Recommended Reading

Your journey to strength and fitness should not be one of blind faith. There is an incredible wealth of knowledge available to you on the topics of strength, fitness, athletics and nutrition. I’ll list a few that I think are particularly helpful, and that will hopefully set you off on a course to knowledge.

On Nutrition:

The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant

I had the pleasure of meeting John at a CrossFit event a few years ago. He’s a witty and engaging conversationalist, which shows through in his writing. His book presents a compelling case for a diet based in real, whole foods to accompany an active lifestyle. While it has plenty of substance, the concepts are presented in such a way that any reader can understand them.

Paleo for Lifters by Justin Lascek

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll notice I’m a big fan of Justin’s work. This book takes the principles from Loren Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet” and applies it directly to strength trainees. The framework is nearly identical to the recommendations Power Athlete HQ and CrossFit Football have for their athletes.

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

Along with Mark Sisson and Mat Lalonde, Robb Wolf is a torch-bearer of the paleo movement. His book is a little less geared toward athletic development and more toward the simple healthy lifestyle. It’s an easy read that provides plenty of information to anyone interested in cleaning up their diet.

On Exercise:

These are a handful of strength, fitness and athletic training books that I would immediately recommend to anyone seeking to learn more about those topics:

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

Fit by Lon Kilgore, Michael Hartman, Justin Lascek

Periodization Training for Sports by Tudor Bompa

Science and Practice of Strength Training by Vladimir Zatsiorsky

Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches by Greg Everett

Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle

There’s no shortage of training, coaching and nutrition literature available. What books have made an impact on your training? Leave a note in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

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Charts and Spreadsheets

As you progress on your journey to improve your fitness, it’s good to have and keep metrics. A rule of thumb from business school: if it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved.

training log

Gym Metrics

I like keeping metrics for a few reasons. First, certain metrics are a good indicator of how well I stack up against the competition and/or my peers. Second, having the right metrics lets me know if there’s a particular gap in my training. Finally, there are metrics that indicate whether I’m ready for more advanced training methods, or whether I should stick to the basics.

Here are a handful of charts and spreadsheets I keep handy:

Basic Strength StandardsRippetoe, et al.

This chart is great for keeping a handle on my overall strength progress, as well as identifying whether I have a strength imbalance. For example, if I’m near the Advanced level for all lifts except Power Cleans where I’m at a Novice level, I know there’s something about the Power Clean that needs attention.

Olympic Lifting Strength ChartGreg Everett of Catalyst Athletics.

This is similar to the Rippetoe chart, but has a focus on the olympic weightlifting movements.

Linear Progression Spreadsheet – Garage Gym Guy

LP Chart (pdf) LP Chart (xlsx)

I put this spreadsheet together to keep track of both progress, and to know when it was finally time to graduate from the LP. (The general consensus is that you stay with the LP until you stall on all major lifts at the same time. Individual stalls and resets do not indicate a need for more complex training.)

Rep Max Spreadsheet – Garage Gym Guy

RM Chart (pdf) RM Chart (xlsx)

I put this sheet together as a way to keep track of 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, etc. for the CrossFit Football Collegiate program. It’s faster than digging through my training log to find the right number for a given lift.

Percentage Chart – Garage Gym Guy

Percentage Chart (pdf) Percentage Chart (xlsx)

When your training progression requires it, I’ve also put together a spreadsheet for working with percentages.

CrossFit LevelsCrossFit Seattle

This is a handy chart to help track and monitor progress in the sport of fitness. Some of the biggest critiques of CrossFit relate to pushing too hard, too soon. Having charts like this to help tailor training to individuals can help limit the risks associated with pushing inexperienced athletes in over their heads.

If you found any of these materials to be helpful, please share them! Leave a message in the comments of head over to Garage Gym Guy on Facebook, and let us know what reference materials you keep with you in the gym!

Gestalt

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The Elements of a basic gym: barbell, plates, platform, rack, bench and chin up bar. A basic plan built on solid Principles: Adaptation by way of compound movements, an emphasis on building and maintaining strength with proper loading and rep ranges.

Garage Gym

Garage Gym Elements

It’s not complicated – and it doesn’t need to be. It’s just exercise.

In the last few posts I’ve given you the tools to select a solid program that fits your fitness goal. I’m going to take it one step further and flat-out hand you a few programs that have brought me great results, or that come strongly recommended by trusted sources.

Based on the Principles we covered, a good program will do two things. First, it will align with your training goals, and second, it will fall in line with the principles of adaptation from an anatomy/physiology perspective.

That means, if you’re a powerlifter, your program better make you stronger in the squat, bench and deadlift. If you’re a triathlete, the program needs to make you a faster swimmer, bicyclist and runner. If you’re a football player, your program needs to make you a better football player. Whatever your sport, your training program is a good one when it results in your improvement at your sport.

The second part is just as crucial – the program needs to fall in line with the general rules of anatomy and physiology. It must provide adequate stimulus for the desired response. It must provide adequate rest and recovery for consistent adaptation. And it must be safe for you, the trainee.

A program that doesn’t sufficiently challenge you, doesn’t allow you to rest enough, or puts you at risk of injury or overtraining is a bad program. Choose wisely!

If you are relatively new to the Iron Game, then it is my sincerest opinion that you should begin with a Linear Progression. You don’t have to stay there, but you need to start there. As your training age matures, you can move on to more complicated programs, but for the “young”, there’s no better place to start.

Starting Strength, Madcow/Bill Starr, Stronglifts, and Greyskull LP are all good choices here. I went with CrossFit Football’s Amateur program (also an LP), and was very happy with the results.

