This is my go-to mix at the moment. It replaces a lifting playlist I shared previously that was created under my wife’s Spotify account. Figured I should create something under my own name. Some overlap with the original, but with a little more rock in this latest iteration.

It’s not terribly long. Just over an hour. That said, expect the playlist to expand in the future.

Whenever I can, I obtain my protein through real, unprocessed food sources (usually beef or chicken). Occasionally, however, I’ll supplement with a protein shake. And nine times out ten (probably more), I’ll choose to make this delicious milkshake-like impostor.

This isn’t a light shake. It’s not a great option if calories are a concern. But if you’re looking for a satiating, protein-packed shake, you’ve found it.

“It’s just so damn good” – I was quoted as saying this afternoon after taking a sip.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Servings of Chocolate Protein Powder: I personally use 2 scoops (70 grams of protein total) of Kaizen Whey Isolate Chocolate Protein from Costco. It contains artificial sweeteners, whose taste I’m generally not a huge fan of, but in this shake it works out well. Plus, some random dudes on the internet said this is preemo protein powder.
  • 2 Tablespoons of Natural Peanut Butter: I recently discovered Kraft makes a natural peanut butter with added sea salt. Tastes great in this shake, plus gives you a little extra sodium.
  • Half a Frozen Banana: The secret ingredient to help mirror the consistency of a milkshake.
  • 2 Cups of 2% Milk: I have used almond milk in the past, but like… Why?
  • 3-4 Ice Cubes (optional).

Directions

Ummm…. Blend?

Hot off the grill. Simple and satisfying BBQ chicken wings.

Some dishes make their way into our life more frequently than others. For me, this is one such dish. I think pound for pound, this might be one of my favourite meals based on how high it scores on the following:

  • Cost: for quality animal protein, chicken wings offer great value.
  • Time: they can be cooked reasonably quickly.
  • Difficulty: they are dead simple to prepare.
  • Health: animal fats and loads of protein make this a great choice.
  • Taste: they’re delicious. “But they have bones in them!”. Get over it.

This is so easy, I can barely call it a recipe. In reality, this post is just a reminder of how awesome chicken wings are. And no, not the the dumb, sauce-drenched, ranch-dipped, second cousins of real chicken wings. Those are just bastardized versions of what could have been scrumptious and healthy wings. No, I’m talking about simple, crispy, dry spiced, delightful drumsticks.

Ingredients:

  • Split chicken wings
  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Lay wings, skin side down, on low-medium heat BBQ.
  2. Cook wings thoroughly, turning every few minutes. Roughly 20 minutes on the grill should be enough for most folks. I happen to like my wings cooked really well, with the fat rendered sufficiently, so I’ll keep them on for up to 30 minutes.
  3. Take the wings off the grill, spread them out on a plate or chopping board, squeeze half a lemon over them, and finish with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  4. Serve with lemon wedges (optional).

Like I said, these are quick and easy. I wasn’t lying.

Of course you can take these wings to the next level if desired. Sometimes I like to add a little heat by smothering the wings with some finely chopped peppers from our garden. You could even add some fresh herbs , or branch out and include some interesting spices (i.e. cayenne, paprika, onion powder, whatever). Avoid sauces, and stick with dry ingredients if you want to limit your sugar intake.

Don’t overthink these. Just grab a pack of split wings next time you’re at the store. When you’re ready, take ’em out of the fridge and toss them on the warmed up grill. Season afterwards. No need to prepare in advance. Tweak the flavouring however you want, but aim to keep it simple if you want these to become a staple in your diet. And trust me, you do.

Sometimes you need (or just want) a ten minute workout. I think the guys over at Mind Pump (funny fitness podcast) would call these ‘trigger sessions’. Sort of micro workouts intended to offer a quick hit of stimulation, but nothing too intensive. Not sure if my workouts would be considered the same thing, but I like the term, so I’m using it.

Given the fact that most of us spend hours sitting each day, it’s beneficial to add small, frequent bursts of movement to wake up our body. This in contrast to exclusively engaging in only one or two intense workouts each week, with all remaining hours spent virtually motionless. That’s why I use these sessions. Well, that, and the following reasons:

  • I’m sometimes lazy, and 10 minutes is less than 11, 12, or even 20 minutes.
  • Alternatively, maybe I do really want to exercise, but happen to be at a stage where I need to reduce volume. Ten minutes lets me do something, just not too much.
  • I’m short on time. Something is better than nothing.
  • Again, I’m lazy. 

