Shoulders and Traps

Recently I had a discussion with a co-worker over what feature displays true strength. Namely when in a police uniform, with a vest, gun belt, and polyester suit…..what physical feature lets people know you are a “bad ass”. This co-worker said large forearms. This was an obvious choice as they are not covered by sleeves and would be readily available to show. I identified the traps and upper back.

My reasoning was that the traps help define the upper body and show true strength. One could point to abs or waist circumference as an indicator of fitness but we all know people who are skinny with abs and have never worked out a day in their life. Genetics will not build traps. Traps are a symptom of power and strength. Along with that goes a strong upper back. A wide and powerful upper back helps provide that athletic V-shape so many of us are after.

There was a great MMA movie a few years ago starring Tom Hardy called Warrior. If you haven’t seen it netflix that movie. My wife enjoyed it and she has zero interest in anything combat sports related. The movie has a pretty intricate plot but a large portion involves two brothers who are competing in an MMA tournament. Each brother has a different style. Hardy’s character is significantly more aggressive and looks imposing on screen. What really sets him apart are his muscular traps. It really gives his character that aggressive “bad ass” look.

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Another example I pointed out was UFC Fighter Zhang Lipeng. I remember seeing him for the first time and standing next to his opponent he looked like the more powerful fighter. His opponent and him were the same weight and were both high level fighters but if you had no idea who they were Lipeng looked like the type of guy you would steer clear from.

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Lastly I pointed out Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, who may just be the most beautiful woman on earth. What makes her truly remarkable is the amount of strength and power that exists in her 5’2″ frame. I can almost guarantee she doesn’t spend hours in the gym doing shrugs. Her traps are defined and developed through compound movements such as deadlifts, cleans, and gymnastic movements.

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After making my argument it was pretty clear that the traps and upper back were a much greater sign of physical strength than abs, forearms, or even a barrel chest.

After that talk I was ready for a decent shoulder/trap workout today

Strength

Deadlift x5
-Barbell Shrugs x3
-45lb plate shrugs x3
Mike’s shoulder routine
Face pulls x3

Circuit (3 rounds no rest between rounds)

Exercise ball sprawl drlll x10
-Medicine Ball Chest Throw x10
-Medicine Ball Hip Thrust x10 (each leg)
-KB High Pull x10

Meal Prep

I try to meal prep my lunches for the week since that is normally my biggest meal of the day. There are many nights when I get home from BJJ and I don’t have the energy to consume a meal. All I want to do is shower and sleep. On these nights a protein and recovery drink are normally my go to dinners. Other nights I cook a fresh dinner to sit down and eat with the family.

For lunches I try to keep two things in mind. 1) limit the amount of containers I have to carry and 2) make sure I have a decent mix of protein and good carbs.

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This week was simple:

Baked Sweet Potato – Spicy Green Beans – Grilled Chicken Breast

or

Baked Sweet Potato – Spicy Green Beans / Cut Green & Yellow Bell Peppers – Baked Tilapia

Surprisingly these were very easy to cook.

First the potatoes were baked – very simple instructions

Baked Sweet Potato

-Wash potatoes
-Pierce potatoes a couple times with a fork
-Place potatoes directly on upper oven rack and place a sheet of aluminum foil on rack underneath to catch drippings
-Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes turn oven off and leave in heat for 15-20 minutes

The Spicy Green Beans Recipe can be found here

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For the Tilapia I purchased frozen fillets from my local grocery store and put them in the fridge for 24 hours to thaw out.

Baked Tilapia

-Line baking sheet with foil (optional but highly recommended) and spray with non stick spray
-Place fillets on sheet/foil

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-Season fillets with seasoning of choice. For this bake I did fillets with different seasoning to get some variety Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb, Louisiana Cajun Seasoning, and Everglades Seasoning
-Bake in oven at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes or until done. (If your fillets are still a bit frozen this may take longer). Be careful not to overcook as you will most likely store and then microwave them later.

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I try to mix in veggies/carb/and a protein with every meal. For the grilled chicken I actually found some pre-cooked Tyson chicken breasts in the back of the freezer. I threw those in the tupperware and put them in the fridge. By the time they thaw out I’ll be ready to take them to work.

Clean Eating At the Office

Image Courtesy: http://www.westchestermagazine.com/2012/914INC/Q3_2012/Downtime/Eating-at-desk.jpg

Like many people in the workforce, I find that I spend more and more time behind a desk. I am fortunate that I get out and do physical training on occasion and have some flexibility in my schedule to make it to the gym during work hours most days, but for the most part my day is spent in a chair and behind a monitor.

