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Lower Body

A meaningful exercise program will exploit the fact, even if it's not consciously understood, that the body can be divided into three large functional units: the upper, pushing-pulling structure of the arms and shoulders; the middle, bending-twisting structure of the trunk; and the lower, standing-stepping structure of the legs and hips. It's a FitWorks organizing principle -- a little thought should reveal its truth and usefulness.

Just a few words on the lower body. It steps and it stands. That's it, in terms of major functioning. By stand, we mean vertical movement -- standing, sitting, jumping, and anything else of this sort you can think of. By step, we mean horizontal movement -- walking, running, lunging and so on.

In terms of exercise, the simplest effective movements would be the squat and the lunge. These two functional motions address it all. How very very simple. Do these two things, and you're about 98% done with it -- using the tried and true proof of instant phony statistics. But it's only the stat that's phony. The overwhelming effectiveness is real. So what about toe-raises and calf-raises and heel raises and, uh, leg presses and donkey kicks and ham curls and all those other fancy machines we see in the chrome and glass gyms? Aren't they ever so useful and necessary too?

Yes, if you're undergoing physical rehab for an injury. Yes, if you're a professional bodybuilder looking to isolate that one odd little muscle in your posterior chain that hardly anyone knows the name of but the judges look at. Yes, if you're running a Curves gym and want to make a lot of money by luring people in with your glitz and manifest overhead costs.

But no, in terms of fitness and athleticism and functional movements and feeling and performing better -- no, they are not necessary. What's necessary is doing with purpose and directed intelligence what the human body wants to do because of the way joints move bones. So, squats and lunges. That's what the body does, and that's what you should exercise. Not only these, but these. And these, only safely.

There is a difference, almost never noticed, between kneeling and squatting. Kneeling is knees-forward -- you're going to land on your knees if you go far enough. Nothing wrong with that, per se. But it's not a squat. Squatting is behind-backward -- if you go far enough, you land on your bottom. So what? When we say squat, that's what we mean.

There is no power in kneeling -- it is, after all, the position we beg from. Whereas all the upward power of your posterior chain is accessed, in the squat. Again, kneeling bends the foot -- squatting grinds the heel. The ball of your foot is for transferring power forward -- the heel is for focusing power upwards.

Thus, a distinction between squatting and lunging, upward and forward, heel and toe, backside and knees. Different emphasis because of different purpose and function. This has practical importance because of safety issues. If you lift things upward (squat) while using a forward movement (lunge) -- well, it's hard on the knees. Injury. So that's why training properly is important.

No need to go into how the isolation machines place unnatural constrictions on the joints. We all follow a similar human pattern, but our joints have a lot of idiosyncratic variability in them, which the machines don't accommodate. They are pretty much a one-size fits all sort of thing, for all that there is a little bit of adjustability. No need, again, to go into that. Why would you use a machine? All strapped in and ready to let it do the work, battling alien giants maybe? Hm. Seems so scientific, if this were 1963.

So that's a general rundown on the lower body. Very simple, and yet sort of complex. Understand though how important it is. Two-thirds of most people's muscle mass is below the waist. We burn fat by using muscle. That's why they're always trying to get you to do cardio. You don't really care that you might be able to run a 5K. You just want to burn the calories. It's those big weight-bearing muscles that do it. But using them is only part of the picture -- the other part is building them. Strength training. Necessary. Safely.

Does any of it matter? Yes and no. Depends on how rigorous a steward we want to be, how faithful a custodian of the particular temple God has given us. Sometimes temples lapse into ruins in a single generation. Sometimes they endure through the centuries. Why? Because someone has demonstrated resolved stewardship, or its lack.  There really are so many responsibilities, so easy to ignore, to be ignorant of, and the consequences take so long to show up.  We can forgive ourselves of our guilt feelings.  But physics, and physiology, are unforgiving.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank

Dances with Polar Bears

There is no difference between animal and plant fat. At pharmaceutically refined levels, pure, the oleic or palmeic acid in pork is the same as that in olive or coconut oil. They are chemically identical. No difference. So the willowy vegetarians don’t have that particular high horse to look down their long noses from. If there is any meaningful health problem with meat, it isn’t the fat content. Which it isn’t.

The problem with meat must lie in one or both of two areas. The first problem is in the gut: as the effect of noxious corpse-eating bacteria and all their ghastly toxic waste products; and as the lack of fiber, which clogs you up and lets the putrifiers have an extended two-day fiesta cruise down your alimentary canal. The other problem is in the bloodstream -- the toxic effect of undigested animal proteins that leak  through the gut wall. In the blood they are treated as invaders, attacked with antigens, which may learn to attack one’s own proteins, leading to autoimmune disorders. To be fair, the leaky gut is caused by refined carbs -- yeast infestation.

