analyzed muscular activity of various muscles in the squat, deadlift, and vertical jump. The results indicated that the hips, primarily the glutes, were the prime movers in the vertical jump. I could not find the specifics as to how much they were dominant, but other authorities have cited the glutes along with the hamstring muscles as contributing up to 60% in the vertical jump pattern.

Sprinting:
In a study in 1995, Dr. Wiemann and Dr. Tidow utilized EMG testing to see the various skeletal muscle activity levels at the knee and hip during sprinting. They concluded that the muscles mainly responsible for forward propulsion in full speed sprinting are the hamstrings, the gluteus maximus and the adductor longus. The hamstrings are singled out as the most important contributors to produce the highest level of speed.

So now you clearly see how powerful your hips are in movement and the strong relationship between many movements of the lower body. With all of this in mind, increasing strength potential in these muscles through now arguably labeled non‐specific exercises like deadlifts and squats will allow you to effectively be able to drive more force into the ground and run faster since these muscle groups will be much stronger.

Moreover, the squat and deadlift are more similar to sprinting than we usually give them credit for. This has to deal with “torque‐angle curves” that will be discussed in greater detail in the Hip Dominant Training section. Don’t worry about the big fancy word. It just means being range–of‐motion specific. If you analyze when we sprint, from the landing up until mid‐stance our hips, knees, and ankles will be bent or flexed, just like with a squat or deadlift. The more force we can drive out of a squat, the more force we will produce in this phase of the movement.

The third similarity that powerlifting and sprinting share is the structural likeness that each type of athlete generally possesses. Below is a chart taken from Tudor Bompa that shows very similar levels of fast‐twitch muscle fiber that both weightlifters and sprinters share.

Chart from Tudor Bompa

Lastly is the value of “vertical force” that is present in squatting, deadlifting, and sprinting. You saw earlier just how important vertical force production is for speed. Squatting and deadlifting produce horizontal force, just not as much. It sounds ridiculous because we seem to be moving almost purely in the horizontal direction as we sprint, and our moving mass is definitely traveling in this direction, but there is still some vertical‐based force assisting us in getting there. Hence, a squat or deadlift, which can only be achieved through powerlifting!

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The 2 Best Exercises To Get Faster

The squat and deadlift are the two exercises that are going to allow you to develop the most of a certain type of directional force necessary to run faster.

“Ben Johnson won because he had the most vertical displacement. When he was pulling away from his competitors, he exhibited measurably greater vertical displacement than they did; when he slowed down towards the end of the race and cruised to victory, he had less vertical displacement than he had featured at maximum velocity. In fact, every sprinter in the talent‐packed finals at
Seoul had some measure of vertical displacement.”

This quote is referring to former 100‐meter world record holder Ben Johnson of Canada, and how his ability to propel and lift his body up in the vertical direction while sprinting was integral to his amazing performance.

Oh, and Johnson also squatted 600 lbs. for reps at a body weight under 200 lbs. before he ran his gold medal‐winning 9.79 second 100 meter run at the Seoul Olympic games. Ben Johnson was the fastest during the ‘70‐‘80s era, and Usain Bolt is now. What’s interesting is that Usain Bolt too exhibited the highest degree of vertical force out of all of his competitors, and he is the best currently in this era. A study in 2012 in The International Journal of Sports Medicine identified the fastest 3 men on planet earth. Usain Bolt exhibited far more vertical force than either of the top 2 competitors, Osafa Powell and Tyson Gay.

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Research Proves You Need To Lift Heavy Stuff To Get Faster

Now let’s look at some of the popular studies as well as a personal case study I did to help solidify the need for higher levels of strength for improved speed performance.

The first study was performed in 2009 and was found in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. This study involved 17 Division 1‐AA collegiate football players. Each player performed a 1 rep maximum squat with 70 degrees of knee bend. Within the next week, a 5‐, 10‐, and 40‐yard dash time was taken for each participant utilizing electronic timing measures. The researchers concluded that there was a very strong correlation between 10‐ and 40‐yard dash times, and strong correlation across 5 yards. Subjects of the study were divided into 2 groups: those who squatted 2.10 x their bodyweight or more, and those who squatted 1.90 x their bodyweight and less. The former had significantly lower sprint times in comparison with the weaker group.

