The Complete Gym Bag

I decided to share one of my latest strange obsessions with you guys… The search for the ultimate fully stocked gym bag. I dont know where this compulsion came from, but I do know that it lives deep within my loins like a golden flaming hawk. Here’s the breakdown of the top things you need for your bag, the price and brand, and the reason behind it.

The King Kong Bag: 89.95. Yes, this is slightly pricey for a gym bag. But this baby is fully loaded. It has a place for your shoes, valuables, a water bottle and pretty much everything else you could think of. A carpenter cant work without his tools, and he cant carry his tools without a bag. Truth.

 

AdiPower Weightlifting Shoes: 199.00. Again, this is pricey… But I am assuming everyone who reads this blog has an equal amount of richness in their bank account as they do in their increasingly informed-by-Marcus minds. Weightlifting shoes are a must for those that are serious about moving serious weight. If you’re still lifting in your Chucks, Inov-8’s or Vibrams, you’re not lifting heavy enough.

 

Inov-8 F-Lite 230’s: 115.00. I’ve tried both the F-Lite 195’s and the 230’s. I have to give the slight edge to the 230’s. They have a slightly wider sole, which helps me run on my mid foot a little easier. I would say for those of you that are not used to a minimalist running shoe, this would be an easier introduction than the 195.

 

Rogue Wrist Wraps: 15.00 for medium pair. Wrist wraps are also a must for olympic lifting, heavy benching and other wrist intensive exercises. Be smart and protect those babies; missing 3 weeks because you wanted to be cool and “edgy” by barebacking it is not the business. Besides, you can totally work your outfit around the red and black wraps.

 

RX Jump Rope: 34.95. Again this might seem pricey for a rope, but being able to customize the length, type of cable and handles of the rope will help your timing and ability on those pesky double unders. Plus, keeping the rope in your bag will assure that when jump roping does come up, you never have to get stuck with the rope meant for a 3 year old.

 

Progenex Recovery Protein: 59.95. 8 grams of carbs, 23 grams of high quality protein. It comes in a convenient pouch and not a crappy bulky container that makes you think you’re getting more than you actually are. Plus it tastes great… Sounds like a win-win.

 

Schiek Weightlifting Belt: 99.95. It’s competition legal, and has a lever closing system. Anyone that has hade one of those crappy velcro belts for a while will actually appreciate it.

 

WODBook: 14.95. The cheapest thing on this list, but also the most valuable. The ability to record your wod in such an organized format is a big deal. Not only that, it has a place for pretty much any kind of CrossFit information that you can think of.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Definition of JACKED

On a personal note, I’ve been a 49ers fan for all 23 years of my life. I am extremely excited for their first playoff game in a decade this upcoming Saturday. I’ve got football on the brain… Which goes along with the millions of other things on my brain. Of course, the main thing on my mind is how to get all of you, including myself, fitter. For myself personally, life is about getting as JACKED and tattooed as possible. I will go in depth about being JACKED in a second (it must always be capitalized). But before you read on… Please check out this article which talks about the Top 30 most JACKED NFL players to get you in the mood. The NFL is full of physical specimens with amazing feats of strength and speed… Enough to make them millions of dollars every year. Tune into the game this Saturday at 1pm to see some of these freaks on display.

But what should you do to get JACKED? What does it even mean to be JACKED? First off, being JACKED is not necessarily an aesthetic thing, nor is it entirely a performance thing. The art of getting JACKED is the art of looking like you can handle business while actually being able to handle business. This is not fitness model pretty, nor is it powerlifter big. Being JACKED means you are near the potential of your lean body mass in terms of executing strength and power output. And for the record, I’m not talking about getting yolked, ripped, cut, lean, huge, buff or any other inferior adjective here.

So.Let’s get down to some of the basic parameters of being JACKED. We will go with the assumption that all of the items on this checklist require that if I saw you on the street on a mild summer day, I would assume that you could do them upon first glance. Go down the list and see which of these apply to you, and which of these you need work on.

Back squat 2 times your own body weight (1.5 times for women). One of the easiest displays of strength to bodyweight ratio… If you can squat something that weighs 2 times your own weight you are indeed on the road to becoming JACKED.

