To View The Sky; Empty Hand Part 5

Following on from Empty Hand Part 4, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor presents you the with next mighty Kata in order of advancement through the formal Karate gradings.

Kanku Dai is the longest Kata in the Shotokan syllabus, with 65 movements and is the most complex and demanding Kata thus far.

It is the first of two Kanku katas; they do not follow the Embusen or ‘H’ shaped path, like the Heian Katas. Better start getting used to that, beloved reader, they seldom do from this point on.

That’s right, beloved readers, today we learn one of Shotokan karate’s most symbolic Katas. Ganbatte.

This is a shot of sunset on the South coast of Okinawa. Perhaps the inspiration for the Kata's naming.

This is a shot of sunset on the South coast of Okinawa.
Perhaps the inspiration for the Kata’s naming.

Kata History

Unlike most of the Kata that have Chinese origins, Kanku Dai was created  in Okinawa, rather than adapted and / or modified from the original Kung Fu as some are.

Before being changed to Kanku-dai, the kata was originally called Kushanku, (the Okinawan mis-pronunciation of Kung Siang Chin), the name taken from a Chinese military advisor who visited Okinawa under government orders.

He  resided  in Okinawa from 1756-1761. Kushanku, also called Kosokun in some styles of Karate, was a master of a variety of Chinese Martial Arts. He impressed the natives of Okinawa, by showing off his combat skills by easily dispatching larger opponents.

Sensei Sakugawa. Mighty in Martial skill and radical of beard.

Sensei Sakugawa. Mighty in Martial skill and radical of beard.

Okinawa’s top Martial Artist at that time was Tode Sakugawa. Sakugawa was one of the top students of monk and Astronomer Peichin Takahara. Takahara, sent his student to train under Kushanku as he believed him to be the most skilled Martial Artist to ever to set foot in Okinawa.

Sakugawa studied under Kushanku for 6 years. When Sakugawa was 28 years old, Kushanku passed away and from the teachings left to him devised the Kushanku Kata as a way to honour his instructor and in its own way act as documentation of what he had learned from his teacher.

This illustrates the importance of kata, not only are they the most practical method of Martial practice, but they preserve the knowledge of the techniques.

Although the kata is now named Kanku-dai, it is not an abbreviation of Kushanku. It was when Gichin Funakoshi introduced karate to mainland Japan he gave the Kata a new, Japanese name of Kanku-dai, which means to ‘to view the sky’. He also changed the names of many of the Kata he taught, to have Japanese names, such as the Passai became Bassai.

Once again our instructor will be that 80-year-old guy that can kick seven shades out of all of you

先 生 金 澤 弘 和

Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa 

Sensei Kanazawa showing perfect form as always. And more nice scenery.

Sensei Kanazawa showing perfect form as always.
And more nice scenery.

観空大

Kanku Dai

The Bunkai

As you can see from the Kata, it contains pretty much all the techniques from the Heian Katas. Kanku Dai is where each of the Heian Katas, (Empty Hand Part 2), are derived, so it’s kind of like a compilation-and-then-some-Kata.

The father of the Heian Katas as it were, most Sensei thinking the Kata too complicated to teach to new students broke it down into 5 easier to learn, shorter Katas.

Until next time. Stay tuned for more.

Designer Superhero workouts Part 4: The Amazonian Warrior Workout

Diana Prince is like some of her other comrades in the Justice League, she is an outlander.

Superman and Martian Manhunter both come from other planets, which is more extreme, but doesn’t detract from the fact she spent many years isolated on a paradise island with nothing to do but train, train and train some more.

This workout should have a larger target audience to be fair, not just our beloved comic fan’s admiration of the title heroine, but also for RPG warrior players and fans of Link.

For in this gruelling regime we will be getting you ready to fight sword and shield style, like an Amazonian princess is trained, and like an adventurer is trained.

The Amazonian Warrior Workout

To really hit all the components of fitness required to be a mighty warrior, we'll be using some new tactics. CrossFit.

To really hit all the components of fitness required to be a mighty warrior, we’ll be using some new tactics. CrossFit.

What in Gaia’s name is this CrossFit business? It sounds like a fitness fad, aren’t we supposed to avoid those?

It’s fairly new on the fitness industry scene but it has been around for quite a while and has proven it’s worth. It will turn you into a true warrior.

CrossFit’s origin comes from it being used as the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies, tactical operations teams and military special operations units. I feel that should endorse the value of this workout.

Designed specifically for training people who will see real combat scenarios upon a real battle field. So effective is CrossFit that soon it’s regime was adopted by champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.

As you can see, CrossFit does what it sounds like it does.

As you can see, CrossFit does what it sounds like it does.
Everything.
At once.

Unlike the other DSWs, the periodization will only be reflected by increased reps, increased weight or time reductions. CrossFit is a different animal altogether, that doesn’t care for hypertrophy nor focusing on one component of fitness at a time.

Be sure to carb up an hour before each session, at least 90 grams of complex slow releasing carbs. I strongly suggest doing this with a high carb protein shake, they will absorb quickly and leave nothing in your digestive tract to puke up.

The workouts are so intense, hurling from the exertion does happen. Been there, done that, but to my credit carried on, my resulting time was abysmal, however, I persevered, and if a guy who isn’t genetically geared for fitness and spent most of his teenage life as a porker that ain’t too shabby.

After completing the 12 week slog that is the Amazonian Warrior Workout, you'll have no trouble handling armed and armoured foes.

After completing the 12 week slog that is the Amazonian Warrior Workout, you’ll have no trouble handling armed and armoured foes.

Phase 1: The 5 workouts – 4 weeks

That’s right, beloved reader, you’ve got 5 workout sessions, one for each of the 5 ‘working’ days of the week.

As always; when your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor plans these sojourns to levelling you up in a considerate manner that gives you the weekend off.

Ain’t I a darlin’.

Each session is a race against the clock; that doesn’t mean sacrificing good exercise form just to teach a stop watch who’s boss though.

As soon as you’ve finished one exercise you move straight on to the next, no fancy sets with ‘rest’ periods in this brutal regime.

Unfortunately, Level Up being the impoverished little organization it is at the moment doesn’t have the means for your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor to instruct you in the exercise techniques himself.

Level Up  will have a studio soon. Just gotta get the funding.

Until then, beloved reader, you’ll have to make do with the ‘best’ instructional videos the internet has to offer.

Do not heed the falsehoods of the instructors unless otherwise stated, just copy the exercise technique.

If you can deal with this DSW, you also will be able to give Kryptonians a kicking.

If you can deal with this DSW, you also will be able to give Kryptonians an ass kicking.

Monday

You don’t need to go to that vile nest of hormonally manipulated meatheads the gym for the during first workout at least.

You could do this workout in the park, all you will need is a decent tree branch to use as a pull up bar.

Run a mile: These exhausting workouts will tax you to your body to its limits. Aim for a 10 minute mile, that’s the rough average for most people. Attempt to decrease the time with each session.

Pull ups: Find your tree branch, or if you’re in the gym the chinning bar, and do as many as possible. Some advice to work up to ‘full-bodied’ pull ups.

Decline press ups: Immediately after finishing the pull ups, find something to raise your feet onto, a park bench will suffice, and get pressing, do as many as you can.

Bodyweight squats: Back up on your feet instantly and perform as many as possible.

Run another mile: That’s right, beloved reader, we begin and finish the first workout with cardio. Even though you should be tired by now, still try to beat your original time.

Challenge time: The goal is to complete the circuit in 40 minutes, but an hour is a perfectly respectable time.

By the end of this phase you should be hitting at least 25 pull ups, 50 press ups and 100 squats, but of course aim for more. It will be important for later workouts.

With the help of the following workout, this feat of power will be common place for you.

With the help of the following workout, this feat of power will be common place for you.

Tuesday

A short yet exhausting workout for Tuesday, only two exercises but vital ones for warrior skills. Complete this circuit 3 times. 21 reps on the first, 15 on the second and a mere 9 on the third.

Jumping pull ups: A lower impact version, with different applications to the regular pull up, designed with producing killing machines in mind.

If you can’t perform all the reps required in one sitting then have a short ‘rest’ and carry on the same exercise until they are all done. Imagine combat scenarios when performing all these exercises and what their application would be.

Despite the video’s instructor’s ‘advice’, only use overhand grip.

Thrusters: Unless you have a decent barbell set at home, you’ll need to be in the gym for this one.

Challenge time: 10 minutes. Harsh isn’t it. But that’s the kind of terrifying training Diana would have done.

Wednesday

Wednesday's workout will bestow you with uncanny speed.

Wednesday’s workout will bestow you with uncanny speed.

This workout we shall dub ”The Seven’. As the name implies, perform seven reps of each exercise, for seven devastating circuits.

Handstand push ups: The ultimate deltoid bodyweight exercise, (did I not warn you that these DSWs were hard-core?), handy tips in the following video on how to work up to these.

