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Top 5 Pieces of Strength Equipment you Can’t live Without

Picture this scenario: You have a few thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket and you want to build yourself a home gym. Of course, a few thousand dollars in normal circumstances cannot outfit a complete commercial quality gym selection of equipment, but most definitely can purchase the bare essentials for a good workout. So let’s say this few thousand dollars can net you a total of FIVE pieces of strength equipment, what do you choose? Strength Militia staff did a private polling of over 1000 strength enthusiasts and asked them this exact question, with no restriction on price, but you could only choose your top 5 pieces. Below are the TOP FIVE responses we received from our poll. Enjoy!

1) Power Rack: This was an obvious no-brainer for most since the traditional power rack is capable of offering a wide variety of exercises in a single unit. And, depending on your choice of power rack, many of the ones available today come with band attachments, dip bars, pull up bars, and the like. But, what good is a power rack without one of the most important accessories to the rack, the barbell, which leads us to selection #2.

2) The Barbell: There are varying types of barbells to purchase but one thing remains the same with all, the barbell is a very useful piece of equipment. Paired with a nice power rack, the barbell is highly important for mainstay exercises like the squat (front, back, overhead, etc.), bench press (flat, incline, decline, etc.), floor press, standing press, deadlift rack pulls, and more. Outside of the rack, the barbell is great for various exercises like deadlifts (sumo, conventional, etc.), bent over row, Olympic weightlifting and other accessory lifts. But, what good is a 45lb barbell without more weight creating added resistance; hello selection #3!!

3) Bumper Plates: The problem with conventional steel plates is they don’t rebound well when dropped from above the shoulder, or even from six inches from the ground for that matter. This is why when polled, most chose to have a nice set of bumper plates as one of their necessary pieces of equipment. Not only are bumper plates fine to use in everyday strength training, they are also one of the most important items used when training in Olympic weightlifting.

4) Bench: What good is a power rack, barbell, and bumper plates if you don’t have a bench to bench press with? Not only that, a good bench can be used in other ways like step ups, box squats, jump box,hip bridges, bench dips, and other various accessory exercises. In the poll, people did not specify what type of bench they wanted, flat or adjustable, but lets just say for the sake of variety the adjustable one since it allows for more exercises than the purely flat bench.

5) Dumbells: I know what you are all thinking, why do we need a set of dumbells if we have a perfectly good barbell and bumper plates? The short and obvious answer is, because they said so. When we were outfitting my old gym we purchased a set of rubber hex dumbells (10lbs-100lbs) for a little over $1000. This to me was an invaluable purchase since dumbells add that many more exercises to your regimen, making your workouts much more successful.

Whatever equipment you find invaluable, whatever wets your whistle, as long as you can get the workout you desire it is the perfect choice, for you. Some of the notable runner ups for this poll were powerlifting chains, bands, Olympic rings, and lifting belts. Please comment below with your top five strength equipment choices. Thanks for reading!

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Canola (Con-ola) Controversy

Guest Post by Marc Adlam

An interesting discussion came up yesterday about canola oil.  Is it good or not?  It gets a stamp of approval from all the official diet authorities, but the underground rumor is that it’s no good for you. A little research reveals that the naysayers may have it, but it is hard to say for sure.  If you want to get the full story, check out “The Great Con-ola” by Sally Fallon and Mary Emig, PhD. It is interesting to learn that the word “canola” is purely a marketing invention.  The word was designed to reflect the idea of “Canadian oil” because it was a Canadian who first learned how to genetically manipulate the rapeseed to reduce its levels of toxic erucic acid. They had originally called it LEAR oil (for Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed oil), but that didn’t have much marketing appeal.  Meanwhile, “canola” evoked images of “can do” and “payola” — both of which evoked positive marketing images.  And thus an industry was born! Again, the jury is still out on canola oil at the end of the day.  However, we tend to agree with Mark Sisson in this post suggesting to avoid canola oil altogether when there are so many better options out there:  olive oil, lard, ghee, butter, coconut oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, etc.

Besides, as he also points out, it seems a bit strange to ingest any food that has to be deodorized before you’ll buy it.  That just doesn’t seem right, does it?

http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-great-con-ola/

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dear-mark-canola-oil/#axzz3Eo2x22aY

The Cost of Protein – Money Wasted Looking Great

Eating well costs money. One could easily live off ramen for a year and save quite a bit of money, but we won’t, because we are worth it. Instead, we are left to spend my money on lean beef,chicken, turkey, fish, veggies, fruit, and expensive healthy fats in order to eat clean.  There was an article years ago on 70’s Big  that breaks down here what the cost is for consumption of protein on a  daily, monthly, and yearly basis. The post is funny as hell, and really does make you realize how much you spend on keeping your physique in top form.