Deadlift 2.5 times your own bodyweight (1.75 for women). Not quite as important as the aforementioned double bodyweight backsquat, but definitely an integral part of being JACKED.

Clean and Jerk 1.25 times your bodyweight (bodyweight for women). Think about it… If as a guy (or a girl), you are not able to pull a bit more than your own bodyweight from the floor to your shoulders, then drive that weight from your shoulders to above your head, then you cannot consider yourself JACKED.

Sprint 400 meters in under 1:05. (1:12 for women). This number is taken from the average of a database of high school 400 meter sprinters. Of course these kids specialize in sprinting, but this is still a very important display of sustained speed and power.

Row 500 meters in under 1:32 (1:50 for women). Basically the same reason as above.

Bench Press 1.5 times bodyweight (bodyweight for women). UGH… As much as I dislike the bench press, it does serve a purpose for being JACKED. Having the ability to lower and drive that kind of weight from your chest to a locked out position is a must.

Here are some of the CrossFit benchmarks that you must acheive in order to be a JACKED CrossFitter:

Fran: 21-15-9 thrusters and pull ups. Under 5 minutes (sub 6:30 for women)

Grace: 30 clean and jerks for time. Under 3 minutes (sub 4 for women)

Fight Gone Bad: Above 300 for men (250 for women)

Helen: Under 9:30 for men (under 10:30 for women)

So, you might be asking yourself if I just pulled these number out my JACKED ass… Actually, these numbers and benchmarks were pulled from the Level Testing done at many CrossFit gyms. The strength numbers are also considered to be the norm for strong people across many circles of JACKED individuals.

If you took a look at the link above, all of those guys are completely huge, muscular and ripped. However, their size, definition and body composition are not what make them JACKED. It is the fact that not only do they look like strong, powerful men who push around other men for a living; they actually do dominate their peers in their sport. Take a look at a lot of their squat and power clean numbers. HOLY CRAP! Their JACKEDness is due to three things… They look like monsters, they lift like monsters, and they perform like monsters on the field (except for Vernon Gholston). The most important part of this equation is their performance. I can bet you if they did not take their strength and body composition as seriously as they do, their performance on Sundays would suffer.

As a CrossFitter, you should aim to for the same thing. Think of your JACKEDness being proportional to three things: your body composition/muscle mass, your strength, and your performance in WOD’s. The stronger you are the easier those pesky thrusters, cleans and deadlifts become. The less body fat you have, the easier it is to move around in space. This should all sound familiar to anyone who has not performed at a level they desired during a WOD.

The lesson of the day: Get JACKED. The way to do it: If you look frail, chubby, skinny, or deconditioned; work on it (eat more protein, less refined crap foods, drink adequate amounts of water and make sure you get rest). If you can’t acheive any of the strength or conditioning numbers up here; get stronger and more conditioned (pick something on that list and work towards it). For the women out there. I promise you that JACKED for you will not look like JACKED for me. Get strong, look strong, and perform better. BE JACKED!

Vanity muscles? I think not…

Mr. Burgundy, being the excellent newscaster that he is, is correct. I do have a very important breaking news story for all of you, although it’s not what he is speaking of. Those of you who CrossFit regularly and have been doing so for a while, are very aware of the movements involved in CrossFit. That is to say, many total body movements done with either no weight, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags and so on. My estimation is that 85-90% of these lifts are what are referred to as “compound movements”, which basically means large movements that involve multiple muscle groups. Rarely in CrossFit do movements that isolate a certain joint or muscle pop up. For the general population, working on these compound movements alone is enough to strengthen and improve someone’s fitness level. However, for those of you who are looking to improve your performance, working on single joint exercises is a near necessity. There are many common “weak links” that may be preventing you from executing certain movements to their maximal potentential….Here are 4 different muscles (or groups of muscles) that may be holding you back, and how to work on them effectively.

The biceps. Ahh yes, Marcus has finally put all of that girth to use and decided to become a body builder. I’m sure you’ve all seen me in my shirt with the sleeves cut off down to the waist, my hat turned backwards, and a fanny pack full of protein supplements and steroids. Uh not quite. Actually, the biceps are some of the most underestimated muscles in CrossFit. Think about it like this… the stronger your biceps are then the easier pull ups, muscle ups, cleans, ring rows, and rowing become (not to mention how much more awesome you look with a short cut shirt on). My advice for strengthening the biceps is as follows:

-Barbell or dumbbell curls. Go heavy once a week for 3 sets of 5 to keep volume minimal but adequate.