THE LAYOVER: Perform 10 minutes of suitcase carries with a kettlebell or dumbbell.

Suitcase carries are similar to farmers walks, except the weight is loaded asymmetrically (one side heavier than the other). This lopsided loading requires you to maintain an upright torso, fighting the urge to be pulled down by the weighted side. If you have the opportunity, this is a great workout to do in the backyard, barefoot, under some vitamin D delivering sunshine. Try to keep a steady pace with a solid posture for the entire 10 minutes, switching hands periodically (say every 50 metres or every 30 seconds). I personally use a roughly 60 lb kettlebell for my suitcase carries. 

This routine isn’t meant to blast you. It’s a little extra work you can throw in, especially on an ‘off’ day. For me personally, it allows me to feel like I’ve worked out, without really overtaxing my body. 

BAMBI LEGS: This is so easy it hurts. One plate (135 lbs) barbell squats: 3 sets of 20 reps. That’s it. That’s the workout. Get in. Get out.

BACK TO BASICS: To be honest, this one takes longer than ten minutes, because a little extra recovery is required between sets. That said, the total time actually moving is less than ten minutes.

The goal here is five supersets (back to back exercises) of 10 pull-ups and 20 push-ups (for a total of 50 pull-ups and 100 push-ups).

I’ll often perform this routine while cooking dinner. It’s a simple way to add a little exercise in without disrupting my day. For example, using my recent hamburger recipe, my session might look something like this…

  • Perform set #1
    • Chop some onions
  • Perform set #2
    • Prepare spices, form hamburger patties.
  • Perform set #3
    • Warm up BBQ.
  • Perform set #4
    • Place burgs on BBQ
  • Perform set #5 (final set)
    • Finish cooking the burgers, enjoy dinner.

These are but three potential workouts you can use. The main point is, sometimes all you really need is a quick burst of movement. It doesn’t need to be planned days in advance, and it doesn’t even have to involve changing into dedicated workout clothes. The fewer hurdles you encounter, the more likely you’ll actually engage in these activities. A few extra push-ups sprinkled in here and there will go a long way. Don’t overthink it, just give it a try.

Don’t forget to wash your hands after doing the push-ups!

For as long as I can recall, my dad has been grilling up spicy, mouth watering hamburgers during the summer months. Just one of his many food specialties, perfected over the years. These burgers are now a staple in our household, with my wife and I regularly grilling them up.

Since I’ve been asked about the recipe a few times, I thought I’d share it here. Note, however, this recipe has been tweaked slightly from my dad’s original version, so any issues can be blamed on me.

Usually I’ll prepare roughly 1.3 kg (2.8 lbs) of ground beef into an infantry of small patties. This amount represents the average size of the large mince packages found at our local grocery store. This produces around 30 patties, give or take, but don’t you dare hold me to that amount.

A colourful bowl of spices at the ready.

Burger Patties

  • 1.3 kg (2.8 lbs) medium ground beef (full disclosure: more often than not I have to settle for the lean mince at our grocery store, but I prefer medium for the additional fat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons of paprika
  • 2 tablespoons of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (add more after cooked, if required)
  • 1 large onion (chopped finely)
  • 2-3 crushed, fresh garlic cloves (optional – my dad hates garlic and would never use this in his burgers)
  • 1-3 jalapenos (chopped finely)
  • 1 bunch of parsley or coriander (optional)
Prepping the ingredients.

I like to mix all the spices together in a separate bowl before forming the burgers. Similarly with the garlic and onion. This allows me to add spice, onion, and garlic gradually as I break up and mix the mince in a large mixing bowl, helping ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed.

I’m not concerned with producing perfectly round patties, but I do want them thin.

I also prepare a whole wack of parchment paper ahead of time. I make squares big enough to fit the flattened patties on. Let’s call them five inches squared.

Once I have the ingredients prepared and set aside, and the parchment cut, I mix everything together (mince, spices, eggs) and begin forming the burgers.

I grab a small chunk of mince, roll the meat into a round ball the size of a meatball – maybe a bit larger – and flatten the patty out between two pieces of parchment. I don’t use any special ‘as seen on tv’ tools, but feel free to get creative.

