Strength training the ultimate supplement for entrepreneurs

There are many views on how you should live and prioritize your life as an entrepreneur. Some find the only way is to dedicate 25 hours of your day towards your company or goal. If you aren’t working all hours of the day, then maybe your competitors are and they are getting ahead. Eating, sleeping, being able to see the sky – useless – you lazy slob!

While this might work for some, primarily robots, computers and others who has the luxury of not being alive, it’s probably not the best way forward most of the time. There can be times where you need to do this because of tight deadlines and in those cases you should of course be willing to put in the work. But if it is your default state then I’ll try my skills as fortune teller and say that it won’t be for long.

One of the hard things with entrepreneurship is not getting recognition for your work. You can work your ass off for days on end without anything to show the outside world. Or perhaps you do have something to show the outside world, but getting traction can then be hit or miss. In other words your work/reward relationship is very non-linear. Over long periods of time this can be very frustrating. Getting acknowledgement for our work is a very basic and natural urge.

But as I have written before and will elaborate more on in the future you should not derive all your identity from one source. Meaning that if you get all your sense of identity from being an entrepreneur then your mood, sense of worth and general well-being is pretty much tied to the highly unpredictable rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship. You should of course be very proud of your accomplishments but if you are only “The entrepreneur” then you are very one-dimensional and may be more negatively impacted by adversity.

What you need is a way to spend your time that is more linear in terms of work/reward. You could of course always turn to drinking. Generally the more you drink the more drunk you get and the more days in a row you drink the more miserable you feel – all very linear. But perhaps an activity where the work/reward curve goes in the opposite direction will be more appropriate.

There are numerous way to go about this, but my personal recommendation would go towards strength training. You get to work with your body, you get to work with your mind, you get to work with your hands, you get to meet people who are not neck deep in the world of entrepreneurship.

Strength training is very linear in terms of work/reward. You can even put all your knowledge about 80/20 analysis etc. to good use both in terms of the training itself and nutrition. You’ll get a good break from whatever your endeavor is and may even find that during your workout you come up with solutions to problems you haven’t been able to solve or new business ideas.

A side effect of getting stronger and in better shape may even be more successful meetings as you standing more proud and erect before any person, will alter his or her perception of you. This may seem shallow but never underestimate the subtle cues of body language.

In other words the only real downside to strength training is really the time you need to allocate for it. And allocate it you should. Otherwise you’ll be very prone to postpone in the beginning and find ways in which working can be seen as more important. But 1-2 hours 2-3 times a week should be manageable for most – even the most prolific and busy entrepreneurs. It might be the best investment you’ll ever do.

Wave loading – a different rep-scheme for strength

If you’re a beginner just starting or started with strength training, then rep-schemes should be the least of your concerns. Stick to 5×5. Universally across most domains this just works best. Get good at the specific movements and get strong! Your progress will be way faster and way more unpredictable than any rep-scheme could predict. So just stick to 5×5 and keep adding weight. If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter this rep-scheme might be of interest to you. I’ll present the actual rep-scheme and some pointers as to where I see it as being most valuable and where it might not be the best solution.

Once you’re a few years into lifting you’ll probably get to a point when you are having a hard time getting any stronger in specific movements – your progress has somewhat stalled or plateaued. This is where training becomes interesting – this is somewhat the BMW-syndrome of the strength world – a lot of people get to this stage, but few people progress from here.

This is where some of the very complex training methodologies start to get into play. But advising you to use one of those would kind of speak against the title and aim of this blog. I am not hereby saying that you should stay clear of them, because they might be the best way to reach your goals – I just like to get as far as I can with simple approaches.

In the past I have had quite good progress with Wendler’s 5/3/1 – but ended up stagnating for overhead press and feeling burned out in deadlift – where the latter may very well be the explanation of the former. I tried modifying it and not going to failure in the last set as is prescribed, but this did not seem to solve all my problems. I then started looking for alternatives and went back into my nice big collection of rep-schemes and found wave-loading.

The basic principles are very simple; you advance in waves – hence the name and try to complete anywhere from 2 to 4 waves in a specific lift per training session. You start of with a 1RM weight or what I would recommend to be a 90-95% of 1RM. Then you go back 5kg or 10lbs depending on equipment(keep it simple). In this specific case it is kg and from my strict overhead press. 95kg is somewhere between 90-95% of my 1RM. Then following this scheme I would start my first wave with 3 reps of 75kg then 2 reps of 80kg and 1 rep of 85kg. Then I would start the next wave and go on.