-Eccentric loaded chin ups: negative reps done with manual resistance with a palms up grip pull up… no more than 3 sets of 3. Eccentric loading does a lot of muscle damage due to the force exceeding the muscle’s capability.

The forearms. Forearm and grip strength is such an afterthought.. That is until you do anything that involves deadlifting, high reps of pull ups, hang cleans, and rowing. Let’s not even mention holding and maintaining that pesky false grip. Chances are, your grip is the first thing that goes during most workouts, making you set the bar down and debate whether life is even worth living anymore. So here’s what to do about it:

-Farmer’s carry your ass off. For those of you who don’t know, that means pick something heavy up in each hand, and walk with it. Not only is this great for your forearms and grip strength, but it also teaches you how to suffer a little bit more.

-Use a thicker grip… I think this might be one of the simplest ways to work grip that gets neglected. I often see people going for the thinnest pull up bar, or lifting with thinner bars. Trying a thicker object to grip will work wonders for your grip strength.

Check out Rob Orlando's biceps and forearms.

The triceps. Oh yes, one of the only muscles that challenges the bicep in a vanity contest. Guess what… Suck at push ups, ring dips, bench press, wall balls, or overhead lifts? How about handstand push ups? Odds are that your deficiencies in those movements are more than likely due to you having the tricep size and strength of the baby on the Gerber labels. Almost entirely responsible for extension of the elbow, the tricep has a lot of weight to pull (actually push, but pun was still intended). Powerlifters devote entire sessions to improving their triceps in order to help improve their bench press numbers. Here’s some examples of how to help strengthen those triceps in more of a CrossFit setting:

-Close grip bench press (by close grip i mean thumbs directly above the nipple line. Dont go too close together with the hands because it puts a lot of strain on the elbows. Again a heavy 3 sets of 5 will work wonders.) Close grip push ups at higher reps can be subbed in if you do not have access to a bench or spotter.

-Tactical Dips. This is actually one of my favorite excercises to help people get ring dips faster. Set up the rings where the bottom is even with the top of the shoulder. Jump up and press into a lockout position, then slowly lower yourself keeping your elbows and hands close to your body until your feet touch the ground. This is another type of eccentric loading, so keep it right around 3 sets of 3.

The vastus medialus. Damn right I know big words. None bigger than this power house of a muscle. One of the four muscles of the quadricep, it is the lowest part of the inner thigh. If you are experiencing knee trouble, want to get faster, or need to improve that final push to lockout during a heavy squat, this is the muscle for you. Called the VMO for short, it is partially responsible for full knee extension. Here’s what to do about them:

-Step ups on a small box with weight. The purpose of this exercise is to acheive full knee extension, so make sure that it it acheived. 3 sets of 10 per leg with a moderate weight should be adequate, and the height of the box should not be so high to turn into a hamstring glute exercise.

-Weighted barbell lunges… Again the key here is to acheive full knee extension, so put an emphasis on standing all the way up. Go for distance, 2 or 3 sets, with weight on the shoulders.

If you dedicated 4 days a week to working on which ever of these weak links apply, it would take aproximately one total hour out of your week. That one hour would in turn show you riches beyond your wildest dreams. Muscle ups, heavy lifts, and unbroken reps will be in your near future. It’s not about vanity, it’s about being the best person possible. The only way to do that is to be fitter than everyone else. If you’re not fit, you’re nothin’.

Things to learn from The Evil Dead

First off, I hope everyone had a splendid New Years Eve. I know for a fact I did. I spent it with some very dear people. We had a nice paleo dinner and some very non paleo dessert. But seriously, nobody reads this post to hear about what I eat…

I spent roughly 85 minutes of my New Years Eve watching an American cinematic classic, “The Evil Dead”. Ahhh, the cheesy acting, the lack of any kind of character development, and the cheap special effects; what’s not to love? I will admit, the movie is entertaining as shit (shit can be very entertaining, you’re just not doing it right). I recommend it if you’re in the mood for a good laugh. I am also a big fan of the sequel “Evil Dead 2”.

