Todd Kuslikis is devoted to helping men build muscle using only bodyweight exercises. Todd’s first exposure to the world of calisthenics was during his Kenpo karate training in college. He saw individuals with amazing physiques performing unique bodyweight exercises he had never seen before. After learning this type of training, he became addicted to the freedom, enjoyment, and results that bodyweight exercise delivers.
Recently he has been working on a new fitness platform that may change the face of the industry. In this interview you’ll learn:
- The Value of Training Your Body as a Functional Unit
- Why Proprioception Matters?
- Movement…over Strength and Aesthetics
- How Principles Become Embodied
- Tao Yin Exercises
- Why “No Pain, No Gain” is Just Plain Stupid
- How to Develop Maximum Voluntary Contraction
- Different Types of Isometric Exercises
- Neuron Flow and Qi Flow
- And Much More
Todd has recently been working on RallyAll.com a live community based fitness platform.
Click the link below to access the complete transcript.[spoiler]
The content found on the Vital Way podcast in Superman Herbs is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, for the diagnosis or treatment of a health condition or as a substitute for medical counseling. Please review any information with your qualified healthcare provider before making any decisions concerning your health. You assume all risk for use, misuse or disuse of this information.
Logan: Welcome to the Vital Way podcast. I’m Logan Christopher from Legendary Strength and Super Man Herbs and we’re going to have a fun call dedicated to exercise, a huge passion of mine. We’ll be talking about some fun stuff from bodyweight training to isometrics and so much more. Joining me today is Todd Kuslikis. He’s been doing bodyweight training for a number of years to develop strength and muscle and teaching others how to do that, too. He’s also working on a new sort to fitness platform that may change the face of the industry so we’ll definitely be talking about that. But first I want to say, welcome to the call, Todd.
Todd: Thanks so much, Logan. I really appreciate you having me.
Logan: Absolutely. Well, this should be a lot of fun as we dive into some subjects. But for people that aren’t familiar with you can you give a little bit of your background, how you got started in this field?
Todd: Yeah so I started off as a personal trainer. I actually got my love and passion for bodyweight exercises actually started in martial arts. So I was in Kenpo Karate and I remember being in my class, being put through these really intense exercises that literally like we were ready to puke in the corner. It was 20 to 30 minutes of exercise and it was like blazingly difficult. But you look at some of these people, these black belts and they take off their shirts and they were ripped. I thought, is this possible? I thought you needed to lift weights to get ripped. So that kind of piqued my interest and curiosity as a young man, how to develop my body using body weight exercises. That’s where I started off.
Then I started learning some of the exercises that they taught. Because a lot of people think bodyweight exercises are pushups and pull-ups and bodyweight squats and maybe some crunches and that’s pretty much it but as you know, Logan, the rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper into bodyweight exercises. So I started learning these different techniques and not just exercises but styles of training that these Kenpo masters were teaching me. I started to notice my own body transform and not just develop from like a muscular, getting stronger perspective—
And as you teach as well, Logan, when you do these bodyweight strength training and you focus on training your body as a whole and as a unit, you start to feel more synchronized. It’s like if you train your body in parts, you’ll certainly get stronger but when you train your body as a functional unit, you start feeling your body stronger as a functional unit. When you pick up the groceries out of the back of the car and you twist your body in a weird way, you don’t end up on the ground because I forgot to train my low back or train this muscle. It’s like you train your entire body as whole. That’s when I started getting interested.
Then I took the path of going through personal training school and medical massage therapy school, herbal medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, really diving into Traditional Chinese Medicine. I took the path of Eastern meets Western. So I went through schooling in Michigan and studied nursing like a lot of the hard sciences but then looked at also in parallel, at that tandem, looked at those other sciences like Traditional Chinese Medicine and kind of straddled the line just where I really started developing a passion for Eastern martial arts and tai chi and qigong. Yeah, the story goes from there of course.
Logan: Nice. I wasn’t aware that you were training with Kenpo karate. I have some training in that as well.