The second study I found was also located in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and was published in 2012. This study contained an introduction that mentioned previous research had expressed a relationship between maximal squat strength and sprint performance. This study aimed to test that theory once more. Nineteen professional rugby players were tested in the back squat for 1 rep, and 5‐, 10‐, and 20‐meter dash at the onset of the study. Next, each player was put through a strength mesocycle (one month) and power mesocycle. After that period of time, both absolute and relative strength levels had increased considerably, as well as performance across all 3 distances. Pre‐strength levels were at an average of 1.78 x body weight, and 2.05 x body weight after. 5‐meter performance average was 1.05 before and .097 after. 10‐meter was 1.78 before and 1.65 after, and 20‐meter was 3.03 and 2.85 before and after.

The third study comes from Mann and his team of researchers, who filmed a series of male and female sprinters at various competitions to assess them biomechanically. What they found during their analysis was that horizontal velocity is key for maximal speed and that is best satisfied through both strength acquisition and technical proficiency.

The fourth study analyzed data and information from the 100‐meter races at the 1988 Olympic Games. Researchers recognized that functions of strength at the beginning of a race during the acceleration phase are different than after maximum speed has been attained. Thus, strength training for each phase of the race could utilize a different approach. The concentric or shortening action of primarily the quadriceps is huge during acceleration. This is an acceleration‐based program, so this information serves great for this program, and this is why squats and max strength work are beneficial. Furthermore, eccentric loading was smaller and reserved for after longer strides and impacts have been created (Top speed). Thus, more eccentric and reactive strength work would improve this phase of the sprint. The authors mentioned drop jumps here.

The fifth study was conducted by Bret in 2001 in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.36 In this study, 19 national male sprinters competed in a 100‐ meter race. The race was broken down into three phases for analysis, as well as the speed differences for each. The results showed that concentric half squat strength was the best indicator of the 100‐meter sprint, and leg stiffness played a major role in the second half of the race.

Last is my own personal study. I decided to test this same concept and research the two sports that regularly and undoubtedly possess the fastest people on the planet year in and year out. Below is a brief list of elite sprinters and pro football players, along with their specific weight, 1 rep max squat, strength to bodyweight ratio and fastest 100‐meter and or 40‐yard dash time. Please note that these results were not referenced from scientific journals like most everything else, but rather university websites, NFL sites, and other online sources. As you are reading these, keep in mind the study from 1999 by McBride with the sprinters, Olympic lifters, and powerlifters. Sprinters in that study averaged a strength to bodyweight ratio of over 2.5 times their own bodyweight in the squat, which supports the information below.

List

I found this to be pretty fascinating to see and I hope you do too. Please keep in mind that this is just a small sample size selection. I probably could have located hundreds of more examples like this, and hopefully it is more than enough to convince you as a reader of the influence strength has on speed.

Conversely, of course, there are examples of individuals who have less than stellar strength skill, but still run very fast. Obviously, these individuals possess some specific genetic factors that can enable greater physical functioning that will create elite speed. I would be willing to bet, though, that these same individuals would absolutely benefit more if they incorporated strength work into their program on a routine basis and distinguished themselves even more, just like these genetically predisposed individuals in this small case study did. However, examples of these anomalies are very rare it seems, and it really discredits all of the hard work committed by so many in an attempt to take it to the extreme and be the best they can be, genetics or not. Plus, we cannot use these scarce examples as a model for athletes who need other outlets to improve, especially those who are on the cusp in a sport, where speed can be the difference between making it to the next level or not.

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Summary

So what do you think? Do you do powerlifting? Do you incorporate heavy lifting? Speed sets? Not sure where to start? Here are the best two resources for you:

-The speed section of Chapter 5 in “Beyond Training” by Ben Greenfield
The Speed Encyclopedia by Travis Hansen (the author of this article)

Leave your questions, comments and feedback about how to get faster and the concept of “lifting heavy stuff” below!

 

 

Decoding The Science of Ultimate Human Performance With Steven Kotler

Most of us have at least some familiarity with a state called “flow”.

If you’ve ever lost an afternoon to a great conversation or gotten so involved in a work project that all else is forgotten or found yourself completely firing on all cylinders during a swim, bike, run or other workout, then you’ve tasted the experience. In flow, you are so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away.

Action and awareness merge.

Time flies.

Self vanishes.

Performance goes through the roof.

In his book The Rise Of Superman – Decoding The Science of Ultimate Human Performance, and on today's podcast interview, my guest Steven Kotler tells you exactly how to biohack yourself into this state of flow, and how you can tap into this power to achieve amazing feats of physical and mental performance, even if you're not a “super athlete”.

