I had a great session of strength training this past weekend and I did it all barefoot. Try it! Some things to note when powerlifting barefoot:
Have fun! That’s what it’s all about.
It’s building the arches back into my flat feet. Don’t let the fact that you have flat feet keep you from trying this, if you have the same problem I do. I have noticed an improvement from just three sessions of barefoot squats.
You will realize that your feet are like specialized hands to stabilize you. Use them to grip the ground.
If it’s not a barefoot-friendly gym, try gathering the big weights close to your squat rack before taking off your shoes. Don’t want to be wandering the gym without shoes.
Minimize the number of steps back you take when unracking the bar for a squat. Doing it barefoot will make you realize how important it is to plan the position of your feet. You don’t want to overdo the backwards steps with all that weight on you. I was able to take just one step back for each foot, without hitting the rack during the squats.
Start light. Like any major change in your strength training routine, you want to build up to it, not crash into it. I have been practicing barefoot walking outside for the past six months, and have been very careful with my form when lifting barefoot. I do my mobility and warmups barefoot as well, to get my feet accustomed. So far, so good!
Have you tried this? What differences do you find, if any, between lifting barefoot and lifting with shoes. And, what shoes do you wear for lifting?
How do I know if I’m ready to train again? Recovery can be a difficult thing to measure. Rather than focus on the doing, I focus on the being. No matter how well I eat, how much sleep I get, and how hard my last training session was, I measure my recovery based on Symptoms. This is how I feel upon waking. After reading this you might think these are soft and subjective measures, and they totally are. But I trust these signs because my mind and body are connected, and I have noticed that I benefit most from training when I feel all these symptoms.
Symptoms of being recovered:
1. Waking up fresh in the morning. You open your eyes and feel
2. Heart Rate Variability is high with minimal effort.
During breathing awareness practice, or meditation, you are able to focus quickly.
If you have the EmWave or other HRV measuring tool: You are able to get to Green or high HRV relatively quickly and you are able to stay there relatively easily. Compare this to any other day’s mental performance.
You have high control of your mind, and your mind is quiet. You are excited and thinking of what you can do or accomplish as you wake up and get your day started.
You have easy control of your breath, and breathing feels good and your lungs feel strong. You can breathe deep, both in and out.
3. Joints and muscles are happy
You have good control of your body and legs feel strong under you as you get up and take your first steps.
They are willing to do the work you want them to do.
Your body may still feel a little tight or crusty from previous training, but it is quite responsive and good to go.
If I wake up and feel these symptoms, I train.
Symptoms of not being recovered:
1. Waking up stale in the morning. You open your eyes and feel
2. Heart Rate Variability is low and takes a lot of effort to raise.
Or just never gets to a high state, if you are using a device to measure it.
You have trouble taking deep breaths in and out.
You cannot get negative, repeating thoughts and emotions out of your head – even when you sit down to meditate.
You cannot focus.
3. Joints and muscles are like cement that hasn’t dried.
They feel like yesterday’s joints.
Rather than sore, you feel achy.
They don’t want to work for you.
If I wake up and have these symptoms, I know I’m not recovered. I refrain from training, even if it’s been two days, even if it’s been two weeks. I don’t care, I know that no good will come of it.
If you’re not recovered, don’t worry. Just realize that you are in a state of getting stronger or more resilient, and you just need to take more time to get there. Don’t push it. Look into meditating or deep breathing upon waking, journaling, getting some sun, and eating well. Supplements help too. Above all else, sleep until you awake fresh and feeling the positive symptoms described above.
I don’t have much time now to lift, and have been taking up to two weeks off between training sessions. That’s why I make the most of each session. I don’t go unless I know I am ready to take on the cost of growth. Nutrition helps to maintain muscle mass and strength, and allows me to go on these long stretches and still come back to train at where I left off. With late nights at work and then early mornings the following days, I refrain from training even if I had the two or three hours free. There is a biological cost to training that we must pay in order to benefit. Training while not fully recovered is like taking out a loan while already deep in debt. You just end up deeper in biological debt.
Stay wealthy. Cook while the frying pan is hot, let your body and mind tell you when that is, and do everything you can to recover.
Many have delved into the world of body building, and have experienced shortcomings from pain, exhaustion, and mental fatigue.
To the select few who realize this is not acceptable, I welcome you to join me in being strong, clear minded, and living a life of quality.
My story began with a change in the way I looked at training and exercise. I played football and rugby through high school and college, and was ripped, athletic, and fast most of my life. I had done the workouts for team sports, the men’s magazine lifting programs, and was a dedicated gym rat with a three day a week work out schedule. I looked good and was happy with that for a while, but later this didn’t satisfy me. I was tired of feeling sore, feeling aches from previous sports injuries, and not really knowing if I was any stronger than a week or month prior. I also had a hard time keeping on muscle. If I didn’t go to the gym every other day, I would see pounds of weight drop and strength decline. I tried changing sets and reps and exercise programs to keep my body guessing, as this was supposed to encourage growth. This was a lot to maintain and I had a hard time doing so.
I started looking for a training program that focused on real strength. This led me to powerlifting and a progression philosophy. I adopted a 5×5 training method from Stronglifts.com that focused on incremental strength gains, not drastic program switches. The five powerlifting exercises remained exactly the same, and only the weight increased with each and every training session. I started from the very beginning, lifting only the bar on some exercises.
