Brandon's Notepad

March 5, 2013

Max Contraction Protocol

Home > My Research > Improvement > Weightlifting / Weight Training > Max Contraction Protocol

In my notes for Weightlifting / Weight Training, I mentioned John Little’s “Max Contraction” training methodology, a technique he developed by the author with weightlifting champion and trainer Mike Mentzer. The protocol is described in Little’s book, Max Contraction Training: The Scientifically Proven Program for Building Muscle Mass in Minimum Time [ISBN 0071423958]


I’ve read the book and the theory seems logical. In a nutshell, this program advocates:

  • Maximum-intensity, low-repetition weight training
  • Infrequent workouts that allow the body to respond fully to the exercise
  • Whole-body workouts that exercise the body as a unit
  • Isolation exercises that maximize muscle contraction and muscle fiber recruitment
  • Single reps of up to six seconds per muscle is optimal given maximum contraction

The Basics

The first ten chapters discuss the origin and philosophy of this protocol and the science that backs it up. The rubber meets the road in chapters eleven and twelve, which provide practical information, including an “ideal” workout program, which consists of the following exercises:

  • Leg Extensions (Quads)
  • Leg Curls (Hamstrings)
  • Standing Calf Raises
  • Max Straps Pulldowns (Lats)
  • Shrugs (Traps)
  • Pec Deck (Pecs)
  • Lateral Raises (Delts)
  • Bent-over Laterals (Rear Delts)
  • Max Straps Kickbacks (Triceps)
  • Closegrip Underhand Chin-ups or Preacher Curls (Biceps)
  • Max Straps Crunches (Abs)

The program includes a full-body workout consisting of isolation exercises only. Compound exercises, negatives, plyometrics, etc. are suboptimal. Also, the duration of the exercises must remain short to trigger the anaerobic metabolism (lactic acid fermentation) and not the aerobic metabolism (cellular respiration).

Moreover, he provides the following tips:

  • Longer hold times (~60sec) are recommended for the first four to six weeks
  • Keep a log book to help identify trends in strength growth
  • Be careful! If using a partner, weights should not be dropped into your control
  • Shaking by the end of an exercise – even violent shaking – can be normal
  • Workouts (any) should be no less than 48 hours apart, a week for advanced lifters
  • Increase intensity marginally, staying between 1 and 6 seconds

Little stresses the importance of rest throughout the book. Not only must the muscles recover, but the other systems involved in recovery as well (e.g. kidneys).

Max Straps

Notice that three exercises require Max Straps, a branded attachment for cable machines. These straps resemble the more generic tricep and ab straps. Apparently, these sold for approximately $70 and were available on the official Max Contraction website (inactive as of October 2012). Spud Inc. Straps and Equipment manufactures long ab straps that appear to fit the bill and are available from numerous online stores at the time of this writing for approximately $35.

Remaining Chapters

Seven chapters are devoted to body part specialization exercises, followed by special-topic chapters on Max Contraction for women and nutrition, and some information on rational expectations and answers to frequently asked questions. The FAQ chapter has a few good nuggets, especially some insight on exercise selection.

June 8, 2012

The Checklist Manifesto

Filed under: Book Reviews — Brandon @ 12:35 pm
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Home > My Research > Improvement > The Checklist Manifesto

The manager over several teams in our department required his direct reports to read this book. Not to let his teams have a leg up on our team, To help support the manager’s efforts, I decided to pick up a copy at the library and see what it was all about. It is a medical book (610.28 GAW) and not a business management, personal managment, or even a self-help book, which took me a little by surprise, but a skim of the blurb on the flap of the dust cover and an endorsement by Malcom Gladwell on the back made me confident that it was a worthy and revelant read.

About The Book
The Checklist Manifesto is a very easy read, containing mostly case studies, many of which are based on the author’s own observations and experiences. The primary message: use checklists because they are effective in reducing error in an increasingly-complicated world. The problem is that we humans tend to resist checklists for a number of reasons. Use them anyway. What have you got to lose? And, yes, that is a rhetorical question, especially considering that Gawande’s focus is on surgical safety and the reduction of incapacitating or fatal errors. I feel like one warning is in order: this is a medical book, so the weak-of-stomach may need to prepare themselves accordingly.

The Case Studies
The backdrop of the book is Gawande’s experience in developing a surgical checklist for the World Health Organization to be used around the world to reduce common errors in surgery. Along the way, he draws from a variety of sources to illustrate what checklists are and how the can be used. Being a medical book, there are medical-related cases, such as the opening story about a drowning victim in Austria miraculously saved by a swarm of superspecialists, and a clinical study of soap conducted in Southeast Asia. Several cases come from events in the history of aviation, such as the 1935 crash of the B-17 prototype, the successful emergency landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009, and others. He discusses the differences in the ways which FEMA and Walmart responded to the impact of Hurricane Katrina. He even cites an example from the book Crazy From The Heat by Van Halen singer David Lee Roth. Much of the book is based on personal observations and his own research in the areas of construction, finance, and the culinary arts.

