Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sandbags -- Stubborn Bastards!!

OK, I have to admit that going from receiving only 100 hits a day on my blog to close to 40,000 yesterday, with countless emails, all have me a bit wired with excitement, so I knew that I needed to do something to work off some of this energy.

One unfortunate thing about the CNN interview is that they didn't show any footage of me training with my Ultimate Sandbag. These bags are put out by Josh Henkin, whom I've blogged about before. After researching other sandbags and even building my own, I found that Josh's bags are top quality and ones that I recommend.

To fill my sandbag, I went to Home Depot and picked up a 50lb bag of all purpose sand for $2.15! I used 45lbs to fill the inserts to stuff into the main bag, and I've been working out with this bag like a kid. It reminds me of carrying around a little brother or cousin who's playing dead or something! LOL!

Anyway, it's time for me to change up my routine, which I'm starting to do every four weeks. So, I decided to follow some of Josh's routines that he's posted at his website and on youtube. Well fellas, one move in particular really surprised me--the Turkish Get-Up or simply The Get-Up (TGU). If you click on this link, you'll be taken to youtube for more than enough videos of people performing TGU using kettlebells (KBs), dumbells, or sandbags. I've trained with KBs for a couple of years now, so I'm very familiar with this move, as it works the whole body.

One thing about doing TGU with a KB or dumbbell is that you have to really focus on the weight above your head because if your attention wanders away from the weight, so will your arm. As a result, it's not only an exercise for muscular endurance but overall concentration too.

Well, call it arrogance or foolishness (probably a combination of both), but I really didn't think that doing a Get-Up with a 45lb. sandbag would be that challenging. Hell, I've done more than one Get-Up with a 70lb KB! OK, it's not an earth shattering weight like my buddy Ray who does TGUs with the 106lb. "Beast", but it was enough for me to not really "respect" the sandbag.

Wrong move!

Alright, I'm on my back with the sandbag lying across my left shoulder and left pec. The first thing that came to mind was, "Man, this feels heavier on my chest than I thought". Since I'm going to start taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes in a couple of weeks, I imagined trying to control a guy that weighs four times as much as this sandbag in my guard. It's no wonder that MMA fighters and other combat Martial Artists workout with sandbags.

"Yeah, it feels different, but at least I don't have to worry about focusing on anything overhead," was the next thought I had before going from my back to supporting myself on one-arm. As I raised my torso, the sandbag shifted and the weight pulled me back down to the floor! My wife just laughed at me because she saw that I was being kinda cocky with the sandbag since it only weighs 45lbs. OK, it was time to get serious, as I now realized that I have to "focus" a bit more than I initially thought.

I get through the first step of the TGU better this time because I was prepared for the shifting weight. Rest for a sec or two, and then I start my bridge and the sandbag starts to shift its weight again, which caused me to grip the bag and floor harder to support myself. This was really different from using a KB because you are so focused on staying in line with the KB so it doesn't veer from one side to the other; you don't experience the sensation of trying to keep something from falling from your body while supporting yourself on one hand with a KB. I think it's something that you have to experience to fully appreciate.

Now, I'm finally in the lunge position getting ready to stand up, but, before I can do that, I have to reposition the damn sandbag because it's not getting with the program! I'm trying to finish the "up" portion of the exercise before reversing all the movements, and the sandbag is trying to fall of my shoulder from every conceivable angle, which causes me to, once again, grip the stubborn bastard to get it under control. Fortunately, with help from gravity and a white-knuckle grip, going back down wasn't as bad.

All in all, doing TGUs with the sandbag was a pain in the ass, BUT man was it one of the most enjoyable pains in my ass that I've experienced in a long time. Sandbags don't care how much you can bench press or if you're doing double KB work with 70s; they don't even care if you have never touched a weight before in your life because they're not going to cooperate with you no matter what you current level of fitness. Stubborn bastards!

Below is a video of Josh showing the Top 5 Core Exercises done with sandbags. The TGU sit-up is the third exercise he shows. Notice how the sandbag flops around like a rag doll and the extra effort he has to use to keep it stabilized (if that's a word you can associate with them!):

Once again, I can't thank all of you enough for the comments and well wishes you have sent here at my blog or via email. I promise that I will answer every email that is sent to me, but please be patient with me.

Finally, be on the lookout for MrLowBodyFat's Blog to get a face-lift in the next couple of weeks, so sign up to receive my blog posts through email, rss/atom feed, or simply bookmark my site and check back weekly since my blog will be updated with new content and posts every week.

