Framework For The Masses…

Since I’ve been writing on the theme of sustainability, I have decided to stray into the mainstream this week, and offer an outline of a sustainable strength training workout, which might be a good fit for many.

This is a workout which can benefit everyone from the prep-athlete, to the working professional desiring to stay in shape, to hardcore fitness enthusiasts, and even seniors.  What makes this framework able to fit anyone is in how it is scaled.  That is, the weights used, and the intensity given, should be relative to the individual’s ability and desire.  Relative that prior statement, this can be anybody’s workout.

The tenets:

·         Exercise should make your life better, not worse.

·         Use the heaviest possible poundages, in the best possible form.

·         Cheating to enable more repetitions increases the opportunity to become injured.   If you have to sacrifice perfect form to enable another repetition, stop.  The body doesn’t know 7 repetitions from 9, or 10.  The body knows good form, and failure.  When good form and failure meet, results happen.

·         Train through as complete a range of motion on all exercises as you are comfortable with.   The act of strength training, through a complete range of motion, is also the act of stretching.  It is just stretching with weights in your hands or at the ends of your feet.

Cursory definition of fitness:

The sum of strength, balance, endurance, flexibility, and overall command of one’s physicality it applies to everyday living, as well as athletics, and recreation.


These exercises, performed as directed, should enhance all athletic and physical endeavors.  Done properly, these exercises will also help minimize the risk of injury which might occur in other forms of athletics and recreation.


This is the rotation of 2 exercises performed with a minimum of rest in-between sets. While your upper body is working, your lower body is resting.  While your lower body is working, your upper body is resting.

Every day is leg day:

Sixty-five to seventy percent of a woman’s muscle mass is carried from the hips down.  Fifty-five to sixty percent for men.  Since a majority of muscle is in the lower body, legs are to be included in every workout.

Aesthetic fitness:

Increases in muscular detail, hardness, and fullness, though initiated through strength training, are largely functions of diet, and recovery.  The most consistent person executing these workouts, will see few results in these areas without adhering to structured and consistent nutritional minimums.

Machines, Dumbbells, And Free Weights:

There are unique values in all of these.  There is no one, which is better than the other.  Gravity works — period.

Anyone who suggests that free weights are better than machines has little understanding of how machines can be manipulated to enhance flexibility.  Machines can also provide a unique plane from which strength can be improved, and muscle growth can be stimulated.

In the end, strength training is about gravity management.


This workout is evenly balanced.  Every muscle from the neck down is included.  I have included isolateral, and bilateral movements.

I have included vertical pushing and pulling movements, as well as horizontal pushing and pulling movements.

I have included wide, and narrow stance movements for the lower body.

The split:

Day 1: Chest/legs

Day 2: Shoulders/arms/legs

Day 3: Back/legs

Three sets of 6-10 repetitions are suggested for athletes and and hardcore fitness enthusiasts.

One – two sets of 8-10 repetitions for general fitness enthusiasts, and for seniors.

Emphasis should be on slow negatives; 6-8 seconds , with force applied for 3-5 seconds

Last word before the workout:

I used the term “outline” in the first paragraph of these instructions.  What you will read and view below is just that, an outline.   Substitutions can/should be made for the sake of variety within this framework.

An example of that relates to what I wrote earlier about free weights and machines.  If I do my incline bench press one week with dumbbells, the following week I might do it with a barbell, and the week after with a chest press machine.  There are unique values in all of these.

The same idea can applied to lat pulldowns.  If I do them with a narrow grip one week, the following week I might do them with a wide grip attachment.  The next week, I might substitute them with an underhanded grip, or with pull-ups.

If I do bench curls for biceps one week, I may do concentration curls the following week, and so-on.

The idea behind this workout is less the movements themselves, and more the idea of placing attention on equal parts pushing and pulling, isolateral and bilateral movements, as well as working through vertical and horizontal planes.  That said, the exercises I have selected here, are the ones which I go to first for any of these movements.

I don’t offer instruction during these videos.  The whole idea is to make a study of them.  Take note of the form you see, and strive to replicate it.

