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I was pretty psyched when Matt Foreman said he’d send me a copy of his book, Bones of Iron. Matt’s an English teacher, weightlifter and coach, so he’s the perfect person to write about Olympic lifting–and he does it beautifully.
The book is a collection of articles he’s written for the Performance Menu between 2008 and 2011, along with some newer, shorter material. As the managing editor of the journal, I get to read his essays each month before they go to press, and I always look forward to it. Foreman’s writing is as entertaining as it is informative. His topic of choice might be weightlifting, but in many cases this theme is simply a backdrop as he delves into a combination of personal anecdotes, historical details and philosophical musings on the topic at hand. His writing is as witty and humorous as it is practical, and personal anecdotes and the lessons he’s gleaned are often applicable to more than just lifting a bar overhead, but to life in general. Sure, you’ll get some training tips and tricks, but amidst the training information are all sorts of stories which are often hilarious and always enlightening. If you’re a weightlifter, a coach or are simply interested in the sport, if you’re interested in witty and engaging writing on the topic and could use some tips and tricks, pick up Bones of Iron. It’s all of that and more.
The book is 182 pages and runs for $16.95 in paperback or PDF. Pick up a copy on Amazon or through the Performance Menu store (not an affiliate link).
I always wanted to be a gymnast as a child, but I think it was sort of like my desire to be a musician: I wanted to be good at something without putting the time in. Flash forward 25 years, and I’m the same way — I want to play with rings and parallettes, but my grappling schedule (or whatever else I’m attempting at the moment) keeps me far too busy.
Enter Gold Medal Bodies. When I read that they design programs with gymnastic-like training specifically for non-gymnasts, I was sold. I was about to buy the program when they generously donated one in exchange for this review (though the opinions are, of course, my own.)
Because I’d planned to have a pretty intensive BJJ schedule, and was working through some minor injuries, I chose to start with Gold Medal Bodies’ introductory program. I figured it would allow me time to work on other activities, and would be do-able even if I was sore one day.
GMB Foundation 7 is a seven-week program which costs $95. Programming is provided daily (divided by week) in a simple and well-designed interface. The forum was not up and running when I took the course, as it’s being revamped, but should be back soon. The program is extremely well-designed, with lots of videos of each of the exercises, as well as the warm-up and cool-down series. (I’d recommend writing down the names of the exercises along with brief descriptions after the first week or so, though–it gets a bit time-consuming to watch the videos week after week.)
Some equipment is needed; namely, a pair of rings (but I chose to do the program because I wanted to play with rings) and some parallettes. You can build your own parallettes (information is provided), or possibly substitute two dumbbells, or just pick some up. Other than that, all you really need is a little bit of space to do the workouts, and a timer or stopwatch.
I completed the program with my fiance. Although the course is an introduction, and we’re both relatively experienced fitness geeks, the exercises were far from easy. The workouts weren’t all that time-consuming and I never finished one feeling beat up and exhausted, but they were tough in a tricky way. Maintaining top position on the rings, for example, uses all kinds of stabilizer muscles and such which we weren’t really used to. Some of the core exercises seemed nearly impossible for me in the first few weeks. It took about a week to properly complete a couple of the warm-up exercises, and my stretches could always use more work. And often we’d think something seemed really easy, and then would try to do it again and be unable to.
The exercises made me feel more solid in my body, without taking a ton of time or having me compromise on form. The work was difficult enough that I always felt like I was getting a solid workout, but never hard enough that my other activities made it impossible (though, of course, it’d be more difficult if I was already sore from something else.) I also found the program very enjoyable, both because of the novelty behind the techniques and because the explanations were so clear and accessible. And although I didn’t see huge improvements, the changes in performance I did see were significant.
Some of the fundamental exercises included were top position holds on the rings, front scales and front scale leg lifts, hollow body pushups–which led to handstand work, ring pull-ups (and variations), some parallette work, ring pull-ups, and some core work. One day a week was a really fun outdoor workout with animal-style movements and a bit sprinting, which helped break up the week.
If you’re looking for Crossfit-style variety, you won’t get it in this program. Instead, the exercises build on each other, and the emphasis is on form and improving your technique. Some of the same workouts are used twice a week, and many of the same exercises are found throughout the entire program although the workload does increase. So it’s not for people who want constant change in their program from day to day.
Like most bodyweight programs, the gains are modest, so this program isn’t for people who want to add serious poundage to the same exercise from week to week. (Neither is any program without weights.) Results are measured in seconds, really, or improved form.
Some of the programming seemed to be geared towards beginners, and the instruction is definitely high quality enough to be easily understood by newer exercisers. However, it would have to be targeted–someone who’s not specifically interested in gymnastics-esque training may get frustrated with it. As an adjunct to other programs, though, I think Foundation 7 really shines.
I briefly mentioned results. Here are some of mine. In 6 weeks of training (week 7 is a bonus week with some fun ladders to help build metabolic conditioning), I improved my front scale for 2 or 3 seconds per leg, and my top position hold by about 8.5 seconds. These are modest gains, but I feel they are pretty significant ones for the amount of time I spent on the program. There were also a few exercises I couldn’t properly measure results in because I couldn’t do them properly in the beginning of the program, but was able to in the end. Overall, I feel that my core and upper body increased in strength and strength endurance, and I feel more dense and solid… it’s a subtle but noticeable difference.
