Advice from Arnold

In Arnold’s book, The Education of a Bodybuilder, we learned a technique that few of us continue to use: training outside. Arnold and his pal would grab a barbell, find a place in nature, pick an exercise, then just go for it. After working to exhaustion, they would enjoy wine, food and the ladies.


It’s a great way to train. It is a great way to train ALL the time. One of my favorite tricks for breaking out a rut is to simply grab a single Kettlebell (dumbbells work fine, too) pack it in the well of the back seat and drive out somewhere. I reinvented myself after a Total Hip Replacement by doing this kind of workout on the beach. You can go to a park or just pull over near any wooded area.


Carry the bell as far as you can with your less strong arm. When you get tired or can’t keep going, you just discovered where you are going to train. That movement is called the Suitcase Carry.


You can choose to either follow Arnold’s lead and pick an exercise and just work it to death. That is fine.


Try these:


Goblet Squats


One arm press

Turkish Get Ups




If you want to do a whole body workout, here you go:


15 Swings

5 Goblet Squats

5 Push Ups


Repeat this for as many rounds as you can. Rest when you need to but just keep piling on the sets.


Toss in some flexibility moves and you can really knit yourself back together during this Nature workout. Some experts also advocate climbing trees, bouldering and the like and, of course, that is fine, too.


The idea is to get out. Get outside. Breath fresh air. Get away from gyms that banish people from dropping bells. Nature doesn’t mind.


Oh, and then after this? Carry the bell back to the car. This might be the toughest part.

My Tool Kit!

The Strength and Conditioning Coach has basically Five Tools:

  1. Nutrition and caloric restriction
  2. Inefficient exercise
  3. Strength training
  4. Hypertrophy and mobility training (the “Fountain of Youth”)
  5. Mental set


These are not in any special order, but one tool might be important during the off-season while another might be crucial in the pre-season. And, the sport or the goal will dictate which one is more important. In the off-season for a collision sport athlete, Hypertrophy and mobility training becomes very important, but the Master athlete, this might be the answer to performance issues.


In my new book, I go into detail about each tool. My last article in t-nation was basically “Mental set.” From Pain to “Tiny Habits,” the coach needs to have the right approach to assist the client/athlete towards their goals. The one that is confusing for most people is the second tool.

The Second Tool: Inefficient Exercise

On the other side of the fat-loss coin (after Nutrition and caloric restriction) is the concept that everything works and it always has. Whatever you choose to do or have your clients do—whether it is African disco dance or step-marching Spandex or kettlebell swings—it will work. The problem is a little odd: As you become more and more efficient, you get less and less benefit. A modern dance class will just about kill me, because every time the class does “step-ball-change,” I will have done twenty extra moves. Oh, it will be fat loss for me—but the “twinkle toes” to my right had better have a perfect diet, because she is just going through the paces.


Fat-loss exercise needs to be as inefficient as possible. That is why I like the kettlebell swing: You expend tons of energy with absolutely no movement! But, and many disagree with me here, as you get better and better at swings, these too can become too efficient. Now, we have tips and tools to get around this, but it is wise to remember that Tim Ferris found seventy-five swings three days a week to be enough to start peeling the fat off of one woman. If your client goes from seventy-five to two thousand swings a workout and stops losing fat, you may need to look for alternatives, additions or another bell.


Inefficient exercise is going to look different for everyone—if your client is a horrible dancer, encourage him to dance; if your client is a lousy swimmer, encourage her to swim; if your client never bikes, encourage him to bike.




People must seek ways to waste lots of energy. Leonard Schwartz had it right with his HeavyHands training. Tossing hand weights up and down while walking is a very poor way to walk—but it roasts the fat off!


And, I know, you can’t hear me. A reasonable approach to diet and nutrition, something your grandmother would applaud, just isn’t sexy enough for the postmodern reader.



How do we add this concept to our training? Let’s go from the obvious to some new ideas.


First, recently, I invested in Concept II E Rowers for the gym. I have a lot of friends who have noted that there is a great thing you can do with them. Yes, obviously, it is rowing, but for most of us, following the standard rower workouts is just not going to work. I read workouts posted on the internet and struggle to see how I am going to survive 50,000 meters of rowing.


The advice I received was simple: focus on 500 meter rows. Yes, you need some level of technique, but these sprints come in around two minutes for most of us. Add one to three of these anywhere you like in your training and you will huff and puff for a bit after the sprint. Obviously, you work like hell and go no place. Why not go longer? Well, the advice I got was simple: as you tack on more and more meters, you get too good!


