Misc, Thinking out loud, Training

4 Youtube fitness channels that are worth checking out

We all check Youtube. A lot. Perhaps more than we should. I know for myself that I spend 1-2 hours a day watching videos which mostly have to do with fitness or cooking. I like to think that I am educating myself, which I am to a certain degree (when not re-watching clips from Game of Thrones, Glengarry Glen Ross, Swingers or cartoons I like). The point is that Youtube has become a big part of our lives when it comes to searching for information or entertainment.

Naturally I have browsed through a number of channels looking for tips on how to perform an exercise or what makes for a good diet. Over time I stuck with some and left others. The ones I am following are those who I think make sense.

I like people who present simple ideas in a down-to-earth way. People who value putting time and effort into something and being patient. I have started a journey in strength, health and building an enjoyable lifestyle so I gravitate towards those people who preach the same. Though I think there is nothing wrong with choosing other ways to achieve your goals, I personally can’t relate to, for instance, the bodybuilding way of thinking. In the end we all choose to listen to those around us that we believe give solid sensible advice.

So with no further ado, here’s my list of channels that I frequently watch.

Kinobody

This is the only channel in my list that is not focused on bodyweight training. I first discovered it about 10 months ago and what caught my attention was the emphasis on getting lean without giving up life.

The creator, Greg O’ Gallagher, is prompting people to focus on getting stronger on basic moves, the “key lifts” as he calls them, while implementing Intermittent Fasting as their diet protocol.

What I like about this channel is the simplicity of the approach on building a physique: Get stronger and eat at a slight deficit/surplus, depending on what your goals are. It doesn’t overcomplicate things with strange meal plans or workouts. It also has some high production value videos which get the message across and are entertaining or even inspiring to watch at the same time. Worth a look.

GMB Fitness

I recently started spending more time on listening to this channel’s podcasts, interviews and watching their tutorials. The focus is on functional strength and health. They have a lot of content on mobility and flexibility. And they use bodyweight training.

Apart from a number of useful tips on how to achieve certain moves and become more flexible, an aspect of fitness often neglected, a big bonus is the GMB Show. It hosts interviews with people from the Calisthenics community and generally the fitness world. Strong people talking about how they got there? Inspiring.

Fitness on the side, I like that this channel takes a philosophical approach on things. Mindset and mentality is often covered in interviews, a part of their content that I very much appreciate.

Al Kavadlo

Arguably the most recognizable figure in the Calisthenics community, trainer, author and PCC instructor Al Kavadlo has his own channel with video tutorials on progressive Calisthenics as well as on giving answers to questions that trainees have.

Al Kavadlo is the author of a number of books on bodyweight training, two of which I have in my possession. He also appears in part of the Convict Conditioning series of books. His earliest videos date back 6 years and that’s important because it shows commitment. It also shows how one of the leading experts in Calisthenics progressed those past years.

His simple approach on things, his persistence on taking your time and not rushing through as well as his knowledge sharing make this channel definitely worth to check out. On the bonus side, he often posts videos with his brother Danny who is also a Calisthenics master and another interesting person to listen to.

Red Delta Project

I saved my favorite for last. The Red Delta Project is a channel created by bodyweight training expert and trainer Matt Schifferle. He is also a member of the Progressive Calisthenics Certification team and he has recently published his first book, Fitness Independence which is on my “to read” list.

The title of the book speaks volumes about what the channel is all about. It’s about quitting all the unnecessary and focusing on the few things that matter. That includes both training and diet. Matt has been posting frequently for the past 5 years with content varying from mindset building to exercise performing.

One thing that I find particularly interesting and useful are the many subtle tips that Matt gives regarding exercises. Tips on improving your mind-to-muscle connection and taking the most out of each movement. And what I greatly enjoy is that his videos are short, concise and to the point.

I would like to make some honorable mentions at this point, channels that I sometimes watch or have followed in the past but not follow that closely now. Those would be Radu Antoniu, Homemade Muscles, Brandon Carter and Buff Dudes.

If you’re into Calisthenics, or generally training for that matter, then you are surely spending time on Youtube. The more serious the source of information the better this time will be spent and the more effective your workouts will be. Except for the practical advice though, getting inspired and not feeling like you are alone in this journey is equally as important.

Now enough with watching others do it. Time to do it myself.