I really enjoyed this discussion with Steven, and you're going to get a lot out of it if you want to increase your ability to tap into the equivalent of “the runner's high” anytime, anyplace.

Resources we discuss during this podcast:

-Steven's Book: The Rise Of Superman – Decoding The Science of Ultimate Human Performance

-Steven's Book: Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think

Flow Genome Project

The free 17 Flow Triggers slideshare

Advanced Brain Monitoring EEG

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about how to achieve a state of flow, or tap into your ultimate performance potential? Leave your questions, comments and feedback below!

One Potent Tool And Three Simple Exercises To Gain Massive Endurance In Minimum Time.

Kettlebell Swing

Endurance is a difficult beast to tame.

The common belief is that there is really only one way to get fast – and that is to train the house down.

Of course, I have talked many times in the past about how this is simply not true. From my “10 Rules For Becoming An Ancestral Athlete” article at Mark's Daily Apple website…

…to my “10 Ways Ironman Triathletes Can Avoid Chronic Cardio Self-Destruction” at Robb Wolf's website…

…to my brand new “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life” book…

…I have outlined that rather than thinking about the skill of running, riding, or swimming fast as the result of having more fitness, we should think about it the same way we would think about having more skill at each of these activities.

So how can you do this? You're about to learn how. In today's post by Andrew Read, a Master Russian Kettlebell Instructor with 20 years of strength coaching experience, an Ironman triathlete and a author of the book “Beast Tamer“, you're going to discover one potent tool and three simple exercises to gain massive amounts of endurance with minimum training. 

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Finding The Sweet Spot For The Combination of Strength and Endurance

There’s a very good reason why even elite cyclists, with off the chart VO2 scores, can’t match top runners – they’re not good enough at running despite having incredibly impressive engines.

Building the skill of an activity takes time, and in some cases specialist coaching. No one would argue that swimming isn’t highly technically based, and these days more and more people are beginning to understand that running has its share of important technical details too.

So where does lifting weights fit into all this?

And for endurance athletes, what is the best way to get strong for our sport?

One of the big problems with training for endurance is…training for endurance. All those miles add up and can take a big toll on the body. Swimming can be hard on the rotator cuff. Riding can lead to stiff backs or bulged discs. Running can lead to any number of problems ranging form small aches and pains to full-blown tears of the Achilles tendons or plantar fascia.

In fact, the injury rates for running are so high that it’s not a matter of if you get hurt, but when you get hurt.

But then we start looking at strength, and there’s a large continuum there. Perhaps the problem is that strength covers everything from performing a single heavy rep that you couldn’t possibly repeat. This personal best lift is generally termed a 1RM or one rep maximum. On the other end of the spectrum we have an act like riding an Ironman bike leg which requires thousands and thousands of partial leg presses done with relatively low force.

So from maximal strength to strength-endurance, we have everything in between. And somehow, we lose sight of the fact that we don’t have to lift super-maximally all the time, or spend all our time at the other end of the spectrum doing hundreds of reps with tiny little Barbie weights.

However, on the continuum from  one rep maximum to Barbie weights, you pass through a rep range that is very important for endurance. Between 3 and 5 reps, you can gain strength while keeping your body weight the same. The increases in strength at this range come primarily from neural adaptations, which is the Central Nervous System (CNS) learning how to fire the muscles more forcefully, rather than from changing the muscle at a cellular level, such as you get from long distance training and the increase in fatty acid utilization within the cell.

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Why You Need To Create More Force

While many endurance athletes shy away from straight strength work there are a growing number of studies to show that even ultra endurance competitors can benefit from some applied work in the gym. For example, Norwegian scientists conducted two studies on experienced athletes, one on long distance runners (Storen et al., 2008) and the other on cyclists (Sunde at al., 2010). These athletes were put on a strength program – 4 x 4RM front squats ( a weight that could be squatted 4 times only before needing a rest, so relatively very heavy), performed three times per week, in addition to their normal endurance training.

Eight weeks later the athletes not only got stronger and more explosive – but without gaining any weight, they improved endurance in their sport. Their movement efficiency improved and the time they could last to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power increased.