I believe in planning meals and limiting eating out as the cornerstones for creating a healthy lifestyle. With that said, I’m not one to turn down an impromptu lunch invite from an old friend or celebrate a special occasion just because I have a Tupperware that needs heating and eating.

The best meal planning in the world can go awry when you leave it in the fridge in the mad dash to make it out on time. I have been known on occasion to do this. Also with most of my cooking happening on Sundays, if Sunday gets busy my meal planning suffers. With these in mind I have been able to do a few things to assist me in my planning and staying on track. Here are some of the things that have helped me stay the course when it comes to clean eating.

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Pictured from left to right: Protein Powder in shaker bottles, Coconut Oil, Nutty Bars, Tuna, Soups, Instant Coffee, Green Tea

As you can see the upper cabinet area of my desk has pretty much been converted to a small pantry. There are a few staples of mine that help me out when I’m forgetful or do a poor job planning.

Protein Powder
I keep a couple extra shakers filled with a serving of protein powder for when I need a light snack but need to be somewhere quick.

-Green Tea

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I have been drinking YamaMotoYama Genmai-Cha green tea for a long time. Sometimes green tea can be light on flavor and tastes more like hot water. This tea is made with roasted brown rice and has a nice brothy flavor to it. It seems that every few months we are learning about a new health benefit to green tea. One huge benefit is the antioxidants that it provides.

For more info on health benefits check

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/health-benefits-of-green-tea

-Tuna Fish

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Tuna is packed with protein and omega 3 fatty acids. I stick with Tuna in water as personal preference. I’m not partial to brand and I pick these up whenever they are on sale. I stick with the pouches for the office as they are more convenient and easy to eat out of when I need a quick snack between meals. One caution about tuna is that they are ocean predators and as such one must be cautious of the mercury content. White and albacore are the most popular types of tuna sold in grocery stores and also happen to be the highest in mercury content. I wouldn’t suggest eating multiple packets a day but as an occasional snack I think the health benefits far outweigh the risks.

–Soups

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I’ll be the first to admit that processed canned soup is not the best, but when you are in an office environment and cooking from a microwave a nice hearty soup can be a meal replacement. Especially if you combine it with tuna for the protein content. I prefer Campbell’s Slow Kettle Tomato & Sweet Basil for the taste and surprisingly of the Campbells Chunky varieties, Chicken and Dumplings has one of the most favorable protein-carb ratios. Again this is not something I suggest eating at every lunch but for those hectic mornings you forget to pack something, this could be the alternative to running out for some fast food.

-Instant Coffee

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We have a drip coffee pot in the office. The coffee that is usually made in it is close in taste and appearance to motor oil. I jokingly refer to it as “army coffee” because it tastes like something that was brewed in a helmet while sitting in a foxhole. A few years ago I was turned onto Vietnamese coffee houses. I prefer my coffee black but I really enjoy the flavor from the Vietnamese coffee. I keep a bag or two of instant Vietnamese coffee to avoid the coffee pot and also to avoid having to dilute my coffee with spoon after spoon of sugar and creamer to make it palatable.

There are numerous benefits to drinking coffee but many of these benefits can be ruined by over consuming sugar and creamer. These instant packets only require hot water.

Here are some interesting benefits to reguarly drinking coffee http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/17/coffee-health-benefits_n_4102133.html

-Coconut Oil

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I am a big believer in coconut oil. I have seen my grandmother’s mental state deteriorate due to Alzheimer’s disease and when researching the disease I continually stumbled upon the benefits of coconut oil. Based on my family history and the researched health benefits I try to include coconut oil in my daily life. I use coconut oil to replace vegetable oils when cooking and trying recipes and I try to supplement with coconut oil pills when I can. Currently there isn’t any hard scientific evidence that links coconut oil with Alzheimer’s prevention but preliminary studies are promising. There are numerous studies that show how unhealthy vegetable oil so I can at least feel good about swapping to a healthier oil.

Here is an interesting read on coconut oil
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/coconut-oil-health-benefits/#axzz3eTvj2IER

-Protein Bars

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In addition to protein powder I try to keep a few protein bars handy. Taste is a huge sticking point for me. If it doesn’t taste good, I don’t care how many grams of protein it has, I won’t eat it. I’ve found that these power crunch bars have a very good flavor to them and right now are my favorite protein bars. There are other bars out there with less carbs and more protein but I can’t eat a protein bar that tastes like chalk.

-Cheat Snacks

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Ever have a day where you just want to attack the vending machine? I have a terrible sweet tooth and instead of going on the hunt to satisfy it, I try to keep some cheat snacks around to keep the vending machine from eating all my spare change. I know myself and I know that the more I try to deprive myself the worse my cheat session will be when I have it…and I will have it. I like nutty bars because they are delicious and one package (2 bars) is 330 calories which is not going to kill my entire day. Obviously this is not an everyday item and this box should last me a long time.