Todd: Do you? Cool.
Logan: I do. Yeah. It’s good to be fast in there, right? That’s a big component of it and yeah, having the strength behind it certainly helps. I’d say that’s one, like you were saying with the bodyweight, you’re learning to use your body as a functional unit but—I’m a big proponent of bodyweight training as well as training with a whole bunch of other things—I feel as sort of like the foundational thing, you should learn to move your body first before moving other objects and weights. Just because you’re within your own body, it seems like the right place to start.
Todd: Yeah. It develops a sense of, like you said, understanding your own body and the focus isn’t just on how much I can lift. It’s actually movement-based. Like in the calisthenics world, there’s a huge trend that continues to grow around movement. Really, I think it’s being led by a lot of people but is one gentleman that’s actually helping to lead the movement-based on trends within the calisthenics and bodyweight kind of industry. He would say it goes well beyond that.
That’s where people need to start, I believe, because they need to know how to move their own body with all that proprioception, which just means knowing where your body is in the space. Because I think especially living in the US, we can get so disconnected from our own bodies because we’re so focused on work, success, stress and everything else and we forget like wow, are my shoulders tense right now. Okay, just by being aware of it, you start to feel your shoulders relax. Or what is my breathing like? By focusing on your breathing then your breathing relaxes. So I look at bodyweight strength training the same way as when you’re just focusing on your own body, you develop that proprioception and the awareness within your own body which has so many more benefits than just muscular development or strength development.
Logan: Yeah, I think that’s an important component because so many people think of resistance exercise, whether it’s weights, machines, kettlebells or bodyweights stuff but strength is just one quality of movement. It’s movement against a resistance. But with bodyweight training, really it’s where you can bring in so many more of those different qualities of movement like the coordination, mobility and flexibility. With so many exercises, you’re not just focused on say the strength aspect or trying to get a burn in the muscles so that it grows bigger but so much more so that you really develop your ability to move.
When I grew up, I was extremely weak and scrawny. I was not athletic, uncoordinated. I was like the gangly, very skinny teenager. But working with bodyweight exercises as well as so much else now, I know how to move my body so I’m right with you there. It’s really hitting those different qualities of movement, not just strength. I know I love to focus on that but there are so many other aspects and really you need those other aspects to be sort of a well-rounded athlete, whether you’re playing a sport or doing martial arts or not.
Todd: Yeah, that concept I think is so important and that really drilled down into my own head when I was practicing and teaching tai chi, the soft martial art and realizing that the importance of tai chi is really inculcating the principles of tai chi and the principles of tai chi being relaxation, energy control, breath control and fluidity. There’s a bunch of different principles but as you practice those principles within the form or during the kata or the practice, those principles start to seep into your daily life and you become fluid, more calm and relaxed. Even if say someone cuts you off while you’re driving, you don’t flip them a bird. You never start pounding on your steering wheel. You just breathe through it. You just react, kind of like water flowing down a river and you just move around the rock.
So it’s the same thing with fitness. If you’re just focusing on putting on heavy metal Metallica and blasting out heavy reps in your deadlifts and whatnot, which I have nothing against but if you’re just focusing on that, it’s like that will seep into your daily life and it can be more difficult to handle even low stress stressors that are coming into your life. But if you balance that with some fluidity and mobility work, then it’s a deeper part of—because anything we do will impact kind of like inner being and who we are so I think it’s important for people to realize, and I have to remind myself of this, too, that it’s like okay, my daily practice, my daily ritual will affect my daily life and my perspective on the world and how I interact with the world.
Logan: Yeah. I love what you said there, that tai chi is like you’re embodying those principles, those principles behind that and that’s true of fitness. I’ve been talking about this lately, just sort of the principles, those sort of big concepts or ideas behind the training that I do. Really I want people to understand that really through the training that you’re doing, you are embodying those principles. I really like how you describe that there. And as you said, there’s a time and place. I will turn the metal on and lift some heavy things. That’s more like the yang aspect of training. Then you’ve got to balance that out with the yin, tai chi, qi gong, just meditation by itself. But also even within movement, I can be working on a pretty tough say bodyweight exercise.