There are other problems, not controversial. Meat is the end of the food chain, and therefore it is the garbage dump of every environmental pollutant in the system -- strontium and pesticides and dioxins and bovine spongiforms. And then there’s the byproducts of the animal’s metabolism itself -- urea and feminizing hormones and adrenalin and so on. No one can think these are good. Almost no one.

But Eskimos don't get scurvy. The claim that they eat no plant products, in their traditional diet, seems unlikely. One of the thing vegetarians think they know is that the first thing Eskimos eat when they kill an animal is the contents of the stomach and intestinal tract. Plants, don't you know. Organs too. They throw the meat to the dogs. So the story goes. The other story, though, is that they eat no plant material. Let's just accept the fact that both are true, and not argue.

The fact that the Kenyan Maasai eat very much dairy and hunted meats, and have the worst life expectancy in the modern world may be due to dirty drinking water. That their life expectancy for men is 42 years could be due to the fact that they live in, well, Africa. That they have had, historically, less than a 50% chance of living past 60 is, um, racist. Blood diamonds.

Let's not trouble ourselves with having to defend or attack bigtime meat-eating. Because the issue is not whether or not humans can eat a lot of meat, or solely meat. The issue is, what is optimal.

Let's grant that meat provides every known necessary nutrient, including Vitamin C and glucose (via muscular glycogen). How about the unnecessary ones? Does meat have any meaningful antioxidants? Because meat makes them more necessary. Heat is generated just because digestion occurs. It's called diet induced thermogenesis, DIT. Protein is most wasteful in this regard. It's fuel to the flames, and where there's fire there's smoke, and, uh, smoke is pollution.

Tests show that fat digestion wastes only 0 to 3% of its calories as heat; carbs waste 5 to 10%; protein wastes 20 to 30%; alcohol wastes 10 to 30%. Healthy subjects with a mixed diet burn about 10% of their calories as heat. Protein and fat are most closely linked to satiety -- knowing when to stop. For fat, this would be because FFAs in the bloodstream create a buffer, that allows the body to know there's no famine. It's safe to stop. For protein, perhaps that the sheer amount of work it takes to digest these most difficult molecules creates a signal to stop eating -- enough already -- perhaps through the excess waste heat, or perhaps through the digestive cells themselves, and their depletion of energy.

So, back to what is optimal. Does exhausting your digestive system seem like a good thing? Does making more pollution in your body? -- via the free radicals produced by wasted effort? Does it seem wise to increase the need for the antioxidants that damp down this pollution, while at the same time refusing to eat the plant sources that are so rich in these nutrients? Does it make sense to be the carrion eater? The best place on the food chain to be is the place where you don't get eaten, not where you eat all the other animals. The best place is where you can choose wisely, apart from appetite.

It's bad to eat refined, industrial carbs because they cause a hysterical and eventually pathological insulin response. It's also bad because glucose results in glycerol, which is the glue that holds blubber together. But blubber isn't everone's problem. Should they then eat more meat? Or any at all? Clearly, clearly, an Atkins-like diet will almost always result in the loss of from one to three pounds a week of fat. Calorie restriction, semi-starvation, diets with "carbs" result in hunger, lethargy, fatigue, muscle wasting, depression, self loathing, guilt, futility, failure, etc. But even so, Atkins and his ilk are wrong.

Wrong because it isn't carbs that's the problem. It's nutritionless, fiberless carbs. Most especially, such carbs poured into an already disrupted bloodstream. In extreme and very rare cases, a meat-only diet is  supportable -- if the whole foods vegan diet somehow fails. But that must be a small fraction of a small percent of the human population. Anyone that sick is close to terminal. Short of that point, however, a healthful diet should be rich rich rich with "carbs" -- not starches, not refined grains, nothing powdered. All of that is either predigested, or almost digested. Might as well open a vein and sprinkle in sugar. Real food. Like what Adam would have eaten. You remember Adam? He's the guy God made to live in and tend a Garden, with associated trees.

Why so extreme. Everybody needs glucose, and glycerol, and triglycerides. Everyone needs as many antioxidants as they can get. Nobody needs refined carbs, and hardly anyone needs meat. Because it's not about what we can get away with. It's not about the absence of actual disease in Eskimos or their Caucasian Dances with Polar Bears interlopers. It's about longevity accompanied intimately by vitality. Eskimos are not noted for the number of their centenarians. Maybe it has something to do with unnecessary nutrients.

So much about diet, here, now. What about exercise? Both matter. Diet is about health. Exercise is about fitness. Both matter. There's a great deal of overlap. And both, really are easy. What's hard about being sensible? Hardly anything. It's just that emotion and ignorance get in the way. Rationality helps with both.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
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