I not only felt better from the decreased stress on my body, but I also saw a steady increase in my strength. Lifting lighter weights gave me the luxury of refining my form in the squat, deadlift, and other exercises. I achieved a 370 lb. squat and 391 lb. dead lift after one year of training this way, at 168 lb. body weight. However, the training wasn’t the only factor to my increased potential. Food was the other part of it. In fact, without the changes in my diet that I had serendipitously come upon shortly after starting this training, I would not have progressed to this level so quickly if at all.
Three months into my training, I met a buddy at the gym who just so happened to have started the same training philosophy as I had, at almost the same time. We talked about our common satisfaction with the progression training, and about putting ego aside to learn proper form at lower weights. At the end of that training session, he mentioned, almost in passing, something called BULLETPROOF® Coffee. It was coffee with grass fed butter and MCT oil blended together. This sounded strange to me, and I was instantly fascinated by the way he described the high level of focus he got from it. I went home and tried it, and never turned back.
With the first few cups of the butter coffee that I tried, I was amazed by the mental clarity and brain energy that it gave me. Plus it was delicious. It changed the game for me at my job, as an overnight shift lead at a call center. I was sharper and more resilient to fatigue than my coworkers by multiple factors. I had always been an avid coffee drinker and used coffee as a key technology for enhancing my training sessions and overall performance as a human. Naturally, I wanted to know what it would be like to do strength training after drinking some of this power fluid.
I started to drink the concoction before strength training sessions, and again I never turned back. The energy it gave me was different from that of traditional nutrition like carbs. Unlike carbs, the good fats provided me with a sustained high level of energy and mental focus. It lasted through the entire training session without any sort of energy crash. I was so focused that I could control myself better, like not drinking water between sets, breathing calmly under the bar, and paying absolute attention to form during my heaviest lifts. I was regularly in a flow state, and I tapped into the predator mode of mind and body that was only attainable with such nutrition as quality fat.
This was my intro to the world of eating good fat. I slowly added grass fed butter and MCT oil into everything I ate. This pushed carbs to the back end of my days, as I did not need it for energy in the morning. Eating more fat and learning the potential negative effects of gluten significantly reduced the amount of bread and pasta that I ate. I started to experience better and more stable mood, and more consistent body fat levels. My joint pain from previous injuries faded. I no longer had to pace my kitchen ten minutes after waking to shake off the debilitating lower back pain.
Being satiated with true nutrition freed me from cravings, mood swings, and exhaustion. Before I discovered good fats and progression training, I would work, work out, crash into exhausted sleep, and awake demon-possessed with rage, pain, and frustration. These states of misery used to be normal life for me. The people I loved hated waking me up. I believe what is stated by the research that connects wheat to inflammation, and thus joint pain and brain impairment. When I started to avoid wheat, I noticed these incredible improvements in my body and my mind. This transformed the way I looked at eating and I started to learn what foods I really did and didn’t need. I tested my diet changes against my strength training, and was surprised that even without tons of bread, expensive and gas-producing protein shakes, and pounds of chicken breast every week, I was getting stronger and clearer than ever.
With changes like these I felt the best and strongest I have ever felt in my life, and I plan on being even more so. You want just as much as I do to be clear minded and strong. You want to be the best person you can be, making the sharpest decisions and acting in accordance with your values. Intelligent and resilient people like you and me can daily engage our potential to become the brilliant beasts that we are. I welcome you to join me on this path to discovering what it means to be more fully human. I am not perfect, but I am better.
I do this often, outside on the sidewalks in my neighborhood, and I get a lot of energy from it. I started doing it to ground, or earth, myself. Earthing means to reconnect to the earth’s electromagnetic field charge and to restore electrical balance to my body.
Concrete is actually a slight conductor of electricity, and as long as it is connected to the earth underneath it will allow for earthing when touching skin to it. Walking barefoot on the sidewalk calms me down inside, and I feel like my stress drains out through my feet.
Of course, walking itself contributes to relaxation. Moving, just bringing myself through space, exerting physical motion at the end of my day, or in the middle of it, releases tension from stressful situations. I do not deal with frequent physical dangers, which is true for most of us today. I go through emotional ups and downs, and I fight to resolve issues, and I use a ton of energy in the form of creative thinking and processing, and my body just doesn’t get to be big part in any of it.
I can feel myself tense up physically during the day, and sometimes I don’t even notice it until I get away from it all. We as humans, just like any other living being, are physically geared to deal with problems that we encounter or perceive in our minds.
Think about this: You are walking alone outside at night, to get to your car, and you see a tall, broad-shouldered person walking quickly in your direction. Does your heart rate increase? Do your palms get sweaty? Do you tense up, ready for an attack coming your way?
Even if it’s just a friendly neighbor going about their business, I can’t help but keep track of where they are, if they are looking at me, or just looking as if they are going to pass by without trouble. My eyes are darting, my breath gets shallow and quiet, and my belly tightens.
These sympathetic responses are designed to carry out whatever quick, effective, and powerful task our minds determine is needed for defense. Thus, when I’m encountering disagreements with coworkers, approaching deadlines, or facing immense workloads, my body is also preparing to resolve these problems.
So I walk at the end of a long day to unravel my body’s fortifications.