Category Archives: Martin Rooney
Train Like A Man 9
I’m always on the hunt for ways to take the body and mind to a higher level. While researching the London Olympics, I discovered the ancient Pentathlon and couldn’t figure out why it was no longer contested.
In this ultimate test of physical power and mental fortitude, athletes competed in five different events.
First, they’d sprint down a runway and leap into the sky to see who had the best long jump. Then in a footrace, they’d sprint across a stadium amid the roar of the power-appreciative crowd. Next up were tests of full body explosiveness with the javelin and discus throw.
If these four events weren’t enough to drive the collective Testosterone level of the crowd into orbit, the competitors finished with wrestling to demonstrate dominance and supremacy.
Sprinting, throwing, jumping, and competing mono a mono with muscle and bone. A high measure of explosiveness, strength, technique, and guts.
So last summer, as I sat watching synchronized swimming, the badminton scandal, and a 70 year-old man competing in Olympic Horse Dressage, I wondered why the original Pentathlon was no longer on the docket.
The individual events were all popular in the current Olympic games and surely spectator-friendly. Hell, the only way it could get closer to Gladiators in the arena would be having the wrestling end with a fight to the death.
As I looked deeper into the history of the Pentathlon, I discovered that the original version was replaced with a more “modern” one, without the power events.
Modern Pentathlon? Can you even name the events? How about naming a famous competitor in the event since its inception in 1912?
Don’t feel bad, I couldn’t either.
Perhaps that should be the first lesson. Just to let you know, the current events are swimming, air pistol shooting, horse jumping, epee fencing, and a 3-kilometer run.
Modern? With fencing, pellet guns, and horse jumping? Not exactly. Looks like the Greek Warrior standing among his adoring fans on top of his battered foes has been replaced with a decidedly more foppish competitor.
But who would do such a thing? What kind of man would replace the aggressive white fibers of the sprinter with the calculating red fibers of a swimmer and distance runner?
If you’ve read Train Like a Man: Part 4, then you won’t be surprised to find that once again the libido of the sprint has been castrated by Baron de Coubertin – yes, the same man that arbitrarily read a poem and brought the world the marathon (and chapped nipples and shin splints) also sacked the ancient pentathlon, replacing it with its more mild and “modern” cousin.
Notice how these two events seem designed to drive Testosterone into the toilet? (Hugh Hefner has made a career trying to offset the repercussions of these events. )
I know the Baron brought us back the Games and I thank him for that, but we must also question some events. If we research deep enough, we may also find he had the first prototype for Uggs boots for men, along with skinny jeans for men.
Pistols and horses, hrummphh! Sounds like there needs to be an update! How often does “modern man” spend Monday evening at the horse stables sharpening his epee while worrying about his 3K time? Forget that! He’s benching and doing dips.
On Tuesdays, he isn’t making sure his pistol and swim stroke are clean – he’s hitting back and biceps. Horse jumping and fencing? What percentage of the world participates in that? It sounds so elitist.
Instead of running cross country, most men would love to see beasts bench head to head and then settle it all with who has the best biceps.
Let me offer something even more modern. Let me remove the steel epee and add some iron.
So here’s my solution: at the next IOC meeting, before they add mixed synchronized swimming and new rules concerning cheating in ping pong, let’s look at this event to fire up the world – the Mantathlon.
Rules of the Mantathlon
There are five events performed:
- Bodyweight Bench Press for Reps
- Bodyweight Chin-ups for Reps
- Half-Bodyweight Overhead Press for Reps
- 1.25 Bodyweight Dips for Reps
- Half-Bodyweight Barbell Curl for Reps
You get one attempt for maximal reps during the competition.
Once you start your bench press test the clock begins. You have 20 minutes to complete all the tests. Any repetitions completed after 20 minutes have elapsed won’t count toward your point total.
You must perform the tests in order, but the rest you take between tests is up to you. I suggest 3-4 minutes between each test, but keep an eye on the clock so you don’t run out of time for curls.
Start by weighing yourself on a scale. Guessing won’t cut it, as most people seem to magically lose 10 pounds before the Mantathlon begins. Since the entire event is based on bodyweight, you’ll be reminded that the spare tire you promised to lose on January 1 still needs a change.
Get a good warm-up before testing the bench press. Since each event is different, I’d also suggest doing a few light reps of each exercise during your rest period to alert your body to the next movement. For instance, do 2 single chin-ups and a 4-rep set of overhead presses and dips before going for the real total.
Each test has form requirements for the test to count.
Bench Press: You must touch the bar to the chest and lock out each rep. You can pause at the top, but failing to get a rep or racking the weight ends the exercise.
Chin-up: Use a shoulder width grip or less. You must get the chin over the bar and lower to a complete hang for one second. You can hang longer if you want, but failure to get over the bar or letting go ends the exercise.
Overhead Press: You must lock out the elbows at the top and come to a quick pause at the bottom. Racking the bar or missing a rep ends the exercise.
