The “Hang Grip” for Deadlifts and Barbell Rows

Brilliant Friends,
Grip strength on the deadlift is critical to increasing your pull capacity and surpassing your current limits.
On the deadlift, I use a different grip from the squat. I’m not talking about alternating versus pronated grips, which is more about which way your palms face. I am talking about where exactly the bar sits in your hands. I picked this up from Mehdi of Stronglifts.com, and you can see his article here.
There are two different placements of the bar in your hands for powerlifting. When your arm is below the bar holding it up, as in the squat, overhead press, and bench press, it’s best to have the bar deep in your palm and wedged between your thumb and forefinger. Let’s call this the “support grip” moving forward. Read about this grip type here.
When your arm is above the bar as it hangs, as in the deadlift and row, you will want to place the bar more on your fingers and the edge of your palm away from your wrist. I’ll call this the “hang grip”. I haven’t found any other names for these, but let me know if you do.
The Hang Grip
Practice before lifting weight.
  1. Stand in front of a barbell, ideally racked at mid-thigh height so you can practice easily.
  2. Place your open hand in front of the bar, touching the area between the base of your fingers and edge of your palm against the bar.
  3. Wrap your four fingers under the bar in this position.
Deadlift Hang Grip Powerlifting
Grip the bar super hard with your four fingers, and allow your thumb to pull in and clamp down over your fingers.
Deadlift Hang Grip Powerlifting 2
Why not grip the bar in the palm?
Gripping the bar higher up in the palm allows the bar to pull down on your palm and can roll open your hand during the lift. If you’ve ever done pull-ups with your whole palm on the bar, you’ve probably noticed the skin of your palm bunching up and getting in the way of your grip.
The same applies to hanging barbell lifts. Minimizing the amount of flesh between the bar and your grip maximizes your potential to keep that grip in tact through the heaviest of lifts.
It’s counterintuitive at first, that less hand on the bar is more potent of a grip. You’ll see once you try this grip that it really does help to keep the bar firm in your hands.
Build Grip Strength
The best way to increase grip strength can be done without any extra exercises or gear outside of the deadlift. This too was an idea I got from Mehdi Hadim. Love the guy.
  1. As you warm up for deadlifts, use the pronated grip, or both palms facing in to your body. Go as heavy as you can without losing grip.
  2. Once you get to a point of grip failure, use chalk with the pronated grip.
  3. If you can, do this until your last, heaviest work set.
  4. On your last set, you can use the alternating grip, which means one palm facing in, the other facing forward. Pick your strongest side to face forward. We’ll talk more about the alternating grip another time. It is a stronger hold on the bar but not necessarily the best way to pick things up from the ground.
  5. On the last repetition of your last deadlift set, complete the pull, and at the top position, hold the bar for 10 seconds (or more if you can solidly hold without losing your grip).
Start this with your next deadlift training session.

Let me know your thoughts!

To powerful living,

Steve Ko

Get Rid of Slack on the Deadlift

Brilliant Friends,

Here are a couple of thoughts on a more effective deadlift.

A common point of energy waste in the deadlift is the initial lift of the weight from the ground. That exact moment the weight comes off the ground should be the first upward movement of your body as well.

You would think this is intuitive. But if you watch deadlift videos on Instagram and Youtube, you’ll notice that a lot of people start their lift with their butts. Before the weight lifts off the ground, their hips have already moved up a few inches. You might notice this about yourself, too.

This is inefficient channeling of energy through the legs, and takes away from upward movement of the weight.

You can develop a better deadlift by minimizing this power leakage from the start. The aim is absolute tension and rigidity before the “pull” (what we call the lifting portion of the deadlift). By doing this, you will be able to maintain good form throughout the lift, keeping your back neutral, knees out, and head aligned. This will minimize and even prevent your upper back from curving forward into a slouch.

Start Position

To create the most effective output, focus on the setup. Once you grab the bar:

  • Straighten your arms
  • Push your feet into the ground
  • Pull up against the bar just short of lifting it to anchor yourself into the ground.
  • Pull back on your shoulder blades, like the wings of a jet folding in after take-off.
  • Flex your butt, think of squeezing your sphincter
  • Spread the floor with your feet (see my squat newsletter  for description)

If someone came by from any direction and pushed you, you would not be budged. No looseness in any part of your body, upward, downward, or sideways. Everything should be rock solid and ready for take off.