Toss in two-minute bouts on any “cardio” machine. Find some kind of standard and race yourself to improve a little. When you improve a lot, find a new machine.


Next, Mark Snow taught me a few years ago that doing corrective work seems to raise the heart rate. Between rest periods, do the moves and stretches that you need to address. For whatever reason, my football coaches found that having us pop up and down off the floor made us very tired. Oddly, it also made us better at football.


So, make the ground your friend. Between sets of leg work, try some push ups or ab work. Add Bird Dogs throughout your normal training or whatever floor based movement you feel like doing. Most of us need some level of mobility work, so why not try to get a waist shrinking movement to go with it?


Finally, I love doing swings mixed with the fundamental human movements. Don’t worry about how many reps or loads with the following examples until you have done them a few times. Err on less and lighter. For the movement explanations, go here:


Group A

  1. 35 Swings
    2. Push Ups
    3. 15 Swings
    4. Windmill Stick Right
    5. 35 Swings
    6. TRX T Pull
    7. 15 Swings
    8. Windmill Stick Left
    9. 35 Swings
    10. Trap Bar DL
    11. 15 Swings
    12. Stoney Stretch Right Knee Down (RKD)
    13. 35 Swings
    14. Goblet Squat
    15. 15 Swings
    16. Stoney Stretch Left Knee Down (LKD)
    17. 35 Swings
    18. Rolling 45s
    19. 15 Swings
    20. “Pump” Downward Dog/Cobra


Group B

  1. 35 Swings
    2. One-Arm Press Right Arm
    3. 15 Swings
    4. TRX Long Stretch Right
    5. 35 Swings
    6. One-Arm Press Left Arm
    7. 15 Swings
    8. TRX Long Stretch Left
    9. 35 Swings
    10. TRX Y Pull
    11. 15 Swings
    12. Hip Flexor Stretch (RKD)
    13. 35 Swings
    14. Goblet Squat
    15. 15 Swings
    16. Hip Flexor Stretch (LKD)
    17. 35 Swings
    18. Rolling 45 Ts
    19. 15 Swings
    20. March in Place

That totals 500 swings and two rounds of all the fundamental human movements. All that getting up and down could easily be made to be more efficient.


But, then, you would lose the fat loss hit.


For fat loss, be as Inefficient as you can be!



Oddly, I am a Pear Tree

I love metaphors but sometimes I lose my audience using them. Metaphors are the wonderful bridge between what is already known and what is needed to know.


I once bought a tree. This tree taught me the key lesson in successful coaching. When you buy a tree you have almost a decade to discover something very interesting: what kind of tree did I actually buy?


My neighbors, Vance and Annelose, asked nicely if we would allow them to cut down our tree. We owned this massive tree in our backyard, but it blocked their view of the Wasatch Mountains. They paid for the work, and we agreed to the project. Soon the cutters came and they felled a jolly giant of a tree.


We gained about a quarter of our backyard in the process, and I never realized how much crap I had to rake in from that damn tree. Still, there was now a hole in that corner, and it wasn’t long until I missed my tree. A few days later, as I was leaving one of those stores that has “mart” in the title, I saw an apple tree for $1.89.


Hey, for just under two bucks, I couldn’t go wrong! As the old saying goes, “The best time to plant a fruit tree is ten years ago. The second best time is today.”


So I planted a fruit tree. After the first year, the tree was still about the size of a pencil.. Years two through five, we had a bit larger pencil, but nothing much seemed to be happening. Finally, in year seven, the pencil brought forth fruit.


We had a tree full of pears.


It was a pear tree.


It took seven years to discover that mismarked sign.


Wouldn’t it have been great to know right from the get-go what kind of tree you would be? Imagine if, on the day of my birth, Mr. and Mrs. John had been told: “Little Danny will be among the youngest in his class. Being the youngest of six, he will always be chasing others. He will hit puberty late, so most American team sports, which seem to choose ‘elite’ at age twelve or so, will not be possible. Olympic sports involving dedication and single-minded vision will be ideal. Do not waste money on Little League sports—save it for later. He will be just over six feet tall and will run a 4.7 forty-yard dash.”


Folks, I was a pear tree. Perhaps I grew up in an acre of apple trees, but I was a pear tree.


Maybe one day, people will know these kinds of things at birth. But I don’t think it will matter much. I believe willpower is, and will always be, the most powerful force in the universe. We all grew up with people faster, taller and prettier than us who ended up finding great failure in life.

What is the takeaway message here? It took years to find out I had a pear tree. If you are serious into fitness, serious into a sport or just want to look better, give yourself the time to really bloom.