Thrusters: Yup, again. Seven reps then straight onto the next exercise

Knees to elbows: Kinesiology being the sly temptress that she is, ensures that when we move a limb through a great range of motion,  barely any of the muscles in that limb are being utilised.

In this example, lady kinesiology teaches us that the abdominals raise the thighs via the hip-joint, with the quadriceps doing nothing more that a little fundamental stability work.

Powerful abs + flexibility = high kicks, a nice surprise maneuver against any opponent, and a good tactic for creating distance between oneself and short blade wielders. With the added bonus of being able to shout “This is Sparta”, if one is so inclined to do so.

Deadlifts: If you’ve perused ‘The Asgardian Power-House’ workout you would have already encountered these wonderful whole body power building bad boys.

Burpees: Researched as I have I cannot fathom how this exercise got its name. However, it is very versatile, training you to dodge under and over attacks in one tidy package.

Kettle bell swings: These are very handy for the RPG warrior enthusiasts who like to play it two-handed weapon style, this will add plenty of power to those Claymore uppercuts we all adore.

Also with the power generated in the shoulders will make bringing up a  shield or sword to block or parry with the greatest of ease.

Pull ups: Yup, these again. By the time you’re done with this DSW, you should have levelled up your pull ups to an insane amount.

I must point out, that doing all these pull ups on consecutive days, (as well as some of the other exercises), seem not to follow the rules of kinesiology, it does though, just not if you want hypertrophy; you’ll get some, that’s inevitable.

The point of overworking the muscles in such a brutal manner is to force your body to adapt to the movement, ‘tricking’ your muscles into thinking it’s a common occurrence during its daily doings. Just like a Martial artist ‘tricks’ his body into attacking with great speed by spending endless hours drilling the same punch, kick, block or throw.

Now you just have to repeat that six more circuits. Enjoy the burn.

Challenge time: The best that can be humanly, (or rather inhumanly), managed on this is around 20 minutes, but for now aim to complete in 30 to 40 minutes.

The combination of handstand press ups, burpees and kettlebell swings, you'll have the meanest uppercut punch in the Galaxy. Bonus.

The combination of handstand press ups, burpees and kettlebell swings, you’ll have the meanest uppercut punch in the Galaxy. Bonus.

Thursday

Another workout with only two exercises, it last 5 rounds of the following exercises:

Muscle-ups: If you’ve ever watched the awesome show ‘Ninja Warrior’, you may have seen some of the contestants warming up for the event doing these. Perform 7 reps of these per round. The following video actually has good advice.

BurpeesAgain, but imagine now, beloved reader, the agility you will have developed that is combat situation orientated by combining these two exercises, perform a harsh set of 21 reps per round of these.

Now simply repeat 4 more times.

Challenge time: 15 minutes, harsh I know, but as that amazing biological machine that is the human body adapts, you’ll look back on how hard all this seemed and have a wee chuckle to yourself.

With the training from the previous four workouts, you'll have the skills to take on multiple opponents.

With the training from the previous four workouts, you’ll have the skills to take on multiple opponents.

Friday

This will seem like taking it easy, it’s the same workout as Monday’s, but remember to keep tabs on improving running the mile at the beginning and end of the session and improving the reps on the other exercises. There are target reps and times to get the best results from this workout.

If it’s any consolation, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor, has ditched the Spiderman DSW, (I did complete it to ensure it worked before publishing), and is currently using this regime. Although I do not own kettlebells, thus substitute weight discs with a chain securing them together.

Phase 2: Almost the same 5 workouts – 4 weeks

Monday

The same as last phase, however; by the end of this phase you should have shaved a minute off both the one mile runs. You should be performing 30 pull ups, 75 press ups and 200 squats. Feel the burn baby.

Challenge time: You should be getting closer to 40 minutes by now, but 45 to 50 is still very respectable.

Tuesday

On Tuesdays, keep increasing the weight on the thrusters, but reverse the exercise order.

Challenge time: Still a mere 10 minutes, but you will eventually get there. 15 to 20 minutes should roughly be your current time by now.

Wednesday

This is where it gets a little nastier. By now you’ve realised this mid-week workout is the most brutal.

Now it’s something that I like to call ”The Eight’. That’s right, beloved reader, it’s the same as ‘The Seven’ but eight reps on all exercises and eight circuits.

Challenge time: Is now 22 minutes, to account for the added resp, but you should be close to 30 minutes by now.

Thursday

This workout is for warriors of all kinds. Even those well versed in playing the ocarina.

This workout is for warriors of all kinds.
Even those well versed in playing the ocarina.

Nothing changes on the Thursday, that workout is set in stone as a stand alone steadfast bad boy already.

Challenge time: 15 minutes, in all likelihood, you’re probably doing it in 20 by now.

Friday

Wonder Woman going for a run.  Picture taken from the 2011 unaired pilot.

Wonder Woman going for a run.
Picture taken from the 2011 unaired pilot.

You already know the drill, I’m sure. Just keep aiming for more reps and less time.

Phase 3: Almost the same 5 workouts – 4 weeks

Monday

You guessed it, the same as last phase and the phase before, however; by the end of this phase you hopefully should be running a very respectable eight minute mile and be performing 40 pull ups, 100 press ups and 250 squats.

Challenge time: You should be getting closer to 40 minutes by now, but 45 is still very respectable.

Tuesday

Change the exercise order back to Phase 1’s, you will then notice an awesome increase in both resistance and reduction in time.

Challenge time: 10 minutes still, you should have  hit it after the cheeky technique swap. But if not don’t worry, this is an extremely hard workout.

Wednesday

This is the point in the plan that you will really hate me. Now you are to perform nine reps and nine circuits. I call it  ‘The Bloody Nine’. Enjoy

Challenge time: Due to added reps, 25 minutes. You should be close to that already. Keep at it.

'The 'Bloody Nine' workout wil hone your warrior reflexes to the extent of being capable of defeating multiple minotaurs. Mythical creatures ain't got s**t on Diana.

‘The ‘Bloody Nine’ workout will hone your warrior reflexes to the extent of being capable of defeating multiple minotaurs.
Mythical creatures ain’t got s**t on Diana.

Thursday

Don’t mess with Thursday. It’s perfect as it is.

Challenge time: 15 minutes, as this has remain unchanged, you should have at least breached the 20 minute mark.

Friday

Just keep going as you were. Hopefully by now your mile runs are so fast that all yo need is a Flux Capacitor to enjoy some time in 85.

Challenge time: Still 40 minutes, but whilst you’ve been shaving time off the runs, the extra reps on the resistance training could have counteracted that.

As always remember to stretch straight after the workout, it will aid in recovery.

Diet

You know exactly what i'm thinking. I am not abashed nor ashamed of this.

You know exactly what i’m thinking.
I am not abashed nor ashamed of this.

Not much to say here, with the brutal intensity of the workouts you’ll be able to eat pretty much what you want. That doesn’t mean pigging out on crappy foods though.

You already know the foods to avoid, confectionery, fizzy drinks, kebabs and the such. Make sure you get plenty of quality carbs from wholemeal sources, fruit, veg and lean meats for protein, never exceed 32 grams per meal, nor 90 grams of carbs.

Make sure each meal is at least three hours apart, otherwise the liver cannot process all the nutrients and store them as subcutaneous fat. If it’s in your budget splash out on a Glutamine supplement, that stuff gets you healing like Wolverine.

So what’s next?

You could, keep going with the last phase indefinitely, becoming more badass on a regular basis. Or you could take Monday and Friday’s workouts, remove the time limit and have a fairly comprehensive general fitness routine that you could do 3 to 4 times a week.

Alternatively, you could try your friendly neighbourhood Rogue’s tactics, when finished with one DSW, move on to the next. Give it a go, it keeps it interesting.

Wonder Woman over the years.

Wonder Woman over the years.

Stay tuned for BAMF!

Until next time. Stay informed.

Designer Superhero workouts Part 3: The Fastest Man Alive Workout

Alongside the Green Lantern, the Flash is kinda unique among the Justice League, in that he only has the one super power.

Superman has pretty much every power going, and as his epic tale continues he’s discovered even more powers, Hawkgirl is super strong and can fly, Martian Manhunter can fly, is super strong, (again), shape shift and read minds.

Batman of course needs no powers, he is and always will be superior to all of them. Just watch the movie ‘Justice League: Doom’ for irrefutable proof.

Even more so than the other extreme hard-core DSW’s, the Flash’s is an extremely intense, high volume and time-consuming regime; you’ll need keen time management skills to fit this regime into your lifestyle.

This borderline insane routine will involve gruelling cardiovascular work, flexibility and resistance training. Now that I’ve either inspired you to rise to the challenge or tell me to get stuffed, I present:

The Fastest Man Alive Workout

I'd be looking smug too if I had the best superpower of all. Your arguments are invalid.