The main character of both movies is a guy named Ashley (chuckle), Ash for short. In the first movie Ash is, for lack of a better term…. a little bitch. He screams at the top of his lungs throughout the movie, has a bookcase fall on him at least 3 different times, and to state it bluntly, gets his ass handed to him by the undead. Fast forward to the sequel and things couldn’t be any more different. He loses a hand, gets into a laughing contest with a possessed house, and attaches a goddamn chainsaw to his nub of an arm. That is some serious badassery. Take a look at these 2 videos and check out the difference.

I’m not going to bore you with plot differences between the movies or any of that kind of mumbo-jumbo. My main observation, and more importantly, my main inquiry is how the hell Ash got so incredibly bad ass in the 2nd movie. I think I’ve developed a sound hypothesis for Ash’s transformation from weak and feeble idiot child to the film version of myself (that is to say an incredibly robust, fearless beefcake).

Firstly… Logic would tell you that Evil Dead 2 Ash must have followed a proper strength and conditioning program. We can divulge this from the fact that he goes from having all types of furniture fall on him in the first movie, to laughing his ass off hardily at a lamp shade AND a stuffed moosehead. I mean come on, he’s not afraid of inanimate objects and its obvious. My best guess is that Ash spends 4 days a week doing a multitude of barbell exercises in the 1-5 rep range with heavy weights. He usually supplements those with accessory exercises with dumbbells, kettlebells and bodyweight movements. I’m also positive that he keeps his conditioning workouts mostly short and intense at maximum effort.

We can also infer that badass Ash has his nutrition dialed in. He severs off his own hand because it becomes possessed. Now, I’m not one of them there fancy scientists but my instincts tell me that he lost a lot of blood. Pretty sure the only way he could survive that is by eating adequate amounts of calories comprised of quality carbohydrates, protein from animal sources, and healthy fats and oils. I’m pretty sure if you zoomed in, he had a bottle of fish oil in his back pocket that he took regularly.

Some other less obvious but equally important things that make Ash bad ass in the second movie… You can see a lululemon logo on his flannel shirt. Fate would also have it that he has multiple tattoos of crosses on his arm and calf, which research shows does improve your badassness. Badass Ash also set up multiple cameras throughout the house to take pictures of his undead killing, chainsaw wielding self in action. There are deleted scenes of him doing one handed handstand holds against a wall without a shirt on. Again, all more reasons for his huge increase in the art of badassery.

So, I know this all may be simultaneously way too scientific and “artsy” for the general population out there… So time for my simplification. If you want to increase how bad ass you are and want to be more like the zombie killing Ash of the 2nd movie and less like the bookcase persecuted Ash of the 1st movie, here’s the game plan:

-Constantly work on making strength gains in your squats, presses, deadlift and Olympic Lifts. This doesn’t mean spend 2 weeks doing a “strength phase” only to go back to your running and PVC wielding metabolic conditioning workouts.

-Eat adequate amounts of protein. This means at least 0.8grams/kg of bodyweight. If you are trying to drop weight while maintaining body mass, this number should be slightly higher to combat protein loss due to a calorie deficit.

-Work on the little things you suck at. For Ash, he sucked at life in the 1st movie, so I’m pretty positive he worked on that before the 2nd movie. I don’t mean just practice pull ups if you’re not good at them. Work on increasing your grip strength, maintaining a good strong scapular retraction during most of your pull up, and other things that supplement your weakness.

If history has taught us anything it is that we have much to learn from Hollywood. Everyone knows that movies are much more realistic than real life, so logic would teach us to really emulate what we see on screen. Why not emulate one of the most iconic badasses in American history… Nuff said.

Do’s and Dont’s of 2011 (a day late, sue me)

I can't say it any better.

With the year 2012 in full force, I figured that instead of coming up with a bunch of things that I will do for the first 2 weeks of January only to abruptly move on to new and better things, I would post lessons that I have learned in 2011. What better way to do it then to post a list of do’s and dont’s.