Waves 90-95% of 1RM 95
3 rep 2 rep 1 rep
1. wave 75 80 85
2. wave 80 85 90
3. wave 85 90 95
4. wave 90 95 100

It should be rather easy for you to do make your own formula but here is a link to a spreadsheet with the formulas working – where if I have done it right you should be able to edit the 1RM figure. Google spreadsheet wave loading

The philosophy is that on any given day you should be able to complete 2 waves. Completing 3 is a good workout and completing 4 is an awesome workout! If you can complete 5 waves then you started with too little weight. Then when do you decide to stop – do you go to absolute failure? I would not recommend it. I would go with your “feel”. You usually have a pretty good idea whether or not you will be able to get the number of reps with the given weight – stop if you do not think you can complete it. This is designed to build strength so don’t overuse the failure part.

But the important part here is that you should be able to complete 2 waves on any given day. Completing 2 is acceptable! Don’t be mad at yourself for not completing 4 on each workout. You can’t be exceptionel in every workout.

I find this rep-scheme worth a try if you are a intermediate or advanced lifter that has plateaued on for instance strict overhead press or benchpress. Or intermediate lifter stagnated on squat or deadlift. I would not recommend it for advanced lifters in squat or deadlift as I see too big a risk of burning out. But have a go yourself and see – it is very simple to implement and try.

Does foam rolling work? Mobility, warm-up and science.

There has been a lot of different opinions when it comes to foam rolling. Some people swear by it while others says it is a total waste of time and highlights the foam-roller as the most over-hyped accessory in the fitness industry. But now finally there has been some scientific research that looked into the matter and shed some light on it. It will probably not put the arguments to rest and I would be surprised if it’s the last research paper on this subject, but nevertheless it is a good place to start. For good measure the link to the study is in the bottom of this post.

I can’t even remember where I heard about foam rolling for the first time, something inside me says it was probably Kelly Starrett – but whether that is just because he has been at the forefront of the proponents or it was actually the case I can’t remember.

My opinion about it however has stayed somewhat neutral. I am in no way against it but does in no way see it as the holy grail of neither warm-up nor mobility practice. My main use of it has always been to release some tension in the upper back. For this it is absolutely brilliant! But rolling around smashing my quads or hamstrings before squatting for instance never really caught on with me. I have always been a proponent of warming up with the movements you are about to do in your training.

But now the big question is whether I should abandon my usual practice and go all-in on the foam roller or stick with what I have been doing so far?

This first research paper focused on stretching and flexibility of the hamstring by comparing PNF stretching with foam rolling and a control group. For good measure PNF stretching is where you contract and release into the stretch and is generally seen as superior to static stretching and therefore a good and high measure on which to compare foam rolling.

The unsurprising find of the study was that PNF works compared to the control group – we know that. But the surprising find is that the foam-rolling group gained as much flexibility as the PNF group. In other words the foam rolling actually gave as much flexibility as what is otherwise seen as the superior way of gaining flexibility. I had by no mean expected that! I could perhaps have understood if it stood the ground against some weaker static stretching but this finding is quite surprising.

So this leaves me with my original question to answer: will I abandon my usual practice and go on a foam-rolling frenzy. Probably not. For one this study only looked at flexibility and not warm-up. I still believe the best way to warm-up is to do the actual movements you are about to perform to both get blood into the muscles but also get the CNS firing the rigth places. But I must admit that this study perhaps will have me spend some more time foam-rolling, not the least in times where I feel tight in some areas.

There you have it – science now backs foam-rolling. That must be the news of the week from the fitness world, something that is hyped and actually seems to work. It is even affordable if you get the basic version from amazon: BLACK High Density Foam Roller or if you want the Rolls Royce: Trigger Point Performance Foam Roller, Orange

And finally of course the link to the actual study: The foam roll as a tool to improve hamstring flexibility

“Nailing” perfect sprint technique; high knee, quick recovery and toes up with one simple tip

I absolutely do not consider myself an expert on sprinting as it, at least by track & field terms, is not something I have done my entire life. But what I do consider myself quite an expert on is biomechanics and applying well researched concepts to actual sports specific training. And with the title of the blog containing “Keep It Simple Stupid” I am quite a sucker for simple tips and tricks, which is exactly what this is.

I have never been a particularly bad sprinter, meaning that I was always able to run rather fast and accelerate very quickly. Having always been fascinated by sprinters this ability has somewhat stuck with me through all my different sports and training methodologies. But starting track and field sprinting really opened my eyes to how much specific technique and applied methodologies that are to a great 100m race.