In his book “Lore of Running“, Tim Noakes makes a point that traditionally, runners competing in marathons were not as explosive as those competing in shorter events such as the 800m. However these days we are seeing more and more runners, even at the marathon distance, who can put in world class times over shorter distances. Haile Gebrsellasie is a classic example of this emerging breed of runner. This new breed of runner is someone who has high levels of power output and has learned to maintain it for long periods of time.

The stronger the muscle, the less it has to contract to produce a given amount of force. Your nervous system measures the amount of neural drive going to the muscles and the muscles send back messages about the level of tension needed, speed of movement, and the distance covered. The brain is continually comparing the intensity of nerve force with the outcome and determines the degree of effort required.

Basically, a strong muscle requires a lower neural drive to generate a given force, because the force represents a smaller proportion of its maximum capacity. So a fatigued muscle represents a higher neural drive to generate a given force, because the force represents a higher proportion of its maximum capacity.

Given that the difference between an elite runner and a typical age-grouper can be as little as 0.1 sec in ground contact time while running, it makes sense to keep force production as high as possible so that we can maintain our “springiness” while running. The stiffer are able to keep our body the less effort needed, the lower our ground contact time, and the faster we run.

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Where To Start

So we know we need to strength train, but where to start?

Modern gyms seem filled with every known contraption to mankind since the Spanish Inquisition. I cal it the Noah’s Ark method of setting up a gym – just buy two of everything and pray that you have all the bases covered.

I have to be honest and say that most gyms, just like most supermarkets, are filled with complete crap that’s bad for you. Just like you should know to only shop the edges at the supermarket for all the good stuff, the same is pretty much true in the gym – you really only need things that aren’t bolted to the floor, and they’re generally kept in their own private area these days.

It’s called the free weight area.

There’s far more benefit in performing exercises where you have to balance the load compared to a machine that does all that for you. Despite what exercise equipment manufacturers will tell you no one needs any form of exercise equipment that allows you to perform any exercise locked into a particular path.

But lets’ face it, as triathletes we probably don’t have much spare time. Training for three sports takes up a lot of time and your garage is likely already full with one too many bikes to fit big pieces of gym equipment inside too.

And this is where kettlebells come in handy.

Far from being a recent fad, they’ve actually been around for about 300 years – longer than both barbells and dumbbells. What makes kettlebells great for those training at home is their versatility and the small amount of space they take up. You could have enough kettlebells to train for your entire life, and it would take up as much space as an exercise bench.

Because they’re so versatile, kettlebells can be used for all types of exercises ranging from those with a really big payoff to the sort of thing Jillian Michaels does. (And by the way, please ignore everything she has ever demonstrated with kettlebells – it's just awful).

For a very good introduction to kettlebells, read this article or listen to this “How To Use Kettlebells” podcast by Ben Greenfield.

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Using Kettlebells for Endurance

So what are the best kettlebell exercises for the endurance athlete, and what kind of rep ranges should we be doing with them?

First, let’s classify kettlebell lifts into two main types – ballistics and grinds. For ease of reference let’s call ballistics anything that has a high speed of movement, and is swing based. For grinds, just think of slow strength moves like the squat and press – most normal gym movements are grinds.

Because strength can be thought of as the application of force. If training for force production we need to remember that we can achieve this in two ways – via high loads, or via high speeds. So we need to use both ballistics and grinds if we’re hoping to get the absolute most out of our strength training.

Let’s look at some common problems for endurance athletes and then come up with which exercises will best address our needs.

-Spending too long hunched over a bike – compounding the problems caused by sitting at work all day long.

-Possibly injured from running so need an exercise that has similar properties to running, including the speed of movement, which is normally untrainable in a gym setting.

-Shoulder stability to deal with multiple pool sessions.

-Stability on single stance leg for running, and hip drive for hills.

-Core strength to ensure we can swim and run powerfully.

Believe it or not, we can get all that from just three exercises.

In the videos below I’ll show you how to get the most out of the swing, get up, and single leg deadlift, as well as put it together for you so that you’ve got a ready-made strength plan. People often think they need to throw the kitchen sink at their training, and make things overly complicated. But the truth is that in every training session there is part of it that gives you the most benefit – the Pareto principle – with 20% giving 80% of the result.

These three exercises are the 20% of exercises that every endurance athlete should be doing.

When it comes to selecting what size kettlebell you should start with it’s fairly easy – men start with a 16kg and women with a 12kg. Yes, I know they come in sizes much smaller than that, but they’re useless for the most part. My 72 year old mother, who only weighs 52kg, can do swings with a 24kg kettlebell.