I’d be looking smug too if I had the best superpower of all. Your arguments are invalid.

There will be no hypertrophy work, (that’s not to say you won’t have some hypertrophy, it’s unavoidable), but a lot of fat burning cardio.

The justification for this is to keep the physique as sleek and light as possible; the less weight to move-the faster it will be propelled. Simple.

By the end of the 12 week program you will end up having a sexilly low body fat percentage; probably in the region of a mere 10%, maybe even as low as 7%, (bearing in mind the average body fat percentage here in the UK is 30 to 40%).

This won’t make you look skinny or ‘twiggy’ though, on the contrary, it will enhance the definition of your skeletal muscle. People will be able to use you like a living anatomy chart, and sculptors will want to carve statues in your likeness.

A six-pack is without any shadow of a doubt on the agenda, (or possibly an eight-pack, a rarity dependant upon genetics). That and of course, the attribute that brought you to this article: speed. As per usual, we will have to rely on the ‘best’ instructional videos available on the web, until Level up has its own studio.

The first ever Flash, (not the Barry Allen style workout we use in this post), way back in 1940.  The first Flash was Jay Garrick.

The first appearance of the Flash, (not the Barry Allen we know and love today, (I refuse to base it in Wally West on sheer principle), way back in 1940.
The first Flash was Jay Garrick.
He looked rather daft.

Phase 1: Fat burning, base strength and flexibility – 2 Weeks

But why strength and flexibility training? Aren’t we going for super speed here?

We will be training strength because of the way the different muscle fibre types react to training. Low rep heavy weight training stimulates the Type IIb Glycolytic Fibers. This is already fully covered in the ‘Asgardian Power-House’ workout, it’s worth checking out so that you have a more thorough insight into why the workout is constructed this way.

Also referred to as ‘fast twitch’ fibers, (the name is a bit of  a giveaway to why we will be training them), because they contract with great force against heavy resistance, thereby removing the effort of movement.

Thus, you have on half of the speed equation. By improving flexibility, and thus agility, makes it is easier for a limb to move through it’s designed range of movement.

The easier it is to move through that plane of movement combined with the  ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibers removing the effort against resistance we have the other half of some kind of mutated athletic algebra.

Strength + Agility = Speed

The Flash of the 90's TV series, way to much hypertrophy to be believable.  Plus it was a well cheesy show.

The Flash of the 90’s TV series had way too much hypertrophy to be believable.
Plus it was a well cheesy show.
But Mark Hamill made some groovy guest appearances as the Trickster; a cheap-ass Joker rip-off.

The first part of each day is the toughest; your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor truly sympathises, as he has already endured such rigours and you will need to dig deep for the discipline, but the results are worth it.

As you read further, it will seem very like a very high volume of work, but that’s only in the early stages. Persevere, beloved reader, and everything will fall into a neatly science-filled package of logical athleticism.

Morning Cardio: Cardiovascular exercise first thing in the morning upon awakening and on an empty stomach. It’s the first and only thing you do upon awakening, no morning tea and crumpets, oh no.

It’s tough to find the motivation I know, even now, when your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor engages in such training. but the results are worth the work.

During this time you may consume zero calories; none of those vile, sugar-filled, diabetes instigating ‘sports’ drinks. water will be your only sustenance. The reason for this is glycogen based.

Glycogen is stored carbohydrates, mainly in the liver and the skeletal muscle. Most of the stored carbohydrates have been consumed by metabolic processes during the night whilst asleep as the body goes dutifully about its routine repairs, leaving only the subcutaneous fat to be burned during the morning cardio. Day one will be a 45 minute walk, brisk pace, but just a walk.

During low intensity activity such as this your body will derive its energy from fat rather than carbs anyway, but with no carbs stored up first thing in the morning, this cheeky tactic will ‘trick’ your metabolism, training it to actually want to burn fat more often than carbs. This is the principle of specificity.

Soon, beloved reader, you will be associated with this logo. Enjoy the speed.

Soon, beloved reader, you will be associated with this logo.
Enjoy the speed.

But with all this cheeky metabolic trickery, what happens to our metabolism when we do have carbs?

Never fear, beloved reader, carbs will still be used during high intensity training, as it will always remain the most readily available fuel source.

If you’re not doing any intense work, the carbs will be neatly stored away in the liver, (around ten percent of the liver’s mass is stored glycogen), and in the skeletal muscles, ready for action.

Now for the really hard part, once you’re done you’ll probably be hungry, but alas, the fat burning effect continues for around 90 minutes after the cardio. Thus, take advantage of this extra subcutaneous fat burning bonus and once again, consume naught but water, lots of water, it will make you feel full until you can break your fast.

Straight after the walk after follow the stretching routine outlined in ‘My common Sense is Tingling’. After all that discipline a rejuvenating breakfast is in order; plenty of replenishing carbs, but don’t go over the top with carbs, around 70 grams from quality whole grain sources and because you had no carbs in you to begin with, they will all be stored away, with  none of them converting to fat.

Oatmeal is the best option; add some complementary protein, 3 to 4 scrambled eggs with only half the yolk’s removed, (to reduce the fat content), will provide roughly 24 – 32 grams of high quality protein.

Carb-up after the morning walk, but from quality sources, no cereals though, they will mess with your Glycemic Index.

Carb-up after 90 minutes after the morning walk, but from quality sources, no cereals though, they will mess with your Glycemic Index in negative way, causing fat gain.
Wally West indignantly eats in front of a hungry ape. Dick.

The Resistance Training

Perform these workouts three times week; preferably Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings to allow recovery from the morning’s exertions and giving you the weekend away to rest from the gym but not the cardio.

All exercises a 4 sets of 6 reps, unless otherwise specified. Without extremely comprehensive home gym equipment, you will have to endure that sweaty dungeon permeated with man foam and twats known as a gym. About an hour before resistance training get a nice 30 grams of protein and 70 grams of carbs meal in you.

Some people find that they feel sick working out after solid food, if that’s the case for you, then try a high carb whey protein shake, they absorb quickly and won’t have you puking in the gym.

I dare you to go into the gym wearing this.

I dare you to go into the gym wearing this.

Lunges with split jump: The technique is quite difficult, perform a few sets to get used to it, then grab hold of some dumbbells, as heavy a weight as you can handle but with perfect form hitting each leg for six reps, that’s the amount of reps required to stimulate strength. Be sure to check your ceiling is high enough before doing this tricky exercise if you are training at home.

Standing leg curl: You’ve just blasted the front of your legs, it’s only fair to blast the back.

Alternate high cable crossovers: When sprinting, the body should be at a 5 degree forward angle. Thus, when the arms move forward, it’s the upper pectorals and anterior deltoids that are doing the work, and that’s what this exercise targets. They also give you a mean hook punch. Bonus.

Single arm cable rows: Just as when the arms go forward torso muscles, different torso muscles pull them back, now we hit the lats.

Alternating front dumbbell raises: Use the instructors preferred method of alternating the movement. Once again ‘sports specific’.

Bent over dumbbell laterals: You just hit that all important anterior deltoid for bringing the arm forward in the last exercise, now we hit the posterior deltoid for bringing the arm back. The lateral head of the deltoid would have got plenty of work from both these shoulder exercises.

Dumbbell side curls: The Purpose of this maneuver is to strengthen the outer head of the biceps, which are responsible for bending the elbow, (the larger inner head of the biceps only bends the elbow when the hand is fully supinated), and will facilitate and stabilize proper arm positioning during running.

Dumbbell kickbacks: The reverse movement of the arm when running, generates plyometric style power for the forward movement, thus dumbbell kick backs are the most ‘sports specific’ for our purposes.

Captain’s chair knee raises: Kinesiology, being the enigmatic mistress that she is, plays tricks with us. When most limbs move dynamically, hardly any of the muscles in it are being used. Whilst raising the knee vertically, it’s the abdominals that take the strain; so for a broader sprint stride, these are the perfect exercise. This is the one exception to the sets and reps rules, stick with 4 sets but aim for 12 to 15 reps, abs are durable and dense, they need an extra pounding.

Standing calf Raise: To add extra ‘spring’ to each sprinting stride, you’ll need decent calves, plus if you want a well-rounded physique you’ll want to be doing these.

Try to keep the ‘rest’ periods between sets to a mere 45 seconds, and definitely no longer than a minute. Once you’re done with that it’s immediately onto the stretching again.

Phase 2: Interval training, strength and more flexibility – 2 Weeks

We up the ante now by including LIIT, (Light Intensity Interval Training). Interval training is a type of discontinuous exercise that involves a series of low to high-intensity periods interspersed with ‘relief ‘periods. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, while the recovery periods may involve either complete rest or activity of lower intensity.

