“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
It’s been nothing short of a continual tempest around the TTP household for the last 6 weeks or so; an emotional roller-coaster consisting of sharply peaked highs and and the lowest of lows. Couple this storm with a hellish increase in work load (great timing, huh?), and a fruitless attempt at trying to sell a house into a crippled market, spousal unemployment, an anemic economy and, well…you get the point. This all would, in most cases (in a great many of the people that I’ve had dealings with) portend of a blown diet and a tossed-to-the-wayside workout regimen. Not so with me, though, and for the plain and simple fact that my diet and workouts, along with my intellectual pursuits, spirituality, and the support of friends and family (and I include the TTP community here), keep me centered — even in the midst of some of the worst times I’ve ever experienced.
Maintaining a Paleo diet during trying times is actually a fairly easy thing to do, as long as you have an established “Paleo history” under your belt. It’s simply an auto-pilot thing; a simple continuation of “doing that thing you do”. Strange circumstances and environments will certainly feather into the mix, though, and one will have to maintain a Bruce Lee-like defensive posture and attitude during these circumstances, but all-in-all, these situations are not all that difficult to navigate. I can tell all of you, though, that I have fasted more in the last 6 weeks or so than I ever have in my Paleo career, and, as a result, I’m the leanest that I’ve ever been in my entire adult life (including during my short bodybuilding career).
But back to the theme of this post, though: the “go-to” workout.
If you’ve been keeping up with my workouts as of late (checkout the Twitter side bar), you’ve probably noticed a pronounced lack of creativity and a noticeable recycling of the same modalities and themes. Guilty as charged. I maintain a set of four or five core, whole-body workouts that I’ll revert to in periods like this; periods where I have neither the time nor the creative energy to consistently come up with fresh, innovative and challenging gym-oriented schemes. What I need in periods like this are workouts that (1) I know will offer an ass-kicking challenge, (2) are whole-body in nature (i.e., multi-joint), (3) don’t take long to execute in their entirety and, (4) consist of exercises that are easily manipulated via weight and/or rep scheme. That is to say, the exercises that comprise these workouts can be morphed into raw strength or straight-up power versions depending on my want at the time. Think of these workouts as the nucleus of the modality atom, with variants of these workouts comprising that atom’s electron cloud. Simple, huh?
Here’s one example, and one of my favorite got-to workouts — a 7-round superset consisting of:
- Clean-Grip low pulls x 3
- Weighted dips x 3
It doesn’t get much easier (on paper, that is) than this. Jack the weight up and slash your recovery time between sets and between exercises to nil. Throw your body to wolves and let your mind zero in with laser focus on something other than your worldly problems. I can’t tell you exactly how much aggression rage and sorrow I’ve spilled out in the course of performing this particular superset, but it’s been quite a bit. And I’ll let you in on a little trade secret: do you think my body has any inkling that this is one of the most basic in design and easiest to set-up (in an equipment/space sense) in my modality tool box? Well, if it does, it’s maintaining a hell of a poker face. And sometimes I’ll go ahead and do power cleans instead of low pulls, or high pulls. Want some on-the-fly dip variations? Try a ballistic version, or maybe the ol’ Gironda dip; muscle-ups are always a popular, ass-kicking option. Now, this workout would do nothing, of course, to pad my bank account if I were trying to sell it to the masses. Why? Hell, there’s no flash, nothing gimmicky, and *gasp* it’s hard-ass friggin’ work to perform. But if you want an effective, no bullshit way to push your body to its limit in the weight room, this one is the gold standard. Here’s another from the “go-to” files.
- front squats
- behind the neck push-press
Look at all the press options that can be generated on the fly out of this initial, basic set-up. One bar, one rack, and a multitude of possibilities. Again, do you think your body will think it’s getting off easy for having to “only” perform this little superset? Throw in some weighted pull-ups if you’re feeling especially froggy.
The Cred x 3 + single arm DB press/push-press/push jerk. Alternate arms, cut your rest between sets to nil, and keep going until you either hallucinate or your form deteriorates into the unacceptable realm. I’ve also been known to add a weighted pull-up version to this combo as well. I invite you to do the same 🙂
You don’t have to copy my go-to exercises, of course; I would suggest, though, that you come up with a collection of your own favorites to sustain you through whatever trying times you might have to navigate yourself. Once you make it to the other side of the river, so to speak, you can return to more creative options. Many times, though, I’ve seen people’s physical culture sink in the middle of the traverse for lack of the basic “life support” I’ve described here. Don’t let that happen to you.