Dont wear Vibram Five Finger shoes. The rise of this ridiculous reinforced “toesie” sock has infuriated me to no end. I’m sure that there are a ton of rabid Five Finger supporters out there chomping at the bit to put their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle resembling Vibram-clad feet upside my head. Truth is, I can’t deny that using a minimalist shoe has helped my running game out tremendously… But running ability does not have to be inversely proportional to dignity. Might I recommend something a little easier on my eyes and on your pride: Inov8 FLite 230’s for comfort, or 195’s for appearance.

Do wear weightlifting shoes. One of the largest, strongest men I have ever met, John Welbourn, was asked if he would prefer lifting in Vibrams or lifting barefoot. His response was something along the lines of comparing the question to being asked if he would rather be kicked in the testicles or have hot coffee poured in his lap. To paraphrase: neither. If you are going to take your strength gains seriously (which means you frequently squat, deadlift, and olympic lift) there is no substitute for a good pair of Olympic Weightlifting shoes. They come in many brands, from Pendlay to Nike. My first time using them I literally added 12 pounds to my clean just from the added stability. Invest in a pair if you haven’t already.

Don’t sacrifice 6 weeks of functionality for one day of competition or training. When I make mistakes, 90% of the time I hone up to them. This year, I competed in a local throwdown even though my back was in terrible shape from an injury prior in the week. Big mistake… I knew deep down that I was hurt but could not bring myself to drop out of the competition. Life does not workout like Disney movies, where things are miraculously healed just in time for game day. 4 grueling workouts and 6 hours later I literally went from moderately injured to completely useless. 3 weeks of constant pain ensued, followed by another 3 weeks of watching everyone else prance about like coked out reindeer while I moved like Herbert from Family Guy (minus the creepiness towards children). Never again.

Do take flexibility issues seriously. In relation to the injury, my hamstrings are tighter than… a really small glove. This inflexibility in my hammies was more than likely the main culprit in my back injury, yet prior to my aspirations of returning to health and being re-released into the wild like an injured young polar bear I paid little if any attention to the fact that I couldn’t touch my toes if my life depended on it. Spend 20-30 minutes a day working on becoming more limber. Specifically, loosening up tight hamstrings, tight pecs, and calves will help prevent a significant amount of injuries.

Don’t run through a red light with a camera on it. Seriously… I just saved you 580 dollars. Yea it was my fault, and I shouldn’t have driven home tired. But I just cant see that being a near 600 dollar burden to the city.

Do take a trip somewhere. Sometimes you just have to get away. I took my first vacation in 4 years to Yosemite Valley. Such a beautiful place. I think it’s important to experience beautiful things in nature that have been around for much longer than you. Nature has a way of making you feel small and insignificant. It makes life a little easier to swallow when they forget to put extra sauce on your burrito. No that isn’t paleo, but more importantly it is not a dirty joke.

Don’t be afraid to be accountable to someone else. In the fitness industry, much of our business is done on the basis of keeping clients accountable. I can’t keep count of how many people who’ve come into my presence with the ambition of MacBeth and the focus of a Buddhist monk on Ritalin when it comes to their fitness goals. That is, until I see them in 3 months and they have done absolutely nothing to get closer to their fitness goals. The truth is that the majority of people will eventually talk themselves out of situations in order to stay comfortable. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself how many times in the last week you’ve said to yourself “I will do it tomorrow”. If you answer 1 or more times, then its probably time to seek help. You have issues. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well over text, I know.

Do have a training buddy or two. I don’t care what you say about being non-competitive and it only mattering if you tried. That’s loser talk… Losers don’t read this blog, so that’s not even a possibility. In all seriousness, I understand that quality of effort and integrity and safety of movement is what makes training successful. But once that is accomplished (it’s not hard if you have a good coach and listen to them) there is no better tool than having a measuring stick. It makes training that much more fun, but also makes you give that little extra bit of effort that will take you over the edge. Yea, that’s right I said it… over the edge.

Don’t forget to wear a belt and wrist wraps when you lift heavy. Pretty self explanatory, but I used to be one of those “only men with girlie parts lift with belts” type of men. I now advocate wearing a belt whenever the weight gets heavy… your spine will thank you. The only people who have something to say about wearing them are those who lift less than you. Everybody knows they have no relevance.

Do at least one thing you couldn’t do the year before.