Morning Cardio: Sorry, beloved reader, that morning struggle for discipline just got tougher. I’m not really endorsing this workout am I. You still have to go straight out for a 45 minute walk first thing in the morning, but now you’ll be adding some slightly higher intensity at regular intervals, by jogging every 5th minute. Keep it at a jogging pace only though, the sprints come later.

Soon, beloved reader, you will have the 'i'm going freakin' fast' blur lines following you.

Soon, beloved reader, you will have the ‘i’m going freakin’ fast’ blur lines following you.

Then continue to build the jogging part each day. On day two walk for three minutes then jog for 2 and so on. By day 9 of this two-week block you should be up and out of bed and doing a full on 45 minute jog.

This once again ‘tricks’ your metabolism, but now into wanting to burn fat at higher intensities. If you had been jogging 45 minutes at the start of the workout, your metabolism would have had a panic attack and started breaking down muscle tissue for the liver to convert into carbs, keeping the body desiring glucose instead of fat for energy.

The Resistance Training: Breath a sigh of relief, beloved reader. Nothing changes with the resistance training until phase 3. Just keep trying to increase the weight.

Phase 3: Interval training, strength / endurance blending and of course flexibility – 4 Weeks

Morning Cardio: Now we up the ante once again: sprints. You don’t need to do this first thing in the morning anymore, but wait at least an hour after breakfast before going berserker at it.

It’s now reduced to 30 minutes. Because of the intensity of this phase’s cardio, you’ll only be doing it three times a week in between resistance training days. No longer do we flirt with flimsy old LIIT training, now you’re going for HIIT, you guessed it, High Intensity Interval training. Begin by just jogging 5 minutes for a warm-up, during the next 30 minutes continue jogging but convert every 5th minute into an all-out-give-it-everything-you’ve-got sprint.

This is what I mean by

This is what I mean by an all-out-give-it-everything-you’ve-got sprint.

Each day add 15 seconds to the sprinting section until you reach a 2/3 ratio of jogging / sprinting respectively. Don’t convert any of the last 10 minutes to sprints, just jog to cool off from the extreme intensity of the  workout, jog pleasantly for 5 minutes after the last sprint to cool down, then get down to your beloved stretching routine. However, sports science dictates there is actually a perfect sprinting technique. Follow the advice below.

Resistance Training

Now we get down to some wonderful supersets, these are explained more fully in the Spider Man DSW. We will be mainly engaging in opposing muscle group supersets.

This is when you do two exercises that target opposing muscle groups, one muscle gets to rest while the opposite muscle works. You can pair back and chest, biceps and triceps, hamstrings and quadriceps, etc. Now because you’ll be doing 2 exercises back to back, your ‘tricking’ your skeletal  muscles again.

Each exercise will still be 6 reps but by moving straight on to the next one, you’ll actually be doing 12 reps, the range required for muscular endurance. Thus we have the skeletal muscles contracting fast and strong, and also over an extended period. Your workout will look like this:

Lunges with split jump / Standing leg curl

Alternate high cable crossovers / Single arm cable rows

Alternating front dumbbell raises / Bent over dumbbell laterals

Dumbbell side curls / Dumbbell kickbacks

Captain’s chair knee raises / Standing calf Raise

The last superset is the exception to the ‘rule’, utilising staggered supersets, by doing this your body will adapt to lifting the knee of the front leg high and rapidly, whilst the calf adds ‘spring’ for propulsion from the rear leg. Then you know the drill: stretching. You love it.

This will make the workout shorter but way more intense, but should last only thirty minutes so get a high protein, high carb meal in straight after stretching; aim for 40 grams of protein and 90 grams of carbs for maximum recovery.

Make sure you get proper rest and nutrition, especially with the last 4 weeks high intensity workouts. Get 4 to 5 meals a day, around 25 to 30 grams of protein and roughly twice that in carbs, ensure all meals are at least three hours apart so that the liver can effectively deal with the nutrients. Get as much sleep as possible too, minimum 7 hours per night, 9 if possible.

Make sure you get proper rest and nutrition, especially with the last 4 weeks high intensity workouts.
Get 4 to 5 meals a day, around 25 to 30 grams of protein and roughly twice that in carbs, ensure all meals are at least three hours apart so that the liver can effectively deal with the nutrients. Get as much sleep as possible too, minimum 7 hours per night, 9 if possible.

So what’s next?

That’s the whole 12 weeks. By the end of it you will be strong, durable and flexible and of course, freakin’ fast.

The last phase is the ultimate phase, just continue with the last phase for as long as you like and if you get bored with the exercises and the exercise order, you can substitute them for others that work the same group of muscles. If you want to improve sprinting even further, invest in some ankle and wrist weights, by the time you take them off you’ll make Usain Bolt look like he’s made of lead, trying to run through swamp land with the Juggernaut pushing him backwards.

Or for a massive Wally West sized ego boost, enter some sporting events. Performing this routine will leave all others in your dust in short and long distance sprints. More Flash.

Stay tuned for more.

Until next time. Stay informed.

Breaking Bat; Zero to Hero Fitness guide to Becoming the Dark Geek

That’s right, beloved reader, we continue our epic fitness quest to be closer to a to the greatness of the Bat. Following on from the Dark Geek Returns we take a bold step away from the improvised equipment and possibly even into that foreboding establishment known as a gym. EEK.

As you get more powerful, you too can stand high above city skylines and look cool.

As you get more powerful, you too can stand high above city skylines and look cool.

If you haven’t been following the core exercises from the first and second instalments, then your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor strongly suggest hitting the basics first, beginning with The Dark Geek Rises.

Unless of course you’re already a more advanced athlete or have been studious on your mission to Bat-dom, then read on. There are a some new training concepts to get to grips with. Thus if you are not yet familiar with them be sure to click on the handy links that lead to the articles explaining them.

Gym membership? Or set up your own Batcave?

It's a rather comprehensive Bat-gym, but I wouldn't recommend building it with lego. Looks cool though. Lego rules.

It’s a rather comprehensive Bat-gym, but I wouldn’t recommend building it with Lego.
Looks cool though.
Lego rules.

At this stage you will require actual resistance training equipment, the improvised stuff just won’t cut it at this stage. Whilst a gym has fantastic facilities it is, more often than not filled with under qualified personal trainers, people who think they are personal trainers just because they’re big and off course those that your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor loves to hate; the jocks, meat-heads and gym-rats.

Just look at the twat. A perfect example of a gym-rat, a barely passable physique due to lack of knowledge, yet reckons he knows it all. Avoid these exponents of falsehoods.

Just look at the twat.
A perfect example of a gym-rat, a barely passable physique due to lack of knowledge, and yet probably reckons he knows it all.
Avoid these exponents of falsehoods.

Thus at this stage I would recommend purchasing home equipment, you won’t need much at this stage, and before I suggest what to equip yourself with, I must offer the disclaimer that I am not sponsored by any of these brands, (although I wish I was, Level Up is a skint institution).

I am simply advising on the most inexpensive and effective way for to begin building your own gym.

You’ll need dumbbells like these

http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/9017362.htm

Free weights are superior to machines because you are supporting the resistance and moving in a kinesiologically correct way.

And a weight training bench like this 

http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/9063017.htm

Dumbbell benches are the best to start with, When we begin to include barbell exercises a 2 part squat stand will prove to be the next and most versatile piece of workout equipment.

Both suggestions are available at Argos and Amazon, (once again I am not affiliated). Then you’ll have perfectly adequate equipment to be able to avoid the above pictured harbinger of mis-information and his frankly annoying haircut.

Goddamn do I want to slap him.

Training tactics

The training tactic of periodization, (As explained in The X-Factor; Designer Superhero Workout Training Tips and Advice), isn’t plausible in the Bat’s workouts; he must train all the components of fitness in the most efficient manner possible. All his attributes must be top-notch 24 / 7 to keep up with the countless evil-doers of Gotham City.

Must be breakfast time for the bat.

Must be breakfast time for Master Bruce.

By now, advancing as any diligent Bat-fan, you would have progressed to the most advanced of the pre-prescribed exercises. The set and reps will be different now, and you’ll have to familiarise yourself with the concept of pyramiding, (not to be confused with the money-swindling scam).

Pyramiding

Pyramiding is pretty simple; instead of using periodized phases to concentrate on training one component of fitness and more than likely stimulating one muscle fibre type at a time, (This is covered in Designer Superhero workouts Part 2: Asgardian Power-House), for weeks on end, pyramiding hits them all in one efficient workout. Sweet.

By performing 3 sets of 10 / 8 / 6 reps respectively, you’re improving muscular endurance, hypertrophy and strength all in one exercise, but the resistance must increase with each set, but make sure each time it is a weight you can handle without sacrificing perfect form.

This does mean that the ‘rest’ periods between sets will be spent increasing the amount of weight on your newly purchased, (and of course cherished), dumbbells. Alternatively you could purchase several dumbbell sets, budget allowing, to improve the flow of each session.

One of the advantages of the gym. Doesn't it look pretty.