Friday, May 30, 2008

CNN Interview is LIVE!!

Hey all, I just got the word that my interview is

Thanks again to everyone for their support and encouragement!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

CNN Interview UPDATE!!

Well, I just heard from one of the producer's that my interview is not going to run until this weekend. Actually, here's what Matt wrote:

Oh! One other quick thing... It's not going to air Friday this week, just Saturday and Sunday... There was some breaking news last Friday, so they moved that Fit Nation piece to this Friday on American Morning...

Either way, it'll be on over the weekend, on and on our Podcast which comes out Monday! Some rainy day, I'll offer it up again to American Morning when we have an open spot, so I'll let you know when that happens!

Thanks again for everything! (I read the blog about us by the way! The pleasure was all ours!!)
OK, there you have it fellas. Just wanted to let you know so you don't look for the interview tomorrow morning.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Flexible mind leads to a flexible body" by Steve Cotter

For the past four years, I have been meditating and using visualization techniques to help me reach my strength and conditioning goals. Now, I don't look at these practices in a mystical or religious way at all. On the contrary, I view them mainly as exercises for my brain--it's a muscle after all, right?

Well, this week's S&C coach's post comes from Steve Cotter, who is one of the leading kettlebell and bodyweight authorities around. The original posting of this piece can be found here. As always, don't hesitate to go over and leave a comment.

* * *

August 22, 2007

Flexible mind leads to a flexible body

Since I’ve been taking some yoga classes of late they have been really reiterating concepts I’ve known for years through my martial art training, have been reintroduced to through my kettlebell training and now once again, emphasized in the yoga. So, it has been great revisiting and further internalizing such valuable body-knowledge.

During last night’s class, the instructor made a comment that the posture does not begin with the head or with the body, that it begins with the imagination.

That reminded me of something I have taught for a long time about flexibility. Students often want to know how to develop flexibility and sometimes I will see even very young people with extreme stiffness. I tell them that flexibility begins in your thoughts, and I find this to be true.

Often, restricted range of motion has to do on some level with a rigid mind set. For example, the person may not be able to conceive of moving her/his body into an extended range. Thoughts, like postures become habits. A stiff/inflexible mind leads to a stiff/inflexible body. In overcoming learned stiffness, visualization can be a powerful tool.

For example, if you want to elongate your hamstrings, you have to be able to see in your imagination the hamstrings lengthening. As you learn to relax your thoughts, to be willing to release certain preconceived ideas about yourself you will find that your body will follow suit. All productive training is truly mind-body in nature. You cannot have effective progress without a clarity of focus and a harmonious relationship between what you want to develop and what you can ’see’ developing.

As the saying goes, “conceive, believe, achieve”.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mr. Low Body Fat to be featured on CNN!

Well guys, I told myself that I wasn't going to say anything until after my interview with CNN's Matt Sloane, but I just couldn't wait to share the good news!

I'm not sure if you guys remember, but I blogged about how my pictures were posted on their Fit-Nation website last year. One producer told me that they wanted to do a longer piece on me at the beginning of this year; however, I never heard anything back from them. Since I truly appreciated the exposure they gave me, I really didn't think much of not hearing from them.

Well, all that changed Monday when I received an email from Matt! After exchanging emails, he decided that he and his crew will come out and let me tell my story; this time for TV! He is also interested in getting footage of me training (I don't workout!) since, as you guys know, I consider myself a bodyweight culturist and highly recommend folks master their own bodyweight first. Matt seems really interested in seeing my minimalist routine.

I don't know when my interview is going to air, but I will definitely keep you posted.

Thanks to everyone for all of your support and encouragement. I'm pretty pumped for the interview, as I feel that I'll have a much wider audience to encourage to "Feed their brains to lose the weight!"

Matt and Chris, the CNN guys, just left my place with more than enough footage. They were really cool guys as they created a very down to earth atmosphere, which I really needed. Hey, I've never been interviewed on camera before. LOL!

Anyway, my interview will air next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 8:30 am EST on CNN's Fit Nation segment. It will also be featured on CNN's Fit Nation webpage. Fellas, if you want some added motivation, go to this site and read and watch some of the great weight loss success stories. I'll be posting video of behind the scenes footage of my interview next week. Tomorrow's my 37th birthday, so this was a great early b-day gift!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Gurus Gone Wild" by Josh Henkin

OK fellas, I've decided that once a week, I will post something from one of the strength and conditioning coaches I mentioned in my last post. Our inaugural post comes from Josh Henkin, developer of the Sandbag Fitness System. In the about section of his blog, Josh says this about himself:

Josh Henkin is a Strength & Conditioning Coach in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is owner of Innovative Fitness Solutions ( He has trained professional athletes, composed creative fitness programs, and helped clients rehab from serious injuries. Coach Henkin is also the creator of the Ultimate Sandbag and author of two E-books on Sandbag training.
I found his post on "Gurus Gone Wild" an interesting read that I wanted to pass along. Click on the title to be taken to the original post and leave a comment:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gurus Gone Wild!