Back

Your back should have a straight arrow pointing through it from top of the head through the end of your butt.

Eyes

As you take hold of the bar, focus on one spot on the ground in front of you and do not look away. This helps with keeping the head in a neutral alignment with the rest of your spine.

The Pull

And here goes. I like Mehdi Hadim‘s two-part cue the best:

  1. Push the ground away from you
  2. When bar passes knees, slam your hips forward into the bar

Descent

You now stand upright with bar held at arms length.

  1. Pull in a belly breath and lock it into your lungs for abdominal pressure.
  2. Let down the weight in the exact reverse way. Start with hips moving back, keeping tension in butt, hamstrings, knees and feet.
  3. When the bar reaches your knees, allow them to start parting and bending, maintaining full tension.
  4. Do not drop the weight. It’s sloppy and rude, and it will mess up your back and everyone’s eardrums. Think Batman. Be quiet, be swift, and be gone.

I’ll send one on grip next. Try these with minimal weight first. As in, just the bar. Or a broomstick.

To powerful living,

Steve

 
Copyright © 2016 Steve Ko, All rights reserved.

Decision Fatigue

Brilliant Friends,

Decision-making burns resources as much as physical activity. It requires mind energy and biological fuel, sometimes as much as hiking a 14-mile trail or playing a two hour long game of football.

Tim Ferriss talks about the biological cost of each decision we make. We have a finite amount of decision making power per day, and it is essential to an effective life to allocate that resource wisely.

This probably is not the first time you’ve heard this principle, and you’ve probably dwelled upon and implemented it in your life.

So just like with physical performance, we can build up our capacity to make decisions and to make them better and better.

One tool for increasing decision making capacity is the 80/20 principle. I’ve found that certain people demand more of my resources than others, and it’s often not someone that I want to spend more of my decision making power on.

It’s important for me to triage the people, questions, concerns, and problems that I choose to engage, especially at the start of my day.

To do this, I have to be sharp with the responses I use to address people. If I determine that someone is bringing up a problem I choose not the address in the moment, I let them know that we’ll return to that later. The hard part is how to do that without making them feel bad, but sometimes I can’t worry about that.

To follow the 80/20 principle, I choose to spend 80% of my decision making energy on the 20% of problems that will make the most impact for my company, life, and well-being.

Having a set of premade decisions for common problems helps to conserve resources. For low-cost or low-level decisions, pick a route and stick to it every time you are confronted with the same or similar problem. This saves you the time, energy and attention it would have taken to weigh all the options every time. And you become more consistent.

For mid-level decisions, where the cost of a mistake is significant but not debilitating, it often comes down to a simple choice. Both sides, both possibilities, both forks in the road could be good options, and it simply comes down to the one you choose. For these problems, practice going with your gut feeling.

Trust your intuition, feel out the right one, and make the call. Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t waste resources.

For the high-level, high cost, irreversible decisions, put all your time, effort, and attention into making the right choice. Sometimes it will never reveal itself to you as the correct decision, but you can conclude that it was the best possible thing to do.

And that’s what matters at the end of the day.

Let me know your thoughts.

To powerful living,

Steve

Click below to hear Tim Ferriss’ podcast on How to Avoid Decision Fatigue

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ep-44-how-to-avoid-decision/id863897795?i=325332026&mt=2

Wikipedia article on Decision Fatigue http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_fatigue#cite_note-NYT_mag_story-1

A BULLETPROOF® article on Decision Fatigue caused by poor nutrition and how it traps people in poverty https://www.bulletproofexec.com/why-eating-saps-your-willpower/

How to Grip the Barbell for Squats

Brilliant Friends,
So the principles of the body weight squat can be used for the barbell squat. Only progress to the barbell once you have become quite comfortable with the body weight squat, holding a pole or broomstick on your back.
Bar Grip
For the squat, you will want to grip the bar right into the groove of your palm and at the base of your thumb.
Start with your palm over the bar, and thumb under.

