Monday, September 5, 2016

It's In The Cards - By Jim Duggan

Health, fitness, and all-around conditioning are several components of an overall exercise plan that are often overlooked. Anybody who reads the articles on this website is definitely interested in building strength. We all have similar goals and interests. However, many strength athletes pay little, if any, attention to developing their cardiovascular fitness. Many times, trainees will neglect it completely, until it's too late. Good health often becomes an afterthought. I will readily admit that, when I was in my twenties, my training was centered completely on becoming stronger, especially on the three powerlifts. Lift heavy, eat a lot, rest. Repeat. Cardio work was considered an anathema. I suppose most persons who train fall into the same trap, especially in their younger years. It wasn't until I reached my thirties that my outlook changed, and I started to devote some time to developing some level of fitness.

I am not trying to turn anybody into a modern-day Jack LaLanne. Nor do I want to radically change anybodies general training philosophy. I am simply suggesting that a small amount of time devoted to improving one's health and fitness will pay big dividends over the course of a lifetime. Besides, you won't be able to lift heavy weights if you can't even lift yourself onto your feet without sweating profusely.

There are many ways to incorporate some cardio work into any exercise program. I'm not going to get into a discussion about running, jogging, swimming or the like, since this website is devoted to natural STRENGTH. But all persons interested in strengthening their bodies should perform some form of cardio, or aerobic, training. Especially if they are past the age of thirty. The choice is an individual one insofar as which form of aerobic exercise is best. Any exercise that you will be willing to do several times per week is the best exercise. Like I've said many times, you know your body better than anybody else. Be attuned to what works for you, and do it. Nevertheless, here are some ideas:

While I usually lift weights 2-3 times per week, I do some form of cardio on the other days. There are several exercises that I like to do. Probably the easiest is simply walking. That's right- picking 'em up and putting 'em down. You'd be surprised at the health benefits that you will accrue from this simple movement. I prefer to walk outside, in the fresh air. However, on inclement days I will substitute walking on a treadmill. I usually aim for about 2.5 miles. Please bear in mind that this is not the Powerwalking Program that popularized by Steve Reeves years ago. Although if you want to Powerwalk, by all means do so. But it isn't necessary. You can get great results from simple walking. Another form of aerobic exercise I like to do is the Stairmaster machine. It has two advantages that seem to benefit me. I can go at a good pace, without the pounding on my feet and ankles that would result from distance running. Those of you reading this who, like me, are in the heavier weight classes can relate. Another advantage of using a Stairmaster is that, as a fireman, climbing stairs is an all-too-familiar part of my job, and spending time on a Stairmaster is an excellent way to keep me in shape.

For those of you who simply can't- or won't - do any form of cardio training, there is an option. An option that can even include using weights, if you'd like. It's a way of training that's been around for many years. It's called the Deck of Cards workout. Wrestlers, martial artists, and other elite athletes have been using this workout for years. It's quick, easy, and the best part is that you do not need any special equipment. All you need is a deck of cards, and some imagination.

Here's how it works: Assign an exercise to each suit. Shuffle a deck of cards, then start drawing a card form the deck. Do the assigned exercise for the amount of repetitions designated by the number on the card. So, if you assigned Bodyweight Squats to Hearts, and you draw the Seven of Hearts, then you would do seven repetitions. Face Cards can be Ten, Aces are worth Eleven. You can either disregard the Jokers, or use them and assign any amount of reps you'd like. You can use any exercises you'd like. I workout that I've been doing recently is as follows:

Hearts= DB Press w/ 60 Lb. Center Mass Bells ( a new toy I recently purchased from Sorinex equipment. More on that in a future article.)
Diamonds= Headstrap w/ 85 Lbs.
Spades= Weighted Step-Ups
Clubs= Weighted Sit-Ups.

Your exercise possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You can also make it even more basic and use just two exercises, and assign one movement to the Red suits, and another one to the Black suits. You want to be able to get through the deck as quickly as possible. You can even time yourself, so that way you have a way of measuring your progress. The key is to force yourself to work hard and fast.

The Deck of Cards workout is an excellent way to increase your level of conditioning, as well as your fitness. I distinctly remember a quote by John McCallum from his Keys To Progress Book, which read: " Time spent improving your health is time well spent. Good health is your biggest asset." By making a few simple changes, you can reap the rewards of not only building your strength, but becoming more fit as well.
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me:

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