So you have no excuses not to be using at least a 12kg. One of the best resources for kettlebells (and other very good free weight exercise tools to turn you into an endurance beast) is Rogue Fitness. Have fun over there.

What you’ll find is that if you do these exercises as shown they’re incredibly powerful and allow the whole body to work together as one unit – and that’s what functional force training for endurance is all about.

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Shoulder Mobility and Stability

Exercise 1: “Shoulder Savers”

Single Leg Stability and Hip Extension for Running

Exercise 2: “Single Leg Strength Series”

Fix Your Posture and Run Faster

Exercise 3: “Kettlebell Swing”

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Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Andrew or me about building endurance by getting stronger with kettlebells? Leave your thoughts below, and remember to check out Andrew's excellent book “Beast Tamer” and go shopping for your kettlebell at Rogue Fitness!

How To Make Your Workouts Wild.

Monkii Bars

Earlier this afternoon, I headed up on 10 acres of forested land here in Washington state and did one of my obstacle course training workouts, (video above) which consisted of:

-Cinder block drag uphill

-20 tire flips

-30 foot rope climb

-Sandbag carry

-Spear throw

-Rock carry

-Obstacle wall climb

This circuit takes around 12-15 minutes per round, and for today's workout, I even strapped my chest mounted GoPro Hero3 camera on to give you a taste of what it looks like. The video above shows you the madness that ensued.

That workout definitely falls into what I would call a “wild” workout.

And since I started doing these wild outdoor workouts, I must admit that my gym workouts have gotten a bit…

stale.

It seems like every time I walk into a health club, I can now smell the cleaning chemicals more strongly, feel the electromagnetic fields emanating off the treadmill TV screens and sense the dry, boring atmosphere much more strongly.

Turns out it's not just me. 

A study conducted in 2011 compared the effects of outdoor exercise with indoor exercise on physical and mental well-being outcome in adults and children.

The study a significant improvement in mental well-being with oudoor exercise compared with exercising indoors. Exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of vitality, increased energy and positive engagement, along with decreased stress, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the outdoor activity at a later date.

The notion that movement in nature holds a special place in the realm of public health, including an ability to refresh the body and mind, is not a new one. Medical doctors such as Franklin B. Hough reported in early U.S. medical journals that forests have a “cheerful and tranquilizing influence which they exert upon the mind, more especially when worn down by mental labor.”

In 1982, the Forest Agency of the Japanese government premiered its shinrin-yoku plan. Shinrin means forest, and yoku, although it has several meanings, refers to a “bathing, showering or basking in.” More broadly, it is defined as “taking in, in all of our senses, the forest atmosphere.” The program was established to encourage people to get out into nature, to literally bathe the mind and body in nature as a means of promoting health.

It turns out that a couple of my friends, Dan Vinson and David Hunt, also feel exactly the same way.

As a matter of fact, they feel so strongly about it that they've invented a handy new piece of wild outdoor workout gear (currently on Kickstarer) called “Monkii Bars“. Check out the amazing video below, then keep reading to learn why Dan and David want to keep their workouts wild, and a sample workout straight from their monkey minds…

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The Monkii Bar Video

Click here to watch the video on Kickstarter

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How To Keep Your Workouts Wild

Going to the gym sucks.

The summer after college graduation we never set foot in the gym.

Not once.

We camped, climbed, cliff-dived, swam, and danced all summer long. We were in the best shape of our lives. We haven’t stopped talking about the “Summer of ‘08” since then.

Monkii-Bar

Fast forward to now; we have given in to our careers, signed leases, and have gym memberships. Heck, one of us even has a puppy. That carefree summer is long gone, but what we've found is that there are moments every day where we can capture a little bit of that wildness.

For us, those moments are not found at the gym.

They are in runs to the park, quick lunchtime workouts, and weekend afternoon hikes.

So we invented monkii bars to bring a little bit of wildness to everyday life, to transform workouts into adventures, and to reawaken the passion inside of each of us to live stronger.

Then, on October 22, 2013, we did a workout using Monkii Bars while suspended underneath a hot air balloon. We were in the air for a little over an hour and did as many pull ups, muscle ups, dips, and front levers as we could. We were excited, focused, and were definitely gripped.

We did the hot air balloon workout to help prove the idea that you can work out anywhere. It is easy to tell people this and the idea often goes unnoticed. However, no one ignored us on that day.