The other really cool thing about this program is how great it is as an introduction. If I bought a pair of rings and tried to jump head-first into a bonafide rings program, I don’t think my results would be that great and I’d probably quickly get frustrated with it. The focus on form and fundamental movements, progressions available (specifically for handstand work and ring pull-ups), excellent video instruction, clear directions and well-laid out programming means the program is uber user-friendly. I’d definitely recommend it as a simple but effective introduction to gymnastics-inspired strength and skill.
For more information on Gold Medal Bodies, check out their website: http://www.goldmedalbodies.com/
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” —Malcolm S. Forbes
By now, many of you have probably seen Jonathan Maseng’s article in the L.A. Weekly, in which he exposed Crossfit Mean Streets owner Ronnie Teasdale (along with some gym goers) for posing in photos with passed out homeless people, and posting those photos with mocking captions on facebook. The photos are pretty egregious, and also include captions indicating that gym owners found it amusing to see people injure themselves in the gym, and even purposely put a homeless man in a situation where he was likely to injure himself by having him left an Atlas ball with poor form.
I’ll let you look for yourself (if you haven’t already). But what I found just as shocking as the article itself was the slew of commenters (both in the original post and on facebook) rushing to Teasedale’s defense.
The blame for abhorrent behavior, whether that’s mocking people in unfortunate situations, purposely putting people in harm’s way or simply not preventing people from injuring themselves (and finding it hilarious when they do), of course rests with those participated in these actions.
Gym owner Ronnie Teasdale might wish to further than “removing all of the questionable content” to try to change the image of his gym and actually seek the psychological help he desperately needs.
Fellow affiliates might want to stop enabling or making excuses for this type of behavior, as some have. Stating that you don’t endorse such behavior is much more humane than searching for creative ways to justify someone mocking people who are obviously in pain and need help.
Organizations should investigate ethical issues and respond appropriately. And one really good way of doing that is by holding affiliates accountable for their behavior. Another way is to simply issue a statement saying they don’t condone it.
“I’d just like to point out that this article ran on Thursday, and CrossFit HQ has known about this conduct for over a week. As of yet, no one from HQ has even decried the conduct depicted, let alone apologized for it. And as for CrossFit Mean Streets, they still have their affiliate status, and their owner was at the Crossfit Games, yesterday, smiling. Tell me again how this is an isolated problem,” Maseng recently wrote on facebook.
CrossFit attorney Dale Saran has responded by calling the factual article “irresponsible journalism” and saying the organization is not responsible for policing its affiliates. “We do not have franchisees — we have licensees,” he was quoted as saying.) Yet not condemning someone delighting in the humiliation of others reflects on the organization as a whole–especially when others are kicked out for expressing concerns about quality control or not liking the Zone diet.
A really good way to not have people question your integrity is to demonstrate some.
Really, this article isn’t just about CrossFit. (And it goes without saying that there are many people involved in the organization who are decent people. I know many of them.) But aside from reflecting larger societal issues of arrogant pretension and outright bullying, I find myself wondering whether it many just don’t want to hold people accountable if those people happen to be athletic.
I personally don’t give a rat’s ass how fit someone is if they don’t have moral decency to treat those in unfortunate circumstances with respect. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that being athletic is not a virtue in itself. Sure, it’s natural to admire those who are good at what they do. That’s something many of us do on a regular basis, whether we prefer to watch grappling tournament footage or the Olympic games or any other activity or sport. And certainly its admirable to want to be healthy and strong. But if it’s not helping with character development, then what the hell’s the point?
“Neither are the two arts of music and gymnastics really designed, as is often supposed, the one for the training of the soul, the other for the training of the body,” said the great philosopher Socrates in Plato’s Republic. What is the real object of them? “I believe…that the teachers of both have in view chiefly the improvement of the soul.”
Socrates warned that those focusing exclusively on the athletic often have “a temper of hardness and ferocity” and must guard against savageness and brutality. It must be balanced with gentleness and moderation, so that one is both temperate and courageous instead of growing “feeble and dull and blind, his mind never waking up or receiving nourishment, and his senses not being purged of their mists… and he ends by becoming…uncivilized, like a wild beast, all violence and fierceness, and knows no other way of dealing; and he lives in all ignorance and evil conditions, and has no sense of propriety and grace.”
I’m not trying to single out just one person or one organization here. No action takes place within a vacuum. But perhaps we must all do our part to strive towards a paradigm shift in our culture, where character and ethics are rewarded in the same way that breaking a PR is… where protecting the safety and well-being of children who are victims of abuse is considering more important, to give another recent example, than protecting the reputation of a football program. Where expressing distaste for those who treat homeless people as if they are less than human is more important than protecting the reputation of a gym affiliation.
Of course as a society we view people who save the lives of others or put themselves in harm’s way to help people as heroic, and rightly so. But how you treat others on a smaller scale, in day-to-day situations, is also quite telling. Let’s demonstrate our strength of character as well as our physical strength, working not just to get fit and look hot but also to hold people accountable for disgusting behavior, and to speak out on behalf of the disadvantaged–and to do our part to help.
Each of us has the power to be the change which makes a positive difference in this world.
“To love is to act.” -Victor Hugo
Check out the second episode of the Paleo Truth podcast which I did with Dan Baruch to find out which of us hates yoga, among other things…
We apologize for the audio! It clears (mostly) 3 minutes in, and we’ve eliminated the problem for future episodes.
Stretching: Before or After Exercise
Physical Goals vs. Performance-based Goals
Performance Menu | July Issue