The RKC Evolution (RKCE) is a popular program developed by Pavel Tsatsouline. It was first published in 1993 and updated in 1999.
Pavel’s original intent with this program was to create a program that would provide strength gains without any added cardio or weight lifting. However, it has been adapted into several variations over time, including the “Advanced” version which incorporates additional exercises such as pull ups and chin ups, and the “Professional” version which includes more exercises like squats and deadlifts.
The most recent version, the “Ultimate”, is currently being used by many top level powerlifters and bodybuilders. It is also sometimes referred to as the “Pavel Tsatsouline Method”.
In 1993 Pavel created his first version of the RKC. At the time it consisted of eight basic movements: push press, pull up, squat, deadlift, bench press and military press. These were then broken down further into three sub-groups: beginner/intermediate/advanced.
In 1994 Pavel published his second edition of the RKC. This included ten exercises split between the four groups. The exercises were again divided into two levels; beginner and intermediate. In addition, the book also covered topics such as breathing and stretching as well as nutrition.
In 1999, the most recent version of the RKC was published. This included twelve exercises split between the four groups. The exercises were also split into 4 sub-groups; beginner, intermediate, advanced and master (or expert) level. The program was also renamed to “The Original Strength”.
Within months of the book’s publication, many people had criticized it. The main problem was that it focused on weight lifting instead of overall conditioning, and in fact had actually steered away from the conditioning element originally found in the first book.
In response to these criticisms, RKC instructor Matt Furey created his own program in an attempt to return to the original intent of the RKCs. The result was “Dinosaur Training”, a system designed to promote strength and conditioning through the use of many compound exercises.
Over time, RKCs have been used by numerous Special Forces groups (such as the US Navy Seals) and athletes from a wide range of sports (including weightlifting and powerlifting). They are a popular alternative to Crossfit.
Grip Strength Edit
One of the most important aspects of the RKCs is grip strength. RKCs focus on grip strength for two main reasons.
First, grip strength is a good indicator of total body strength. If you have a strong grip then you will most likely have good overall strength. Second, and most importantly, if you can’t hang on to something then you won’t be able to perform the exercises, or at least not to their full capacity. This means that by improving your grip strength, you will also be improving your total body strength as well.
The two main methods of improving grip strength are squeezing objects and hanging.
Squeezing objects can be anything from a tennis ball to a set of wooden clubs. The simplest and most accessible way is to simply use a pull up bar or a towel. In all cases, the basic principle is to grip the object as hard as you can for 10 second intervals, with 10 second breaks in between. When you can grip the object firmly for 10 seconds, you move on to a more difficult object.
For hanging, find something that you can grip and hang from, such as a pull up bar or even a tree branch. Again, grip it as hard as you can for 10 second intervals, and after each set give your hands a rest for 10 seconds as well. The goal is to do at least 5 sets.
Over time you should notice an improvement in your grip strength.
Measuring Progress Edit
One of the problems with grip strength is that it’s not very easy to measure.
How do you know if your grip is stronger than it was last week?
Well, you can’t really quantify it accurately.
The best way that many people have come up with is to use a weight scale, one that tells you how much your body weighs. This may sound strange, but bear with me.
As your overall weight increases with muscle, your body should weigh more, but more importantly, you should be able to bench about the same amount as you weigh. So if you weigh 200 pounds and can bench press 200 pounds then your 1:1 ratio is perfect. If in a week or so of training you are able to increase your bench to, say 250lbs, then your ratio is 1.125:1 and since you weigh 200lbs, then your body weight is increasing. The same can be applied to grip strength.
While you can’t really measure it accurately or with any precision, you should still be able to notice a general increase in your body weight over time, all other factors being equal of course.
A more accurate way may be to get yourself a set of skin calipers at your local pharmacy or online. These are typically used by doctors and such to get an accurate reading of your body fat percentage. You can then measure your body fat every so often to track your progress.
While this method is more accurate than using a weigh scale, it’s also far more expensive, as skin calipers can cost up to $100. It’s probably best if you can get a friend who owns a set to let you borrow it.
Another option is to have weekly photos taken of yourself in the same spot and outfit, then analyze the photos for changes. However, this method is very inexact as you’re probably not going to notice a change every week or even two weeks, it’ll just be a general change over time.
Whatever method you choose, as long as you can track a general increase in your body weight over time then you’ll know that your training is working.
Challenges and Motivation Edit
Like anything, there are always going to be days where you just don’t feel like training. Maybe you had a stressful day at work, or maybe a loved one died, or maybe you had an argument with a friend or family member. Sometimes things just happen to get you down, and that’s okay. The key is to not use it as an excuse to slack off and not train.