One of the most common questions I receive is "what do you think of what (enter guru name) said about this or that?" Let's face it I don't blame people, it can be very overwhelming nowadays. I use to feel overwhelmed 13 years ago when I first started in the industry. When I began I was attending seminars like crazy, this was my passion!! Even during these seminars coaches would say conflicting information and often I would leave confused and having what I call "seminaritis".

What is seminaritis? It is a common disease for most coaches and trainers. Seminaritis is when you enter a seminar with one philosophy and after the seminar COMPLETELY change your thoughts because of what was said. I use to be incredibly guilty of this and have seen it with other coaches soooo many times. Why? I believe in my early stages I wasn't completely confident with how I was working with people. I believed anyone giving a seminar must know more! This was probably a good attitude for a young person, however, as the years progressed I became more engrained in my own philosophy of training.

What else happened? I continued to grow more and more experience working with people. Currently I train people 60 hours a week, yep, you can call my assistant to verify this number. Insane, but true. So, just this year I will log almost 3,000 training hours! If we take this to a greater level, if I say I average 40 hours a week (I can only wish) in five years I will complete almost 10,000 hours of working with people. I can tell you in this day and age of internet coaches, very few will have logged that much experience working hands on with people.

So, when I attend seminars now my attitude is very different. Typically I will use the Bruce Lee idea of taking what is useful and disregarding the rest. I will look for ideas of subtle cueing or training concepts that I can relate to with my clients and their goals.

Here is what I DON'T do:

1. Perform a program because it is hard.
2. Perform an exercise just because it is hard.
3. Judge the success of a training session on the intensity of it.
4. Throw out my philosophy, I know it works I have worked with too many successful clients to say otherwise.
5. Listen to anyone that does not work with people daily.
6. Blindly say a method or technique works or doesn't because a Guru said so, this is foolish as almost anything works for a certain amount of time.

This may sound negative, but really it is a positive. My trying to understand how we can always improve what we are already are doing is evolution. Currently I am at a great program that I am looking forward to implementing some great concepts, but it won't change how I work with people. If you boil down all good systems they generally work with very similar principles.

Be careful of those that espouse that they have all the secrets, something completely doesn't work, and more importantly can't tell you from experience whether some ideas have potential or not. I can speak about a lot of different training methods because we have done most of them in my facility. The keyboard is a powerful tool nowadays for good and bad, you have to be the judge though.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Why I Listen to S&C Coaches For Weight Loss

When I started my weight loss journey over 5 years ago, I had no idea all the different twists and turns I was in store for. Hey, I was just some fat English professor who was tired of not seeing his . . . uhhh . . . feet when he looked down. Well, after going through various stages along my journey, I think that I'm now in a position to make some observations about weight loss and management based on my own experimentations and results.

One such observation is that out of all the folks you find on the internet talking about weight loss (e.g., diet authors, fitness experts, weight loss gurus, etc.), I put my money on programs that are developed by certified (and experienced) strength and conditioning coaches. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not endorsing anyone who has CSCS behind their name. I have a few that I personally recommend, but I'll get to them later.

Guys, if you really think about it, when we lose weight, we don't simply want to be skinny. Yes, fitting into smaller size clothing is cool, but as we get older, we definitely don't want to be feeble and weak. So, we not only want to lose weight, but we want to be stronger too. Enter strength and conditioning coaches. Why? Well, it's actually simple. These coaches have the job of getting collegiate, professional, and Olympic level athletes in tip-top shape. I know you're probably thinking, "But what does this have to do with me when I just want to lose weight and not be an athlete?", which is a fair enough question.

Let's take a real life example. Those of us who follow boxing have seen a boxer a couple of months before going to training camp looking a bit on the "plump" side. I don't know, but Fernando Vargas come to mind. Anyway, after three months of camp, not only do they walk in the ring with sub-10% body fat, but they are also primed to operate at their peak level, depending on their training camp of course. Who do you think got this guy in that kind of shape in only three months?

