The Adrenaline Complex

Simplifying Solutions

Competitive ‘sophistication’ (rather, complication masked as sophistication)
is harmful, as compared to the practitioner’s craving for optimal simplicity.
~Nassim Taleb

It is vain to do with more
what can be done with less.
~William of Occam

ockham's-razorThe Sophists got a lot of unwanted attention from Plato. Scholarly studs prancing around ancient Greece, charging money to impart their knowledge, and much like modern day salespeople, politicians & lawyers, spinning their knowledge to make happy the hearts of the highest bidder.

Today we might call them Hucksters, Shysters, or maybe even Con-men, but back then, they were called Sophists. Somewhere in between, their name got lumped in with something the ruffians, rubes & commoners were conditioned to crave, Sophistication. What started as a simple idea became a complex notion, and if we’re not careful, we’ll suffer the complexities, confusions & cranial conflagrations of those collusions.

Every book from our fitness library, every magazine glossed with half naked torsos, every other post we find online tries to sell us the promise of some spectacular miracle workout or wonder supplement. Minimal time, maximal investment. If the program didn’t work, we didn’t try hard enough, or we gave up the day before all of our problems would have been solved. It’s always our fault.

The best & brightest lies are always some tweak of actual truth. That is what made the Sophists so successful, and that is why our consumer-culture continues to thrive. If enough coal is packed together, we’ll always be inclined to believe that there could be a diamond in the center. Unfortunately, there is just enough truth embedded in that belief to make it authentic & understandable. Fortunately, even the rarest compression of coal is absolutely worthless without a buyer.

Those nuggets of truth hinted at, alluded to & ambiguously referenced are meaningless without action. The workouts we’re served are needlessly sophisticated exactly because they’re intended to mislead, deceive & disappoint. Consumer culture thrives on the notion that if at first you don’t succeed, buy something else.

If we’re going to get stronger, if we’re going to inherit the power we were born to wield, our first & broadest step is to learn to do more with less. Minimalist mentality.

Isolation exercises tell us that we’re not as good as the next person. Forget strength, your arms must be as big as X in order to look strong. Your run was a sweet gesture, but it wasn’t as fast as Y.  Etcetera, etcetera . . .

Is that our motivation, inspiration, encouragement?

Whatever method we choose is just a tool, and a tool is only good as how we understand & use it. No tool is as complex as our own bodies, and no tool will help us simplify sophisticated processes as our Mind-Body connection. What are we doing and why are we doing it?

A barbell seems to be a simple tool, but it still has a lot of moving parts, a lot of links in the chain where something can & might go wrong. The singular nature of Kettlebells & dumbbells might seem even more simple, but poor movements can complexify our relationship with them and befuddle our results.

We tend to recommend the simpler movements for our workouts: the Deadlift, Squats, Kettlebell Swings, Pullups, Pushups, Loaded Carries, Running . . . the combinations of which can be as complicated or as simple as we wish. The movements themselves should be simple & fluid. If the effort to move well is greater than the force required to manipulate the load, we are doing it wrong.

Take time to learn the movements. The Deadlift looks simple, but a movement out of alignment can bring the body to a crashing & rehabilitory halt. Same for Squats, Swings, even Running.

Full-body movements, gestures & immersions give us the most result for our efforts, and no matter how we attempt to slice otherwise, are the simplest approaches to developing strength and realizing power. The trick is to not be tricked by the presence & promise of shiny objects. All of our potential comes from inside of us, through dedication, discipline & determination. No matter what tools we choose to use, the method of our success doesn’t get any more simple than that.

Stay strong, get stronger,


Dropping the Rut, Not the Routine

Even when we shift our mindset & application from Workout to Practice, we still face the danger of encountering Burnout & Boredom . . . two bumbling scoundrels we never want to face in group or alone. All too often we think in sets & reps & schemes & themes, and all too often we linger there too long.