One of the biggest reasons people quit training is because life gets in the way. Maybe you got promoted and have a lot of work to do, or maybe a family issue came up, or maybe you just moved to a new city and don’t know anybody there, the reasons are endless. The problem is, when this happens, it’s very easy to use it as an excuse to slack off and not train, or in extreme cases, to quit completely. This is a mistake, as quitting doesn’t solve the problem that’s causing you to not be able to train, it just pushes it away and allows it to grow until you finally get burned out from it.
One of the best techniques for combating slacking off or quitting is to have a plan set in place ahead of time. The best way to do this is to make sure you keep up with training even when things are going good, so you never have an excuse to fall back into old habits. However, we all slip up sometimes and don’t train as much as we should. It’s okay to make a mistake, what isn’t okay is to keep making the same mistake. As they say, success comes from never making the same mistake twice.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, no matter how small, it’s time to get back on track and restart your training program until it’s once again second nature to you.
Another great motivator of course is competition. Even if you’re the only one you’re racing against yourself, sometimes it’s more fun to race against someone else. This is why a lot of athletes have rivalries with other athletes. One of the best examples of this is boxers. Boxers will always say they respect their opponent and that whoever wins on the night should win, but they don’t really mean it.
They want to be the best, and they’re not going to be happy unless they’re the best. This is why you’ll see boxers who are both losing opponents engage in fights where they throw zero punches and just grapple for most of the match. Neither wants to lose and be considered worse than the other, so they’d prefer to avoid defeat by not attacking at all!
You don’t need to invent a rival and you don’t need to have someone to directly compete with, but it helps if you set some sort of goals for yourself that way you’ll have something to work towards. This could be as easy as setting a goal to add an extra rep or set every week, or it could be something more long term like competing in a powerlifting meet or an olypmic lifting meet by a certain date. Just make sure it’s something challenging, but not out of reach, as this will ensure you keep pushing yourself to improve.
No matter what your goals ultimately are, the most important thing is to have fun. Powerlifting is a sport that is only really considered “fun” when you’re crushing your previous lifts and seeing yourself succeed. If you find that it’s no longer fun, maybe reconsider why you started in the first place. Sometimes we get so caught up in the nitty gritty of a particular routine or program, or beaten down by constant training that we forget why we started in the first place. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back, reassess and regroup.
It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means it’s time for a change.
If you find yourself struggling with motivation, or just having a bad time in the gym in general, try some of these choices to see what works best for you. Just remember, there is no wrong way to work out, only what is right for YOU!
Listen to music- Studies have shown that listening to music can increase your overall strength by up and even double it in some instances. This is due to music distracting you from the burning pain you would normally feel and your mind instead focusing on the music. Also, music can get you in a certain mood which will make certain lifts easier or harder for you. For example I find hip hop to be a great motivator for benching, but not so much for deadlifting. On the other hand, metal or hard rock is great for deadlifting, but serves to put me in a more aggressive mood which isn’t ideal for strict weightlifting.
I prefer industrial music for lifting as it’s louder and more in your face than the other two and helps get me in that zone. Find out what works for you, and even combine different types of music to see what works best for different lifts or even specific parts of lifts!
Chew Gum-This one is fairly simple. There is a reason that athletes in sports from football to boxing often chew gum while performing. It serves as an excellent way to keep your jaw clenched and teeth together, meaning you can exert more power through your muscles and prevent them from vibrating. This will allow you to hold heavier weights for longer periods of time as your teeth will ease the stress on your jaw and allow you to concentrate on lifting rather than the pain. This will be more useful for some lifts than others, but it is still an excellent method to try out if you are finding yourself fatigued during your workouts!
You could also try eating food with starches or sugars in them as these will release small amounts of energy over time to give you a slight boost when you need it most. Of course you could just drink an energy drink or eat some fruit as well if you don’t want the hassle of eating food prior to your workout.
Go for a run or do some cardio-This one is self explanatory. Doing some cardiovascular exercise before you lift will get your blood pumping and have you ready to lift some serious weight. It is also a great way to warm up before you start lifting.
There are a wide variety of sports and exercises you could do, anything from biking, jump roping or even playing a sport. Although some people prefer to do these in the middle of their workout for a break, but that’s a different article. Find what works for you, just don’t forget the shower afterwards as you won’t be the only one working up a sweat!
Listen to Music-This one is fairly self explanatory. Most people prefer to listen to music during their workouts as it allows them to zone out and concentrate on lifting rather than any potential pain they might feel. It can be a great way to increase your endurance and keep your motivation up as well.
Just make sure the music you are listening too isn’t too distracting or has lyrics as you don’t want anything there that will take you out of your focus zone, especially if it is negative. Find something that will pump you up and keep you moving, whether it’s fast or slow doesn’t matter just as long as it keeps you going.