Day 1

Incline Bench Press/Prone Leg Curls

Chest Fly/True Squats With Stance Outside Shoulder Width

Flat Dumbbell Bench Press/1-Legged Leg Press

Day 2

Cable Lateral Deltoid Raise/Leg Extensions

Lying Triceps Extensions/Standard Lunges

Bench Bicep Curls/Seated Calf Raise

Day 3

 Lat Pulldowns With Narrow Gripr/Smith Machine Squats With Narrow Stance

1-Arm Seated Row/Walking Lunges

Deadlift/Low-Back Extensions


I currently have an aspiring female fitness athlete using this exact framework – she’s the one seen deadlifting 135 lbs. for FLAWLESS repetitions.  Her transformation this  year has been significant.

I also have a student athlete using this framework.  Her performance on the field has never been better.

I have used this framework myself, and have seniors using it as well.

I wish to restate the utility and the benefits of these exercises comes from using proper form through a complete range of motion.  Keep the poundages, and the intensity relative to individual ability, and desire.

I will end this with a quote from Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting legend, Precious McKenzie,

“The routine is not what matters; the sets, repetitions, and so-on.  What matters most is the effort and the consistency.  When people come to understand this, they will enjoy results regardless of the routine they are on.”

I fucking love that quote.  I heard it young, and it has been formative, to say the least.  Be well.  rc…


Please check back in 2 weeks, when I step back out of the mainstream, and into the comfort of the blender of my head.  Oh, and there is this from UK upstarts, Henry’s Funeral Shoe.   Enjoy…


We’re f#cked

I’ve been ruminating heavily on a word we hear, and read more and more in this age of increasing complexity; sustainable.  As the world changes, complexity increases and begets more complexity in all aspects of life, the idea of sustainability in anything seems less likely. 

We see leadership in technology, government, and business using the term sustainability to support their ambitions, or to push their agenda.  If one steps back, and takes a big picture look, the idea of sustainability becomes more an illusion than an outcome.  George Harrison wasn’t the first, but he said it well in his song, All Things Must Pass.

Too often something we see as being sustainable comes with hidden costs that only become disclosed after the fact.  This has everything do with our collective misunderstanding of cause and effect.  The example I like to use when discussing unintended consequences is this:

cause and effect logo

In the late 1980s there was a huge push to end the use of disposable diapers.  Science had proven that disposable diapers (like many plastics) would take hundreds of years to break down in our increasingly dense landfills.  In the long-term, it would have a negative effect on our environment.  So the push was on for parents to use reusable cloth diapers, and diaper services. 

As this movement took hold, science took a closer look at the short-term impact of cloth diapers.  There were harsh chemicals used in the cleaning of these diapers; chemicals which might enter water systems, and perhaps leave residue which might harm a baby’s skin.  There were the effects of fossil fuels used in the transportation of those diaper services which entered our atmosphere. 

All of the sudden, disposable diapers seemed to have a lesser impact on the environment than the reusable diapers.  Still, there is that landfill issue.  Also, what chemicals are used in the manufacturing of disposable diapers…? 

Face it, either form of diaper is going to have a negative impact on the environment, and neither may be sustainable in the long-term.  All things must pass.

Sustainability in fitness…

As in business, government, and technology, complexity in what we call fitness has increased as well.  Trends have evolved, picked up momentum and become as sexy as the idea of cloth diapers.  People get on board with these trends, and like cloth diapers, the trends take off.

Then, a little time passes, someone takes a closer look, observations are made, and the consequences of the trends become exposed. 

·         Excessive cardio (may) lead to increased appetite.

·         Artificial sweeteners (may) disrupt the function of insulin.

·         Weight loss surgeries (may) hold long-term digestive consequences.

·         Weight loss drugs (always) have negative side effects.

·         Hardcore exercise trends (may) lead to injury, overuse syndrome, and fatigue.


And so it goes.  I guess we’re not so smart after all.  All things must pa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ss.

Complete this form, please…

It had been nearly a year since I worked out in a public gym.  In this instance, it was an LA Fitness in downtown Chicago.  Within seconds of entering the facility I began to cringe.  I saw every poor-form exercise stereotype imaginable – simultaneously.  It was chaos in the flesh. I wanted to set myself on fire right there, either as an immediate escape, or to call attention to the problem, I’m not sure.