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A Monkii Bar Workout

So where can you use these Monkii Bars?

The short answer: anywhere.

Monkii Bars are all about creating a suspension workout anywhere. Some prime examples are: the park, office, at home, the park, on the trail, camping, or even on your vacation to Europe. We want our users to get as creative as possible.

Monkii BarsAt the beach and there isn’t anywhere to hang Monkii Bars? No problem. The spectra is super durable. Wrap it around some driftwood and you instantly have a sled. We’ve set up Monkii Bars all kinds of places. Tree branches, swingsets, wooden beams, doors, fences, bus stops, light posts, banisters, balconies, cars, and hot air balloons…

Here’s a perfect example what to do to make your next workout wild:

-Go on a trail run.

-Find someplace epic. Preferably with a view, secluded and with a few exercise props.

-Get wild like this:

1. Set up Monkii Bars on a tree branch and have them hang about 8” from the ground.

2. Start with 3 rounds of:

-12 Monkii Bars pushups (pictured below)

-Sprint for 2 minutes

-Rest 2 minutes then repeat for 3x total.

Monkii Bar Pushup

3. After the 3rd round, during the 2 minutes of rest, raise the Monkii Bars to the height of your naval and then after the 2 minutes is up begin 3 rounds of:

-12 Monkii Bars rows (pictured below)

-20 Lunge Jumps (10 each leg)

-Rest 2 minutes after completing all 3 rounds.

Monkii Bar Row

4. Finish with the following:

-Accumulate 3 minutes of an L-Hold (feet above your hips as pictured below).

L-Sit

If you cannot complete with your legs straight, then no problem – just bend your knees at 90 degrees and keep them tucked so that your thighs are parallel to the ground.

This is just one example of the infinite amount of workout you can do with Monkii Bars. We'll even have a Monkii Bars app that will feature daily workouts, demo videos, and programs that make trail running, the office, or local park a full-on training facility.

So…

why the outdoors?

Fact is, you do not always need rubber flooring, bumper plates, air conditioning, 24” boxes or a pre-workout supplement to work out. Mother Nature has provided everything we need and more.

Let’s embrace this. Go get hot, dirty, and uncomfortable while loving every second of it. Go alone to somewhere no one will see you, or even believe you were there if you told them, and do a workout.

We believe that we were all born wild and that this wildness is still a part of who we are, both as individuals and as a culture. I also believe that outdoor exercise can be a means to reconnect to the innate wildness in all of us.

Challenge yourself, workout anywhere, and live with wildness, passion, and purpose.

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So what do you think? Do you agree with Dan and David? Do you prefer outdoor vs. indoor workouts? Do you think you'll try the Monkii Bars or support their Kickstart campaign?

I certainly will. I love this kind of stuff. Leave your comments, questions and feedback below!

Monkii Bars

Today’s Top 10 Ways To Get A Better Body With BenGreenfieldFitness.com

BenGreenfieldFitness.com has been in existence for about 4 years now. That's a lot of content! 

And while you may already know about the world-famous “Ben Recommends” page, where you can access everything I recommend for performance, fat loss, recovery, digestion, brain, sleep and hormone optimization – and also the handy-dandy “Start Here” section on the site…

…there's quite a bit of additional helpful content you may have never stumbled across – both here and across the other BenGreenfieldFitness social media spheres. So today, you're going to get the top 10 ways to get a better body with the content I've spread across the interwebs in the past year or so…

In no particular order of importance, here they are!

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1. Top Tweet (click the image to read more of the latest top tweets):

ben greenfield twitter

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2. Top BenGreenfieldFitness Podcast:

“How To Turn Yourself Into A Fat Burning Machine By Fasting For 24 Hours Then Going Out And Do Monster Workouts Without Bonking.”

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3. Top BenGreenfieldFitness Blog Post:

“26 Top Ways To Recover From Workouts and Injuries with Lightning Speed”

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4. Top Facebook Post (click the image below to check out the discussion on this post):

topfbpost

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5. Top Pinterest Image (click the image to see more like it on Pinterest):

Ben Greenfield Pinterest

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6. Top Instagram Image (click the image to see more of the BenGreenfieldFitness Instagram page):

Ben Greenfield Instagram

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7. Top Google+ Post (click the post to go read more – it's a very interesting piece on “Sitali Breathing“):

Ben Greenfield Google+

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8. Top Get-Fit Guy Podcast (subscribe to  the free GetFitGuy newsletter to stay tuned to every weekly podcast from that site):

“What’s the Best Way to Build Muscle and Lose Fat?”