The Link:

http://70sbig.com/blog/2011/08/cost-of-protein/

Rack Chat: Hard Gainers

I wanted to revisit an article that Along the lines of posted years back regarding weight gain.  I am a hard gainer, and I know exactly where he is coming from when describing hard gainer questions about gaining weight. When I wanted to get bigger and was hovering around 170lbs soaking wet, I ate, and ate, and ate. I didn’t care what I ate, what was in it, how many calories it had, I just plowed through it. It a month or so I went from 170 to close to 200lbs. I think the moral of the story is, if you need to gain weight, eat foods that most people don’t eat because it makes them gain weight, and eat lots of it. Will you gain fat, yep, I did, and so did he.

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From the Article:

“I swiftly plumped up by eating copious amounts of breakfast food, my favorite food group.  I’ve talked to many “hard gainers” in my lifetime, each one proclaiming that they cannot gain a single pound no matter what they eat.  I usually have a hearty belly laugh.  Like this one.

Then I ask if they’ve tried eating large amounts of breakfast foods throughout the day.

“No.  How often?”

“Like all the time.”

“Won’t I get fat?”

“Yes.”

“But that’s not how bodybuilder’s do it.  I heard this bodybuilder friend that-”

“I don’t care.  You’re not a bodybuilder.  You just told me that you had trouble gaining weight, but now it sounds like you don’t want to do that.”

Yes, it would be great if we could all plan our meals well and eat clean and often like a bodybuilder.  But it’s expensive and time consuming.  Get the calories in.  Keep eating your fruits and veggies.  And have fun eating like a big guy.”

The Link:

http://alongthelinesof.com/2011/07/13/on-getting-fat/

Strength Militia 30 Day Paleo Challenge

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I know it is super cliche to start a diet on the first of the year so hear me out. This holiday season was a complete and utter blowout for me. I literally held nothing back and went all in, at every meal. From Thanksgiving to New Years Eve, I had no filter and spared no cookie, brownie, pie or ice creams life in this time period. So, I decided that on the first of the next month (happened to be Jan 1st) I would push the refresh button and get back on track with my nutrition. Here I am almost a week into a full month of Paleo, struggling to avoid carbs like a kid in a candy store (get it, because candy is a carb and kids like candy). I don’t think anyone can really comprehend how much draw carbs have until they almost completely eliminate them from their diet. I really have to double-check myself at every meal, mostly at work but sometimes at home. It is very easy to slip back into eating shitty when in any given day, we are surrounded by food that isn’t good for us. At the end of the day though, I am being a very good eater and have stayed VERY strict with NO cheating and hope to continue this for the next 24 days. This is not my first time doing a session of strict paleo, and no I do not intend on staying strict all the time as I am human, and do live in Southern California (Mexican food is too amazing to avoid). However, most of the year we stay at around 80-85% Paleo, usually getting our cheat meals in on Friday night…YOLO (yep, I went there).

Cliff Notes:

  • I used the holidays as an excuse to binge on my homemade cookies
  • Strict Paleo is tough
  • Carbs are addictive
  • I am being a good boy – NO Cheating
  • I love Mexican food

How CrossFit Changed My Life

CrossFit North County Marathon Rowing Competition

CrossFit, most of you in the fitness industry have probably heard of it by now and if you haven’t you are probably living under a rock. CrossFit gets mixed reviews by professionals as well as fitness enthusiasts; either they love it or hate it, with very little grey area. Now, some of you may be thinking, but you don’t really do CrossFit anymore?!? This is true, now, but when I caught the fever back in 2006 it was a whole different story.

Before I found CrossFit I was dabbling in quite a few different types of strength/hypertrophy building exercise routines. In the early 2000’s I was all hypertrophy; meaning I would do one or two body parts a day and exercise for way over an hour. During my later college years I was introduced to a strength and conditioning class, this is where I picked up the deadlift, squat, and clean and jerk exercises to add to that already boring and lengthy workout. I very much hated legs and honestly, rarely did squats or deadlifts. I was big, I was strong, but my strength was not distributed equally and I was very much a top-heavy lifter.

In 2006 I graduated from school and returned home and rejoined the gym I had been a member of before I left for school, the one where all my bodybuilding went down. By this time the gym had started renting out space in one of the racquet ball courts to a business called CrossFit Encinitas. Being the inquisitive person I am I checked out their gym, equipment, took a business card and reached out to the owner of the gym. He told me the cost of the gym membership and I was unable to afford so I took it upon myself to find the source of this “CrossFit” exercise routine. I went online and searched CrossFit in my Yahoo search engine (yes I used to use Yahoo for searching) and found the CrossFit main page. I checked out the workouts and like most other people, was floored by what they were asking of me to do in one single workout…for time. It actually took me about six months to start working out with workouts from the CrossFit mainpage, I was mostly scared and had no idea what to expect from such intense workouts. In mid-2007 I did my first CrossFit workout, Barbara, loved it and was hooked.

