Workout: April 27, 2015

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Bench Press PR

The reason I switched from StrongLifts 5×5 to the variation of the program called StrongLifts Advanced is because doing squats as part of every workout, that’s three times a week, took so much effort and energy that my bench press and deadlift performance suffered. Now that I am rebuilding my squat form, and the squat weight is relatively light, I got a PR today on my bench press! :)

4-27-2015-workout-featuredA good way to start the work week–as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!


I Love Fitocracy (What’s that?)

This post contains affiliate links to products I personally enjoy and use--should you purchase using these links (products cost the same) I will receive a small commission. Please, help keep the lights on! Full disclosure policy.


“What the heck is Fitocracy?” you ask. On the surface, it is a web site and app that turn fitness into a game of sorts. From the website:

Fitocracy’s mission is to make fitness a more fun, more addictive experience. Play Fitocracy to beat challenges, push your boundaries, and show your friends who’s boss. Get addicted to your fitness.

WOWI find many more benefits beyond the “game” aspects–we’ll get to them shortly. But first, I love video games. At one point in my life I was addicted to World Of Warcraft (WOW), which is an MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, where you start a character and, along with thousands of other players on the internet, explore an on-line fantasy world, participate in quests, and earn achievements. I spent hours upon hours playing this game, promising myself I would quit and go to bed after just one more quest or as soon as my character achieved the next level.

After 10 years or so, I had to stop playing the game because I needed to spend my leisure time doing more productive things and my addiction to this game helped prevent that. So when I heard of this web site called Fitocracy that combined fitness with aspects similar to WOW, I had to check it out.

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Sure enough, like WOW, Fitocracy let’s you log your workouts, either on the web site or via the app (iOS/Android) and you are rewarded with points. As you accumulate  points you achieve levels. This is where it gets fun because, like WOW, the early levels are easily achievable, but they becomeincreasingly harder as you progress–it’s addictive! To give you an idea, in the first 15 days of using the site I went from Level 1 to Level 11. I am now at Level 43 and it took me 170 days to get from Level 42 to Level 43! The same addition I had when leveling up my video game character is now being used to motivate me in the gym! “How many pull ups will it take for me to get enough points to hit the next level today?”

fito-questThere are also quests, achievements and duels. Quests motivate you to do a variety of different fitness activities by awarding you extra points when you accomplish certain tasks. For example, there is quest called “The Squat Isn’t So Scary!” which simply requires you to perform a single barbell squat and will earn you an extra 10 points. There are simple ones like that and some more difficult, like “Monkeying Around” which will earn you 300 points if, in a single day’s workout, you can do 10 pull ups, 5 wide-grip pull ups, 1o chin ups, and 10 parallel-grip pull ups.

fito-achievmentAchievements are also awarded for social activity on the site as well as exercise milestones.  For example, if you receive 100 props (props are similar to a Facebook “Like”), you will receive the “Feeling The Love” achievement. Similarly, if and when you are able to do a bench press for at least .9 times your body weight then you will earn the “Push It (Barbell)” achievement. Achievements are cool and motivating for me!

There are also duels, where you can challenge another Fito (what we call ourselves) to contest of sorts, like who can log the most push ups in a 30 day period.

Fitocracy _ PaleoFor me the points and other “game” aspects of Fitocracy are cool and motivating, but another, and maybe even more important benefit, is being part of a positive community of like-minded people interested in health and fitness. There are groups you can join where people with specific interests (not all directly related to fitness) can connect, like “The Fit Bookworms” group, the “StrongLifts 5×5” group, and the “Paleo” group, to name a few I’ve joined.

The site is really a very targeted social media platform that I find incredibly supportive and motivational. Now, this doesn’t mean there aren’t trolls lurking around that try to spoil things, but I find the folks at Fitocracy do a pretty good job of policing the site and keeping it positive and (mostly) troll-free. This is a diverse community as well, with folks that are just beginning their fitness journey, to highly accomplished athletes, personal trainers and everyone in between, including men and women of all ages and races across the planet.

fit-perfAnother great benefit I find from the site/app is it easily allows me to log my workouts. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, tracking my progress against goals is a key for me to stay consistent with my workouts. The app allows me to see my history and personal best for any exercise I have logged in the past. I love having that data on my phone and at my fingertips! If you’re not getting stronger, you’re getting weaker! 😀

I have no affiliation with Fitocracy whatsoever (in fact I have chosen to support the site monetarily because of the value it brings me). So why am I telling you this? Fitness can be a lonely journey. It helps me to have a like-minded community supporting me and motivating me. In my life, workout partners come and go–rarely do they last more than a few months–but Fitocracy has been there for me since I joined nearly three years ago. Part of the purpose of this blog is to relate how I stay lean, athletic, and young, and Fitocracy is an important tool!

