Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Capturing the Flag (and eatin' well on a budget!)

If you can’t do it in a t-shirt and jeans, then you can’t do it at all.
-          David Lee Roth

More and more I’ve come to love simple, do-it-anywhere, low-tech strength training.  It’s been this way for years.  I discovered the ultimate piece of fitness equipment, kettlebells, in 2008 and at the same time re-discovered bodyweight strength training in the form of Pavel’s bodyweight masterpiece The Naked Warrior.  Since then I’ve made my sole focus improving both of those disciplines.  When I tell people I practice calisthenics, their immediate response is either a) “WTF is a calisthenic?” or b) “Oh, you mean you do pushups and pull-ups and such?”  Occasionally I hear “OMG, I love calisthenics!  We do sooo many of them in P90X/Insanity, etc.”  And I think that’s great, for the record, but what I’m talking about goes far beyond that.

I love calisthenics that improves brute strength and raw power, NOT mere endurance.  I like the calisthenics work and strength training that most people aren’t doing anymore, but should be.  In addition to the RKC Big Six (Get Up, swing, front squat, clean, military press, and snatch), I love doing things like pistols, one-arm pushups, dips, weighted pull-ups, muscle ups, etc. etc.  The list could go on and on, but for the sake of brevity I’m going to add just one more move – one that I discovered recently and instantly fell in love with: the clutch flag. 

In the world of bodyweight training, flags are essentially exercises in which you suspend the majority of your body in the air in some way by grabbing onto something else by your arms.

Bruce Lee, aka “The Little Dragon” performing the Dragon Flag

Frenchman Dominic Lacasse holding the Human Flag for a world record 31 seconds.  Does anyone else find it ironic that he’s French and is performing an exercise called The Flag while dressed in white?

If you want a midsection that can deflect a bullet, flags are one of the best ways to get that.  I finally broke down and bought Convict Conditioning 2 last week, and am already halfway through it.  I am kicking myself for not buying it sooner, because it is truly a goldmine of information that surpasses even its legendary original. 

I love having a midsection that can take a full-force kick or punch, and more than that, I love finding new ways to master my bodyweight without having to spend money on any equipment – something I can do in a t-shirt and jeans, in other words.  In part one of this book, I saw my new target: the clutch flag!  After doing some awkward experimenting on a pole (it’s not what it sounds like) I was able to get into position number one – my first step toward mastery.  I found a tree, did some more practicing, and got even better.  In fact, I was able to jump all the way to step 5!  I was progressing far faster than the month or two I suspected it was going to take me to get it.  Finally, I decided “eh, what the hell” and went for it.  I set up a camera to chronicle my adventure.

 Strength and skill are a must for this.  Flailing your arms is optional.

As I understand, runners get a certain high from running (I wouldn’t know because I don’t run unless something’s chasing me), and that must’ve been exactly what was going on with me, because I was on cloud 9.  My flag wasn’t the prettiest, but I’m claiming it as a victory anyway.  I am going to spend a good amount of time on each step before I practice the full clutch flag exclusively, but there are a few points to make here.  

1)      1) Even though I was able to nail the flag on the first day I started training it, I wasn’t able to make it without practicing preliminary steps first.  It is for this reason that I am going to go back and really solidify each step beforehand, as they are crucial to achieving the last step.  Rushing through something you’re not ready for and therefore haven’t earned is the perfect mechanism to get injured (see my last blog for details).

2)      2) Despite having never done this flag before and not even regularly practicing the Dragon Flag, I was able to do one sooner than later for one simple reason: I prioritize strength in my training, NOT conditioning.  Conditioning has its place and I have nothing against it, but thousands of side bends and sit-ups will never match leg raises, pull-ups (believe it or not), ab wheel rollouts, and even the standard RKC plank.  All of these will give you a midsection that will turn heads and be ready to give out as much punishment as it takes, especially when you’re ready to add bodyweight feats like flags to the mix.

3)      3) Is there anything that tells more about an individual than how they move their own body?  The average gym rat vacillates between the bench press and dumbbell curls (if they even use free weights) and neglects – nay, AVOIDS – bodyweight exercises that could do so much to increase not only their full body strength, but would get them closer to a sculpted, sexy bod.  I have a friend who weighs 205, can bench 305 for five reps, and can do ONE PULLUP.  Not only is he on a short road to getting injured, but he’s robbing himself of full-body strength that would do him some real good.  A heavy bench is nice, but if you can’t even lift your own body in a variety of ways, set the barbell down and come back when you can do more than just dangle on a pullup bar like a side of beef on a meat hook.  Besides, nothing you can do while lying on your back is all that impressive anyway.

There you have it!  If any of my readers have Convict Conditioning 2, let me know what your progress has been like on the clutch flag, as well as the other moves in the book.  If you don’t have it yet, click this link andbuy it now!  You’ll be glad you did.

And what blog post of mine would be complete without a scrum-diddly-umptious recipe?  This one doesn’t have a name, so come up with something pithy and that’ll be the name that sticks.  Hell, you can name it after yourself if you’d like! 
You’ll need: 

(at least) one large salmon fillet
Some fresh green beans
Some crushed red pepper
Red onions
A jalapeno pepper
2 cloves of garlic

Chop up the jalapeno, a large chunk of red onion (some like more, some like less, so experiment and find what you like best), two cloves of garlic, and add some crushed red pepper.
Dash your salmon steak with olive oil and add a liberal dab of olive oil to a pan.  Heat the pan, put the salmon in it, and cover with a cookie sheet.  Flip once one side is done. 
Once it’s fully cooked, remove it from the pan, place it on a plate, and add the jalapeno/onion/garlic/red pepper mix.  For a total meal, throw some fresh green beans into your pan, add a little more olive oil and red pepper, and let ‘em sear.  Turn them over here and there and take them out while they’re still crispy.  Put a fork in your food, put it up to your mouth, and eat it.

Some fun ways to riff on this recipe are: 

·         Add some feta cheese to the chopped veggies
·         Drape some sharp cheddar over your salmon (see picture) 

Find something that makes it taste better?  I wanna know!  Send me an email at aleks.salkin.rkc@gmail.com

Until next time folks, lift heavy and eat hearty!