Despite the less-than-sustainable self-abuse I saw going on around me, I completed my strength training session, hopped on the StepMill for 30 minutes, and walked away feeling improved for my investment of time and effort.

I say this often,

“Exercise should make your life better, not worse.”

I felt like the only person in that gym who was connected to that ideal.  The workout I did was challenging, yet safe and sustainable.

Pulley logic… 

 Among the primary tenets of my exercise philosophy is this:

The car with the most, and the hardest miles on it, will likely go to the junkyard first.   Of course this is relative to the maintenance of the car, the fuel used, and the intelligence used to select the course.  I believe, because I have seen, exercise performed without a logical and intelligent approach may do a body more harm than good, and may not be sustainable. 

But there also comes into play this question:  Is it about the length of the journey, or the enjoyment of the ride…?  I want my own journey to be both long, and enjoyable.


Not a huge weight, but challenging, and sustainable

Sustainability revisited…

Rigorous exercise enhances my life for a variety of reasons.  Above all, it clears my head, and provides me with a confidence not otherwise experienced.  Though at times it can take a physical toll on me, and may have effects which won’t become disclosed for years to come, I believe my current workout scheme is sustainable in the long-term – at least until I’m in my 70s, and perhaps longer with a few modifications.

At the end of the day I know these are true:

          If I die from old age, I will not die with 6-pack abs.

          At 83, I will deadlift much less than I can today, but I will still deadlift.

          At 89, Full Beast Mode will mean that I won’t be using a walker.

          At 93, my triathlon might consist of undoing my belt, pulling down my diaper, and running to the bathroom simultaneously, that I might make it in time.

Straight up, a lot of trends I see in fitness and wellness these days may not be sustainable for the practitioner.   Though I understand that sustainability may not even be a consideration for many, I’ll suggest that it become part of the conversation because we’re all getting older.  Be well…  rc


Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from local musician, Jacob Montague.  Enjoy…

Learn more at

Guilty, I am…

Now what…

So you did it.  You finally got there.  Congratulations!  You are lean – in the best aesthetic shape of your life.  You ate clean.   You worked out like a person possessed.  You sacrificed, you pushed, and it shows.  You have abs, you have obliques, and you now have the ass of 12-year old boy.  Now what…?

You might not have considered this on your way to the heart of Nude Jacked City, but getting lean means more than just being in the best aesthetic shape of your life.  As you stand down from your quest, add calories back into your diet, cut back on your exercise, and allow body fat to increase, take note that, “the best shape of your life” was then, not now. 

Less than your best…

At any given moment, unless you choose to be in peak form once again, you will forever more be in less than your best shape – aesthetically speaking.  How you will you be able to handle that, emotionally speaking…?   

Be warned: no longer being in your best shape may not be a comfortable place to dwell for the rest of your life, though different folks do handle this in different ways. 

Some I know have dealt with this extremely well – they are not driven nor motivated by the Madison Avenue body garbage we have been fed for so many years in TV and magazine ads. They don’t bow to ill-conceived social pressure.  They recognize that being that lean didn’t come naturally or easily for them, and thus they had no expectations of a long-term lean status.

Many realize their body, and brain function better with a few more calories added in, and a little more body fat evenly distributed about their frame – even if that translates to a size or two increase with their clothing.  Yes, they miss the definition, but they LOVE the energy.  They still workout, they still eat better than 99% of the nation, and they appreciate what they have, rather than long for what they don’t have.

For others though, for most I’ll suggest, not being in their all-time best condition is a hard pill to swallow, ongoing.  As their clothes become a bit snug, as their faces round out a bit, and as the compliments from others that often go with being lean minimize, their self-esteem gets cloudy if not stormy.  Guilty I am. 

Some will go as far as to alter their social settings for fear of judgment that they are not at their best any longer, despite that they are still ahead of the game.  They may avoid the beach, pool parties, or any place that might require one to wear minimal clothing.  They will wear larger, and baggier clothing to hide behind.  Guilty I am.

A fine line that ain't so easy to navigate...

A fine line that ain’t so easy to navigate…


Some modify the activities they choose to participate in, for similar reasons.  They change the patterns of their life; when they go to the gym, the grocery store, or they do errands at different times of the day so they’re not seen in such poor condition.  This is all due to a self-generated perception which most outsiders never notice or even are aware of.  Guilty I am.