Use lighting-If the gym you go to is fairly well lit you are going to have a more difficult time trying to lose yourself in the moment as your mind wonders to how creepy the lighting is rather than focusing on the task at hand. Try finding a less well lit gym if this is the case, you will find it much easier to concentrate and your lifts will be much improved.
You can also try turning the lights off completely, although this one can cause problems with being able to see what you are doing. Try turning down the lights and then using a flashlight or cell phone light to see what you are doing, this way you get to reap all the benefits of a dark gym without having to worry about straining your eyes.
Watch your breathing-One thing most people don’t realize when they are in the middle of a heavy lift and feeling the pain is that they are probably not breathing correctly. By this I mean they are either taking too big of breaths or not breathing at all. The first thing you want to do is take short quick breaths as this will help to keep your chest and upper body relaxed. Taking big deep breaths can cause your chest to tense up which will in turn tense up your arms and legs as well, not really something you want when trying to push yourself physically.
Most people don’t realize it, but you actually don’t need to breath out all the way, just enough so that you can take another breath. This will prevent any unnecessary strain on your heart and lungs.
In addition to that, if you are using a spotter who says “rack the weight” when you are in the middle of a lift, DON’T! They are there to spot you and if they say rack the weight it most likely means you are in danger of getting hurt. Even if you think you can hold out a little longer, have confidence in your spotter and their judgment and RACK THE WEIGHT.
You want to make sure you are using the proper form at all times. Don’t use a weight that you can’t handle and don’t compromise your form. This means if you need to take smaller steps or breaks in between each rep, then that is what needs to be done. There will be times where you will want to rush through a set in order to finish it quickly so that you can move on to another exercise, but this is not time to skimp on the important things.
As they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The same is true for building the body you want. Start off right and you won’t have to worry about making up for lost time later.
2. Why Cardio sucks (and what to do instead)
It’s pretty much common knowledge nowadays that cardio is an essential part of any exercise program, but it really doesn’t have to be. Seriously.
There are a lot of misconceptions about cardio and while historically it played an important part in building strength, that is no longer the case and hasn’t been for quite sometime.
Let’s take a moment to go over some of the more common cardio myths and debunk them.
Myth 1: Cardio Will Help me Lose Weight and Burn off Fat
This one has been preached for years and it simply isn’t true. Cardio will burn calories while you are doing it, but the effect is only temporary. As soon as you stop your body goes right back to storing fat and trying to conserve energy.
In other words, if the only reason why you are doing cardio is to lose weight, then you are better off finding something more effective. (Hint: It’s lifting weights)
Myth 2: I need to do a lot of Cardio to see Results
This one is partly true. The more cardio you do, the more calories you will burn. However, this is only true up to a certain point as I mentioned earlier. Once your body realizes that you are taking away food (which is what it lives for) it’s not really going to care if you run for an hour or sit around playing Halo all day, it’s just going to try and hang on to every calorie because it sees that as a survival mechanism.
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t do cardio, because it does have its benefits. I’m just saying that it isn’t as important as most people say it is. Sure you can lose weight without doing any cardio at all, but you are going to have to be really strict with your diet and make up for all the calories you aren’t burning by eating even more healthy foods.
Myth 3: Cardio is the Key to Burning off Stubborn Fat
It would be really nice if this was true, but for the most part it really isn’t. There is a lot more that goes into getting rid of “stubborn fat” as some like to call it. Diet, weight training and overall lifestyle all play a part in this.
Yes, cardio does play a role and it’s even possible that certain types of cardio (like HIIT) could contribute to losing fat in a particular area, but I’m not convinced that it is to the degree that most people claim it is.
So if cardio isn’t the key to getting rid of stubborn fat, what is?
That brings me to my next point…
Myth 4: Cardio is More Effective Than Weight Training When It Comes to Burning Off Stubborn Fat
This is a myth that I used to believe for quite awhile. The idea being that Cardio was the best way to burn off that last bit of fat that just wouldn’t go away no matter what you did.
Well it isn’t.
While having some cardio in your program is a good thing, over doing it can actually be counter productive. That’s right, excessive cardio can actually be worse for fat loss than doing none at all.
Well for one thing a lot of people drastically reduce their calorie intake when they start doing a lot of cardio which might help them lose weight, but it’s not going to help you get rid of that stubborn fat.
Another reason has to do with something called Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). This is the amount of activity you engage in throughout the day that isn’t exercise. This includes everything from working, to playing with your kids, to housework and quite honestly even things like fidgeting or bouncing your leg. Your body will always be burning calories and these things contribute to how many.
So what does this have to do with cardio?
Quite a bit actually. It turns out that a lot of studies have shown that excessive cardio can actually reduce your overall amount of NEAT. People who do a lot of cardio tend to be less active in general. This means that they are compensating for all the time they spent on the treadmill by being more sedentary the rest of the day, thus negating any of the benefits they might have gotten from doing it in the first place.