I can pinpoint numerous things I am working on to reduce my 100m times, but one of the things that I really found hard to comprehend was the notion of the high knee lift. How could lifting my knee higher in any way improve my speed? For all I could see it would take longer for me to lift the knee meaning a reduction in frequency – the knee lift in itself did not from my view yield any result. The high knee lift had to come from something else. Adding to my skepticism I think that I had read somewhere that the high knee lift came as a result of the force production on the ground – meaning more force production = higher knee lift and not that the knee lift in itself “did anything”. This sort of made sense to me until I read a piece that totally shattered that view.

Another common advice getting thrown around is to recover your leg quickly and keep your heel close to your butt when recovering your leg. What this advice ends up doing is mimicking “butt-kicks” which is actually not what we are looking for. We are not trying to recover the heel all the way up to the back of the butt, but we are trying to make the lever as short as possible to quickly recover the leg and have it ready for the next step. A better analogy is keeping the heel close to the hamstring which is actually closer to what we are trying to obtain.

Finally there is the “toes pointing up” that comes together with the high knee lift – this puts tension on the calves and enables for a more explosive force-development through the ankle by way of the “stretch reflex”. These three things along with numerous other techniques is what the new athlete has to think about while sprinting max effort – and oh – remember to relax while you’re doing it…

There is actually great debate as to exactly what makes for the perfect sprinting technique. All scientific papers seems to have a very hard time really pinpointing what the “right” technique is, but one thing that seems to stand out across all scientific papers is the fact that all great sprinters have very short ground contact in common. Thereby saying that they are able to produce tremendous amount of force in a very short timeframe and then quickly recover the leg.

What I was not able to comprehend was as said earlier how lifting my knees higher could help achieve any of this. But luckily someone explained it to me in a way that made biomechanical sense to me.

Getting your knees higher achieves a longer travel for your foot to enable it to punch the ground harder. This is the same analogy as if you were to punch a sandbag really hard, you would not start with your hand 1 inch away from it – you would pull it back and then punch. The same goes for high knee lift – what you are doing is pulling your knee higher in order to explosively and violently punch the ground harder.

When this was explained to me, it suddenly made sense. The reason for teaching high knee lift is that it has been found to be the way you can punch the ground hardest and produce the most amount of force. Now my brain was on track with why – then the next step was how?

Luckily there is a little tip that at least for me made everything just click. High knees, quick recovery close to the hamstring and toes pointing up. The very simple tip is to imagine that there is a long nail sticking out of your opposite knee that you need to step over each time you recover your leg. If you do this, even just walking slowly you will realize that in order to do so your toes will automatically point upwards to get over “the nail” and you automatically pull your heel close to your hamstring and not back up towards your butt and finally in order to get “all the way over” this imaginary nail you need to pull your knee high – in short everything that is taught as good sprinting technique. Try it out for yourself – for me i just sort of made everything click – so hopefully it can do the same for you.

Best bodyweight exercises for abs

L-sit gymnastic rings
Doing L-sit on the beach at Ngapali. Myanmar(Burma)

Oh the famous abs… So many hopeful aspirees, so many teachers and so few victorious in their quest.

What I’ll share of course is the easy, no work all magic pill that transforms your sexy curvy stomach into a flat, tight 6-pack. You’ll only have to work once a year for 3 seconds, so that your awesome well trained attention, do not miss any cat-videos or talent shows.

Kidding aside – this post won’t give you overnight 6-pack or maybe even ever get you near, that’s all on your court. What I’ll describe for you is my philosophy of ab-training. Boiled down to a couple of hard and somewhat advanced exercises that has been my favorites for the past several years.

DSC_0842_2As you of course should not take advice on how to quit smoking by a chain-smoker, I’ve included a couple of pictures of myself, just to let you come to your own conclusions as to whether I walk the walk or not. Further more you can probably find one or two very recent pictures on my Instagram account.

Having had a 6 pack for the last probably 6 years I think I have developed some sense of what it takes to achieve it – and no unfortunately my 6 year old photos does not include me with long hair or a newspaper to validate the claim, but I can provide ‘em – your choice to trust me or not.

6-packs are as you probably know primarily made in the kitchen, but diet is a complex topic for another day. (Please let me know if you want to know anything specific.) But yes I said “primarily” – not “solely”. They are a function of size and body fat percentage, so you can basically manipulate anyone of them to a degree. Low bodyfat is the main factor, but the size of your abs will determine how low you need to go before they are visible.

So what NOT to do. Don’t train your abs everyday – yes there are stories of people who did this and can show results to match – but it’s just not the best approach. Train hard, then REST- Allow your muscles to rebuild and become stronger, otherwise you are only breaking down and not rebuilding.