Press the groove between your thumb and palm against the bar. Wrap your thumb down under the bar, and then wrap your palm and fingers down over the bar. Secure your thumb over the rest of your fingers.

Here’s what it looks like from below:
1. Grab the bar first
  • Stand in front of the bar, which should be racked at mid-chest height.
  • Grip the bar white-knuckle tight with both hands just outside of shoulder width, at extended arms length.
  • Pavel Tsatsouline, the father of the kettle bell, emphasizes that a tight grip radiates strength to the rest of the connecting muscles.
  • Move your head forward and tuck it down under the bar and, bending at your elbows, bring your head forward on the other side while pushing the back of your shoulders snugly up against the bar. As your arms bend and your shoulder blades tighten up, you will feel a sweet spot on your upper back where your muscles will scrunch up and act as a shelf for the bar.
  • Do not move the hands or loosen your grip on the bar as you get under it. This may take some mobility work on your shoulders and pecs to be able to do. It should be very snug.
  • The bar should be below the cervical vertebra, or that pointy neck bone just above your shoulder blades, but high enough that you can support it without bending too far forward when standing. Use your legs to drive yourself against the bar and position it tightly against your upper back.
2. Unracking the bar
  • Take in a breath and tighten your abs, ribcage down. Bend at the knees to swing down and position yourself directly under the bar with a straight torso in the ready position. Place feet shoulder width apart under the bar, and lift the bar off the rack by straightening your legs and squeezing your butt.
  • Step back from the rack, one step back for each foot, making sure you are approximately parallel to the rack.
3. Rack the bar
  • After completing your set, return to the starting stance.
  • Take one step forward at a time, screw feet into ground, touch the bar against rack, lower yourself down with the quiet torso until the bar rests on the rack.
To summarize the Squat Barbell Grip:
  1. Secure your grip on the bar before getting under it.
  2. Unrack: Duck under, squeeze shoulder blades, tuck the bar against upper back, breath in and create the torso pillar, stand up and step back.
  3. Rack: step forward, screw feet, pull down until bar rests on rack.
Let me know if you have trouble doing this, or if you do it differently.
To powerful living.
Steve

Get Sunlight

Brilliant Friends,

Get sunlight every day as soon as you wake up, or as early as possible in the day.

Sun touching your skin induces production of vitamin D, essential to thousands of gene expressions.

Sunlight causes production of sulphur, also essential to your body’s functions. It gives you the sort of “high” that you might have noticed from being outside.

So being in the sun helps your body function and literally makes you fell better.

It can will help set the circadian rhythm in you, if you’re having trouble sleeping early. This also helps you get up earlier, feeling ready to go sooner after waking.

If you can’t get outside first thing in the morning, or you have to push it off because you’re running late, do it later. Just try to get a little every day. Start somewhere. You’ll find that you want more and more of it, and it’s a habit that gets easier and easier to do.

To powerful living,

Steve Ko

Why do you do it?

Brilliant Friends,
What’s your motivation for building strength?
Do you do it for the physique? Competition? A sport or job? Or for your general health and well being?
Any of these can be a great reason.
Just remember that whatever the reason is, be able to point to it and say this is why I train hard. This is why I eat well. And sometimes, this is why I’m not going to train today, because I’m tired and going to the gym isn’t going to get me closer to why I’m doing it.
Orienting your training around a goal or purpose allows you to make better decisions about how to train, when, and whether you need to take more or less of a break in between sessions. Don’t get trapped in the cycle of aimless gym sessions.
Know that you can tailor your training, hit it hard when the frying pan’s hot, and on days when you aren’t getting anywhere, either too tired or distracted, just walk out of the gym. I’ve done that plenty of times. I’ll cross out whole exercises in my notebook when I was supposed to be hitting PR’s, because I knew that I wouldn’t benefit from pushing myself that day.
Be effective in the long game. Holding back is sometimes harder than giving it your all. Know that holding back can be just as much an exercise in getting stronger as completing a session.
To powerful living.
Steve

Torque and Getting Deeper on the Squat

Brilliant Friends,

If you’re just joining this newsletter, welcome. This newsletter is here to bring you unusual yet effective techniques to learn powerlifting. You can find the first newsletter about learning the squat in the archives above. I suggest you go over the mental imagery and cues in that one first before proceeding with the tips in this letter. Practice them and become comfortable with them.