If you use Fitocracy, I’d love to connect–I’m “danthebucsfan”. Please leave feedback in the comments and I’d love to learn tools you use in your journey. As always…

Be smart in the kitchen and beast in the gym!

My Fancy Workout Shoes

This post contains affiliate links to products I personally enjoy and use--should you purchase using these links (products cost the same) I will receive a small commission. Please, help keep the lights on! Full disclosure policy.

chucksThey say, “Clothes make the man/woman.” Ever heard this? It turns out this phrase originated from Shakespeare in Hamlet, where the character, Polonius, is giving fatherly advice to his son, Laertes, before he leaves for Paris. He tells him:

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Among other things he is saying something along the lines of don’t be a poser, don’t buy stuff you can’t afford to impress people, and the clothes you wear matter! More on this here if your interested…

Well my “not so fancy,” old school shoes are important too, but for a much different reason. Certainly you can go to any high school and see the kids wearing a version of my classic “Chucks” to make a retro fashion statement, but I assure you I wear them to the gym for a completely different reason… :)

running-shoesFor most of my life I wore other types of athletic shoes, either basketball or running, to lift weights, after all, I never thought footwear had anything to do with weightlifting. This included the 20+ years I spent wandering around the weight room doing split routines, you know, chest/shoulders/triceps on one day, them back/biceps the next, and legs once a month! 😀 A few years ago I changed my weight lifting philosophy to a simple, compound barbell program which includes squats and deadlifts (DLs). Adopting this program, based on StrongLifts 5×5, took my focus away from the weight machine area of the gym to the free weight area. Here’s where I noticed some really strong folks lifting heavy weight and many of them donning old school “Chucks.”

I still didn’t get it! I remember seeing these guys and thinking, “these guys/girls are wearing those shoes to show everyone in the gym they’re hard core iron pushers. Showoffs!” As the weeks and months wore on, and my program called for heavier and heavier weights for the squat and deadlift, I began to struggle, unable to progress with more weight. I wanted to get stronger and lift heavier, but these exercises are technically difficult and, as you know, form is everything!

So I started asking for advice (oddly enough from mostly dudes wearing “Chucks”) and doing a bunch of reading. A friend of mine, who had become very proficient at deadlifting, suggested a book titled, Deadlift Dynamite: How To Master The King of All Strength Exercises. Boom, there it was, right on page 121:

Do all your DLs and DL-related training barefoot or in minimalist shoes with a flat and thin sole. This is essential for safety and performance.

The light bulb went off and I immediately purchased a pair of “Chucks!”

Did my squat and deadlift performance increase? Absolutely! The question, the same one the Mars Blackmon character asked in the Air Jordan commercials, to be asked, “Is it the shoes?”

Like Jordan in the commercial, I can’t come to the same conclusion Mars famously comes to, “It’s gotta be the shoes!” However, I do believe the shoes play an important part in helping both my squat and deadlift form, which ultimately helps me lift more weight and thus makes me stronger!

chucks-squatHowever, as I’ve repeated many times on this blog, everyone is different and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. I see people in the gym all the time wearing running shoes with big cushioned heals squatting and deadlifting huge amounts of weight–double and triple what I can do. In fact, I know one guy in my gym who not only wears running shoes but also puts a pair of 10 lb. weights under his heals when he squats (and he can squat over 400 lb.). Isn’t that exactly opposite of the above? How is that possible?

It turns out how one performs these complex lifts depends greatly on one’s body type, bone length and other physical factors. One of these factors, depending on the person, can be the shoe. This video does a great job in explaining the mechanics of the squat and how all these factors play a roll. I would encourage you to watch the whole thing, but at 2:35 he specifically talks about how a raised heal affects the knee and hip.

Fascinating stuff!

Now you know why I wear those “not so fancy” but ever so flat shoes when I squat and deadlift. I truly believe they help! If you find your knees pressing forward and you’re having trouble getting your hips to parallel, might be time to pay attention to your footwear. Before I actually bought my “Chucks” I experimented with squats and DLs in bare feet. I immediately felt a big difference and I knew I needed flat shoes. I would love to do those lifts in bare feet, but my gym won’t allow it for safety reasons.

Any other “not so fancy” shoe wearers out there? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!