Don’t do crazy 50-100 rep sets of sit ups or crunches. Train your abs as you would with your chest or arm – and if you are doing 50-100 rep sets for those… – just don’t. Use weight to keep your reps low or choose a more demanding ab exercise. I don’t believe I have ever done reps past 10 repetitions. But yeah 5-15 would be the target rep-range.

First exercise I will highlight is static. It’s the exercise that I do on the first picture of this post, commonly known as the L-sit. Doing it on rings of course is a lot more demanding and adds much more strain on arms and shoulders as stabilizers, so wait with those. If my target of the exercise was abs alone, I myself would not even use rings, as they would make my arm and shoulders tired way before my abs. L-sit on rings for me is more a transition when doing ring-routines – for core ab work I would do L-sits on the floor, parallettes or between chairs.

So that is where you will start. As a beginner I would start between chairs or similar platforms. Press the surface as hard as you can with your hands, which should force your shoulders down and then contract your abs as hard as possible. If you cannot keep you legs straight, then start with them bent and work from there. You should feel the strain primarily in your abs, it is possible to feel a burn in anything from your hips to legs, but then you are not doing it right, experiment until you feel the burn primarily in the abs. Let’s say you can hold the position for a maximum of 20 seconds, then do 5 sets of 10-15 second holds and try adding 5 seconds every couple of weeks. Your goal is to hold a perfect L-sit for 60 seconds!

The second exercise I will highlight is rather advanced – but delivers bang for the buck like nothing else once you have mastered it. It’s the famous dragon flag or body lever. It is quite hard to find videos of people doing them correctly, but this guy pretty much nails them:

What you should notice is that he keeps his body straight or slightly over arched at all times. Even just a slight kip in the hip will dramatically decrease the difficulty and thereby the effect. Think of leading with your hips and not with your toes and keep a straight or slightly over arched body. But be careful, this exercise is extremely demanding and can cause quite a bit of pain in your lower back if you are not strong enough. I would recommend doing slow negatives until you are strong enough to begin pulling yourself back up. If you have a good solid 20-30 second L-sit you should be able to start working on these as well. Again if you get very advanced, then add ankle-weights instead of hammering out 15-20 reps.

These two exercises are stables of my ab-training. Ab-rollouts, hanging leg raises in stall bars, v-ups etc. find their way as well, but I honestly believe that my ab strength and size are primarily down to those two exercises.

So to summarize. Train your abs 2-3 times a week, train them hard and heavy, just like chest or arms, use progression and finally and most importantly fix your diet!

Downsides of bodyweight routines: back muscles

I originally planned to write a single post on some of the downsides of bodyweight routines, but as I started collecting notes and writing I realised that it was probably better to write individual posts, each focusing on areas where bodyweight routines seems to be inferior or at least needs some attention to compete with good ol’ weight training.

Having done individually exclusive bodyweight, bodybuilding and to some extend strength routines – I feel I have gained some quite useful knowledge on the strength and weaknesses of each. In this post I will focus on areas where bodyweight routines can fall short on back training. They are little tweaks but can really make a big difference.

On paper bodyweight routines can look like they give pretty good bang for the buck as far as back training goes. There is usually quite a lot of pull-up variations and for the advanced bodyweight athlete there may additionally be levers and strict muscle-ups. But in my experience there are two areas where they seem to fall short.

First is horizontal rowing to get some good volume for your upper back. I know you can do feet supported rows in rings, on bars etc. but my experience is that your arms seems to get tired before your back muscles gets a real good beating. If you’re more advanced you can even try your luck with front lever-rows. They are incredibly hard, but again they seem to activate more supportive muscles that gets tired before your back really gives up. You’ll end up breaking good form before you really hit the back muscles.

Your lats can certainly get a good workout with bodyweight exercises, but your upper back will most certainly be underdeveloped. So in order to pull(pun intended) yourself out of this compromised state add some heavy rowing to your routine. This can be bent over rows, cable rows, dumbbell rows or whatever – just go heavy on those and high volume to make up for what most bodyweight routines ends up being; rather front dominant.

The second area where bodyweight routines fall kind of short is your lower back. You can do hypers and in a lot of the static levers you need to keep your entire core tight, but if you want a bulletproof back I would seriously consider doing some deadlifts. Deadlifts should in my opinion be a stable of just about any bodyweight routine. They tick so many of the boxes where bodyweight routines seems to fall short. They hit the upper back, as I mentioned as a weak-point earlier. They hit the lower back and they hit your legs once you start pulling some serious weights. They won’t hit your legs as squats, but if you’re seriously into bodyweight training and want to do advanced stuff – then the last thing you want is really heavy legs. But this is not the same as to say that you should not work them at all. Get a knowledgeable individual to show you the right technique and then start pulling from the ground!