Torque: The Core of all Human Movement

Let’s get deeper on the squat, now that we’ve covered the basics. Continue to practice sets of five squats, body weight, and deepen your understanding of the importance of Torque. For those of you who did not pass physics, torque is rotational force. Squeeze a towel dry and you are creating torque by twisting it.

Every human movement and power output is generated by torque. Our bodies, our skeletal systems, are designed to create force by rotation. This is true for walking, where our back foot propels us through inward rotation of the hip, translating frictional force from the ground up through the abdomen to the shoulders.

It’s true for a simple bicep curl, where our wrist, elbow, and shoulder all pull against each other in rotational motions to bring up an object that is gripped in our hands. Gripping things is also a work of torque, where each finger joint is pulling with rotational force against the next finger joint, and the bones of the hand pull in rotationally against the muscles that lead to the forearms, to secure an object within our grasp.

To understand that torque defines all human movement will give you a better mastery of your body mechanics. The squat is no different as a combination of several systems of torque.

Feet Spread the Floor: Revisiting the Starting Stance with Torque

The well-established starting stance of the squat (see first post for more details) begins with flexing your butt, which creates outward rotational force on your thighs. Your femurs rotating outward place torque on your shins, and this creates torque on your ankles. When your ankles are being pulled outward, your feet, pointed forward, are creating torque against the ground by rotating outwards as well. They are not actually moving outwards, but the force created from your hips allows you to grip the ground through your feet.

This is why thinking of “feet spreading the floor” gives you a good cue to create that rotational force as you prepare to squat.

Creating “the Pillar” out of your abdomen, or taking in a breath to your belly and tightening the abs against it, allows the force from the ground to travel through your torso to the bar or weight without getting lost in bending or twisting motions. If your torso is soft, or extending, or otherwise not rigid through the squat, you will lose the torque created at the ground along the path through your body to the weight on your upper back.

So, before loading weight or a heavy bar for squats, familiarize yourself with performing the exercise with a rigid Pillar of a torso. This is where mobility of the hips, knees, and ankles is essential for allowing your torso to remain upright and solid through the movement. Limitations on joint mobility will tempt you to compromise your torso stability in an effort to get lower in the squat. We’ll talk more about mobility in a bit.

Knees Out: Torque Preservation Throughout the Squat

“Knees out” is also a mental cue that encourages preservation of torque through the squat. As you pull yourself down into the hole, and up out of it, keeping your knees pulled outward maintains torque and a stable transfer of power from the ground through your body.

You absolutely must not allow your knees to buckle in. This is the most important rule for the knees in the squat and all other strength building exercises. The structure of your ligaments keeping your knee together can be replicated by crossing your middle finger over your index finger. Do this with your right hand. Now grab this structure with your left hand, and twist your right hand out, or to the right. This is similar to your right knee pulling out to the right during the squatting motion.

You’ll notice that your twisted fingers, representing the ACL and PCL in your knee, tighten up and become stronger when rotated out to the side. Now, as you maintain your hold with your left hand, twist your right hand the other way, inwards to the left. You’ll notice that your fingers untwist from each other, much in the same way that your knee ligaments become unstable and lose torque.

When you’re squatting, with or without weight, getting up from the ground or the chair or out of the car, you’re using torque to do so. Depending on how your knee is positioned, you are either creating stability in the knee or you are exposing it to an unstable position. Under weight, it is crucial that you maintain “knees out” for the most stable mechanics.

Pulling Down, and Butt Back vs. Hamstrings Back: Getting Deeper on the Squat

“Pulling down” is the best way to think of the descent on the squat. Rather than letting yourself down, or dropping as free weight, thinking of “pulling down” on yourself helps to keep yourself in a stable, torque-locked state.

If you are finding it hard to pull down near the top or the beginning of the squat motion, think of “sitting back into a low chair” or “bending down to pick up a corgi running towards you”. The backwards pull from this imagery may allow for release downwards.