One of the advantages of the gym.
Doesn’t it look pretty.

The Workout

The exercises and exercise order remain the same, with only one essential addition. No more circuit training though , you’ve already built a solid cardio base by performing the workouts in that manner previously. Now it’s down to nice and simple do all the sets and reps for an exercise and then move on to the next.

As for the cardio element, there will be some extracurricular activity for you, but we’ll get to that later. Perform the workout every other day, never on consecutive days, as that will overwork the muscles, decreasing attribute gains, hypertrophy and increase the potential for injury.

Unlike its predecessors, this post is embellished with the best, (but still not perfect), video instructional guides that your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor could find. When viewing these please note only the exercise technique and ignore any other advice.

Such improvisations will only continue until Level Up has financed its own studio facilities to bring you, beloved reader, the complete and bulletproof advice.

Walking lunges: That’s right, beloved bat-fan, the first exercise advancement shows its hypertrophic face straight away. This modified version of lunges will make sprinting a lot quicker.

Incline dumbbell bench press: As you should have now advanced to decline push ups, these should prove no problem for a Dark Knight in the making.

When adjusting the weights bench to the incline position, only move it to the next setting along from the bottom. A commonly made mistake by many is to perform incline chest exercises at a higher incline; this takes the work away from the pectorals and forces more effort on the shoulders at an awkward and potentially injury causing angle.

Dumbbell rows: Without having to improvise using chairs will make this a lot easier to maintain proper form. Even though you may have moved on to the more advanced exercises prescribed in the earlier 2 instalments, you’ll be able add more resistance this way, and really give each side of the lats a good seeing to.

Seated supination curls: Another modification, being seated upright on the bench will eradicate any temptation to ‘swing’ the dumbbell curl, and because you’re supinating during the movement, you will be working biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis, producing nice full and powerful arms.

Yet another common mistake made when adjusting the bench to the upright position, is setting it to the very top position. The human spine just isn’t designed to be that bolt upright and straight. Instead set it to the next placement down from the top; this accommodates the natural curvature of the spine, and sets the bench to the correct position for the next exercise.

Seated dumbbell shoulder press: Only slightly adjusted for the new regime, being seated reduces any chance of the pectorals assisting.

Dumbbell tricep bench press: A tricky exercise, but worth the effort, no more boring bench dipping.

Standing Calf raises: A new exercise. Yay. Calves were already being synergistically worked by the quadricep exercises from the previous routines. now we focus on them.

Bench hip-flexions: A fresh tactic to get those desired by all abdominal ‘washboard’ effect. These will seem really tough at first, trust me, I’ve been through the learning process of fitness just as you are now.

This gruelling exercise is the only exception to the sets and reps rule. perform 4 sets of 15 repetitions, you may not be able to do that many at first, but trust yours truly once again, you’ll build up to it quicker than you think.

But what if we opt for the gym with all its splendid facilities?

If you opt to go to the gym do not sign up at Fitness Worst. It has the highest turnover of clients due to its poorly trained instructors and is severely overpriced.

If you opt to go to the gym do not sign up at Fitness Worst. It has the highest turnover of clients due to its poorly trained instructors and is severely overpriced.

Then there will be some slight adjustments to the workout, minor ones mostly

Replace walking lunges with barbell squats, make sure you use the proper squat station, so if you need to bail out you can drop the bar on the safety rack.

DO NOT use a lumbar support belt. I know it sounds like bad advice but they are actually the leading cause of lower back injury whilst performing squats.

If you really want to bust your back up, there are other ways. DO NOT use the belt.

If you really want to bust your back up, there are other ways.
DO NOT use the belt.

The restriction caused by the heavy-duty and distracting and uncomfortable belt hinders the stabilizing muscles from doing their job correctly. When a muscle is stabilising the working muscles, they are not completely rigid, they constantly but subtly move and adjust to maintain your posture.

The support belt should only be used if you have suffered a previous lower back injury, that’s what they were designed for.

This is the sort of squating station you'll need to use. Note the many safety 'drop points' incase you need to dump the barbell in a hurry.

This is the sort of squating station you’ll need to use.
Note the many safety ‘drop points’ incase you need to dump the barbell in a hurry.

Avoid most of the fancy machines, especially the smith machine like it was a Justin Bieber gig, it doesn’t have a natural range of movement and will do nothing but hinder your form and by proxy your hard-earned training results.

There are a couple of exceptions though; the leg extension machine, (that doesn’t yet apply to the current workout), and the seated and standing calf raise machines. The latter of which will make calf raises a lot more convenient.

If your triceps development has become mighty enough then use the triceps dipping station.

The superior exercises for triceps.  Some gym-rat may 'inform' you that it's a chest exercise.  Falsehood.

The superior exercises for triceps.
Some gym-rat may ‘inform’ you that it’s a chest exercise.
Falsehood.

Lastly, replace dumbbell rows with the consistently effective Bent-over barbell rows:

And of course, don’t forget to stretch after to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness.

Nutrition

Diet basics have already been covered. You know what foods are bad for you, so avoid them, especially carbonated sodas and ‘sports’ drinks. Learn to love water.

You’ll need to eat more than usual to recover from the workouts, those muscles need feeding. Try to fit 4 to 5 meal into your schedule, but make sure they are 3 hours apart at least, otherwise the liver cannot cope with the macronutrient onslaught, which will cause a lot of them to be stored as subcutaneous fat.

Keep it high protein, around 30 to 40 grams per meal, and in the region of 50 grams of carbs, from quality sources such as oats, brown rice and pasta, (cooked Al-dente).

Don’t worry too much about dietary fat; another myth of the fitness industry is that all fat is bad.

Not so. As long as it comes from healthy foods like fish, nuts, seeds and tofu. Be sure to include plenty of green vegetables and fresh fruit too.

What about this dubious sounding extracurricular activity you mentioned?

The Bat is more than just an olympic standard athlete. He has probably the most versatile set of skills ever. Like lock picking, and observational skills; watch some Columbo and Poirot, take notes and augment your detective skills. On non-training days go play some basketball.

Yes, beloved reader, you read that correctly. Basketball, it has a multitude of benefits: That’s where you will be getting your cardio, you’ll have to dodge large ‘opponents’ whilst training target practice, and it improves manual dexterity, a basketball isn’t an easy object to manipulate.

You will be under constant pressure to avoid ‘attacks’, and it will even improve your jumping ability.

The Dark knight also has Martial arts skills that make Bruce Lee look like a choir boy.

He's good at fisticuffs.  No doubt.

He’s good at fisticuffs.
No doubt.

Sorry Mr Lee, but facts are facts. Conveniently karate is one of the Bat’s many Martial styles in his vast arsenal of combat expertise, so check out the Empty hand articles for some bad-ass anti-villain moves.

Stay tuned for more.

Until next time. Stay informed.

To Storm a Castle; Empty Hand Part 4

Following on from Empty Hand Part 3, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor presents you the with next mighty kata in order of advancement through the formal Karate gradings.

This powerful display of Shotokan prowess does what it says on the tin. This is the Kata you need when you really have to kick seven shade of s**t out of every mother fu**er in the place. Bassai Dai means ‘To Storm a Castle’.

It is the first of two such brutal katas; they do not follow the Embusen or ‘H’ shaped path of the five katas presented in Empty Hand Part 2, but move at varying different angles as if attacking and being attacked by multiple attackers in a close environment.

This s how you do the business D&d style. Non-D7D players will have to use that seldom come by stuff called imagination.

This is how you storm a castle D&D style. Non-D&D players will have to use that seldom come by stuff called imagination. D&D is awesome. Deal with it.

Kata History

Born in 1796, Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura created Bassai Dai, he was a pioneer of the practice and the development of the Okinawan style of Shuri Te. He began his training at the age of 14, by the age of 25 he was acknowledged for his achievements in Martial skill. Matsumura’s combat prowess and fearsome reputation got him a massive promotion as Chief Of Security to the Okinawan King. In effect he was head bodyguard.

An honourable position, but an unenviable one, the Okinawan King was little more than a puppet to the Japanese overlords. It was these same overlords who banned the carrying of weapons on Okinawa, (ironically triggering the birth of both Karate and Kobudo), even the bodyguards to the Okinawan King were not allowed to carry weapons.  Making them the only bodyguards to a head of state in history who were not allowed to carry weapons.

Due to the technology of Japan's' isolation at that time, this is the best picture you're gonna get of him. Deal with it.

Due to the technology of Japan’s isolation at that time, this is the best picture you’re gonna get of him. Deal with it.

In 1853,  Japanese isolationism was forcibly ended by an American fleet led by Commodore Perry.  An often overlooked footnote of history is that Perry stopped at Okinawa merely for supplies, before going to Japan to go about his true business.