By 2008 I was well into my love for CrossFit and really started to preach the gospel to people I met. I finally had a program that MADE me do legs and did all the programming for me so I no longer had to roam around the gym aimless looking for other exercises to waste time on. By late 2008, early 2009 I met up with a man who would later become my business partner with our affiliate CrossFit North County. I met Marc while he was rowing at the local YMCA gym I was working at. I started chatting with him about how awesome the rower was and how I used it a lot in CrossFit. He of course wanted to know what CrossFit was so I told him, a few months later he joined a local affiliate, started paleo, and lost close to 50lbs.

By late 2009 Marc was deep into the CrossFit mayhem and ended up going to a local certification and got the CrossFit level 1 cert. Once he got this cert we started talking about how cool it would be to start our own affiliate, but we were both working so much, had no equipment, so on and so forth. Well, Marc started purchasing equipment slowly but surely and by early 2010 we had just enough to start our own gym. I found a space, we affiliated and set up shop in a local sports performance facility. All was good, the gym started to grow however I had started to lose my passion for CrossFit. Not sure how and why it came about but for whatever reason I was no longer doing WOD’s and started moving my training to primarily doing powerlifting type exercises. From there I ended up taking a job up north in Los Angeles and had to abandon my business all together which at this point, I was fine with.

I moved away to Los Angeles and started to train in a very powerbuilding training method. I also found a training partner, Paleo Devan, who had similar goals as me with regards to strength and size gains. Devan inspired me to be passionate with my training and programming and we both really benefitted from this training awakening. So, here I am today, strong, happy with my program, gaining size, and when I look back I really have CrossFit to thank.

So how did CrossFit actually change my life?

  • CrossFit inspired me to be passionate about training myself again.
  • CrossFit made me do legs, which is why I am actually proportionate now.
  • CrossFit made me push my body to a level I had never worked at before.
  • CrossFit taught me how to program workouts to be more efficient.
  • CrossFit introduced me to powerlifting, which is a major part of my routine now.
  • Preaching CrossFit to others helped me to help others with their health.
  • CrossFit made me enjoy fitness again, plain and simple.
  • CrossFit inspires a passion for fitness like nothing else I have ever seen.
  • CrossFit introduced me to Paleo. The paleo diet has been a life changing “diet” for me and many others I have helped along the way and I 100% owe CrossFit and Robb Wolf for introducing me to this way of eating.

Thank you all so much for reading through this really long and drawn out blog post. I had not written much about my background with CrossFit, or fitness in general so it was nice to get that off my chest. Do I agree with everything CrossFit does, no. But I do think CrossFit has one of the best platforms for people looking to learn and adapt new training and nutritional philosophies into their own way of exercising and living. I have seen plenty of people start CrossFit and then segue into olympic weightlifitng, powerlifitng, rowing, running, or just add these elements into their old way of working out (like me). CrossFit’s ability to do just that is why I really do think it changed my life for the better as well as the others who I have helped over the years, so thank you CrossFit.

Clean Bulk: I don’t think so…10lbs – One Month

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Happy Thanksgiving Ya’ll!!

I wanted to take some time, on this day when I will be carb loading like crazy, to go over my progress thus far. I weighed myself last night at the gym at I am finally pushing past the 180lb mark, tipping the scales at 182lbs. As you know based on my post below that my goal is 190lbs, staying at around 12-14% bodyfat for now. Having just got back into lifting (and eating) after three months off I am progressing at an amazing pace. In September of this year I was weighing in at my lowest weight in years, 168lbs. I was skinny, not eating, and not lifting; it was a nice break for my body but I missed everything I enjoy about eating, lifting, and getting bigger and stronger. I have officially gained around 14lbs from September and about 10lbs from just over a month or so ago when I started hitting the gym again. How did I do it? Well, there is no secret, I eat, and I lift about 3 times a week. I went ahead and posted a pic of the meals I have been eating over the course of the last month and there is a really solid blend of good, and shit food choices. But, my goal is to gain weight so I don’t let waffles, fries, and pancakes stand in my way…grab fork, shove down pie hole.

Meal Pic Choices:

  • Eggs and Bacon
  • Chicken – Shredded/Chopped
  • In and Out
  • Homemade Pancakes/Homemade peanut butter syrup
  • Homemade Waffles/Syrup/Whipped Cream
  • Ground Turkey – Patties and no patty form.
  • Squash
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Cheese
  • Avocado
  • French Fries of varying sorts

Yup, nothing about some of these choices screams clean eating and it shouldn’t…that isn’t my focus right now. My focus right now is to eat, lift, and get bigger and eating and lifting are going to get me there. If you are trying to lean out, I wouldn’t suggest French fries nor would I suggest anything above that has flower in it (pancakes, waffles, buns, bread, etc.). However, the rest is a pretty good choice in regards to eating clean (Meat, veggies, etc.). Anyways, take this day (Thanksgiving) as a time when you can’t feel bad about eating as much crap as possible…consider it your duty as an American and if you are not American, just go eat and lift, business as usual.