I like my burgers thin. Like, super thin. I’m going for that 1950’s roller skating drive-in vibe. You know, the one I never experienced? I just figure these were the types of burgers they made.

Thin also means these bad boys are difficult to handle. You have to carefully remove the parchment when grilling them or they’ll just fall apart. There are other ways to do this (i.e. form the meatball and mash the patty on a pan on the stove top, but I’m grilling these, so that’s not an option).

I repeat this process until I have a few towers of super thin burgers. Usually we’ll end up cooking up a third of the batch, and freezing the rest. If freezing, avoid squishing the burgers together, or they’ll be difficult to separate once frozen.

Bonus! Toasted Buns

Toasting your buns on the grill is great, but for truly exceptional, drive-in style hamburgers, butter your buns and toast them on a piping hot pan over the stove. Ensure the butter is evenly spread out on each half of the bun. Aim to have a consistent golden bun when complete. Voila!

Enjoy

These burgers are meant to be thin. You can easily double, triple, or yes, even quadruple up the patties. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to keep the carb consumption low. Just go heavy on the patties.

Also, I didn’t mention the obvious, but you might want to throw a little cheddar on these hamburgers near the end. Your call. Lately I’ve been enjoying mine with a little ketchup, mayo, and hot peppers. Highly recommended.

Time to fire up the grill.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I don’t exactly know why I stopped, but here I am, once again posting. Something triggered me to write today. I’m not going to dwell on what that trigger was, I’m just going to ride this motivation train, and see where I end up. See if I can keep the momentum alive past one post. Wish me luck.

A New Decade Begins

2020 has been great so far. The year started with Liz and I wrapping up a trip to the US South-West. We spent Christmas in San Diego, where we celebrated my parents 50th anniversary with our extended family. We had a blast hanging with cousins and nephews. Although we ate and drank too much, sporadic walks peppered our schedule, hedging some of the negative activity. And either way, it was a vacation, with the family together. Our intention was to live life, and so we did.

As part of the visit, we took a spectacular – albeit short – road trip through Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking. We found ourselves constantly in awe and appreciation of the hues of red that cover the dessert. I simply can’t get enough of this landscape.

Well, it’s back to reality now. The vacation offered a small break from heavy lifting, but I’ve been back to the barbell the last few weeks, slowly ramping up the workouts. Training has been productive and enjoyable lately. I’ve been working on checking my ego at the garage gym door, attempting, though not always succeeding, to stick to appropriately heavy weights. This approach has certainly contributed to lowering instances of injury, and helped me maintain a more consistent and predictable regiment into the new year.

Brief Deadlift Update

I’m happy to note I have now surpassed a 400 lb pull. In fact, I’ve since gone as high as 420 lbs, though I would be lying if I told you my form was on point. If all goes well, I’d aiming to pull 425 lb+ on my 35th birthday, coming up in less than two weeks. And for the end of this year, the goal is to hit 450 lb for a single. Safely! May as well record this goal here and now.

What’s Next?

Honestly, I don’t know. I want to continue to leverage this blog as a forum to practice my writing, express myself, and hopefully, share some useful anecdotes with readers along the way. Maybe this morning’s post will act as the catalyst for many more. Maybe not.

“The Office”. Our squat rack in all it’s glory.

Last year my wife and I decided to pull the trigger and buy a squat rack for our home. Prior to the purchase, we would frequent our local gym whenever we wanted to get under a barbell. Unfortunately, often times obtaining a rack would be difficult when the gym floor was busy. Moreover, we were a bit intimidated by the power racks in the club during our lifting infancy. To address both issues initially, we started only lifting once a week, early on Sunday mornings, while the gym was relatively quiet.

We quickly became much more comfortable using the power racks, however we still had the issue of often not being able to secure one for our use. And even when it wasn’t too busy and we would get a rack, we often wouldn’t perform the workout the way we intended, feeling pressure to move through the exercises quickly so the next person in line could access the equipment. Of course, occasionally someone would work in with us (or us, them), but this wasn’t always possible. And the fact that you often need long rest periods between heavy barbell lifts, means you might just be sitting around a busy gym, seemingly occupying a rack someone else could be using (yes, I overthink these things).

