Category Archives: Conditioning

Strength Camp Season 2

Guest post by Primal Strength Camp member Curtis Walke.  Curt attended the very first camp and hasn’t missed one since!

strength camp Charlottesville

Today was the first Primal Strength Camp of the Spring. We took advantage of the favorable weather and started the season off in proper fashion with an afternoon of conditioning. Needless to say, it was a much needed starting point to shake out the rust, soak up some sunshine, and pick up something heavy. Strength Camp is back!!!!

Kicking off the season today reminded me of the very first Primal Strength Camp session I attended. Tank had just started the camp. 3 of us met up at 4 in the afternoon on a 93 degree Wednesday. For an excruciating hour, we carried sandbags up and down the hill, did pushups with weighted vests, clean & pressed a half full beer keg, and lunge walked with the keg. All 3 of us were heaving by the end of the hour. But we all couldn’t wait until next time.

Primal Strength Camp has come a long way since that first session. This thing started with a guy’s passion for strength training and the work it takes to become the best possible version of yourself. Tank’s strength camp is by far the best thing I’ve come across to keep myself motivated to continue in my path of maintaining my strength and fitness goals. The experience is totally different than anything I’ve tried.

I’m super psyched to join Tank’s camp again this season and start breaking through these winter plateaus. 2013 Primal Strength Camp season has begun. Time to Do Work, Son!!

— Curtis Walke

Crank Up the Intensity

If you ask 20 trainers about what exactly “intensity” is, you are almost guaranteed to get 20 different answers.  It is one of those contentious semantics discussions in the fitness field that people argue over all the time, and nobody ever seems to agree on.

Now if you ask me however, I will explain it to you in two different ways.

There is the Russian definition (which I tend to favor):

  • The percentage of weight you are using in relation to your 1 rep max.

And then there is the American definition:

  • The relationship between reps/sets and rest times.  (Don’t confuse this with volume, which is essentially the total amount of work done in a given time and doesn’t factor in rest periods).

While I favor the Russian definition, both are acceptable and adjusting them is key to making some serious strength and muscle gains.

intensity

So my challenge to you is to crank up the intensity of your workouts immediately!

But it will take a conscientious effort on your part and some planning to make it happen.

Let’s start with #1.

Max Percentages

Your goal for any workout should be to top your workout before it, either by reps or resistance.  To do this properly you have to know the intensity you are working with.

The best way to do this is to work from a 1 rep max percentage chart, and plan your workouts weeks in advance using a systematic and methodical approach.  Check out Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 method.  It is a perfect example of varying intensity in a way that will allow you to make long term gains in strength.

For example, say you do 3 working sets of squats at 65%, 75%, and 85% of your one rep max respectively.  The next time you squat, you should up those percentages to 70%, 80%, and 90%.  The next time, higher, etc.

Now this is a vague explanation, but you get the point.  Obviously reps will vary from week to week, but the point is you should constantly be pushing yourself to improve from the week before.  In order to get stronger, you have to keep increasing the intensity and working at higher resistance levels.

Let me warn you of one thing.  Training at 100% intensity (based on #1) is not sustainable and should not be done week in and week out.  Sure you may make some gains for a while, but you will eventually plateau and quite possibly fry your central nervous system.  That is the beauty of Wendler’s 5/3/1 is that you don’t ever “max” out.

Alright, now what about #2.

Rest Times

Decreasing rest times is not necessarily popular when training for maximum strength, but it is an integral part of mass building and bodybuilding.

Shorter rest times really challenge your muscles and allows you to cram a lot of volume into a single workout, leading ultimately to gains in muscle mass.  Resting for too long can hinder your growth, as your muscles are fully recuperated and are not challenged enough.

Experiment with shorter and longer rest periods, and keep varying your approach to keep your body continually guessing.  Not varying your rest times allows your muscles to adapt just like they would if you never varied the weight you were using, so you need to keep it interesting.

I’ve been tying a new approach for the last month.  It is too early to tell if I’m reaping any benefits, but the approach is well documented and widely used, and has yielded some great results for people.

Some of you may have heard of the Doggcrap method, a forum born program that started almost as a fluke but caught like wildfire.  The program itself is based around rest-pause, which is what I have been using for the past month and is a great way to expose you to higher intensities.

Basically, you take a weight you can handle for say 8-10 reps.  Pump em out, rest for 15 seconds, pump out as many as you can again (likely 3-5), rest for another 15 seconds, and then pump em out again (prob for another 2-3).  

This allows you to get a lot of work done in a hurry.  It’s been kicking my ass the past 4 weeks and has been a great experience.  If you try rest-pause, don’t do it with squats or deadlifts…

Decreasing your rest times also allows you to build up some serious work capacity.  If you aren’t sure what exactly that is, read this.  Work capacity is the most overlooked component of a strength training regimen but is of huge importance if you want to make continual long term gains.

Crank It Up

If you want to take your strength training to the next level, you have to crank up your intensity, ideally by the definitions I laid out above.

Vary your resistance and rest times, and keep challenging yourself.  Beat your records from week to week, either by heavier resistance, shorter breaks, or even just a few total reps.  The idea is to get better each and every time, plain and simple.  And its all based on intensity!

Evolve!!