Usually S&C coaches, who are familiar with not only exercises but also exercise nutrition. You simply can't have one without the other, and most guys looking to lose weight usually go the route of the diet authors and their annually changing titles. Or, the bi-weekly changing bodybuilder routines in the fitness magazines at the market. It's not enough to simply diet and exercise. You must have a goal, and, honestly, that goal should be to become as strong as your Joe Average genes will allow, which is way stronger than you think!

When you think about it, a S&C coach's bread and butter is mainly determined by the results s/he gets with his client. After spending the last couple of months reading e-books, websites, and forums of different S&C coaches on the net, here's a list of coaches that I personally recommend. I've been in contact with some, and others don't know me from a can of paint. Nevertheless, their writing has influenced how I approach being conditioned and, more importantly, healthy.

Do they all agree on all points related to fitness or weight loss? Of course they don't! They're all different individuals who have their own take based on their own research and experience working with clients. However, they agree much more than they disagree, which is good to know in this day and age of confusion and misinformation. I've listed these coaches in no particular order, and please note that some of them may not consider themselves to be coaches; oh well, I consider them one and, in the near future, I plan on re-posting information and posts from their blogs on a weekly basis.

Each person on the following list has much information on their blog/website related to topics from gaining strength, building muscle, to losing fat in a no BS fashion! Don't believe me? Click on their respective names and see for yourself:

Look forward to an article from Josh Henkin ( that I plan on posting later this week.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rested, Re-focused, and Ready ...

I know it's been a couple of week since my last post, but I needed to take a bit of a break. Nevertheless, after attending Steve Maxwell's Bodyweight and Joint Mobility Workshop in Las Vegas this past weekend, I feel rested, re-focused, and ready to kick some ass! But, before I get ahead of myself, I'd like to thank everyone for sending their condolences about my father's death. Also, I'm in the process of answering old emails. So, if you've emailed me and I haven't responded, keep an eye out for a response this week.

Steve Maxwell is the real deal!

Guys, I know that many of you, like me, buy DVDs from various strength and conditioning coaches online. We watch their videos and wonder how they are in person and if they really know what they're talking about. Well, after less than 10 minutes into the 6 hour workshop, I knew that Coach Maxwell, as I'll refer to him, must be related to Evander Holyfield because he is definitely the Real Deal!

Rarely do you find a person who not only has the book knowledge of his craft, but also has the practical, in the trenches, experience that Coach Maxwell possesses. He's a great teacher also. Ok, let me walk you through some parts of the workshop. Coach first took all the participants through his joint mobility exercises, which he expands upon in his Encyclopedia of Joint Mobility Exercises, that hit every joint in the body. And when I say every damn joint, I really mean it. There were times that I wasn't sure if I was in a workshop or playing a game of twister!

After a break, Coach then started with his Maxercise bodyweight exercises that are pretty brutal, but in a good way;) We alternated from working our upper body to the lower. No muscle group was missed, and, from the soreness I felt the next day, I have muscles in places I didn't even know about. Oh, and he practices what he preaches. Every exercise/movement in his system was shown to us at three different speeds before he had us follow him, usually for a certain amount of time. Watching Coach, a 55 year-old man, go through the exercises was a workout in and of itself. His endurance and flexibility are incredible for a man in his 20s, let alone his 50s.

I'm still digesting the great amount of information that he presented this weekend, but one thing Coach mentioned really stood out in my mind. He basically said that before the love affair American men had with having large pecs and bulging biceps, they used to workout because they wanted to be healthy. Health was the main reason why folks wanted to workout. How your body looked was secondary to the overall goal of being healthy. Now, this isn't to say that physical culturist of back in the day didn't care about how their bodies looked; it's just that they realized that if you worked out correctly, with the proper nutrition (of course), then your physique will follow suit. How many fat guys do you know who can do pistol/one-leg squats and one-arm pushups?

I'll be sharing more about the workshop and the folks I met in Vegas (i.e., Mike Mahler and Josh Henkin) in future posts. But, I will say that attending this workshop has opened my eyes even more to the benefits of building strength and losing weight using only your bodyweight. Fellas listen, unless you are interested in becoming a bodybuilder or powerlifter, there is no need for you to ever pick up a weight to develop a strong and chiseled physique. Don't fall for the hype that you see everyday on TV and in the muscle mags. Bodyweight exercises have been around since antiquity, and they have clearly stood the test of time for a reason: they are effective!

I thought that I'd leave you with a picture Coach has up on his blog that was taken from the workshop. Below he is showing us how to do the Dragon Walk; my face looks blurry because I was in the process of falling on my ass! LOL!