All of this due to just a few extra pounds, when most of the world still sees them as being in excellent shape.  Guilty I am.

Face it, we seek our flaws first.  When one has spent months seeing those “flaws” minimize, and ultimately disappear, seeing them return, and getting good with them is no easy experience.  Guilty I am.

Sustainability in condition…

Make the distinction between getting lean, and staying lean.  I will argue that most people have it in them to get lean.  However, being in peak condition with single digit body fat, for most, is not sustainable in the long-term.  Those you know, or know of, who are that lean year round, are fortunate, but I’ll suggest they are also rare.  People who are that lean year round are likely the product of a superior genetic predisposition, though this not to suggest they don’t work at it also. 

The guilt of failure…

It isn’t really failure though, it’s realism.  I have been unlean much more than I have been lean in my life, but again, this is a relative term.  Unlean doesn’t mean unfit.  It means balanced.  Dieting to get extremely lean is the Siberia of living; it’s a cold, bleak place, and there little joy there.

I will close this with a quote from an online friend who is also a fitness professional.  This was her response to a question I posed to her regarding being lean:

“As a fitness professional I’ll be honest with you. When I was at 12% body fat my cardiologist was so proud of me for being in shape, but I was crying out to her for help. I had not had my cycle in over 6 months. I told her this and she only advised me to take a pregnancy test. I knew that was NOT the issue! Shredded for women is just not a healthy, sustainable look for the woman who wants to be a vibrant member of the community, an active mother, a loving wife etc.

I don’t know how you can get to that stage and keep the energy levels adequate for living life. I want to be strong, vibrant, energetic, and healthy. I like my muscle “tone” ugh, hate that word! But I have decided that I’m not ready at this point to drain all my energy into a temporary look.”

My advice…

I have spent years telling people who truly desire to be lean, and who are willing to put in the work that they have a responsibility to get there at least once, just to experience the feeling of being there.  These days I’m more cautious about that suggestion.  For some, it may do more long-term damage than good.  Guilty I am…  Be well.  rc


Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is little piece of ambient love from Yo  La Tengo.  Enjoy!

Bombs away…

I first wrote this back in March for my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page.  It’s been a heavy week of bombing here at Camp Pendleton, not far from my back door.  I absolutely support these activities, though I always hope the exercises of war will only be played out when necessary, and hopefully not at all. 

When I begin to feel these concussions though, as I have been feeling them this past week, I get reflective, and concerned…

Bombs away…

When I was young I read the following sentence by Bill Dobbins in an article published in Muscle Builder And Power magazine:

“Watching Frank Zane train, his concentration is so severe that one gets the impression a bomb could go off in the gym, and Zane would neither let go the bar, nor lose his concentration.”

As a 15 year old, that statement left an impression on me that would be both formative, and long-lasting in my approach to strength training.

I have always prided myself on my ability to maintain a high level of concentration during an exercise – even if bombs were to go off around me.

Funny, now they actually do.

I live not far from the back gate of The Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. The explosions I hear daily can be so concussive that my windows can rattle, the mirrors shake, and occasionally the pictures on my walls tilt to one side.

When this happens during a workout I never miss a beat. I don’t lose focus. I will continue until my set is complete. My concentration is so severe that people in China can feel my intensity.

Despite this, my mind does drift some when I hear, and feel the bombs.

As I hear the explosions in the distance, and feel my walls rattle, I can’t help but think about the Marines firing those weapons – of where they have been, what they have seen, and if they will use explosives again in a genuine scenario.

On the days when the bomb’s concussions are as severe as my own concentration, and make the walls shake, my mind drifts even further in-between sets.

I wonder; what must it feel like to be a mindful fitness enthusiast, innocently working out in a gym in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, or anywhere else, and feel bombs exploding during the workout.

Would a person wonder, while doing arm curls, is their mother ok…? Are their friends ok…? Will they be ok…?

I wonder how quickly someone living exact that scenario might let go the bar, duck, and cover, biceps be damned.

Yes, I can hear a bomb go off and my lat-pulldowns will continue until the very last rep is completed. In-between sets though, my mind does wander… rc


Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from the North Mississippi All Stars.  Enjoy…