Dips: You must begin in the top extended position and lower until the elbow has a 90 degree angle or greater. You can pause at the top but touching the feet, releasing the grip, or failure to execute a rep ends the exercise.
Curl: You must raise the barbell to the height of the chin and lower to full extension for 1 second. No swaying or leaning back is allowed at the upper body. Releasing the bar or failure to execute a rep ends the exercise.
A very important point: if you reach 20 repetitions on any exercise, that’s the maximum score. Even if you can do more, 20 signifies the end.
Once you’ve performed all five events or run out of time, add up your total number of reps. A total score of 100 is the ultimate goal for this test.
Below is a rating scale:
0-10 – Low Man on totem pole10-20 – Skinny Man or Man Boobs20-30 – Average Man30-40 – Wing Man40-50 – Door Man50-60 – Athletic Man60-70 – He Man70-80 – Super Man80-90 – Mega Man90-100 – Man of War
So What Does It Mean?
Is this the be-all, end-all of fitness? Hardly. Is it a measure of fitness that’s rarely tested during some of the classic strength and or power tests? You bet.
Before you knock it, try it – after performing the Manathlon, I guarantee you’ll not only be enlightened, but also inspired to improve your score.
You can argue success in this event requires strength endurance, but to rep out with your bodyweight on the bench press, you first have to be really strong.
Speaking of strong, by adding the element of time, my Mantathlon also tests another area of manliness not often challenged during a classic one-rep max test: mental toughness.
You’ll find the ticking clock will create a point during the event where you might mentally give in. There will be reps you don’t get the first time, not because they’re impossible, but because you’re not yet able to access the mental stamina to dig them out.
As your scores improve due to familiarity with the test, so will your mental toughness, which is an added benefit to the strength gains you’ll see as you train to increase your score.
The New Olympics?
Maybe the Baron was misinterpreted? Perhaps he wanted people to carry the horse and the swordfight to the death? We’ll never know. But know this: when you perform the Mantathlon, it will leave you hungry for more!
Whenever I hear that little nugget of cheese-ball inspiration, I want to throw up, because it’s usually said by some sloth that never reached his goals and he’s just trying to make sure you stay in no rush to reach yours.
I don’t know when exactly sprinting through life and achieving one goal after the next became a bad thing, but have no fear, I’ll address humanity’s aversion to sprinting throughout this article.
Our solar system hurtles around the galaxy at 450,000 mph, so our time here on this rock we call Earth (which is circling the sun at 70,000 miles an hour), in comparison to eternity is less than a blink of an eye.
The way I see it, life is an all-out sprint – and we should attack it that way.
So then what’s with the distance approach to cardio? I hear people say all the time that they entered a 10k or a marathon to get “in shape.” Is that so? I’m tempted to have these folks stand in front of a full-length mirror and ask them what shape were they looking for exactly?
If it’s extra slender, pencil-necked, and endomorphic, then I’ll condone the distance work. If they say, however, that the shape they seek is lean, muscular, and mesomorphic, then they’re barking up the wrong tree.
Furthermore, if I have one more distance-junkie proudly brag about the doctor visits, MRIs, or therapy they’re using to recover from their jogging or ultra-marathon, I’ll be forced to buy a big bat and carry it with me.
You’re proud of being injured, huh? So if I smack you in the knees with the bat and produce an injury, are you still proud? Or then are you just a masochist? Maybe such drastic measures are what it takes for you to realize that pain doesn’t equal productivity, and that you’ve been chasing the wrong dog – and way too slowly at that.
Enjoyment Versus Results
I understand that (unfortunately) many of us need something to drive us and get us moving besides the ultimate fact that training will help you live longer. And I understand that some people may simply enjoy distance jogging and/or be genetically suited for this style of training. I’m not here to argue either of those things.
The purpose of this article is to argue in favor of the benefits of sprinting. And interestingly enough, whether you like jogging or are naturally skinny or slow, you can still benefit from this all-powerful training medium.
Don’t think we need this argument? Then explain why most people stop sprinting by high school. Explain why most parents tell their children to stop running and slow down.
Plain and simple, besides the Olympic 100-meter final, sprinting gets much less love than distance work. Whether it’s the marketing of jogging gear, the social aspect of distance events, or the fact that “No Pain, No Gain” is imbedded into the average training psyche, you’re sure to see more people walking and jogging at your local track than to see them sprinting short portions of it, resting, and repeating.
In a world slowly being taken over and dominated by brightly colored equipment tools and fancy programming, we’ve forgotten to use the most important piece of equipment we were given, our body. And we’ve definitely forgotten to use it the way it was designed – to sprint.
Why Do We Run Marathons?
In Train Like a Man Part 4, I suggested that if Baron Pierre de Coubertin loved American folklore instead of Greek tragedy, perhaps we’d have millions of people lining up to test themselves in the 100 meter instead of 26 miles.
If our hero was a steel drivin’ sprinter, rather than a solitary noncombatant whose chosen pursuit literally ran him – and millions of poor souls centuries later to follow – into the ground, just perhaps the world and its view of fitness would be different.