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Misc, Thinking out loud, Training

Why I believe walking is the best type of cardio

I am not a fan of cardio. Wait, let me rephrase that. I am not a fan of gym cardio. Running for hours on a treadmill or on a bike while looking at a TV opposite you – I don’t find that the least inspiring. Physique-wise I have not much to gain from that either. Being a lightweight skinny guy who is working on strength and muscle building, that type of work cannot help me much in my goals.

The benefits of cardiovascular exercise are tremendous, no objection there. You do get healthier if you exercise your heart more, better blood flow, better breathing, your lungs open up plus you get a killer leg and core workout. But if I had to choose, I would say there are other more fun ways of achieving the same results.

I would still go for a sprint in the park or the forest occasionally, mainly because I like being out in the nature and work out. But I’d much rather jump rope or do some HIIT sprinting or jumping. Biking is also fun. But recently I have been changing my opinion on one form of exercise that I used to underestimate for a long time: walking.

Walking has been gaining a lot of fans the past few years as you see more and more people putting on their sweatpants and going for a stroll. I used to think that this type of exercise was mostly good for out-of-shape older individuals who would need to take it easy in order not to get injured.

Sure, if you are an advanced athlete walking is not much of a challenge. But does everything have to be a challenge to be of some benefit?

Walking is the type of exercise I have done the most in my life. I am literally a wayfarer. I don’t have a car, I do use public transport everyday but if I’m not in a huge rush and it isn’t pouring from the skies, I choose to go on foot.

I like walking because of a number of reasons. It is the best way to see a place. It is the best way to find cool spots. It is a fantastic way for meeting people, especially if you’re on a trip. It’s easy to have a conversation while doing it. It does not demand great amounts of will power to go through. And above all, it’s so painlessly easy to do. It costs nothing and it requires nothing except for a pair of normal shoes.

Why is it good cardio though? First of all you can adjust it to your level. You can go for a power walk, you can speed up or slow down, you can choose to go uphill or downhill. Walking is really the most fundamental progressive calisthenics exercise there is!

The word fundamental is kind of important, I feel. If you can’t walk right there is no chance you will be able to run or jump. This may sound silly, but there are people who have balance issues or are generally clumsy. Is there a better start to deal with those than working on your walk?

An aspect of walking that I neglected was that it burns calories. Obviously I knew that you burn calories when you move, but I never really counted walking as a fat-burning activity in my calculations. Which is a mistake if you walk a lot.A 75kg person walking on a flat surface covering 1km in 15′ burns 66 calories (calculator). Imagine if you do 3-4km a day. It’s not a lot, say you meet a friend downtown and go on foot, you go for a walk in the stores or decide to visit the park. Or you take a long walk on a Sunday where you go from one side of the city to the other because the weather is nice. You are essentially burning calories without knowing it.

I recently noticed a slight recomp effect on my body and if I had to guess I’d attribute it to walking a lot lately without even realizing it. What happened is that I notice I am leaner than I used to be without necessarily having dropped much weight. Especially since the past month or so I aim at a small caloric surplus since I’m lean bulking – perhaps I was actually in maintenance in the end.

Another great benefit of walking as cardio is that it does not interfere with your strength gains. In order to get burned out by walking you have to be doing it all day long and not really resting that much. Little chance of that happening and even if it does, you are back on track after one or two days off. It won’t injure you or make you sore for days or even weeks like an intense running session could.

According to some, walking is also good for suppressing your appetite. Double benefit if you’re cutting, and a good counterweight if you’re bulking. And hey, if you take a piece of cake with colleagues at your lunch break it’s good to know that you can burn some of it off by walking back home.

Walking is simple painless exercise that everyone can do at any time at any place. You do it without realizing that you’re exercising, and enjoy the scenery in the process. Keep walking as the saying goes, or start if you’re not already doing it.

I’ve talked the talk. Time to walk the walk.

Eating, Misc, Training

My approach on bulking with Calisthenics

TL;DR: Lean bulking because you cannot force-feed muscle gains.

The main reason why I am training is to get stronger. A stronger body can better cope with anything that comes up in life, is healthier and could, if taken care of, hold one active until later in life.

However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am also training for more “shallow” reasons. Simply put, I want a better looking physique. A little bit bigger and a little bit leaner. I like to say that your body is like a piece of clothing you are permanently wearing. If you’re putting time and effort in selecting your clothes and making sure you look good in them, why wouldn’t you do the same about your body?

