The body responds best when you treat it naturally; that is, treat it as nature does. According to Jovan Mathers, There are four basic themes expressed throughout a year as exemplified by each of the four seasons: winter is the season for maintenance, springtime is the season for growing, summer is the season for intensity, and autumn is the season for maturity.
Gauging your training goals and intensity to the themes of the four seasons is the best possible way to train for the long term. Train this way you simply and will last longer. Just look at a mature tree. Over the years it’s received its share of sunshine, rain and soil nutrients to grow big and strong. It didn’t take any years or seasons off, because that wasn’t in its nature. So it grew. So can you. If you live like a tree.
You might say that a tree is the inverse of man. A tree has its roots in the ground and its branches in heaven. Man has his roots in heaven and his branches in the ground. As a man, you have to get down to earth in your training by using the seasons as your guide. And here’s how.
Since winter is maintenance season, the emphasis is on healing, rest, recovery and less time training, but what training that’s done is spent working on weak points; specialisation is in order. Try to stay on a decent diet and don’t get fat. Go lighter, stretch a lot and train three times a week: upper body one day, legs the next. Get exercise from recreational activity. I like to hike in the mountains during the winter months.
When spring rolls around after three months of maintenance and specialisation, start training everything harder again. It has much to do with the days becoming longer with more sunshine, perhaps kindling the desire to look good wearing less clothing as the days warm up.
Spring is a good time to start training more frequently, maybe doing more aerobics at the end of your workout, going from three to four days a week. This harder training lasts up to summer and produces added strength and growth. The goal of spring training is to get you in good enough condition to endure the increased intensity of summer training.
By summer you’re ready to do your most intense training of the year to lead up to your peak condition in the early autumn. Increasing the number of sets done in a workout and decreasing the rest period between sets leads one toward peak condition over time.
Increase your training to three sets of each exercise, training an average of five times a week. Getting in better shape as the summer progresses, add exercises.
The first part of autumn is spent increasing intensity to reach a physical peak by the time the leaves turn colours. This is nature’s peak for the year. The leaves of autumn are brightest just before they fall. And so it is with training the human body. The best way to do everything is shown to us as an example of nature.
Pay attention to it and learn more about yourself and how to train most effectively to keep you fit your whole life.
Bringing flexion back
You should know by now that doing hundreds of sit-ups is doing nothing good for your back, but that doesn’t mean you ought to ditch spinal flexion entirely. If flexibility is important, you may want to select full-range curl-ups and crunches. If maximal muscular development is the goal, including the crunch and its variations may help. ■
WHAT TO EXPECT AT YOUR FIRST CROSS FIT CLASS
Starting a CrossFit training routine may seem intimidating — especially if you’re new to this strength and conditioning program. To alleviate some of your concerns, here is a CrossFit primer to prepare you for that first day in the “box.”
The box: CrossFit training spaces are not called gyms, instead, boxes. The term originated from the fact that many locations resemble a box composed of cement walls that house weights, bars and ropes. There are no TVs or mirrors.
The WOD: This is an abbreviation for the workout of the day. These workouts vary usually on a daily basis.
AMRAP: Another abbreviation, this time for as many rounds (or repetitions) as possible. For example, a 20-minute AMRAP of 15 push-ups, 15 sit-ups and 15 air squats would require the athlete to perform as many rounds as possible within the given time frame.
Like any other training program, CrossFit requires mastering a few basic movements that form the foundation of the conditioning routine. There are nine fundamental exercise movements to master in order to become a fluent CrossFit athlete.
The exercises include deadlift, sumo deadlift high pull, shoulder press, push press, push jerk, air squat (without the weights), front squat, overhead squat, and medicine ball clean.
As you advance in your CrossFit training and become more fit, you will be introduced to additional moves. These exercises and movements include sprints, pull-ups, burpees, sit-ups, box jumps, rowing, and gymnastics ring work.
Tackling CrossFit solo can be risky. It’s important to begin your CrossFit program by learning the basics from an experienced friend or partner or by enrolling with a coach. It’s highly recommended that newcomers spend some time with a coach to learn how to ease into the workouts and master the basic movements.