Whilst seeming arrogant and headstrong, Perry understood the Japanese mindset at that time. He deliberately set about bullying the unarmed Okinawan’s so that when he arrived at Japan he would bring with him a pugilistic reputation.

The Okinawan’s had no clue as to Perry’s true intentions;  likely, they would have viewed it as an invasion. When Perry led a parade up to the Shuri Castle, (the King’s own centre of government), joined by 2 companies of armed US marines, 50 naval officers, 2 brass bands, and some big f**k you Okinawa cannons from the ships! EEK!

Commodore Perry. A twat. A fat twat. Deal with it.

Commodore Perry.
A twat. A fat twat.
Deal with it.

Despite the odds, a lot of non-Okinawan ass was kicked that day. Perry didn’t attain the reputation he desired. That’s bullying for you.

Everybody working for the King, whether they were a Head Of State or just a Clerk, would be required to be a very competent Martial artist.  If a situation broke out, everybody would be expected to jump in and help out.

It is also known that Matsumura studied psychology diligently; one tale of how another Okinawan already skilled at Karate asked Matsumura to teach him.  Matsumura refused, so the other man challenged Matsumura to a duel.  Matsumura, knowing that the other man was superstitious agreed, but set the time and place for the duel at dawn by a graveyard.

A very spooky setting for a superstitious man.  When they met and confronted each other, Matsumura issued a loud kiai, (shout), and the other man surrendered without a single blow being struck. That is the definition of the art of fighting without fighting, eh?

The sanity of the King of Okinawa was slowly diminishing, he issued a proclamation that Matsumura could defeat a bull without consulting Matsumura. He set a date for the duel. With a freakin’ bull. However, Matsumura knew the keeper of the mighty bovine in question and made an arrangement with him.

This may have been what the bull looked like. Or not. Deal with it.

This may have been what the bull looked like. Or not. Deal with it.

Each night for a week preceding the duel, the bull would be penned up so tight that it could not move.  On the day of the duel, the bull was close to being crippled, the spectators, didn’t seem to realise this was abnormal. The unhealthy bull was  released into the ring; Matsumura glared at the bull, the beast took one look and run away in fear.

During the American bombing on Okinawa in World War 2, most of the records of this time were destroyed. However, the irony of history is that records taken by Perry and his crew during this time gives us all the insight we need. Paintings and photographs taken by Perry’s expedition show that when Perry lead his parade to the Shuri Castle.

So what’s all this got to do with the kata?

OK, back to Bassai Dai

Another, less than 21st Century style portrait. Deal with it.

Another, less than 21st Century style portrait.
Deal with it.

Suckers that ‘we’ are for consistency here at Level Up, once again our instructor will be the Shotokan Karate legend himself

先 生 金 澤 弘 和

Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa 

Sensei Kanazawa demonstrates a perfect Yoko tobi geri. Deal with it.

Sensei Kanazawa demonstrates a perfect Yoko tobi geri. Deal with it. Bet you can’t.

披 塞 大

Bassai Dai

The Bunkai

That’s right, beloved reader, even though you can clearly see that Sensei Kanazawa had to slow his movements for the audience in the demonstration below, you can clearly see that the bunkai work. At the risk of sounding arrogant, you friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor has had to employ these tactics against some of the less desirable denizens of Southend-On-Sea and Hackney, (South-East ‘Brooklyn’ level violence areas, for non-British readers).

 Until next time. Stay tuned for more.

The X-Factor; Designer Superhero Workout Training Tips and Advice

Greetings true believers

With the new series of articles on Designer Superhero Workouts just beginning; I thought it only wise to give you some handy tips and advice to help you get the most from your workouts.

That’s right, beloved reader, today we learn from that diverse gang of Super Heroes, the X-Men. Thus, Your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor will be sciencing you upside the head mutant style.

So what can we learn from these genetically mutated folk?

We can learn a lot of handy training tips and tactics from these diverse and over-the-top politically correct chaps.

Periodization

What’s this periodization business? 

Periodization can be defined as a system for program design that plans appropriate cycles and training phases. The system used in the Designer Superhero Workouts.

The human machine, being what it, is an incredibly adaptive organism; quickly responding to its input. You lift heavy you get strong. You stretch you’ll get flexible. You run for hours upon hours per day, you will have improved cardiovascular endurance.

But because it adapts to the input, it will become complacent, thus reducing the results. When this happens things need to be switched around a bit, to ‘shock’ the body into having to adapt again, producing new results. Do you think the X-Men do the same training day in day out in the danger room? Nope.

It has been time and time again proven for success in achieving training goals and has a track record of over 50 years of development. Research has confirmed that periodization has the ability to produce significantly better results than straight set training or normal progression type training. Michael JordanMuhammad AliUsain Bolt, Babe Ruth, Tiger woods, and Bruce Lee have all used this wonderful training tactic. It also provides the ultimate training log. Looking back on a year’s periodized training will really give clarity on how much you have accomplished over that time.

Program Design

This represents a periodized table of progression, working up to a competition.

Any good training programme should be considered as ongoing and therefore broken down into calendar based blocks of time based periods that usually termed as ‘cycles’.

During each cycle prioritize working on the attributes which will benefit the athlete. Within these cycles we have Macrocycles, planning the overall outline of the program and commonly lasting for three-month periods, give or take, depending on the individual athlete’s goals.

Macrocycles are then, in turn, broken down again into smaller more manageable segments called Mesocycles.

Training Phases

These are the Mesocycles, which enable the athlete to efficiently track their progress, maybe reassess their goals if necessary and tailor the routine to suit and desired changes; such as training tactics, nutrition, intensity etc. The cycles run from 3 to 12 weeks, but great yields can result from longer or shorter periods, dependant upon genetics, muscle fibre composition and already established attribute levels. A 3 to 8 week Mesocycle suits most people.

Hypertrophy phase: During this is the phase for the athlete will be most effective hitting a rep range between strength training and endurance training; that will stimulate all the different fibre types, thus, the greatest overall hypertrophy.

Hugh Jackman preparing to do some heavy squats for a hypertrophy phase.

Strength / power phases: Characterised by extremely high levels of intensity, all-out short distance sprints, lifting extremely heavy but for very low reps or a three-minute round in the boxing ring.

The easiest transition between phases is from strength to power; gradually decrease the reps from the usual 8 down to a range of 1 to 6, whilst also removing some exercises to really focus on the core movements for power: such as barbell squats, deadlifts,  bench press, bent-over barbell rows, military press etc.

Endurance phase: This phases consists of lower intensity but higher-volume workouts. Muscular and cardiovascular endurance will be the primary focus. It also functions as an experimental phase of sorts.

If there are new exercise techniques that need to be introduced, this is the phase for it. Given the low intensity, (weight usually), gives the athlete the opportunity to master them, the added repetitions required for the high-volume element.

Transitional phase: This is the transitional phase, to morph one phase into another. For example:gradually bringing the reps up when moving from a strength phase to an endurance phase, and visa versa.

Swimming is a fine example of ‘active rest’. I’m sure there are rules about adamantium claws in the swimming pool though.

Active rest: On ‘rest’ days it can sometimes be a good idea to get  what is known as ‘active rest’, keeping you geared up athletically but recreationally.

Body-weight Exercises

Hank McCoy demonstrates the value of bodyweight exercises.

If you wish to attain Beast-like agility, then add body-weight exercises as often as possible, like chin ups, pull-ups and bodyweight dips. When you can add extra resistance to those, you’ll be able to perform great feats of agility.

It’s common sense; let’s say you perform jumping squats whilst holding 2 dumbbells; when you get rid of the extra weight of the dumbbells, your jump height will be significantly higher.

You can also add a flexibility routine. A greater range of movement will facilitate greater dexterity.  

Break it down and rebuild it

BAMF!

When Nightcrawler teleports, all of the atoms in his body disassemble, pass through another plane of existence, then reassemble at another point in space and time.

A similar process is occurring in your skeletal muscle when you are working out, the exertion of the training breaks the muscle down, actually damaging the tissue. The body then reacts to this by re-growth geared toward the new input.

This anabolic process occurs when you are resting and eating, that’s when the cells get reassembled. Once the skeletal muscle has been nicely broken down, even they haven’t travelled through another plane of existence, we still need to put them back together.

Thus we need . . .

SNIKT!

“Recovery bub”

The sooner one can recover from a training session, the sooner one can train again, speeding up the results. That’s simple for Wolverine; he regenerates. It doesn’t matter how much he gets cut, smashed, pummelled, drinks or smokes; he never takes any lasting or permanent damage or even gains a scar.

So, bereft of mutant powers how can we get recovering at such a rate?

Protein: Already covered this in ‘The Asgardian Power-House‘, but a little more detail couldn’t hurt. Get plenty of it, from high quality sources. The reason for this is that the building blocks of protein are called amino acids, and they all have a different and vital function.

Human protein is formed from 20 amino acids that are found within proteins.  Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic acid, Cysteine,  Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Proline, Serine Threonine,  Tryptophan, Tyrosine and Valine.