Right now, and for the past few months I’ve been on a “bulking” stage following a rather prolonged cut that was necessary to set up the foundation upon which to build. But how exactly do you bulk? And what is the difference, if any, between getting bigger with bodyweight training compared to lifting?

Well, theoretically none. Putting on muscle is based on getting stronger on exercises that work your muscle groups. This work comes from tension, tension comes from resistance and the origin of this resistance – external weights or your own body against gravity – doesn’t play any role. Right?

Theoretically yes. In practice, not exactly. Or not only. Here’s the main difference when bulking with lifting weights compared to bodyweight training: fat.

When on a bulk you are supposed to be eating at a surplus, so that your body has enough macronutrients to both cover your daily expenditures and achieve a higher level of proteinsynthesis, i.e. replacing old muscle tissue with new and stronger. So the two main ingredients for getting bigger is the surplus and strength.

Being on a surplus however, naturally means that some of the calories you’re taking in will be stored as fat. That is the nature of the surplus, it is more than you actually need. Here’s where things get harder with bodyweight training. Fat is dead weight. It drags you down making every exercise harder. Muscle also makes you heavier, but it contributes to the execution of the exercise. And as long as you keep a balance between your muscle groups the performance should not suffer.

Adding just a bit of fat can make a noticeable difference especially on the harder exercises. Your squats might not feel different, but your pull-ups will. Your pushups will feel heavier. Your handstands will feel like you’re trying to lift the world on your shoulders. Generally any movement where you lift a big percentage or all of your weight only with your upper body will seem much, much harder.

I noticed this especially after my summer vacation. As I mentioned in another post, things got a bit loose plus I was unable to train for a couple of weeks. When I got back in the gym, I felt as if I hadn’t trained for a month. My weight had gone up on the scale for maybe 1kg, which is not a big deal, but I felt heavy and slow. By the way, that’s one bad thing about training: it’s like a drug, if you stop you feel worse then before.

So adding fat makes Calisthenics harder. Wouldn’t that be the same for lifting weights? No. Adding fat has absolutely no impact on lifting external weights. It does not affect your bench press. One may think that your squats and deadlifts would be influenced, but if you’re already lifting heavy there what’s another half a kilogram going to do? Machine and most isolation work also doesn’t suffer. Bulking when lifting weights can, in that way, blind you from the reality that you’re weight gains might be more fat than muscle.

Calisthenics doesn’t offer you this luxury. There is no doubt. When I was doing my strict pushups and hitting 15 with relatively good form and pace I knew that I was at a good level. When I started struggling with getting up to 10 I knew that something was not done right. Immediate feedback. Straightforward reflection of your lifestyle and diet choices. Direct impact on your training. A step back.

Having said all that it may sound impossible to progress in Calisthenics while getting bigger. Of course it isn’t. There are plenty of examples out there of big, muscular physiques performing pullups, and pushups for reps. Performing human flags, muscle ups, levers and all sorts of advanced moves that defy gravity. One thing you immediately notice that they have in common is that they are lean. Low body fat levels, often six pack abs and great definition.

The key, in my opinion, is speed. Or rather the lack of it. How slow you aim to get bigger. Enter “lean bulking”. Lean bulking refers to adding muscle slow and steady. Not that there is any other way. The muscle building process is a slow one, especially if you are a natural. I personally find claims of adding 5-10kg of muscle in a few months completely ridiculous.

The way I do lean bulking is by slightly, and I mean slightly, increasing my calorie intake on my training days. I figure out my maintenance calories based on my lifestyle and training and add 200-300 hundred more on days when I train. In other words, calorie cycling.

In theory, that surplus should add up to 900 calories/week. Which is not big enough to be adding weight rapidly, a good indication that I am adding as little fat as possible. Nothing like eating 3000+ calories everyday. I have done that in the past and I saw my belly getting inflated like a hot-air balloon ready to take off.

When following this approach without deviating, not much at least, I have not noticed my performance being influenced negatively. The harder I push the more I get, and I can be sure that when I push hard enough my weight gains come from strength not food.

I believe that your body is a reflection of your current level of strength and ability in the world of Calisthenics. I cannot do a human flag right now therefore I cannot be expecting to own a physique that can do a human flag. In my opinion, realistic expectations and patience are what it takes to get there.

There it is, a simple, realistic and sensible approach to bulking with bodyweight training.