Archive for May, 2008

Poll Results: Squatting to Parallel vs. Squatting to the Floor

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

The results are in for the April 4th’s Question of the Week: Squats to Parallel or Ass-to-Grass? 45% of you said we should be squatting only to parallel, and 48% of you said we should be squatting ass-to-grass, ass-to-floor, ass-to-ankles, or whatever you might call it.

My initial vote went for squatting to parallel or just below. Now that the voting is closed though, I am going to qualify my answer. I think squatting to the floor under a maximal effort load is probably a bad idea. If you are going for a 1-3 rm pr, you should not be squatting to the floor. I just feel that this is one way to destroy your knees and possibly injure your back if you’re not careful. However, I am of the firm belief that squatting all the way down can definitely be beneficial in conditioning drills.

There’s no reason we can’t bodyweight squat to the floor. Nor is there a reason we shouldn’t be able to descend to the floor at the bottom of a jump squat. Many exercises and many functional movements in life depend on us being able to squat to the floor, either to pick something up, to get out of the way of a projectile object, or to prepare of an earth shattering vertical leap.

Let me just leave you with the idea that you should not be squatting 800 lbs to the floor. This is dumb. But definitely pick up your Atlas stone from the floor. Definitely bust out some super wide grip dynamic deadlifts off a box. Bang out 200 bodyweight squats, all the way down to three quarters of the way up (don’t you dare lock your knees out during bodyweight squat sets). Work those knees and strengthen those hips!

Off Topic

One more thing. I have been reading more and more about CrossFit. This type of training really interests me, and I will blog about it much more in the near future.

Why Dieting Makes You Fatter – Popular Diet Reviews

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Healthy living girlThere are so many fad diets out there these days. When you want to lose a quick pound, it’s hard to know where to turn. This is just a short review of popular fad diets, and a solution to the fad diet problem.

Fad Diet Principles

Many diets promote certain principles that will make you fatter. Super restricted calorie diets will only slow down your metabolism so that when you start eating again you will balloon right back up. Liquid or juice diets tend to follow this idea. High carbohydrate diets will just bulk you up with carbs and will negatively impact your insulin resistance over a long period of time, possibly leading to adult onset type II diabetes. Zero carbohydrate diets will leave you with no energy and nasty protein bi-products floating around in your system. Plus when you go back to eating normal, the increased carbs will be stored as fat right away and you will balloon back up again.

Proper Diet Principles

From now on your diet refers to the way you eat on a daily basis. Instead of going on a diet, you will change your daily eating habits. You will increase your protein consumption, decrease your fat and carbohydrate consumption, eat 5 small meals, and drink a gallon of water a day. These four actions will inherently function to both reduce your daily caloric intake, increase the calories burned by the metabolic processes in your body, and control your cholesterol. It is your responsibility to exercise 3-5 times per week for 45 minutes, and eat fewer calories than your body uses in a day.

Popular Fad Diets

Medifast – Read a great review of the Medifast Diet at DietsInReview.com

Low Carb Diet – The basic concept of a low fat diet is to replace the simple carbohydrates in sugary and starchy foods, with high protein, high fat, complex carbohydrate foods. Low carb dieting forms the basis for most successful personalized weight loss diet strategies. A-

Atkins Diet – An extreme version of the low carb diet that sets a limit on the amount of carbs in a day to 20 grams coming only from fibrous sources. This is generally considered to be a moderately dangerous diet, which should only be followed for a month at a time. C+

Low Fat Diet – Since fat has significantly more calories than carbohydrates and protein, this diet aims to keep calories low and eliminate harmful trans fats and saturated fats from the diet, opting to eat mostly carbohydrates instead. The low fat diet craze is single handedly responsible for the rise in Type II diabetes in Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. F

Zone Diet(more…)

Increase Your Max Bench Press By Stretching Your Calves

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I am in the midst of finishing up a large web development project for a client, so I am taking a couple days off from posting. My next useful Project Swole post might come Thursday but will probably come in on Friday or over the weekend.

A Quick Tip for Bench Pressing

If you are trying to hit a bench press PR (for reps or for weight), try a new approach to preparing for the set. Horizontally stretch your back for 20 seconds. Then stretch your biceps, hamstrings, and calves for at least 15 seconds each before the set. Avoid stretching your chest, shoulders, or triceps. I know it’s weird, but it really works.

Also, if you have a lifting partner or someone else is in the gym, ask for a spot. There’s no need to exhaust yourself on the lift off.

Peanut Butter Protein Ball Recipe

Monday, May 19th, 2008

On the way out the door to a meeting or an appointment, you feel a twinge of hunger. You really need to grab a quick snack, but you are sick of fruit and protein bars. The solution is simple: grab two peanut butter protein balls and you’ll be good to go for the next 2-3 hours.

Peanut Butter Protein BallsThe exact ratio of ingredients will depend a little on the kinds of protein powder and peanut butter you use. I used a low carb, French Vanilla flavored protein for this recipe, but other flavors work fine as well; in fact I think next time I will try chocolate.

Some natural peanut butters have more or less oil than average, so you might need to increase or decrease the amount of protein powder based on your PB. You can choose to use the vanilla extract or the additional ingredients. I would advise experimenting.