I’m always looking out for other options to keep around so I’m not hunting for food when it gets to be that time. If anyone out there has any tips or wants to share what they do to keep themselves in check when planning or circumstances fail I’d be interested to know.

Workout

(image courtesy http://www.phase3.biz/core/uploads/JJP/photos/Power%20Shrimp1.jpg)

With the idea of making my workouts more functional to my daily life I started concentrating the beginning of my sessions with a short muscle group specific routine of 3-5 exercises per group and then follow up with a short circuit intended to introduce some functional movement, cardio, and strength. Truth is I’m no personal trainer and I don’t know if doing this is better or worse for muscular development. What I do know is my schedule can be hectic at times and I find this way to be much more enjoyable and flexible for me. The best exercise routine is the one that you do consistently.

Today was designed with increasing my ability to power shrimp escape from mount.

Strength:

Bench Press x5
Decline Bench Press x5

Circuit (3 rounds – 30 second rest between rounds)

Medicine Ball Push-ups x15
Medicine Ball Chest Throw x15
KB Lunge + Pass Through x7 (each leg)
1 Min Jump Rope

Workout and New Guy Training

Training the new guys in a day of law enforcement BJJ. Focusing on recognizing advanced fighting techniques and basic positioning and escapes. The day culminates with two 2-minute rounds of grappling with an instructor. I help out with the classes and do a bit of grappling at the end. The lead instructors are extremely talented at BJJ with backgrounds in MMA. Every time I help teach I end up learning a bit more.

Class is 8 hours long and before class I hit the gym for a workout session.

Workout

Push Press x5
Incline Dumbbell Raises (narrow/wide/side) x5 – click here for more info
-This is quick superset I like to do from Mike at six pack shortcuts. Look past the marketing and gimmicks. The information provided is legit but it’s packaged in a sales pitch that turns many people off.
Face Pulls x5
Rear Lat Pulldown x5
Barbell Shrugs x5
Dumbbell Shrugs x3
Shoulder Dislocates x3

Becoming a Better Fighter

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I spoke to an applicant today following her interview for a sworn law enforcement position. She asked me “what can I do to get a head start on my new career”. Along with the usual “study hard, do well in the academy, listen to your training officers” I stressed for her to begin to develop some physical and mental skills in self defense. Her response was something along the lines of, “oh, I do crossfit”.

I’m not a crossfit hater by any stretch but I see this mistake made by many folks that equate physical fitness with the ability to defend themselves. While it certainly helps to be fit, I remember telling one trainee after thoroughly working him on the mat during a grappling session that “you can’t burpee your way out of a fight”.

I believe that people should work out with a purpose…that purpose may be running your first 5k, losing weight, or even aesthetic purposes. I work out to supplement and improve my ability to defend myself, prevent injury, and improve my skills as a brazilian jiu jitsu student. If you are stuck in a workout rut or not making much progress maybe it’s time to assess your own goals and hit the gym with a plan to attack and achieve those goals.

Lunch Workout

Last night’s BJJ class was a real killer. Drilled some attacks from closed guard position and then 5 rounds of 5 minute grappling starting in various positions. Needless to say, getting to the gym before work today wasn’t happening. I was fortunate to be able to get down to the gym before the lunch rush.

Strength Workout

Bench Press (5 sets, 10-5 reps increasing weight)
Pec Fly Machine (5 sets, 10 reps)
Iso-Lateral Incline Press (5 sets, 10 reps)

Circuit (4 Rounds w/1 min rest between rounds)

Ippon Seoi Nage Drill (10 times left and right)
-Thread a belt around a freestanding heavy bag. grabbing the ends of the belt practice the step and pull the belt over your shoulder as if it were an opponents arms. If done right the base will slightly lift off the ground.
Medicine Ball Situps (20 reps)
-Holding a large medicine ball at your chest do a situp while throwing the ball into the air above your body. Catch the ball and then go down. Skip to 2:40 in this video for a visual explanation.
Walking Overhead Lunge (7 reps stepping with each leg)
-Holding a 45lb plate over your head with shoulders locked, perform 7 lunges with each leg
Jump Rope (1 minute)
-Self explanatory I hope. I’m not good enough to do double unders for any significant amount of time so just normal singles for me
Grip (1 minutes)
-Hold 2-10lb bumper plates in each hand down be your sides. The plates should be pinches between your fingers and thumb. Hold for 1 minute or for 2-30 second holds.

The circuit was made up in my head as I was doing my chest workout. I think it is functional for BJJ/MMA related work. I can say that afterwards I certainly felt like I got a decent workout.