Humans can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids. The others must be supplied in the food. Failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids, those that we cannot make, results in degradation of the body’s proteins—muscle and so forth—to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use—the amino acids must be in the food every day.

Non-Essential amino acids: The 10 amino acids that are essential, those that can be converted by the liver from other nutrients are; alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine. Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well.

Essential amino acids: Are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. This means we must consume them and / or supplement them in our diets. Supplementation may be the only option for some of these if you’re vegetarian and the only option if you happen to be vegan.

Glutamine

This is the stuff I’m talking about, the very brand that yours truly uses. It’ll have you recovering like Wolverine.

We’re going to focus on one really important one for regeneration. Glutamine plays a role in a variety of biochemical functions, including: Protein bio-synthesis, as any other of the proteinogenic amino acids, regulation of acid-base balance in the kidney by producing ammonium, nitrogen donation for many anabolic processes including the synthesis of purines, carbon donation, as a source, refilling the citric acid cycle, nontoxic transporter of ammonia in the blood circulation.

Basically, whenever your body needs to make a repair, glutamine is the primary amino acid it goes to for most reparation chores. When any part of your body needs healing, say from a cut, recovery from a hangover or even sleep deprivation, it’s glutamine that gets used, and a great majority is extracted straight from the skeletal muscles. Unless there is some spare via supplementation. There aren’t many supplements worth spending your hard-earned or hard-stolen cash on but glutamine is without doubt one of them, get it in powdered form, for ease of absorption.

Sleep

Most of us don’t get anywhere near enough sleep, the regeneration magic happens then But when we are so busy in our daily lives with those vile afflictions known as day jobs, those wondrous affairs called social lives and those horrors we address as responsibilities; sleep is the first thing Sleep deprivation can have a big impact on our metabolism; slowing it down and hoarding fat and not getting enough sleep slows glucose metabolism by as much as 30 to 40 percent, causing even more fat gain. EEK

Eve Van Cauter, PhD , from the University of Chicago Medical School, studied the effects of three different durations of sleep in eleven men aged 18 to 27.

For the first three nights of the study, the men slept eight hours per night; for the next six nights, they slept four hours per night; for the last seven nights, they slept 12 hours per night. Results showed that after four hours of sleep per night, they metabolized glucose least efficiently. Levels of cortisol were also higher, which has been linked to memory impairment, age-related insulin resistance, and impaired recovery in athletes.

Van Cauter said that after only one week of sleep restriction, young, healthy males had glucose levels that were no longer normal and showed a rapid deterioration of the body’s functions. This reduced ability of the body to manage glucose is similar to those found in the elderly. This study shows that sleep deprivation can negatively impact physiology that is critical for athletic performance — glucose metabolism and cortisol status.

While no one completely understands the complexities of sleep, this does indicates that sleep deprivation can lead to decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis.

Psylocke demonstrates sleeping. Never mind showing off all the psychic abilities and martial skills, eh?

So how much sleep is required?

It going to differ from person to person, but the general consensus is 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, more for is required for athletes due to greater physical exertion. A minimum of 6, preferably 7, and if you’re raining hard 8 to 9 hours.

Some of our genes act as internal clocks and release hormones according to cycles called circadian rhythms, which are triggered by darkness and light and alternate over 24-hour periods. When we mess with these rhythms by not getting enough sleep, our metabolism of glucose declines, and our level of cortisol increases. Further, sleeping for long stretches is naturally anabolic.

During deep sleep, our bodies release growth hormone, which stimulates the healing and growth of muscle and bone. So while it’s possible to push through a lack of sleep during any one day, proper sleep helps athletes by boosting areas of performance that require cognitive function, reaction time, hand-eye coordination and of course it aids recovery from grueling workouts.

Anything else? It is a pretty big team to learn from

Use your mind.

The mind-muscle-connection

Great things can be accomplished with strong focus, concentration and visualisation. A technique utilised by many athletic pros to maximize muscle and performance. By developing a strong ‘mind-muscle connection’ ,this connection is made by visualizing the muscle being trained and focusing on the feeling of it working through its complete range of motion during each rep.

When applying the technique don’t think about where you feel the muscular stimulus, think about where you’re supposed to feel the stimulus. For example; during press ups the muscle that should be shifting all the weight are the pectoralis major, but a lot of people end up focusing too much on the arms, triceps specifically, which are only assisting the movement. Instead you must focus on contacting the pectorals thereby bringing the arms together and forward, the triceps assisting only to extend the elbow joint. Continue with this thought process during the negative phase of the movement, focusing on the feeling of the pectorals stretching.

Keeping your mental focus channeled in this manner will direct the majority of stress to the target muscles of your chest, maximizing muscular stimulation. It sounds daft, far-fetched even a little sci-fi but believe in your Rogue Advisor, beloved reader, the mind-muscle connection is the real deal.

Visualization

Some athletes routinely use visualization techniques in both training and competition. Those who’ve used these techniques have cultivated not only a competitive edge, but also found renewed mental awareness, and a heightened sense of focus.

Visualization is also referred to as guided imagery, mental rehearsal, mediation, etc. Regardless of the term applied, the techniques and concepts are the same. Visualization is the mental process of creating an image or intention of what you desire.

Colossus. Clearly.

“Throughout my bodybuilding career, I was constantly playing tricks on my mind. This is why I began to think of my biceps as mountains, instead of flesh and blood. Thinking of my biceps as mountains made my arms grow faster and bigger than if I’d seen them only as muscles.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

This technique can be used to increase the ‘intent’ of the result of a competition or training session. By visualizing the desired scene, complete with reverie of a previous best performance or a future target, the athlete is then ‘steps into’ that feeling. While imagining these scenarios, the athlete will imagine in perfect detail, all the myriad sensations of the way it feels to perform in the desired way, or the results wanted from that training session.

And finally

Keep it cool.

No really. It does wonders for you. Every time you get stressed out, start vexing or get your raging bellyache on, you get a massive surge of nasty old cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue. So when you have to skip a meal or a workout, don’t be miffed but don’t use cortisol as an excuse to slack off either. Temperature also affects testosterone levels. Everyone knows that guys who sleep in the cold have a higher sperm count right? That’s because testosterone is boosted when the testicles are at just the right chilly temperature. Yay.

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

“These Aren’t the Roids You’re Looking for”

A terrible  thought crossed my ever pontificating mind that after reading some of the training articles here at Level Up, some beloved readers may be tempted to take a chemically assisted shortcut to hypertrophy. Thus, it is my duty to inform you on the pros and cons, and of course science y’all upside the head.

These ARE the Droids you're looking for however.

These are the Droids you’re looking for however.

Anabolic Steroids

Yup. That terrible buzz-word has finally appeared on Level Up, but fear not, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor is here to keep you informed of the effects, side-effects and dangers of these nefarious chemical compounds. The advice bit will follow, but in the interests of true journalism, (I’m qualified and everything now.Yay), I present a the tale of how they came to be.

Percy Lavon Julian, unsung hero of medical science

This man is responsible for a myriad of medical breakthroughs.

This man is responsible for a myriad of medical breakthroughs.

Overall our knowledge of the great people who brought us groundbreaking milestones in medical science is pretty lacklustre. Can you honestly say that you have ever heard of this great man?

Occasionally a scientist will be so prominent as to be noticed by all; Albert Einstein is an obvious example, also consider those who are well-known for their inventions, again an obvious example would be someone like Thomas Edison. It is sad but true that the vast majority of the things we use every day were created by people whose names are unknown to us; because they never got credit for them or we just plain old couldn’t be bothered to learn who the brainiac was.

If you look in your medicine cabinet, at least half of what you find there was because of the genius of Percy Lavon Julian. Born April 11, 1899 he was one of the first African-Americans to receive a doctorate in chemistry. He was the first African-American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the second African-American scientist inducted from any field.

Our unsung hero working hard.

Our unsung hero working hard.

He specialised in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants, it was one of the most crucial advancements in modern medicine. Ever used birth-control pills? An asthma inhaler? Taken medication for arthritis, eczema, chronic lung illness or even cancer?

You can thank Percy Julian for inventing the steroids required to produce them. On these merits alone, Julian should have been recognised and revered. He wasn’t however, because he was a black man living under the Jim Crow laws. Enacted between 1876 and 1965 these laws mandate a “separate but equal” status for African-Americans. The separation in practice led to conditions for African-Americans that tended to be inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages.

Some examples of Jim Crow laws are the segregation of public schools, public places, public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and even drinking fountains. Even the U.S. military was also segregated. Before Julian made his epic discoveries, he was a promising chemist and was hired as a faculty member at the traditionally black school Howard University. No other African-American had ever earned a PhD in chemistry up to that point, due to the ridiculous Jim Crow laws, but that would not stop Julian.