In all the emails I’ve ever received, I don’t think I’ve ever received anything from a recreational athlete telling me they’re entering a 100-meter dash.
Why? Because it’s not okay to suck in a sprint.
If you jog – especially if you enter a marathon – it’s okay to be mediocre. By contrast, it’s decidedly not okay to suck at sprinting.
Show up to an actual race and take thirty seconds to run 100 meters and you’re absolutely exposed for the world to see. Suck at sprinting in the wild, and you’re somebody’s dinner.
Suck at the marathon, on the other hand, and they’ll hand you a juice box and a medal, even if you come in last.
The Paleo Idea
Add speed and power to any movement and the body changes. Look at a sprinting athlete versus a distance athlete. Large, developed muscles are the norm on just about any athlete involved in sprinting.
So why does this happen? You could cite the activation of the larger fast twitch fibers in sprinting or how cutting weight and losing muscle improves distance performance, but what about the “why” behind how sprinters look leaner and more muscular from seemingly much less work?
I have an interesting theory using the popular Paleo concept.
No one thinks twice about applying the Paleo concept to eating, but what about its application to movement? In terms of body development, sprinting is the ultimate Paleo exercise – and perhaps many of the problems we face today as a society are because this movement is no longer used during most peoples’ daily routine.
(Granted, like all Paleo arguments, this is mere speculation. Were we meat eaters or vegetarians? Were we distance runners or sprinters? Until we invent a time machine, we’ll just continue to enjoy the brainstorming and debate, but it’s still interesting to speculate.)
The TFW Lock-And-Key Mechanism of Sprinting
When I address groups of people, I ask them if they think ingesting 1000 calories of junk food has the same effect on the body as ingesting 1000 calories of fruits and vegetables.
Without fail, according to the Paleo dogma, every attendee answers the same way – they believe that a calorie isn’t just a calorie. So in terms of energy intake, most people agree that due to the way the human body was designed and has evolved, there are particular foods that can act as keys and unlock specific pathways to either promote health (muscle gain, fat loss, etc.), or allow detrimental effects (diabetes, cancer, heart disease) when those proper pathways aren’t accessed.
Well if we can all agree on energy intake, I’m confused why people rarely discuss caloric output in the same manner? If there’s an optimal input mechanism of calories to achieve optimal health, what about an optimal output mechanism?
If muscle growth, fat loss, and health are what you’re after, I argue that sprinting may be the key that no one’s using – because those thousand calories you’re burning when you jog aren’t nearly the same as when you burn them off at a sprint. Not even close.
That’s because when you jog, you’re not using your body the way it’s designed to be used. That’s what sprinting is for. I mean, why have an Achilles tendon if we’re supposed to run on our heels? Why have huge glutes if we’re supposed to simply jog monotonously and see how long we can last?
Is the reason we have big traps because we’re supposed to act as perpetual motion machines for the better part of five hours at a time? And why the hell are our quads so big if we’re just supposed to pound them with muscle-eating eccentrics from jogging? It makes no sense to me, and it shouldn’t make any to you, either.
Sprinting: The Real Measure Of Fitness
Distance jogging makes your lifts go down. Your muscle mass decreases and you have to accept it. On the other hand, sprinting mandates that you get your numbers higher to complement it.
To lower your marathon time, you need to get out and log miles, cut weight (including muscle), and get ready for pain. To lower your time in the 100-meter sprint you need to get strong, pack on muscle, lose fat, and get in some explosive, technical workouts.
So if you want to run faster, you have to do a few things:
- You have to increase your relative body strength, so you have to get stronger for the amount you weigh. You can accomplish this by adding muscle or losing fat, or both.
- You have to improve your sprint technique. This will be done through technical work, which will improve coordination. Here you may recognize specific areas in which to improve strength while developing muscular endurance specific to sprinting. And this is where my next article will focus.
So, to review, sprint training involves improvements in speed, strength, diet, endurance, coordination, and flexibility. Sounds a whole lot like fitness to me. To top it off, sprinting will also help any marathon runner. Too bad the opposite isn’t true.
But before you fans of distance running fire off your emails defending your chosen sport, I’m not saying that elite distance athletes aren’t impressive in terms of time Ð I’m saying they’re usually not impressive in terms of physique.
A guy that can run an under 5-minute mile pace for 26 miles is impressive in ability, no doubt, but he’s probably not concerned with having bigger arms or legs, or is even reading T Nation for that matter.
My Train Like a Man articles are for guys concerned about building mass, getting strong, and being able to clean clocks. And if I have to scrap, I’ll choose to battle the jogger over the sprinter every time.
Now that I’ve made a case for sprinting, Train Like a Man 6 will cover one of the muscle groups that will benefit most from this exercise.
The Fall of T
Castration in the Gym?
Kettlebells vs. Dumbbells
Bands vs. Chin-ups
Glute-Ham Raise vs. 45-Degree Back Extension
Prowler Pushes vs. Suicides
Lateral Raises vs. Shoulder Pressing
Pushdowns vs. Dips