— Tank

 

Do Work Son!

Anyone that has been following my training style knows that I preach training like an athlete.

But aside from rapid muscle building and raw strength gains, what does training like an athlete do you for that will carry over to any other kind of training regimen and into real world functionality?

Two words.

Work Capacity.

It is the most overlooked concept in strength training regimens, but it could be the one thing holding you back from making the gains you want.

So what do we mean by work capacity?

It can be defined as the ability to repeat high quality efforts and is directly tied to your preparedness level.  The higher your work capacity, the more prepared for training you are, the more prepared for training you are, the more work you can do, the more work you can do, the more muscle you can add, and so on and so on.

Now when you look at it, most people use strength training to A) get stronger and/or B) to get bigger.

Very few people work at the “conditioning” part of “strength and conditioning” with the same vigor and determination that they do with lifting weights.

But the bottom line is, if your work capacity is too low, you will not be able to incorporate new training volumes or crank up the intensity of your workouts while operating at the same strength levels.  This is a recipe for hitting a plateau.

Having a low work capacity plays hell with your recovery times too.  The longer you take to recover, the less you can train, limiting your opportunities to improve.

Now I know what you are thinking.  Cardio sucks, I get it.  But improving your work capacity has to become an integral part of your routine, and it doesn’t have to be spent on a treadmill or stair climber.

training like an athlete

Decrease Your Rest Times

I know there are prescribed rest times in between sets depending on your training goal, but throw all of that out the window.  They can be a good rule of thumb, but they can be a crutch as well.

Don’t be afraid to crank out a top end work set on 30 seconds rest.  Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell in his Book of Methods made a great point by saying that if you fully rest in between sets, your body will just keep using the same muscle fibers and no adaptations will take place and no new growth will occur.

Less rest = more work = higher work capacity.

Hill Sprints

These are ass kickers, no doubt about it.  Many of the greatest athletes of all time swear by them.  Who the hell wants to run on a treadmill for an hour anyway?

I have never met anyone trying to pack on serious muscle that likes epic cardio sessions.  Get outside, breathe some fresh air, sprint up a hill 6-10 times and be done with it, all in less than 20 minutes.  Do this a few times a week and not only will your work capacity improve, but you will burn some serious fat in the process.

training like an athlete

Plyometrics

For a while, box jumps were the only cardio I did.  I jumped for height, for distance, for speed, for everything.  Box jumps are great for conditioning, balance, explosive power, leg/core strength and stability, and overall athletic performance.

You can hit these during your workout or as a high intensity finisher.  Done properly, you can probably make some serious progress very quickly.

Broad jumps and various tumbling exercises are great alternatives as well.

Sled and Prowler Work

These are a must.  Pulling a sled and pushing a prowler will beef up work capacity in a hurry and are great for total body strength.  They offer a ton of variations to try, each with their own distinct benefits.  Sled work is a staple of Primal Strength Camp.

Vary your pushes/pulls between heavy weight and short distances and light weight and long distances.  At a minimum start with 100 feet.  Dragging a heavy sled for a few miles is not out of the ordinary for the elite.

For those of you training at home, I’d recommend getting one.  They are simply too good to pass up.  You can get one here.  Add a few 45lb plates to it and start walking.

Circuit Training

Just about any kind of quick hitting circuit with roughly 5 exercises can do the trick.  Try this one out:

  1. 10 Pushups
  2. 10 Squat Jumps
  3. Bear Crawl 25 feet
  4. 10 Bodyweight Lunges
  5. 10 Kettlebell Swings

Perform this for 3 rounds with no rest in between exercises, and only a minute rest in between rounds.

Wrap Up

training like an athleteBuilding work capacity is not the most glamorous work in the world, but if you want to get to that next level, you have got to improve it. Getting stronger is a grind, my friends, and you’ve got to put in the dirty work to achieve greatness.

In the words of Big Black, “Do work son!”

Evolve!!

— Tank

Train Like an Animal, Walk Like an Animal

Are you ready for a new challenge?  Tired of the same old bodyweight routine?  Time to unleash a whole new set of movements that will add a huge boost to your bodyweight training.

Animal Walks

My concept for Primal Strength Camp revolved around training primitively, getting back to the roots of man and moving our bodies like we were intended to.  If I’m truly Primal, I need to not only train like an animal, I need to walk like one too!  Primal man was a beast!

Animal walks are a great set of movements, not only for their simplicity, but their versatility as well.  You can do them anywhere and they are easy to modify for increased difficulty.  You can progress to going up stairs, using dumbbells, going longer distances, or even wearing a weighted vest.

They are a great total body movement, especially for your back, triceps, shoulders, and core, and they will also test your conditioning levels.  I like to incorporate them into a dynamic warmup or a high intensity finisher.

They are tough, don’t let them fool you!

Try this as a finisher to your workout:

  • Pushups x 20
  • Bear crawl 50 feet forwards
  • High Jumps
  • Bear Crawl 50 feet backwards

Do this for a couple of rounds.  You can substitute other walks as well (crab walks, hand walks, etc.)

Check out this example of a modified bear crawl using roughly 30 pounds of resistance per arm.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mas-jz4kK7U&feature=plcp[/tube]

Evolve!!

— Tank