I have since moved on to CrossFit Football’s Collegiate program. This program utilizes a mix of rep max work with some percentage-based work. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and Justin Lascek’s Texas Method Part 1 use similar percentage tools, and work well for intermediates. While the Texas Method is suited mainly to brute strength/powerlifting, Jim Wendler has spun off a number of variations to his 5/3/1 program to suit the needs of everyone from powerlifters to football players to CrossFitters.

Speaking of CrossFit, if you fancy yourself the next winner of the World Series of Exercise, Rudy Nielsen has a selection of programs to choose from, based on your level of experience and/or your area of weakness.

If you’re more inclined toward Olympic Lifting, Catalyst Athletics publishes both a beginner program and a running daily program.

For the fitness generalist who is interested in exercise simply for a healthy and fit lifestyle, Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness also runs a program. For Tactical Athletes (Military, Law Enforcement and First Responders), Military Athlete publishes a variety of programs for both Fitness Test preparation, and active duty applications.

Like we discussed last time, there are plenty of methods out there – these a just a few that I’ve had close contact with, and which fall in line with the Principles we discussed. What programs have you had success with? How well did the goals of the program align with your training goals and how much do you think it contributed to your overall goals? Let us know in the comments or over on Facebook!

Biomarkers

In the last article, we discussed Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. But what type of demands are we talking about? The answer is simple: What are you training for?

Do you play a sport competitively? Are you a strength trainee exclusively? Are you an endurance athlete? Are you training for a lifestyle of fitness? Some combination of all of the above?

The point is this: your training program needs to Impose the Specific Demands that will cause you to Adapt in such a way that the biomarkers of your performance improve.

Now, which biomarkers are we talking about? In nearly every sport or athletic pursuit, there are particular biomarkers that immediately come to mind: strength, speed, power, agility, flexibility/body control, endurance/stamina, etc.

In the perspective of training, we should be able to craft a hierarchy of those biomarkers which will in turn help us create a priority list that we can use to maximize the efficiency of our training regimen. After all, most of us only have a few hours per week to devote to our training.

I’m not going to beat around the bush. It is obvious to me that strength is the most important biomarker of performance. Strength is the ability to exert force, from which comes speed. Being stronger also means that the rate of exertion for a given movement, relative to absolute strength, is much lower. In vehicle racing, this commonly referred to as the Power to Weight Ratio.

Furthermore, strength is a hard-earned attribute when compared endurance. Endurance can take as little as a few months to acquire while true strength requires years. “Strength is never a weakness.”

Following strength is its derivative: speed. Even in the endurance sports, the competition is still a race: who is the fastest. Assuming the competitors all have the stamina to complete the race, it is still the most powerful (force divided by time – the one who exerts the most forward propulsion in the elapsed time) one who wins.

What comes after strength? Everything else – for your given sport, you will need some level of endurance, coordination, sport-specific skills, etc. A wrestler will only need a few minutes of stamina, while a triathlete may need a couple of hours. A hockey player will only need to be on the ice for about 30 seconds per shift, but may need to be capable of 30 or more shifts per game.

Garage Gym Girl - Sprint Triathlete

Garage Gym Girl – Sprint Triathlete

For our purposes here, we can see that athletes need to start with strength, transition from maximal strength to strength-endurance, and as the in-season approaches, move from a strength-based template to one that closer-approximates the demands of the sport. The common model of periodization describes this near-perfectly. For more detailed reading, I recommend Periodization Training for Sports by Tudor Bompa. In it, the authors describe, in exhausting detail, the periodization approaches for a wide variety of common sports.

In our next installment, we’ll get into the details of how to maximize efficiency while pursuing training goals. In the meantime, post in the comments or visit us on Facebook to share what sport you participate in, and how you hope to use your garage gym to train for domination!

Elements

The five Elements posts I’ve written were created together and in the order they were presented for a reason: they represent the common core pieces of any/all solid training systems. Whether you are training for strength, size, speed or athleticism, your program will call for heavy, compound barbell movements and bodyweight/calisthenic movements. These five Elements will allow you to perform these core exercises, and establish a foundation from which your gym can grow to meet your specialized equipment needs. Additionally, they lay out a plan for building a garage or home gym literally from the ground up.

The Barbell

The barbell and weights are one of the most tried-and-true methods for building strength and athleticism. Countless athletes have utilized these tools to build strength and size. The ability to progressively and precisely load the barbell means that it can be used for a variety of movements and resistances. Squats, deadlifts, presses, cleans, jerks and snatches develop strength, size and speed, all with a single tool that can be used over the entire lifespan of an athlete.

barbell

The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. – Henry Rollins

The Platform

A platform is vital for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the platform will protect your floor from the impact of falling weights. Second, it provides a foundation to attach a rack or stands to.  It also helps to define your gym space, which is nice for those of us who have a tendency to sprawl.

Firm Foundation

Firm Foundation

The Rack/Stands

Put simply, it’s hard to Squat or Bench Press without a rack or at least stands. For a garage gym, I recommend a rack because it adds a margin of safety that only a highly-competent set of spotters could rival.

11 Guage Steel - Garage Gym Dog Approved!

Everybody chill – I got this!

The Pull Up Bar

Pull ups and chin ups are an important ingredient in training the upper body. Many racks include such a bar, but this post is for those that chose not to use a rack or who want an additional pull up bar outside the rack.

The Bench

While some recent fitness trends have tried to downplay how essential it is to bench press, it remains an important part of a solid strength-based program. A flat bench, therefore, must be part of the garage gym.

bench after

How Much Ya Bench?

With the items above, you’re free to begin pursuit of the training path of your choice: Powerlifting, Strongman, Strength & Conditioning for Sports Performance, Weightlifting, Bodybuilding, CrossFit, Military/Law Enforcement Fitness Tests, etc.

Post in the comments to let me know what training path you’re on, and what equipment you’d like to build for your garage gym!