Despite his talents and intellect, no school would offer him a place in a doctoral program; but he persevered and applied to overseas schools, eventually securing himself a fellowship to get his doctorate in Vienna, Austria. Julian sent letter after letter to one of his colleagues back at Howard University. Unwisely he bragged about his sexual exploits and gossiped about his former co-workers. Some years later when he returned to work for Howard, his colleague whom had received all the letters, he and Julian had a falling out. The letters were handed to the black press and published, tarnishing his reputation.

This was then compounded by him having an affair with his assistant’s wife. He was forced to quit University; humiliated and vilified by the black press. This remained a problem, as they chose to hold a grudge against him for years. A paint company in Chicago called Glidden hired him as director of research, an unprecedented move at the time, considering the laws. It was here that he saw the research he was performing could do much more than make paints. In 1940, Julian discovered the technique to isolate the hormones progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone from; wait for it, soybean oil! Following this discovery he was able to synthesize $10,000 worth of these hormones a day.

That's right, beloved reader. Julian's genius was such, that he could use the oils of this humble food to create hormones.

That’s right, beloved reader. Julian’s genius was such, that he could use the oils of this humble food to create hormones.

Within a few years this led to another scientist figuring out how to use cortisone to treat arthritis. He later started his own company to synthesize steroid intermediates from the Mexican wild yam. His work helped reduce the cost of steroid intermediates to large multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Julian on the cover of Time magazine for his achievements.

Julian on the cover of Time magazine for his achievements.

During his lifetime he received more than 130 chemical patents. Yet, even after all his achievements, becoming an award-winning scientist, a wealthy businessman and community member, Julian and his family still had to suffer prejudice and segregation because of the ridiculous and prejudiced Jim Crow laws. During the 1960’s equal rights movements were becoming stronger, more forceful.

Julian was loath to adopt a more aggressive way of fighting for equality. but he eventually joined the NAACP, (whose tactics at ensuring equality were a lot more aggressive than they are now), It is heartbreaking, for a man of such significant accomplishments to resort to violent methods against bigotry that shouldn’t even ever have existed. But people can only be pushed so far before taking drastic measures.

But that story ended on such a negative. Why, Rogue Advisor, would you subject us to this?

Apologies, beloved reader, but the tale had to be told

The pros of roids 

Various anabolic steroids on display there. Not to sure whether the dumbbell shaped thing should be taken orally or I.V.

Various anabolic steroids on display there.
Not to sure whether the dumbbell shaped thing should be taken orally or intravenously?

Anabolic steroids by definition are a synthetic derivatives of testosterone. Modern anabolic steroids are created from Mexican Sarsaparilla root, (wild yam). The root itself has no anabolic qualities in its natural form, but can be synthesised into testosterone. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, it is produced by the testes, in layman’s terms ‘balls’.

It is an androgen responsible for hypertrophy and also an androgenic, which causes facial hair to grow and the deepening of voice etc. Testosterone is the big daddy when it comes to  growth and repair of tissues such as skeletal muscle. The primary mode of anabolic action with all anabolic/androgenic steroids is the activation of cellular androgen receptors to increase protein synthesis, thus the requirement for a perfect diet, chock full of glorious tasty protein filed foods, and also a genetic ‘blessing’ to have a great number of these receptors.

Feel informed.

That’s the stuff produced by your balls guys.

We are all born with a certain amount of these and that is that, they cannot be increased nor decreased. The number of receptors is set in stone until the end of our days, thus anabolic steroids will not have a noticeable effect on anyone with a low androgenic receptor count. For those of you a high amount of androgenic receptors, consider this: Working out actually destroys the skeletal muscle tissue, breaking it down and leaving it temporarily weak.

The body, being the wondrous adaptive machine that it is, then reacts to this by re-growth of the muscle tissue. When they are fully healed again, they are better prepared for the stresses that caused the initial damage by adapting to the new input with increased strength and hypertrophy.

This is the Supervillain 'Balloon Man', his powers include looking hideous.

This is the Supervillain ‘Balloon Man’, his powers include looking hideous.

This anabolic process require resting and eating enough protein, unfortunately, many factors can limit the amount of protein we can absorb and the rate at which we absorb it, therefore slowing our progress and limiting the gains from our workouts. That’s where the appeal of taking the chemical shortcut comes in; The faster the skeletal muscle regenerate via protein synthesis, the sooner you can pump iron again.

Supplementing external anabolic compounds increases hormone levels, and thus the speed and efficiency of protein absorption, speeding up the muscular regeneration, thus being able to pound the iron more often, thus building strength and size at a  greatly increased frequency. However, even if you’re pumping yourself full of roids, if you don’t genetically have enough  androgen receptors to deal with them, don’t consume enough protein  and miss workouts; you’ll be wasting time. Anabolic steroids alone do not build alone. You have to do the work, the diet and have the receptors.

The cons of roids

Little fella will never be the same again.

Little fella will never be the same again.

There were already a few cons in the pros section, how bad can it be?

Legalities: I don’t really need to go into this do I? It’s against UK law. Nuff said. Acne: Rampant acne is one of the more obvious indicators of steroid use. The sebaceous glands, which secrete oils in the skin, are stimulated by androgens, increasing the level of skin hormones, enhancing the output of oils. It most commonly causes large patches of acne to  develop on the back, shoulders and more often than not the face. Not such a bad side effect? Try the rest of them.

Aggressive behavior: Can be one of the scarier sides of steroid use. Men are typically more aggressive than women because of the significantly higher testosterone difference, and especially increasing this with the use of steroids. Yet some bodybuilders and powerlifters like this effect for the use of lifting heavier and more explosive.

But is that really worth hurting people for? Especially if one were to enter a rage and hurt a friend, family member etc. It most definitely is not the Superhero / Level Up  way of doing things. Yet some bodybuilders and powerlifters like this effect for the use of lifting heavier and more explosive.

You'll be sorry. Too a lot of people, maybe even those you love.

You’ll be sorry. Too a lot of people, maybe even those you love.

Birth defects: Anabolic steroids can have a profoundly impact on the development of a fetus. Adrenal Genital Syndrome in particular is a very disturbing occurrence, in which a female fetus can develop male reproductive organs. Woman should not use anabolic steroids or other medications that may be harmful to the fetus, and always check with your doctor first.

Blood clotting: Anabolic steroids have been proven to increase prothrombin time, or the duration it will take for a blood clot to form. This basically means that while an individual is taking steroids, he/she may notice that it takes slightly longer than usual for a small cut or nosebleed to stop seeping blood. This leads to exacerbated life threatening situations if the athlete ever requires invasive surgery.

Heart damage: If the steroids in question are being administered intravenously, they will always pass through the tricuspid valve of the heart, the first through which de-oxygenated blood flows through in order to be re-oxygenated for the next cardiovascular cycle. If enough damage is caused to the valve, de-oxygenated blood will flow back the way it entered, damaging the valve even more and reducing hemoglobin levels.

All that scar tissue, ruining it's functions, will never heal.

All that scar tissue, ruining it’s functions, will never heal.

Liver damage: As with everything that is taken orally, it will at some point be processed by the liver. And of course damage it, irreparably. Even a long-term alcoholic can recover around 60% of their liver’s original functionality. Steroid damage to the liver is permanent.

And this, beloved reader, is the irreparable damage to the kidneys through anabolic steroid usage.

And this, beloved reader, is the irreparable damage to the kidneys through anabolic steroid usage.

Kidney damage:  Since your kidneys are involved in the filtration and removal of byproducts from the body, the administration of steroidal compounds (which are largely excreted in the urine) will cause them some level of strain. There is actually some evidence to suggest that steroid use can be linked to the onset of Wilms Tumor in adults, which is a rapidly growing kidney tumor.

Gynecomastia: The  medical term is for the development of female breast tissue in the male body. This occurs when the male is presented with unusually high level of oestrogen, particularly with the use of strong aromatizing androgens such as testosterone and the most popular oral steroid Dianabol. The excess estrogen can act upon receptors in the breast and stimulate the growth of mammary tissues. So if you want the boobs plus pecs combo guys, get roiding!

An A-cup at least, there are worse cases, and surgery is the only option.

An A-cup at least, there are worse cases, and surgery is the only option.

Testicular shrinkage: Steroids can make your balls shrivel up guys. Need I say any more? If that wasn’t enough it can cause baldness and prostate cancer.

I ain’t touching that s**t

Wise words. But the saddest truth is this:

Anabolic steroids are only a shortcut. The maximum hypertrophy any person can ever attain is genetically predetermined. It’s limited by your very DNA, you can only get so big. Why rush it? Also, most people can only produce roughly 1.5 pounds per week, your body actually limits the hypertrophy to take pressure from bones and joints. Steroid use cannot change this anatomical fact.

I rest my well-informed case.

True story.
I rest my well-informed case.

Until next time. Stay informed.