Ultimately, for peace of mind and convenience, we cleaned out our garage, and installed our own rack. Our garage is now almost exclusively used as a home gym. Given it’s only a one-car garage, and we live in a cold and snowy climate, this dedicated space came at the cost of a clean and warm car during the winter months (thanks Babe!)

Our home gym is fairly sparse, but more than sufficient for our purposes. Currently, we have the following equipment:

  • Squat rack with safety’s
  • Standard, 45 lb Olympic barbell
  • Just over 400 lbs of bumper plates
  • Flat bench
  • Dip/Pull-up belt
  • Rings
  • A few bands
  • 35 lb kettlebell
  • A few light dumbbells

We made a commitment to first see if we would survive a winter using the garage gym before we added too much equipment. We wanted to determine if we’d actually use the space on frigid January mornings. I’m happy to report the space was in fact used regularly, though it could definitely use some added insulation. A little bit warmer would be nice.

We survived the winter, and we’ve really been enjoying the space through the summer months. Since the garage gym is working well, we’ll likely pick up a few additional pieces of equipment at some point. Although not required, here are a few items I’d personally like to add:

  • Perhaps one day replace the squat rack with a full-fledged power rack
  • Additional, heavier kettlebells
  • Add an additional Olympic bar
  • Trap bar (especially to perform loaded walks in the backyard during the summer)
  • Incline bench

I’ll continue to share updates about our garage gym as we make changes. So far, the experiment has been a success, and we’re very happy we decided to do it. Now all we need to do is figure out how to keep the barbell warmer in January!

The legendary Ice Man, Wim Hof, doing his thing. Flickr.

I love cold showers. I love the euphoric and invigorating feeling I achieve from a brief rush of cold water. Pound for pound, it’s one of the most efficient ways to lift my mood. It’s quick, cheap, and the results are immediate. If I’m feeling under the weather, it’s one of my first remedies.

I’ve been taking daily cold showers for a few years now. Generally I’ll slot in a 30 to 60 second torture session in whatever shower I’m in, using the coldest possible setting. Over time I’ve become more accustomed to the cold, limiting the teeth chattering that can sometimes accompany this activity. I’m not saying I’m any sort of Wim Hof. Far from it. I’m an amateur in this regard, but definitely a proponent of this daily habit.

But Seriously. Why?

If you believe the hype, cold showers are a powerful tool that can build your immune system, and fight depression. I’ve certainly experienced less sickness in the last few years, but I can’t confidently attribute this to cold showers. And I definitely find cold exposure lifts my mood, but I would be hard-pressed to say it could tackle any serious depression. But again, it’s quick, cheap, and immediate. So if it doesn’t work as well as advertised, no big loss for me.

The theory behind cold (and heat) exposure makes sense. Our body’s are amazing adaptation machines. Given the right stimulus, our body’s will adapt to changing environments – within limits. So just like our body adapts to the stimulus of a loaded barbell on our back – by increasing the strength of all the supporting muscles – so to the theory goes that our body adapts to bouts of cold exposure, incrementally improving its ability to withstand the same stress in the future.

Like I discussed in a previous post, these short cold showers can be viewed as acute stressors (versus chronic stressors). These brief periods of stress can in turn force adaptation. This all harkens back to the idea of hormesis, the phenomenon where the exposure at one dosage level might be beneficial (or rather, not harmful enough to do damage, but just enough to elicit your body to adapt and improve), while a dosage at a higher level could be adverse. A perfect example is vaccines, whereby we actually expose ourselves to a particular virus (in a limited quantity) with the intention of triggering an adaptation response, and hopefully, be better suited to fight higher exposure of that virus in the future.

Hormesis: Dose Dependent! A lower dosage may stimulate, but after a certain point inhibit. Wikipedia

Whether the science truly supports the benefits of cold showers is yet to be seen, but the risk and cost of taking them is seemingly low, so why not at least give it a try?

Power Lifter Extraordinaire, Clarence Kennedy, gettin’ low.

Squating: as ancient as it is effective. It represents one of the most fundamental human movement patterns we engage in (or should engage in). It also happens to be one of those fundamental movement patterns that modern-day humans are increasingly losing the ability to express.