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9. Top YouTube video: (click here to see more videos from the BenGreenfieldFitness YouTube page)

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10. ???

YOU pick #10!

Simply leave your comment below with your favorite piece of content you've discovered lately. Pick something you think others would find very cool, interesting, or helpful (and it doesn't have to be a BenGreenfieldFitness piece, although it can be!)

Is It OK To Be Addicted To Exercise?

Do you feel like you're just not normal when you miss your workout?

Do you get grumpy when you skip your planned physical activity?

Do you sometimes sacrifice work and relationships to be able to squeeze in an exercise session?

Are you addicted to the feeling you get during or after a long run or bike ride or weight lifting workout?

Is this stuff normal, and is it OK to be “addicted to exercise”?

In today's podcast episode with “The Long Run” author Mishka Shubaly (pictured right), Mishka and I explore exercise addiction, and whether it is OK to be addicted to exercise.

(more…)

What An Extreme Motocross Athlete Can Teach You About Fitness (And A Free Extreme Fitness Routine).

will hahn

app-store amazon_app google_play_app

Wil Hahn (pictured above), a professional motocross racer, broke his hand in practice at the last round of the Supercross series, raced the main event with a broken hand, got 3rd place, then went on to won the overall title by a couple points. 

Motocross is an extreme sport…

…outdoor motocross races occur in the heat of the day at for 30 minutes plus 2 laps, riding in full gear at lactate threshold for the entire time…

…”armpump” can be a serious, painful problem when racing…

…dangerous levels of dehydration are extremely common…

…and in this BenGreenfieldFitness phone app insider interview with Wil, you'll find out what kind of fitness and nutrition plan is necessary to succeed in one of the toughest sports on the face of the planet. Wil and I compare Ironman triathlon to motocross, talk about Wil's motocross fitness routine, what Wil eats and drinks for motocross, tracking heart rates, racing with an injury, and more!

Don't believe that motocross is an extreme sport that  just might beat up your body more than any other sport? Then watch this crazy crash sequence video with Wil Hahn, and then keep reading for a motocross fitness routine…

(more…)

The Zen of “The Zone” – How To Breathe The Right Way When You’re Working Out.

A few weeks ago, I experienced a personal revelation.

A revelation that has totally changed my workouts and the way I feel when I'm exercising.

And it all comes down to breathing.

Do you know how to breathe the right way when you're working out? It may seem trivial, but learned how to breathe properly (and the correct way to do this is going to surprise) has literally changed my entire exercise experience.

Let's delve in – and learn why I call this new breathing concept the zen of “The Zone”…

(more…)

How To Get Lean Fast

For the past several weeks, one of my friends (Abel James Bascom AKA the “Fat Burning Man”) and I have been filming all the daily tips, tricks and tools we use to achieve maximum fat loss, lean muscle and optimized health and performance.

Basically we followed each other around with a video camera, geeked out on everything that we do to get lean fast, and turned it into convenient video, audio and transcripts for you.

When it comes to getting lean fast, sleeping better, performing at your peak potential, recovering more quickly, and even increasing your mental acuity, we fill you in on everything we've discovered.

You'll learn underground tips and tricks like:

-Our own special secret recipes and twists on high-fat coffee…

-What kind of “smart drugs” Abel and I use…

-How we jump-start fat loss before we even start exercising…

-The top 3 ways we fall asleep as fast as possible…

-Which items I keep beside my bed to minimize stress and maximize energy…

-Over a dozen of the easy foods we use every day to keep our bodies in fat-burning mode…

-Why Abel's house is cleaner than mine…

-And much more!

Just click here to visit the Lean Lifestyle Insider page today and get instant insider access to Abel's secrets and my secrets of how to get lean fast, along with access to ask your personal questions about everything we do from foods to supplements to workouts!

Questions? Simply leave them below…

…and my apologies in advance for not having my hair perfect in every video that you'll find on the inside – and for Abel's obnoxious Spongebob Squarepants coffee cup you'll find in the very first breakfast video.

P.S. Access is $47. And that's not a monthly fee or anything like that. Just a *one time* $47 ticket to access Lean Lifestyle Insider for the rest of all time.

P.P.S. Yes, this stuff works for guys AND girls.