Proper form and execution will help prevent injury and routine burnout. And if you’re having difficulty mastering an exercise or movement, do not hesitate to ask others for help.
CrossFit is difficult and requires hard work and attention to form. Easing into the program with an emphasis on precise movement techniques will protect against injuries and prepare you for increasingly difficult WODs. With hard work and proper technique you will see results and enjoy heading to the “box.”
ARM SUPER SETTING
Lay on a bench, gripping an EZ bar with a false (thumbless) narrow grip. Make sure your elbows face in toward each other as close as possible — they shouldn’t flare out. Let the weight of the bar pull your elbows backwards toward the wall behind you and then “drag” it forward while pressing it up over the back of your head. Use a controlled negative and repeat.
Supersets are a great way to significantly increase the intensity involved in training your upper arms. Supersets also pump a high volume of blood into the entire arm region, enhancing growth. A superset involves the use of two sets of exercises performed back to back without any noticeable rest in between. The muscle groups are often close together (or even the same muscle group), to take advantage of working that specific area hard as well as pumping it up with blood.
Supersets are a speciality tool, a manner in which to boost intensity significantly. The intensity level gets so high that you don’t want to be performing supersets too often. They are a tool to use occasionally for sparking a quick gain.
One of the advantages of a superset is the ability to really focus on one area. Performing a superset promotes concentration. When you are doing two sets in a row without rest, you automatically become focused on the muscle because the muscles get overloaded fast. Do it with several sets and your focus is solely on the muscle as the pain and pump increase.
Start with a triceps exercise. Many people get caught up in the glamour of biceps building, but the triceps are the key arm muscle group. By starting with the triceps you put the emphasis on the right place right upfront.
Perform the prone french press with an EZ curl bar. The weight is lowered to a point just above your forehead, then pressed back up using your triceps as the moving force.
A key factor here is your elbows. You must keep your elbows close together instead of flared out. Many people tend to flare the elbows outward which makes the exercise easier but less effective. Don’t get away with this cheating move, as things can get sloppy toward the latter sets. Perform ten repetitions on each set.
Match the triceps work with standing biceps curls also using an EZ curl bar. Again, your elbows are the key, keep them tucked tight against your body throughout the exercise.
The Goal for Curling
Also, the goal for curling is to have your biceps do all the work, don’t start cheating by giving the bar a boost with your thighs — a common tendency as fatigue sets in. For this exercise, the aim is ten repetitions per set.
Superset the prone french press with the curls, and no rest between sets until both are completed. Allow for a very brief rest — thirty to sixty seconds, then repeat the superset. Initially, perform just a couple of supersets of this pair, but for the following workouts, complete three to four supersets.
For the second superset, perform the cable pushdown with a rope. One of the main points on this exercise will be to flare each hand out at the end of the movement, helping the contraction of the muscle at the bottom.
This is not to be mistaken for the cheat move of rotating the sides of the wrists outward, which causes the rope to assume the shape of a horseshoe or bell curve. The proper way is to flare the rope out so that it’s in the shape of a wide upside-down V—A.
Again, ten repetitions are in order. You should not lean forward to help press the weight down, which takes the tension off of your triceps.
The Complementary Exercise
The complementary exercise for this superset is the preacher curl with a straight barbell. The keys to getting the most out of this one are strict form, full range of motion, and finishing as strong as you started.
You’ll have some fatigue on this second superset, so make sure the weight load is appropriate, that generally translates into somewhat lighter weights.
Correct form must not be sacrificed just to get the weight up. The mechanics of the preacher curl will assist in keeping the form strict, as it naturally forces good form. For maximum results, make sure you perform that full range of motion, especially at the bottom end of the curl, really lay your arms all the way out.
As with the first superset, start with two sets of this superset, then move on up to three or four sets for subsequent workouts. Keep the time between supersets relatively short — not much more than a minute — for increased intensity and focus.
Why just two pairs of supersets? Supersets are quite intense and condense a hard workout into short time-space.
Your arms have smaller muscles than the rest of your body and don’t need as many sets to reach maximum load levels. Make up for volume with intense training. Supersets are an excellent way to stimulate intensity in training for all muscle groups — big or small.