Do you find it hard to pull down near the bottom or the hole, or notice from video of yourself that you are “butt winking”? By butt wink I mean that right at the bottom of the squat, your lower back curves and your butt tucks in. This is a very unstable position of the spine and breaks the solid pillar that you are trying to maintain.

Remedy by thinking of “hamstrings back” rather than butt back. Shoving your butt back too far at the beginning of the squat can tilt your hips too far forward, and prevent your femurs from fully rotating out towards the bottom of the squat. That forces your pelvis to tilt back down, to allow your femurs to rotate out and your body to lower into the hole. Thus, your pillar is broken.

You need your hips at a constant angle, keeping that pocket of motion open for your thighs. This also may require some mobility work. For now, practice the squat as far down as you can go, without compromising your pillar. Think “hamstrings back” and “pull down”.

Practice the Bar Position

At this point, if you feel comfortable with the mechanics of the squat, you can practice gripping and holding the bar during the squat with a light wooden pole or broomstick (remove the broom part if you can).

Even if you are intermediate or advanced on the squat, it is always good to know your mechanics at body weight. Can you get down to the correct position? Are you able to create torque without weight on your back?

Grip the pole at just outside shoulder width. Pull the pole up above your head, arms straight. Get into the stable starting stance, and once you’ve created the pillar, bring the pole down behind your head.

Let the pole rest just below your cervical vertebrae, the pointy neck bone at the top of your spine. With your arms flexed in a bent position, you will create a muscular “shelf” between the rear shoulder muscles and the trapezius muscles just above them. Keep the pole snug in this groove.

Flex your shoulder blades tight, back and down. Grip hard on the pole. Tighten your Pillar, feel the torque as your feet spread the floor. You are in the ready stance with a bar, now.

Establish the bar position. Your wrists may not be mobile enough today to get into a full gripped, just outside shoulder width, bar position. If so, move your hands out a little further, and try bringing the pole down into position. Hold it there, allow your joints to loosen up and adjust, and progressively work on moving your hands to just outside shoulder width.

None of the three-finger grip nonsense that is going around, or the gripping the ends of the bar, or the plates. Having correct bar grip and position is critical to stability and joint health down the road.

I’m open to your thoughts.

To powerful living,

Steve

The Body Weight Squat

Brilliant Friends!

I’m glad you joined me.

If you’re new to powerlifting, these tips will give you the long-lasting tools I’ve used to exercise with good form. The beauty of powerlifting is that the basics are important from beginning levels to the most elite. If you’ve already been lifting, use the things here and see if they enhance your power.

Powerlifting involves five exercises: the squat, the deadlift, the bench press, the row, and the overhead press.

Most people start off weightlifting without learning good habits and techniques that establish good form. At first, they might find it easy to perform the exercises with poor form, but later they run into injuries because they haven’t prepared themselves to handle heavy weights.

I want to teach you the unusual, lesser known techniques, mental cues, and imagery that allowed me to execute good form and get past the frustrating beginning stages of learning powerlifting quickly. It also kept me from getting injured, even under the heaviest weight.

You will have better results, and sustain strength for a long time, if you have correct form.

The Squat

The powerlifting squat is also known as the “low bar back squat”, but that’s not too important at this moment.

There are a few key principles that define a correct squat.

  • Maintain natural curvature of the back, or a straight back, throughout the movement.
  • Feet about shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward, and stationary.
  • The hip joint dipping below the horizontal plane of the knee joint at the bottom of the movement, also known as a “parallel” position.

Most of us won’t be able to do this correctly at first. It takes time to mobilize your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back fully, so for now let’s use the following cues to work toward better form. We’re getting started on the road to mastering it.

Basics for the Body Weight Squat 

Learn to squat first without loading weight on your back. Do five correctly every day for the first week.

Starting stance

  1. Feet shoulder width apart, toes forward
  2. Squeeze your butt
  3. Put your arms out in front and grab your hands together
  4. Breathe in and hold, tighten belly against breath

This is the start position. You should feel tight and solid.

Squat

  1. Keeping your torso tight and arms out in front, lower yourself by pushing your hamstrings (back of your thighs) back and your knees out.
  2. When the tops of your thighs are below the tops of your knees, this is called “parallel”. It’s far down enough and you don’t have to go further.
  3. Bounce out of the bottom position and stand up again, into the starting stance.
  4. Do this a few times to warm up. If you can’t reach parallel, keep doing the squats and gently bounce back up, until you are able to get lower. Don’t force it, though. It takes time.