So while excessive cardio certainly can help you lose weight, it probably isn’t going to help you get rid of your stubborn fat if that is your goal.
Myth 5: Muscle Tissue Is The Same As Body Fat
It would make sense that having more lean muscle mass would help you lose fat, but it isn’t quite that simple. Many people tend to think that adding lean muscle tissue will cause you to burn more calories. This is true, but not really in the way you might think.
While it is true that muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, the amount is really quite small. A pound of fat burns around 6 calories a day and a pound of muscle burns around 60 calories a day.
What this really means is that you would have to gain nearly 40 pounds of pure muscle to burn an additional 400 calories a day. This is why muscle alone isn’t going to make that much of a difference when it comes to fat loss.
The other thing to keep in mind is that body composition isn’t everything. Just because you may be a muscular 270 pounds with 6% body fat, doesn’t mean you are healthy and fit, you could still have horrible cardiovascular disease, or type 2 diabetes. Health is more than just how you look.
The real key to shedding that stubborn fat is the diet you put into place. You can have the best workouts in the world, but if you don’t control your calorie intake you aren’t going to get very far.
The next myth involves ways you can go about doing this, so if controlling your calorie intake isn’t your thing, then just click “close” on this window and I’ll see you again in a few days.
Myth 4: Eating Less Makes You Larger
Now this is one of those things that is true and false at the same time. It is true in the sense that if you eat less, then you are going to get smaller. It is false in the sense that if you eat an insufficient amount of calories your body goes into starvation mode and shuts down non-essential processes in order to allow vital functions to continue.
This is why you see those miserable looking anorexic models that barely weigh 100 pounds. Their body is saying “Hey, if you are not going to feed me I’m not going to do anything except basic life functions.”
Now this isn’t really a good solution for getting rid of fat because as I’ve said being underweight doesn’t necessarily imply being healthy. In addition, when you do start eating a sufficient amount of calories again, your body is going to have stored most of it as fat in case there is another famine so you are just going to gain all that weight right back.
So if starvation isn’t the answer, what is?
The best way to get rid of that stubborn fat is to do a moderate caloric deficit. This just means that you are eating less than you burn. You don’t want to go too crazy and cause your body to shut down, but you also don’t want to get too greedy and miss out on the benefits.
Research has shown that a daily caloric intake of between 1300 and 1800 calories will cause you to lose weight at a reasonable pace while allowing you to maintain your health and muscle.
If you are more active and/or larger you will need more calories and if you are less active and/or smaller you will need less. As with most things in life, the “Goldilocks” approach is best.
The next thing to do is set a reasonable deadline for your weight loss goals. If you are like most people, you want to lose the weight as quick as possible. This isn’t always the best approach.
It is much better to give yourself a deadline of 6-12 months rather than a rushed 4 week program. The quicker you rush it, the more likely you are to develop bad habits and fall off the wagon completely which will cause you to have to start all over again.
Many people say they want to lose 20-30 pounds in a month, but if you think about it, that is really not a healthy way to achieve your goal. It would require a caloric deficit of 3500 calories a day which could cause your body to go into starvation mode and besides losing weight in an unhealthy manner, you probably wouldn’t even have enough energy to go out and enjoy yourself. Not to mention that you would be putting your body under a lot of stress.
How to Create a Caloric Deficit
Now that you have an idea about how much you should eat on a daily basis in order to maintain your weight, we can start talking about the caloric deficit. The caloric deficit refers to how many calories less than your maintenance level you are going to eat on a daily basis.
Caloric Deficit Example
Let’s say our imaginary friend “Lars” weighs 200 pounds and has a maintenance level of 2000 calories. In order to create a caloric deficit, Lars should eat less than 2000 calories a day. Let’s say Lars eats 1700 calories a day. This leaves a deficit of 500 calories.
In order to figure out the size of the deficit you want to achieve, just take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2. The result will be the caloric deficit you should be aiming for each day in order to lose weight at a reasonable rate.
Lars’ Caloric Deficit
Weight (lbs) Daily Caloric Intake (2000 calories = 1 lb) Daily Caloric Intake w/ Deficit (500 calories = 1 lb)
200 200 (-500)
So, if you are larger like our imaginary friend “Lars” you should aim for a daily caloric intake of around 1500 calories in order to lose weight at a reasonable pace. However, remember that you will need to adjust this number depending on your physical activity level.
While a lot of weight loss programs have you cutting your calories to around 1000 or less, this is simply not a healthy way to lose weight. Your body needs the nutrients and energy from food in order to function properly.
I highly recommend that you only use this guide as a way of finding an appropriate caloric intake for yourself. Once you find what works for you personally, I would recommend seeing a nutritionist in order to make sure you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs.
The next thing you need to do is incorporate physical activity into your routine. This doesn’t mean you have to go run a marathon or anything like that.
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