Unsurprisingly, many folks (often much later in life) turn to barbell training in an effort to improve their capacity to squat. Unfortunately, this seemingly simple movement can prove very difficult for many people when load is added, and can even take years for a lifter to actually perfect. But it’s important. Ultimately, our ability to squat comfortably is a clear expression of our mobility.

Ass to Grass?

Last night I was watching some YouTube videos of Clarence Kennedy performing his famously low squats. It’s amazing to watch how much he can lift, especially at the depths he’s dropping to. If you aren’t familiar, I urge you to take a minute to check out some of Mr. Kennedy’s insane lifts, dropping to depths seen only in the deepest reaches of the Pacific.

Squat depth is a sometimes controversial aspect of lifting. Anatomical variants mean some folks can comfortably drop down ‘ass to grass’, while others struggle to hit parallel. Some of these differences come down to experience, but in many cases people are simply built differently, and they may never be able to squat much below parallel safely.

As a result, I try not to get too hung up on depth. Or rather, I only worry about how far I personally drop down, and how I feel when doing it, avoiding comparisons with other lifters. I might watch a video of Clarence Kennedy squatting 675 lbs to the floor and aspire to something similar, but I know my body mechanics might preclude from dropping so low (to say nothing of the fact that I can’t come anywhere close to lifting weights as heavy as he does). Instead, I consciously work to improve my comfort at lower depths. I listen to my body, and work with the anatomy I was born with.

While genetics certainly play a role in determining how low we can squat, we still have the ability to improve our maximum depth by working on our mobility. Or put another way, we can lose this mobility if we don’t regularly work through these ranges of motion. And my favourite way to improve my mobility of this ancient human movement? More squatting of course.

September 2020 update: here’s a shot repping out a few deadlifts @ 405 lbs.

For the past year or so I’ve been working towards achieving a 400 lb one-rep max deadlift. This would represent a fairly significant lift for me, coming in at roughly 2.5 times my body weight. Thus far, however, the lift has eluded me.

In November 2018 I thought I was coming close, pulling 385 lbs off the floor. This PR (personal record) was set shortly before my wife and I departed on our two-week honeymoon. Although not a terribly long break, I disappointingly found my deadlift lost some steam when I returned. Disheartening? Sure. Part and parcel of the game? Definitely.

Patience

The process to improve strength is slow and arduous. Many factors can slow progress, or even set you back all together. If you’re like me, these moments will test your resolve to maintain your program or routine. Changes can be so slow that it can prove difficult to remain motivated, but ultimately it’s the consistent work that compounds over time that provides meaningful results. Easy to understand. Difficult to accept.

Grinding

In recent months I’ve been improving my five rep max, recently hitting 375 lbs on that lift alone (though to be fair, the five reps were ugly, and I used straps for assistance). I haven’t attempted a single rep max deadlift in many months, though I suspect I’m now approaching the 400 lb mark. That said, given the inherent risk in heavy deadlifts, I’m not rushing towards this target. Rather, I’m taking my time progressing, and will attempt a PR once I feel I confident I can safely execute it. Regardless, progress is being made.

A Note on Tracking

Tracking has helped me recognize and appreciate the often small, incremental improvements I make. A couple of months ago I started using Gravitus (no affiliation), an incredibly intuitive app that helps me quickly record my reps and sets. When I start an exercise, Gravitus will automatically show the previous weight, sets, and reps performed previously (and the date on which they were performed). This has proved indispensable in ensuring I continue to properly challenge myself week to week, something that can be difficult to do when you primarily work out at home, alone.

Enjoying the Process

Coming to peace with the fact that muscle growth is slow, and only gets slower the further you improve, has helped reduce my obsession with constantly achieving new heights. I certainly wish to set new records often, but I understand that PR’s will be harder and harder to obtain the more experience I accumulate. And at some point, I will inevitably peak. Does that mean I stop resistance training when I can no longer improve? Hell no. If anything, weight training becomes even more critical – helping slow muscle atrophy.

And so I do my best to avoid being singularly focused on PR’s. Instead, I’ve come to love the challenge, love the process, and love the weekly grind. I’m energized knowing that I’m putting in the work day-after-day that other folks can’t, or simply aren’t willing to.

If it were easy, we’d see many more individuals deadlifting 400 lbs, but we don’t. And honestly, I don’t want it to be easy. The harder the challenge, the more satisfying the reward. Bring it on.