One method to outwit these dastardly & buffoonish scoundrels is to string together a routine to foil their likely ambush & inevitable sabotage. As with anything that works, this isn’t the only way, but it is a way when a way is undeniably needed.

The video below, Kettlebell Routine Practice, strings together several movements that will keep your muscles firing, and add a seductive amount of variety to your established discipline.

  1. The first movement is a Kettlebell Deadlift, very easy with this low of a weight, but a good introduction nonetheless.
  2. Next, we engage our delts in a high pull, of sorts.
  3. Then, we drop into an Ass-to-Grass Squat, and roll onto our back.
  4. Rock forward, still holding the Kettlebell at the high-pull level, and stand in one fluid motion.
  5. Another Ass-to-Grass Squat sets us up for a weighted jump.
  6. Safely park the Kettlebell and align yourself for a KB Snatch.
  7. At the apex of the Snatch, step forward into a lunge with the opposite leg.
  8. Recover by standing, then lower the Kettlebell slowly to your shoulder.
  9. Single-arm Swing to mid-air-switch and repeat the Snatch-to-Lunge on the other side.
  10. Park the Kettlebell, snap, clap & celebrate (optional)

Again, this is just one method among many capable of beating the ambush set by Burnout & Boredom, and these movements are just an example of what we can string together to keep our muscles lively & happy.

Lift well & often,

Maybe I’m Doing This Wrong

physical-culture-picThere’s this CrossFit place on the square in Marietta, and I had the good fortune of getting to Crase the place this past Saturday. They were kind enough to host the Tactical Strength Challenge from StrongFirst, and I was confident enough to accept. Nice layout, all the right weights in all the right places, kind & knowledgeable folks . . . and then me.

Here is where the goal is different from the intent. The goal was to reach a max Deadlift in three attempts, perform as many Pullups as possible from a bottom-taut, non-swinging position . . . the way Pullups are supposed to be done, according to Dan John, Pavel, and others in-the-know, and finally, as many Kettlebell Snatches as possible in 5 minutes. Ready . . . go!

The intent was to lift more than I did, manage more Pullups than I was capable, and do more Snatches than I realistically completed. Who said what about learning from their mistakes?

My training for this event began all hot & heavy back in February, when I first heard of it. The excitement was high, and the training was rowdy, tight & totally off-the-cuff. Too bad that there were so many days between hot & heavy and the day-of-event. Yes, that was me . . . burnt out before I arrived, and without enough steam to climb back on the fresh wave of excitement that rolled in under my board.

Well, this isn’t a sad story, not by any stretch. Turns out that the event location didn’t have a big turn-out for the event, which meant that I was able to drink down a whole lot of attention. At first this seemed like a bad thing . . . for instance, when I was accused of sandbagging after stating that I would be competing in the novice class. Ha! Uh, no, not by a long shot. I was there to learn as much as I was there to participate.

Deadlift technique . . . not bad, but with a few tweaks, I should be lifting a lot more. Despite what many people think when they see the Deadlift performed, it is a very technical lift, and to do well with it, you need to know a lot of technique. See how that works? Good, apparently I didn’t. Nothing said was going to help me that particular Saturday, but days after my head is still swimming with a swarm of meaningful cues & lessons learned as to where my intent failed to meet the goal. Fair & well enough! Self-coaching might not be my forte, after all. Is it anyone’s? Much like the joke about the attorney who represents him/herself in court having a fool for a client and an attorney.

Pullups, work on them. Often. Grease-the-groove, the stout voice says.

Ketllebell Snatches may have been my most prominent strength, but yes, there is always room for improvement . . . especially by missing my intent by a dozen.

What did I take from the experience? A lot more than I put into it. Fortunately the Judge didn’t pack me off to prison for my Crimes against Strength, but the message was clear . . . pick a plan, stick to it, and make sure the plan lines up with your intended goals. Oh, and getting a Coach might not be a bad idea . . . next TSC will be in October, and whether or not I swim or surf my way out of the water, I’ intend to arrive better conditioned & more properly prepared.