Key Points
Read the book, it is worth the time. The case studies really drive home the points. I’ve distilled a few key points here.

Complexity, Success & Failure

  • Success requires three things: the capacity to succeed, knowledge, and the application of that knowledge. Thus, failure arises from fate (my word), ignorance, or ineptitude.
  • Complexity in today’s world (especially in medicine) has led to increasingly-deep levels of specialization of skills.
  • Tasks may be simple, complicated (repeatable sets of simple tasks), or complex (unique, not repeatable).
  • Really complex tasks cannot always be reduced to simple checklists — expertise is required.
  • Procedural steps are often missed for one of several reasons, such as distraction, plain forgetfulness, false memory that results from repetition, etc.
  • The “stupid stuff” is most-often missed.
  • Using checklists requires discipline.
  • Getting it right means nobody has to be a hero.

Checklist Qualities

  • Good checklists can be described as precise, efficient, and practical; conversely, bad checklists are vague, long, or otherwise difficult to use.
  • Intuitively, this means that the physical properties of good checklists would include words that are simple and exact in meaning, including appropriate trade lingo, presented in as little and uncluttered a space as necessary.
  • READ-DO checklists are explicit lists of steps that are checked-off as they are completed, whereas DO-CONFIRM checklists contain only a minimum number of (critical) steps that constitute [what I call] success criteria, the completion of which can be confirmed at appropriate times.
  • Checklists may address “normal” situations [i.e. the “happy path” scenarios] or non-normal ones [i.e. exception-handling]
  • Reminders to run through checklists can be placed in appropriate places. [David Allen of GTD fame would agree with this sentiment.]
  • “Pause points” that occur naturally in a process can be leveraged as well.
  • It is tempting to use checklists as record-keeping devices to gather metrics; however, this formality adds resistence.
  • Checklists are communication tools, and it may be more effective for a team to use them verbally instead of checking items off with a pen or pencil.

Checklist Benefits

  • The real value in using checklists is in communication — getting people to talk before undertaking complex tasks.
  • Checklists lead to consistency and (hopefully) quality improvement over time, though they are probably not the right instrument to use to measure these things.

April 28, 2011

Conversations With God

Filed under: Book Reviews,New Age — Brandon @ 10:08 am
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Home > My Research > Eastern Philosophy & New Age > Conversations With God

Conversations With God is a book series, a movement, and a now a foundation created by Neale Donald Walsch. Walsch embraces and preaches New Age thought. At least two of my friends – one of whom I count amongst my dearest friends – are ensnared by this man and his teachings. I am compelled to understand what they find so captivating about it; so, with caution and prayers for protection against false teaching, I read and I record my notes here.

Book 1 (1995)
Chapter 1 + TOC
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14

July 13, 2009

The Book of Rock Stars

The Book of Rock Stars
This is a short review of The Book of Rock Stars. The text was written by Kathleen Krull and the art produced by Stephen Alcorn.

Attracted to it by the colorful, iconographic art on the cover, I checked this book out from the childrens’ section of the local library. The pages contain the histories of nineteen rock legends: 16 artists, 2 duos and, 1 band. The text is straightforward and honest, holding back the more lurid details of their lives while not failing to explain how some ended in suicide or by substance-abuse. Older children, especially those taking an interest in rock music, could benefit from this text if coupled with parental guidance, but I would not recommend it for young readers in, say, gradeschool.

June 7, 2009

Getting ThingsĀ Done

Short URL:
Home > My Research > Improvement > Getting Things Done

I’m doing something different these days, Getting Things Done. It is a personal time management method made popular by businessman and author, David Allen. Now, I’m not into fads or quick fixes, and I believe that many of the various time management methods will work if they are properly implemented, but too much of this method makes sense. I saw results, even after only a few weeks of implementation.

One word of warning, GTD is easy to implement, but it does require discipline to keep it going. The good news is that, once you get used to it, the practice is easy to resume if you do fall out of practice.

The Book
The book is an easy read and well worth the time. There is a good summary available on Wiki Summaries and a lot of folks have written their own summaries on personal sites as well. Here is another good one someone posted on Scribd.

The Experience
Instead of explaining in detail the generic method, replicating what a million sites already do, I thought it would more useful to post how I actually put it to use. Doing so will provide an easily-accessed reminder for my self and may assist others by example. To set the stage, I think Allen’s high-level description of the method is very succinct and worth quoting, “No matter what the setting, there are five discrete stages that we go through as we deal with our work. We (1) collect things that command our attention; (2) process what they mean and what to do about them; and (3) organize the results, which we (4) review as options for what we choose to (5) do.” [D.Allen-1, p. 24]

My Implementation
@Work (Part 1)
@Work (Part 2)
@Work (Part 3)
GTD Advent Calendar
Commitment Management START HERE!
Well-Formed Context Lists
The Two-Minute Rule
Shopping Lists
GTD & The New Age
Getting Things Done Software
The Paper Tiger

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