The Recipe:

(more…)

Black & Blue Entertainment’s Cage Fight “The Beginning” a Success

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

I went to an event last night called CageFight MMA “The Beginning” in Bedford, NH. Initially I mentioned it in my article about Black & Blue Entertainment’s first ever professional cage fight event. It went really well for their first gig. I believe one of the fighters in the main event broke his hand a week out from the contest, but they still put together a good show.

Update (5/19): Here is a link to a Play-By-Play summary of the CageFight MMA event.

Steve, Gayle, Roger, Barb
My girlfriend Gayle and I with Roger and Barbara Woo

The half owner of Black and Blue Entertainment, Roger Woo, also owns Team Woo, a professional MMA team. Three fighters from Team Woo ended up fighting, two of them won and one lost, but the dude he fought was clearly jacked even though he was only 5’4, 160lbs. Otherwise, there were fighters from ME, NH, and MA representing a total of 13 different teams.

Team Woo
Some of the Team Woo guys.

Cage GirlThere wasn’t too much blood but most of the fights were pretty good. There were definitely some kicks to the face, some knock outs, and some submissions; everything you’d want to see at a cage fight. There were also plenty of women including two svelte little ring chicks.

I would post the official lineup, but I was too preoccupied watching the fight to remember to write down the fighters records, who won or lost, and how they won. Apparently I would not make a good reporter. Next time I shall be better prepared.

Update (5/19): Here is a link to a Play-By-Play summary of the CageFight MMA event.

From what I understand, Black and Blue Entertainment will be hosting 4 shows a year. The next event will be on August 16th, so I will be posting those details as soon as I know more. You can bookmark the CageFight MMA homepage at CageFightMMA.net.

Ben Manseau Ben Manseau

Update (5/19): Here is a link to a Play-By-Play summary of the CageFight MMA event.

Increase the Number of Pull-Ups You Can Do By 50 Percent in One Day

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Pull ups are hard, but they are one of the few true tests of strength. I say this because some powerlifters can bench 600 or squat 800, but they also weigh 300+ and can barely manage 5 pull ups. This is one of the few exercises where you can measure relative fitness by comparing the ratio of the number of pull ups completed to bodyweight. Some of you might get mad at me, talking about powerlifters training for strength rather than endurance, but the fact of the matter is that when I was powerlifting I could still do 15 pull ups at 195 lbs.

BuzzcutNow, let me take you back to high school gym class… the year was 1993, I was 15 years old. Mr. Buatti the gym teacher, who happens to bare a striking resemblance to Coach Buzzcut, called my name to stand up in front of the class and do an many pull ups as I can. The football jocks each knocked out from 10 to 20 and the wiry tough kid with only 3 fingers on one hand completed 14 of them. I got 3. It was humiliating.

Now we come back to the present. Recently I started doing pull ups again after a year layoff. On my first set, I got 5 reps. A week later I was up to 8 reps. Just yesterday I did a set of 11 reps. But I want more. I’ve done 18 pull ups before; I’ve also done 5 pull ups with a 45 lb plate hanging off a belt. So, how can I get back to that place? How can you get to that place?

(more…)

Question of the Week: Which Presidential Candidate Needs More Focus in the Weight Room?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Question of the WeekThere are still 4 presidential candidates for 2009. Allow me to break down the candidates and explain to you why each one of them needs to get back in the weight room. At the end, I would like to introduce you to my surprise independent candidate; the only player you can really count on to save the day.
[poll id=”6″]


  • John McCainJohn McCain, who will probably keep us in Iraq for eternity, thus killing off thousands more Americans, burning many more billions of ‘government’ dollars, and sinking the economy into a deep recession by 2010. I mean, it doesn’t make him look good when everyone knows he would make American women suffer by staffing his offices with pro-life Nazis.

    Maybe he could improve his appearance and popularity by following a couple conditioning tips here on Project Swole. He’s getting older, and could probably firm up that face with a couple High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions each week. I would also recommend some resistance training with free weights twice per week to help increase bone density.

  • (more…)

No Pain No Gain is Still Sometimes True

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Weightlifting HamsterI totally live by the mantra, “No brain, no gain”, because, “No pain, no gain”, is essentially a counterproductive philosophy. It is one in which you could easily end up sick, injured, or worse. On recent occasion though, I have found it necessary to dig back into my, “No pain, no gain”, mindset in thai kickboxing class.

The reason I say this, is because there does indeed seem to be a problem with my lungs. I still think they might be damaged from some blood clots a couple years back. The thing is though, is if I push myself, how much bad can actually come of it?

My lungs could get stronger. They could be forced to repair damaged tissue. Maybe I really am just straight up out of shape. Well no matter, because when I feel like it’s time to throw in the towel and huddle in a corner gasping for breath, I just repeat to myself, “No pain, no gain”, because this is how I will make it through the workout… this is how I will force my body to adapt and get stronger.