In the gym, we talk about time under the bar or time under tension. I want you to think years under the bar, years on the track and years developing your craft.




IWT: an underappreciated training method

(We had some kind of issue this week; Here is a piece on sprinting and bodyweight work. )

Like many of you, I have moved a few times in my life. Dragging training equipment over a few state lines is very expensive and, frankly, a royal pain. Through the years, I have bought and rebought several Olympic bars, lots of various smaller weights and a lot of other pieces of training equipment. My gym today is still a collection of odds and ends, but my favorite equipment and training still has one key:


I love pure exercise. After every lifting workout, weather permitting, I go outside and play catch with a football, Frisbee or medicine ball. Jogging back and forth and yelling “I’m open, I’m open” is still just pure fun. Training outside gets you some sunshine, some extra “cardio” or whatever and reminds you of the athlete you still should be today.

I make my living selling training solutions to people and I have a little combination that you can use today, either outside or in many gym settings, that can be as simple as you want it to be or feel free to move up with a few of my extra suggestions.

It’s two movements you already know: the Push Up and sprinting. With the Push Up, I ask that you keep your heels together, squeeze your knees together (my usual joke here: “How Utah teaches birth control!”), and try to crush walnuts in your armpits. I want a lot of tension here.

Feel free to jog, run, sprint or just stride for the sprinting section. I’m asking you to do this: combine your running with Push Ups. There are probably a million variations, but let’s give you several simple ideas:

The basic idea:
Do a set of ten Push Ups. Pop up off the ground and accelerate up and then ease off for about a total run of 100 yards. Pop back on the ground and do ten more Push Ups. Try this for THREE total combos at first:
10 Push Ups
10 Push Ups
10 Push Ups
10 Push Ups

That’s 40 Push Ups and 300 or so yards of running. Did you notice something? What gets you tired is getting up and down off the ground! What used to exhaust me in football wasn’t just the hand fighting, the sprinting and the collisions but getting up and down over and over and over.

Feel free to increase the total number of combos, add more reps in the Push Ups or increase the distance. I would also suggest that you consider cutting back the reps to as few as one and decreasing the distance but increase the speed.

If you want to try something a bit more “leggy,” bring out a dumbbell or Kettlebell and do some Goblet Squats, drop the load, and sprint away. I use these for anyone in a collision sport or collision occupation to teach that odd “gear change” you need for dealing with multiple priorities. You can also mix Goblet Squats, Push Up and sprints into a delightful “one stop shop” for conditioning purposes.

Training never has to be complex. It never should be, either. Also, stop trying to worry about every detail and every percentage and get out there and have some fun again.


The One Arm Press…one of my favorites

The one arm overhead press might be the best single overall upperbody lift for the adult male. It works the deltoids and triceps as well as all the supporting muscles for the entire body. Along with a squat or deadlift, you might have the perfect combination for basic simple training for most men.


My favorite workout scheme for one arm presses is also the method I use in my book, “Mass Made Simple.” I strongly believe that one arm presses allow you to handle a lot of volume, so I use two “ladder” schemes for almost any purpose (sports help, hypertrophy, fat loss, this is “one size fits all”):


The 2-3-5(-10) method.

I have discussed this scheme before, but very simply the first variation is to do this:

Two reps left arm

Two reps right arm

Three reps left arm

Three reps right arm

Five reps left arm

Five reps right arm

If light enough, to a set of ten left and right, too. This is not always possible. This workout (with the tens) is forty total reps. It won’t “feel” like forty as you moved back and forth between limbs and the reps changed. If you do this a number of times, well, this will be a lot of time under load. And, that is a good thing!


I suggest for most people to do the entire workout with one weight. Let the volume be the issue and not your technique under heavy loads. If you decide to go up, an interesting way to do this is simply:

2-3-5 (Both Sides)

Add Weight

2-3-5 (Both Sides)

Add Weight

2-3-5 (Both Sides)

I don’t suggest doing this much more than this, but occasionally it would be fun to push up another round. Oh, and skip the tens on this variation as we are trying to get the biggest bells we can in the last round of five.


For the older trainee, the one arm press works all the muscles that Janda explained weakened with age. In other words, if a 50 plus man asked me “that question,” “If you could only do one lift, what would it be?,” I would answer one arm presses. Yes, it even works the glute as you can’t have a saggy butt when pressing half bodyweight overhead with one arm.


Experiment with increasing the amount to one arm pressing that you do. There is no contest or Gold Medal for one arm pressing, but the rewards are great.