If you can’t squat from standing, just get down into a squat position and hold it there for a minute. After doing this a couple of times, get in the starting position and try the squat again.

What to Think During the Squat

Now that you have the feel for the squat, use these mental tricks to ensure that you do it correctly each time. It gets tough, so try accomplishing one aspect per day.

Starting Stance Imagery

1. “Feet spreading the floor”

  • Imagine that your feet are trying to spread apart the floor. Point your toes straight forward, get in the butt-flexed and belly-tight position, arms forward, and allow your butt to pull your thighs outward, as if trying to rotate them out.
  • Your feet should remain stationary, pointed forward. You will feel them “gripping” the ground as your butt pulls them outward against the ground.
  • Your foot arches will also pull up as a result of the butt pulling, giving you better support in the foot.
  • Allow your toes to splay, or spread, so they can maximize grip. This is why they are attached to your feet – to grip the ground.
  • You are ready to squat. You should find that from this reinforced starting position, you will be secured to the ground and ready to pull yourself down stronger.

2. “The Pillar”

  • Arms forward, turn palms face up and twist your arms out, squeeze your shoulder blades, and then rotate just your hands face down keeping your upper arms and shoulders locked. Grab one hand with the other, tight.
  • Take in a breath and tighten your belly against it, creating a solid pillar out of your torso. You will be holding the breath until the end of each squat.

The Squat Imagery

3. Use whichever suits you best:

  • I’m pulling myself down through my legs
  • I’m sitting down in a low chair
  • I’m bending down to scoop up a corgi running toward me
  1. With the image of choice in mind, start the descent by pulling knees out to the side and creating an outward rotational force on your ankles. Feet should stay glued to the ground.
  2. Hamstrings pull back, as if you’re sitting down on that low chair.
  3. Try to not lose tension in the knees. Keep them pulled outward.
  4. Torso: Keep your chest out without letting your ribcage come up. Torso straight, spine neutral. It should feel like you’re maintaining torso position and not really moving or doing anything with it.

4. “Pull down into the hole”

  • Think of the bottom position of the squat as “the hole”, and you are bouncing into and out of it.
  • “Pulling down” is stronger then simply “lowering” yourself into the bottom position.
  • Pull yourself down until you’re at parallel, slightly bounce at the bottom and come back up.

5. “Squeeze butt”

  • Now that you’ve scooped the corgi into your arms, or touched down on the low chair, or pulled yourself down through your legs, come out of the bounce by squeezing your butt.
  • Squeeze your butt from bottom to top, and straighten up into the starting stance.
  • Let out your breath, tighten everything up again, and prepare for the next squat.

That’s it.

Next, we’ll get into how to use these concepts when you have a bar, or a broomstick, at first, on your back.

Thanks for reading! What problems have you had with squat form that I haven’t addressed? Hit reply and send me your thoughts!

To powerful living,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog by email

Copyright © 2016 Steve Ko, All rights reserved.

Let’s Talk About Pain

Brilliant Friends,

I was talking with a buddy yesterday and we came to the subject of his tendonitis that was flaring up and preventing him from training at full capacity.

So I want to take a quick tangent off of powerlifting and talk about pain.

It’s not always from overwork. Yes we all have pushed it a little too hard on the reps or the sets, gotten a little too excited at the gym, and maybe added too much weight to the bar. Tendons, ligaments, muscles do get wear and tear every now and then, causing discomfort, immobility, and sometimes just unbearable pain.

I would know. I’ve had my fair share of lower back tweaks, shoulder impingements, and hamstring strains. These suck, and usually happen from not being prepared for training.

But there’s another kind of pain. The recurring joint pain, the aches, the knots, the stuff that seems to keep coming back and lasting for days or even weeks at a time. The ghosts of injuries past that don’t seem to leave you alone.

I had been suffering from lower back pain for years, ever since a tweak at the gym in high school. The thing was, the pain wasn’t consistent.