Thai Kickboxing

In the last 4 days I have attended 2 kickboxing classes and I have completed 6 sets of 10 pull-ups. Today I am sore. Kickboxing seems to be getting better after my month layoff. I am feeling stronger and faster during each class. I do feel like my lungs are working better sometimes, but then other times I find myself gasping, taking 1/2 breaths. For now I’ll just keep pushing it.

Pull Ups

The 10 reps on pull-ups makes me feel OK. At least I’m not a complete sissy anymore. My general goal is to hit a set of pull-ups each morning and each evening, nearly every day of the week. On each set I will maintain strict form, and will always try to get one more rep than I did previously. Right now I’ve been stuck at 10 reps for a couple days, but I intend to hit an 11 rep set on Mother’s Day.

Soon it shall be time for me to start working towards my 10 week, 300 Workout Challenge goal. Once again, the 300 Workout isn’t something that we do every day. It is more of a training goal. You train your body for conditioning, endurance, and a small amount of strength, then at the end of your 10-12 week session, the 300 Workout is a test that you can use to gauge just how successful your training went.

That’s it for today… bring on Mother’s Day!

Matt’s Meat – An Atkins Style High Protein Meal

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

At times there can be a benefit to scheduling some zero carb, high protein, high fat eating in your diet. You might consider going on a 3 week Atkins-style super-low carb diet to kick start a hardcore fat loss phase in your training. For this, you will need to eat lots of meat, cheese, and vegetables, and not much else. I have the perfect recipe for this; it’s called Matt’s Meat and I wish to share the story of Matt’s Meat with you.

Back in 2004 I was living in a house called “The Deuce” with 5 other guys. These were the college days, so I was pretty dedicated to training and nutrition. Aside from class and homework, I didn’t have much else to focus on. One day one of my roommates, we’ll call him Matt, tossed a bunch of meat and spices into a frying pan and cooked it up. We ate it with cheese and either blue cheese or ranch dressing and it was like a party in my mouth. The meal was henceforth dubbed “Matt’s Meat”, and today I would like to share the recipe with you.

The Recipe

  • 1 pound of extra lean ground beef (or pork, turkey, chicken)
  • two large green peppers
  • a sprinkle of every non-salt based spice you can find in your cabinet
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup of ketchup
  • 2 tbsp of mustard
  • a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese
  • chunky blue cheese or ranch dressing

First thing’s first, dump the meat in a frying pan and cook it on medium until the fat starts to separate and boil around the meat. While you are waiting, cut the peppers into small squares. Once there is considerable fat in the pan, point you want to hold the pan at an angle, push all the meat to the top, and try to dump out as much of the fatty grease as possible. Now that the grease is gone you can add the peppers, spices, mustard, and hot sauce.

The final ingredient is optional if you are going for a die-hard zero carb meal, but it really makes the meat tasty. Sort of gives it a sloppy joe flavor. Anyway, add the ketchup and mix it up.

To serve, top 1/2 cup of meat with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese, heat for a couple seconds to melt the cheese, and finally top with 1-2 tbsp of chunky blue cheese dressing.

I have no idea how much fat and protein is in this meal, but I’m betting it’s high. This is a good meal for a strict low carb diet and will probably satiate your appetite for at least 4 hours due to the fat content. Just remember, do not add anything with carbs other than the peppers and ketchup or you will lose the whole purpose of the meal.

Kickboxing and The 300 Workout

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Yesterday I went to my thai kickboxing class where my lungs were served to me on a silver platter. After taking about a month off from kickboxing, I have lost most of my endurance. Not all that surprisingly, my lungs still don’t really seem to be working properly, as I am able to take only half breaths when my heart rate starts to rise. This is one of the reasons (aside from family and job issues) I started to slack at kickboxing for the last month. I attribute this to one of three things:

  1. My lungs really are damaged from the incorrectly diagnosed blood clots (pulmonary embolisms) I had about 4 years ago. Thanks so much RIT Student Health center for diagnosing me with pneumonia for weeks on end resulting in me almost dying in my apartment, even after you had me get X-rays and an MRI. I wish I could sue them.
  2. I have developed some sort of asthma perhaps?
  3. I am in such horrific physical condition that my lung capacity has regressed to less than 2/3 of what it used to be.

The 300 Workout

My original blog about the 300 workout I will be starting is here: The 300 Workout for Total Body Conditioning. I have not really started this yet, but I am preparing myself.

Pull ups on a treeThis is the tree on which I have been practicing my pull-ups. A couple weeks ago I was only able to get about 5 pull ups in a row, something that I used to be able to do with a 45 lb plate hanging from my waist. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Anyway, I can see in this picture my lack of width and girth, and the decrease in the circumference of my arms. It will be good to get swole again.

Step up benchThis is the bench on which I will be doing step ups and any other exercises that might require a bench. Just to get back into the swing of pressing, I will probably bust out some high rep 45 lb Powerblock presses using this bench like I would an Olympic bench.

The ParkThis is the park in which I will be doing any sort of running or carrying exercises. Any exercise that doesn’t involve a stationary tool of some sort will be done in the park.

PR of the Day

As of today, I am back up to 9 consecutive pull ups without cheating. My goal is to hit 20, something I’ve never done before, but if I practice this all summer and keep my weight down through conditioning drills, I should be able to attain this before next winter.