Deadlifts can further more act as a measuring tool for something that can be a bit hard with bodyweight – a measure of progress. You can add good old progression on the deadlift to measure whether you are going in the right direction or not. I know it won’t say anything about your ability to perform bodyweight exercises but it will tell you whether you are getting stronger, are close to a burnout or are stagnating. Just program it with something real simple as Wendlers 5/3/1 for instance.

From my own experience the upper back is certainly the place where I lost most of my muscle mass when I did exclusive bodyweight routines. It is one of the things I keep telling people when they ask me for input on their bodyweight routines. And generally people needs to up their pulling whether we talk bodyweight or old school weights. There is a clear tendency to focus more on the front – which of course you can see more easily in the mirror – than the rear. The average lifter would probably be better off with a 2:1 ratio on exercise selection, in favor of pulling instead of pushing.

There are way more impressive fronts than rears – be the guy/girl who stands out in the crowd.

Minimum effective dose in training

If you are a professional athlete that lives of your training, this article is not for you. If you on the other hand have a lot of things going in your life but still prioritize your training, then this sure is for you.

Minimum effective dose is an expression primarily used in medicine. It’s kind of self-explanatory, but as I am gonna use it in regards to training, a few notes on what it actually means might be helpful.

To explain what it is, we might look at what it is not. Minimum effective dose does not imply; if X is minimum effective dose, then 2 times X must be 2 times more effective or more effective at all, for that matter. It refers to the minimum required dose, that produces the wanted result.

Now why is this relevant? The popular way of training now-a-days seems to carry the message: “You can always do more”, “Push harder”. Motivational posters are flooding social media with messages that imply something in the line of: “If you’re not killing yourself in the gym, then you are not working hard enough.”

This message is absolutely fine for those athletes that have training as their main goal or train as a means to reach a certain goal. They should by all means try to outwork their competition. But if your main priorities lays outside the gym, then start thinking of minimum effective dose.

I have been guilty of this. First I had a very hard time switching from training splits 6 days a week to 2-3 times a week of fullbody. I realized that my priorities had switched, they no longer resided inside the gym. I still loved to train, but I was not going to let my training keep me from having fun with my, at the time, girlfriend, friends, my motorcycle, wakeboarding etc. etc. They all had to co-exist, which meant cutting back on training. I think I was around 21 at this point and had been training for 7 years.

What I of course found out, was that this shift in frequency not only allowed me more time to do the things that I loved but it did not affect my body composition all that much after all. A well planned fullbody program can be just as effective, at least for non-competition athletes.

Fast forward to today. I have been training fullbody for now 7-8 years. I have started my own company which by all means are my top priority. But what I found was that, as I am very much guilty of the “kill it in the gym”-mentality, my fullbody routines has grown, and grown, and grown cramming as many exhausting heavy basic exercises in there as I could. Sure this do produce results – but they started leaving traces on my energy-levels the day after, thereby negatively affecting my ability to give 100% towards my main priority; my company. This was unacceptable.

The whole point of my fullbody routines was that; 2-3 times a week I go to the gym, hit it hard and go home. Doing some HIIT after the routine if needed – but the whole point was that I didn’t need to go run some alternating days etc. I of course could if I wanted, but the basic methodology was that I did not NEED to.

So when my routine had come to the point where it drained my energy the day after, it had come to far. I started cutting back on exercises only leaving the ones that gave the most “bang-for-the buck”, then cutting back on sets – generally just approaching my entire routine with “what is minimum effective dose to keep the physical appearance that I want”. Not: “where can I do more”, but; “where can I do less and produce close to the same results”.

This made a giant shift in my energy-levels – exactly the result I wanted. And sure enough I can still maintain the appearance that I want. This of course also has a lot to do with me having paid my dues in the gym for 14-15 years – both in the aspect of muscle mass, but also in me knowing my body.

But it is my belief that, pushed by the endless slogans of the fitness industry, a lot of people has taking their training too far, giving it too much control over their lives, even though it deep down is not their main goal or priority. You can always do more, you can always push harder – but if you do not reserve your energy for your main priorities, then you are just pushing yourself towards exhaustion, overtraining and injuries.

Try to take a step back and look at what 20% of your efforts produce the 80% of results.