Sometimes it would disappear for months on end, and then come crashing down on me one morning. There were days where I had to pace my kitchen for half an hour after waking up to walk out the pain.

My right knee constantly bothered me as well. Sometimes simply walking around was a laborious task. I had banged it up pretty badly in rugby, and after a few months it was completely functional. However, on some days the pain just seared through my knee and prevented me from training.

I didn’t know why these pains were coming and going. I just chalked it up to good days and bad days, and hoped that continuing powerlifting would resolve them for good. When I started powerlifting there was marked improvement in my knee pain. But the bad days kept coming back.

Until I figured out that these pains are due, in large part, to food. That’s right. I think some pain is caused simply by the food we eat,  rather than some muscular or soft tissue damage. When I heard Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, talking about this, I wanted to test it immediately.

It took me a while to figure out what to eat, but the number one suggestion Asprey gave was to avoid wheat.

I thought this was crazy at first. Half the calories I ate came from wheat. No joke. Toast with breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, PB&J for snacks, and pasta, pizza, or some other type of bread for dinner.

But I gave it a shot, because my pain was bad. I started eating rice more, and had to adjust meals to leave out pastas and bread. It was a little weird at first, but I got the hang of it. And what do you know, things changed quickly.

The first thing I noticed after getting wheat out of my diet for a few weeks was clear headedness. I could literally think better and was less emotional and moody. I used to have minor depression episodes, getting into dips every once in a while. This pretty much disappeared.

I stopped getting food comas. I no longer fell into unplanned naps, waking up with blind rage and frustration that terrified my family and girlfriend. I was calmer, and could be more patient. I was actually nicer.

The craziest part was the physical changes. My joint pain went away. I still got sore and achy after hard training sessions, but the recurring and random pains stopped.

What gives? Apparently, the gluten protein in wheat embeds into the gut wall and allows bacteria to seep out into the blood. Reaching the brain, this contamination causes poor cognitive function and eventually complications. It’s called “brain fog” in the citizen scientist world.

I don’t know how much of the mechanisms are true, but the result seems quite accurate to me.

Gluten also binds to the glucosamine in our joints. This embedding in the molecules that help to cushion joints causes inflammation throughout the body.

After extensive testing and observation, I noticed that for some reason eating wheat caused me pain in the areas that were previously injured. Because of this, I suspect there is a neurological aspect to all of it. Hence, the amplified pain.

The longer I go without wheat, the less believable it is to me that I have ever had joint pain. And then comes the night of pizza or dim sum with friends, and the symptoms return.

Avoiding wheat helped me reach and surpass the peak of my strength. If I had to deal with knee, lower back, and shoulder pain for my heaviest lifts, I would not have been able to focus enough to reach that strength.

Other foods that I find cause inflammation and exacerbate or create pain:

  • Dairy (except grass fed butter, which I eat every day and have no problem with. Butter doesn’t have as many of the milk solids that cause inflammation, plus since it’s grass fed it also lacks the poor quality fats of normal grain based butter.)
  • Fried foods and damaged fats. Fries, chicken, chips and crackers.
  • Cooked vegetable or seed oil, including olive oil. They get damaged so easily that any heat turns them into pain-inducing free radicals.

Try avoiding any one of these for a couple weeks, then splurge again for a day. Observe if there are any improvements, and if you feel any symptoms. Things like sleepiness, low cognitive ability, joint or muscle pain and weakness are symptoms we take for granted. Pay attention and see if they are present.

Be your own judge of what affects you. If it feels crappy to eat something, get rid of it. As much as you can, at least.

I’m curious about whether it’s just me that is experiencing all of the benefits of these habits.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Tell me if you’re having joint pains and if you try eliminating certain foods. I will definitely give you more tips along the way.

To powerful living,

Steve

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Brilliant Friends,

I’m writing about strength. Mobility. Mind cultivation, meditation, focus. Good eating of real food. Earthing and connecting with nature.

Meditate with me, go deep on strength training, throw off your shoes and have the earth’s energy. Eat well, sleep better, be stronger through exploration of food, thought, and form.

Change the world with me. We are each a part of the universe, and as we become better, the universe becomes better. Realize your power. I’m seeking to release my true potential, and I ask you to do the same.

Live powerfully!

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily