Day 241-2 (T, 120828) — Comparing Max Capacity Training, Primal Blueprint Fitness, Combat Conditioning, and Convict Conditioning

Imma Do It.  I’ve decided to begin exercising again.

When last we saw our intrepid hero . . . I stopped exercising regularly in mid-April, about four and a half months ago.  By that time, my workout routines (most recently Primal Blueprint Fitness) had produced some positive effects including increased muscle mass and definition in my arms and shoulders and the beginnings of some ab muscles under my belly fat.

On the down side, I was having a hard time simultaneously losing weight.  Because of this, I decided to stop exercising and focus on bringing down my weight and BF percent.  It worked: since then, my weight has dropped from 212.6 down to last weekend’s 191.2.

More importantly my body’s set-point seems to have changed: in the months leading up to my decision to stop exercising, my body seemed to want to weigh about 210, +/- 5 pounds.  It was really tough for me to go below 205 and stay there but I could also be a little bad and usually not go above 215.  In recent months, my body seems to have reset much lower on the scale: I’ve hovered around 193, +/- 5 pounds since mid-June.

Plus, every time I’ve headed toward the top of that range, I’ve known exactly why my weight was going up.

Tracking Body Composition.  When I started this blog to record my efforts to lose weight and become more fit, I weighed 228 pounds with a bodyfat percent of 29.7, giving me a lean weight of about 160 pounds and a bodyfat weight of around 68 pounds.  In the ensuing year and a third, my numbers had, of course, changed:

BF Lean Mass
Beginning of Everything (110101) 67.9 160.6
Low Thru End of Exercising (110709) 46.9 148.4
End of Exercising (120410) 65.4 157.8

From January to July 2011, I dropped a lot of weight and a lot of muscle.  By the time I stopped working out, I had regained much of my lost muscle.  Yeah!  But I’d also recaptured almost all of my hard-lost bodyfat.  Boo!

(I know correlation does not equal causation, but this seems to be a trend, in my experience.)

My lack-of-exercising plan from April until now has worked: I’ve lost weight pretty dramatically.  Since I stopped working out, I’ve lost more than 21 pounds of bodyfat (yeah!) but also all 10 pounds muscle I’d regained and even one more (damn!).

After 4.5 mos. no exercise (120825) 44.0 147.2

Plus I’ve noticed a marked decrease in my strength and endurance.  Blech.

Now to figure out how to be stronger and look better without blowing up like a blimp again.

My Plan.  To help define what I’m going to do, my upcoming program will look something like this:

  • Goals: (1) reshape my body and (2) regain the strength I’ve lost (and add more)
  • Method: bodyweight exercises 2-3 times per week
  • Program: one of the following . . .
    Max Capacity Training, trying to beat my numbers from last time
    UPS Workout, a program I developed starting the 100 push-ups challenge and adding other UPS challenges
    Primal Blueprint Fitness, the exercise Mark Sisson suggests
    Combat Conditioning, Matt Furey’s exercises which I’ve done one-quarter-assed in the past
    Convict Conditioning, a program I’ve looked at but not tried

Please read the summaries below and leave me a quick comment:

What do you think I should do?

=====

Max Capacity Training.  MCT is a 12 week, 3 workouts / week program of bodyweight exercises.  It uses three different timing patterns:

  • 50/10 — 4 exercises x 50 seconds of work + 10 seconds of rest for 4 rounds
  • Tabata — 4 exercises x 8 consecutive rounds of 20/10 work/rest per exercise
  • Time Attack — 4 exercises as fast as you can manage with goal reps based on your numbers from the 50/10 and Tabata results from previous days

I went through the whole program and really enjoyed it.  Also, I’ve been meaning to repeat it so maybe now is the time to do that.

Strengths:

  • it’s structured and easy to follow
  • every exercise for the day is fully explained and illustrated
  • it gives a decent full body workout (on most days)
  • it gives a decent cardio workout (most days)
  • it can be done almost anywhere
  • it takes only 16 minutes to do the 50/10 and Tabata workouts (Time Attack time depends  on your reps and speed)
  • it’s fun to challenge yourself to improve from one workout to the next
  • they offer a free spreadsheet to help you track your progress and compute your reps for the Time Attach workouts
  • they have free apps for your phone which cover the entire program including exercises explanations and illustrations, timers, tracking, etc.

Weaknesses:

  • core (1 week is devoted to abs + only a little bit more in the rest of the program)
  • pulling (no pull-ups or other contracting moves)
  • back (see the first two bullets in this list)

My UPS Workout.  This is what I did after I completed the MCT program last September.  It was a combination of the four basic Challenges found on the web:

I did them back to back to back to back to back in supersets, for time.  It was a bit hinky because I was (a) figuring it out as I went along and (b) I was further along in some exercises than others (e.g. I could already do 50 push-ups but I couldn’t do 1 real pull-up).

Strengths:

  • good, full body workout
  • gets my heart rate going
  • starts at your fitness level for each exercise and progresses nicely to the goal

Weaknesses:

  • a bit tough to coordinate the differing weeks of each challenge into a unified workout (i.e. I’d be on Week 6 of the push-ups challenge but Week 2 of the pull-ups challenge)
  • some weeks are more difficult than others to keep track of how many reps/sets of which types of exercises to do

Maybe doing it again would work better this time given that I’ve worked out a lot of problems and my performance across the different exercises has leveled out some.  Plus, it looks as though the Challenge guys have come up with their own program like this: 7 Weeks to Getting Ripped.  Maybe I could just do their program . . . .

Primal Blueprint Fitness Mark Sisson’s program focuses on six principles to help you find your fitness:

  1. Move Frequently at a Slow Pace — get out there and walk, jog, hike, etc.
  2. Lift Heavy Things — see the next section
  3. Sprint Once in a While — move it!
  4. Workout of the Week — add some variety to the week, used in place of an LHT workout
  5. Play — for emotional as well as physical health
  6. Rest — to recuperate and help fight stress / cortisol

“PBF provides a step-by-step progression of bodyweight movements built around Five Essentials Movements (Push-up, Pull-up, Squat, Overhead Press, Plank) that will help you build strength and power with minimal equipment and in half the time of a typical gym session.”  You do two sets of each movement.

Strengths:

  • it doesn’t get much simpler than this
  • exercises progress from couch potato to normal to advanced exercises as you master each move
  • it’s a good full body workout each time
  • it’s a very short workout, freeing time for the other important things in my life
  • includes pull-ups, doesn’t include sit-ups

Weaknesses:

  • without checking the website to add a WOW into the schedule, the basic LHT program has little variation to hold your interest
  • is not as cardio-intensive as MCT (which hit a high heart rate each workout) except on Sprint days (then again, according to Mark, you only need a little bit of cardio to get fit)
  • requires something to hold onto to do pull-ups

Combat Conditioning.  Matt Furey’s approach to fitness, includes DVDs, ebooks, etc.  All I have is the hardcopy book and so that’s what my comments will be based on.  Furey focuses on three primary exercises, his Royal Court: Hindu Squats, Hindu Push-ups, and Bridging.  Beyond that, there are about 40 variations on these three which you can use to supplement your workouts and add spice to your routines.

Strengths:

  • simplicity — do the three main exercises for 15 minutes, workout every day with some days lighter and some days harder
  • has a plethora of exercises to choose from
  • can be done anywhere
  • includes description and pictures of each exercise

Weaknesses:

  • like MCT, it lacks pulling movements*
  • the sample workouts are for people who are already pretty darn fit (e.g. 500 Hindu Squats and 500 Hindu Push-ups); there are no “beginner” workouts except to keep attempting the given workouts until you can do them

Convict Conditioning.  I have not tried this one, only read about it.  Like PBF, it has a set of movements to do (The Big Six) and progressions to take you from lazy bastard to fitness god.

  1. The Pushup: Armor-Plated Pecs and Steel Triceps
  2. The Squat: Elevator Cable Thighs
  3. The Pullup: Barn Door Back and Major Guns
  4. The Leg Raise: A Six-Pack From Hell
  5. The Bridge: Combat Ready Your Spine
  6. The Handstand Pushup: Healthy, Powerful Shoulders

I can’t really list strengths and weaknesses here since I haven’t done the program, but I can point out that it is a lot like to PBF’s LHT and should have similar attributes.

Each exercise includes five useful sections:

  • Performance — a basic description of the exercise
  • Exercise X-Ray — a description of what the movement does and why it works
  • Training Goals — for beginner, intermediate, and progression
  • Perfecting Your Technique — a guide to making sure you use perfect form and get the most from the exercise
  • Multiple pictures illustrating each step of the movement

Each series of the Big Six has a summary chart at the end of the chapter listing the sequence of movements and ultimate goals for each.  It also has hints for Going Beyond and Variants you can use to spice things up and stress the muscles in different ways, at different angles.

Finally, he offers “five basic training programs”:

  1. New Blood — “a two-day a week routine ideal for beginners”
  2. Good Behavior — “a three-day per week program that will help practically everybody gain strength and muscle”
  3. Veterano — “a six-day per week protocol, and will work excellently for those who are in good shape”
  4. Solitary Confinement — “is only for advanced athletes with plenty of recovery ability”
  5. Supermax — “for elite trainees who wish to specialize in endurance rather than strength”

There’s also a Convict Conditioning 2 which expands on the Big Six and includes a section on “joint training.”

=====

So now that you know what I am considering, do you have any thoughts on the matter?

Which program, if any of these, do you think I should do?

—–

* Furey addresses this in his FAQ section:
While it may be true that I would be surprised, I’d still rather do some pulling than not.
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7 responses to “Day 241-2 (T, 120828) — Comparing Max Capacity Training, Primal Blueprint Fitness, Combat Conditioning, and Convict Conditioning

  1. So you just want a kind of nice general program you can do at home about 3x a week in addition to Ultimate and the occasional run?

    Regaining the strength you’ve lost should be easy, just get back on the horse and ride some more.

    Reshaping your body is trickier since you’re kinda wanting to build muscle while still dropping weight? Or are you ‘done’ with the actual losing weight at this point for now?

    Program by program I see no serious difference between them besides the PBF which seems to involve actual weights. It’s just a package of bodyweight stuff with varying rep schemes and other forms of periodization.

    So my suggestion would be to do one week of each of them and see how they feel. Functionally I don’t think you’ll see much difference in performance between them, and performance isn’t in your goals anyway so that doesn’t matter.

    You’ll either be increasing TUT via reps and working towards more strength endurance or you’ll be increasing the difficulty of moves to work more max strength or you’ll be playing with set\rep timing schemes to create different kinds of conditioning effect, from local muscular endurance to more full body anaerobic effects. None of that will change either from workout to workout.

    Furey’s stuff is fun and the Hindu squats and pushups are fun.

    If you want more pulling…uh…just, you know, do some pulling. Easy.

    There’s no magic in any of the programs. It’s all just pushup variations, squat variations, core variations, etc. Since you don’t have stated goals besides regaining lost strength (any of them will do this) and body comp stuff (I don’t tend to think bodyweight work is really great for building muscle which is what’ll effect composition the most, tho you might gain weight) will be about the same regardless for the same reasons it won’t matter which one you do very much.

    Basically it’s just calisthenics 3x a week.

    Thus: Do a week of each of them for a few months and see what you like and don’t like. Add pullups to the ones that don’t include pullups. Done. If you want more core work pick a core move or two and do 2-5 sets of them. Have I preached to you the gospel of the ab-wheel, btw? Because, srsly, get one. They are awesome.

    On the Furey days you can just do as many sets as required to get the prescribed reps and try to reduce that number over time. Then do 2-5 sets of pullups for max reps.

    You might also look in to Pavel Tsatsouline’s “Naked Warrior” stuff. Just as another take on the “bodyweight calisthenics 3x a week” type deal.

    You could also pick and choose Crossfit bodyweight WODs.

    You can also consider investing in a barbell\dumbbell\kettlebell to increase intensity. Doing a good complex with even a moderate weight is a pretty good conditioning type workout.

    There are like a zillion programs out there, all of the non-stupid ones work.

    If you ain’t gonna get some weights, or hit the gym, etc, then it’s just going to be different assortments of pushups, squats, core, gymnastics, pulling, etc, and it’s not super relevant which you do (based on your stated goals, if you were wanting to prep for a sport, event, etc, that would be something else) just that you DO them, keep a log, track progress, and adjust as needed as you go.

    • For now, my diet and lack of exercise has me in a good place, weight-wise; I’d be fine with not losing more weight if I could stay where I am while I tone up and gain strength. If I could maybe even drop my BF percent, that’d be gravy. What I fear is beginning to build muscle and seeing my BF rise right along with it, as happened last time.

      Something I didn’t mention but which I need to keep in mind is that I have bursitis in my hip that flares up on occasion. If I do too many kettlebell swings, for example, I’ll sometimes have to take a week or so off to let my hip calm down. This, of course, also limits playing Ultimate, running, walking, etc. My bursitis will also sometimes act up after doing squats (not as often but often enough to warrant mention).

      I have a workout tower for pull-ups, dips, leg lifts, etc. And I can use my kettlebells (50-, 30-, 10-, and 5-lbs.) to increase resistance on some exercises (shoulder press, goblet squats, etc.).

      I know you’re right about these all being variations on a theme . . . I’m just trying to figure out which would be the smartest (in your words, the most “non-stupid”) program to pursue. I’m leaning toward Convict Conditioning just because it’s new and it’ll give me a (slightly) new experience. OTOH, MCT was a lot of fun and it would be cool to see how much I’ve improved since I did it a year ago . . . . .

      Still thinkin’ . . . and thanks a ton for the feedback. I really appreciate it.

      New John

      • I don’t know if you can find most-smartest in a program so much as you can find non-stupid is the thing. It’s fairly easy to see if a program includes too much volume or has massive holes in it, but a lot of it is going to be based on how you respond, and of course actually doing the program.

        Building muscle and not gaining SOME fat is not so easy, particularly if you’re a not in your 20s anymore. Thus the traditional bulk\cut cycles for bodybuilder types. At the same time doing structured resistance training and NOT gaining some muscle is also hard to do. 😉

        More and more I think it’s more relevant just that you do some type of resistance work than what type it is you do. They all work.

        Absent sports performance or macho bench marks (max pushups, max bench, size of your gunz, etc) the important thing seems to be doing them regularly over the course of your life and not getting injured so you can continue to do them over the course of your life.

        You could do CC for 2-3 months then retest your MCT scores and see if training something different effects those numbers in a beneficial. That’d be fun.

  2. The cool thing (or not cool thing, depending on your point of view) about Convict Conditioning is that it’s skill work in addition to a workout. The higher level exercises in each progression are hard, and not just strength-wise. If you’re into being able to do bodyweight “tricks” you’ll enjoy it.

    Otherwise, I’d just echo everything Jonas said.

  3. Pingback: Day 248-2 (T, 120904) — Starting Convict Conditioning Today | New John for a New Year·

  4. Pingback: Day 307-2 (F, 121102) — Question about Max Capacity Training | New John for a New Year·

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