Just this morning, I’m working on sort of four different variations of one-legged squats, which there’s definitely the strength component but also the flexibility is a big component. I’m treating this as a practice. It’s like a moving meditation. I don’t have music on during it. I’m really just focused, getting into the practice of the movement, working on developing that skill. That’s very different from, as you said, just a heavy deadlift.
Todd: Right. I’ve written an article about this. I wrote about it like two years ago, my vision for the calisthenics industry and where I believe that we can head and really where it’s like a blending, like a tai chi meets a difficult calisthenics gymnastics moves but it’s like combined into like one flowing form where you’re like on the ground and you’re moving from a handstand, slowly swinging to an L-sit and then moving back up into a handstand. It’s just like you’re flowing but slowly, not just kind of like a floor routine that you’d see from a gymnastic standpoint but like you’re focusing on not just the strength component but you’re focusing on mobility, you’re focusing on breath control, you’re focusing on flexibility and even energy control.
So it’s like that balancing of yin and yang and east and west where it’s like we treat our bodies like an entire, complete picture versus just like oh, I can now do a handstand which is great. That’s a great place to start but it’s like training your body as a whole, I’m a big believer in using fitness to not just achieve a certain result from a physical standpoint but using fitness as a tool to create a better life for ourselves and how we view the word. I think it’s so important because we can choose a certain fitness modality and that will deeply affect how we view the world.
Logan: Yeah. I’ve often described sort of strength training or whatever sort of movement, it’s a great laboratory in which to sort of practice these skills that you can then apply to other areas of life like goal setting, planning, just using mental training and how you’re thinking about the exercises as you’re doing them. It’s a great place to work in that because you can pretty quickly see what is working and what is not working and achieve different goals that you want. So it’s a great place to sort of learn those foundational skills that can be applied to becoming successful in any area of life.
Todd: That’s right and I definitely think that it transcends because it’s like I’m a big planner, like people they laugh at me because I’ve got my yearly goals plan. They break down to monthly and quarterly goals and monthly goals and even daily goals.
Logan: I’m right there with you, man.
Todd: It’s funny because I think there’s a time and place for everything. There’s a time and place for that but then I think there’s also a time and place, and maybe it’s just a day’s worth of time, where you just set all that aside and you just kind of be. It’s like you just kind of turn things. I know you’re living out here in the Silicon Valley, a little bit west than me but it’s words like things are high-paced, things are moving so quickly. It’s like hey, you’ve got to have a time just to like simmer back. Fitness is the same way. If you’re doing the same thing over and over again, high stress fitness activity, it’s like your body is just going to wear down so you need those times where you’re focusing on more meditative relaxation mobility work just to break that balance.
Logan: Yeah, that’s the truth. Most people are overstressed and exercise, most forms of it are stressors so that can be sort of contraindicated. I think exercise is great. If you do it properly then it’s going to build your adaptability, build your ability to handle stress but many people are doing these 60-hour work weeks and trying to go run a marathon on the side where you’re going to breakdown the body because it’s just different forms of stress but overall it can be too much. Whereas if you have these different forms of training, you have qi gong, tai chi and mediation, these always get the thing but what we’re saying here is you can use like a movement practice that is both a workout but a sort of calming meditation type thing at the same time. I feel that that is going to sort of be expanded upon in the future as well. Because it’s seems anyone that’s been doing the bodyweight thing for a while kind of arrives at that place. They start really investigating this sort of meditative practice, really working on the quality of the movements more so than just banging out reps of pushups and squats.
Todd: Yeah, because it gets boring after a while.
Logan: I think both you and I have done a lot of pushups and squats.
Todd: I remember those were one of my goals. My goal was at first is the 60-second freestanding handstand. Okay, you achieved that. Is the next goal 75 seconds or 120 seconds? Once you get to 60, what’s next? Then it’s like okay how I do 10 freestanding handstand pushups. They’re not against the wall. It’s like okay, you’ve achieved that. Is it the one-handed handstand, which I haven’t worked on yet?
Logan: That’s a tough one. I’ve worked on that a little bit. I have not achieved that. It’s a very humbling move.
Todd: It’s a higher level for sure. But as says, it’s like you can expand and you try to expand in multiple planes and of multiple areas, not just be a specialist like the master of the one-handed handstand but then you can’t do a pistol squat or you can’t even learn to control your breaths to relax your mind. I remember when I was studying tai chi and qi gong regularly, I found, it was actually a book. I can’t remember where I found it, at the library I think. It was Dao Yin Exercises. Have you heard of Dao Yin?
Todd: It’s like seated Chinese exercises that’s not quite like tai chi but it’s done with energy. It’s like seated qi gong almost. I remember this specific practice that this book described. I got the practice down and after I actually knew the practice, knew the routine, literally my sleep quality was better than I ever had in my entire life. Because you would do this routine, it would be like a 20-minute routine before you would go to bed. I would go to sleep and I would wake up more rested than I have ever felt in my entire life, just brimming with energy, not like chaotic energy but just like strong, vibrant energy just from doing this Dao Yin exercises. To this day, I can’t find the book. I did it quite a while. I think I was in high school at the time so I just moved on to the next thing.
But that’s what I’m talking about. As you pursue fitness, you start to dive into other areas and then as you pursue like deeper abilities or greater abilities in fitness, you start to get a little bit I don’t want to say bored with them but you just start to explore other areas, like okay, I can do a handstand but what is my sleep quality? So you start learning how to deepen your sleep quality and just improve all aspects of your life versus bragging down the street because you can do a one-handed handstand.
Logan: Yeah, I feel that health component is such a huge thing and there’s so much that goes into that. Really I try to look at the long-term picture, right? I want to be doing crazy feats of strength and bodyweight stuff when I’m 60 years old. So I’m looking at that. 30 years from now, what am I going to be doing? Really in order to have longevity, you have to make health the most primary thing that you do. I feel the training part is important but you’ve got to look at once again, is that training supporting your health or is it taking away from it? You can really look at all areas of your life in this sort of way. So there’s the training and then of course the recovery with the sleep and the yin type training that helps support everything as well.
Todd: That’s right. I remember that’s one of the big reasons. The Kenpo classes, while it got me into bodyweight exercises, but even when I was in high school I was diving into more really heavy lifting and doing barbell presses and whatnot and not doing the supportive mobility work. I remember really injuring my shoulder, my left shoulder to the point where I still have bicipital tendonitis in my shoulder. Just pushing through it, pushing through the pain to just try to lift more and more weights—
Logan: Because that works out well.
Todd: I highly recommend that to anyone. If you feel pain, keep going.
Logan: You’ve got to mentally tough, right?
Todd: Exactly. Push through it. No pain, no gain, as they say, right? So I followed that philosophy and severely injured my shoulder to the point where I couldn’t even lift up my left arm. So being kind of young and dumb in high school, you just think oh man, I’ve just got to push through it. That’s where it just dawned on me – why am I doing this to myself? Fitness has to be more than just one single facet of talking to your bros in the locker room, “How much do you bench?” Let’s move beyond this.
So that really helped to solidify the importance of a deeper level of training and understanding okay, how do the joints move, diving into like medical massage therapy and medical manual therapy and understanding origin and insertions of the muscles and understanding these all interact to make a whole body function well. That’s what really helped me move me on a fast track of wanting to learn what goes on in the physical body, which helped me move into actually starting up a website, A Shot of Adrenaline. We’re teaching bodyweight exercises and that’s what we focused on and just like how to get ripped, physical development. But a lot of these exercise really help create a strong body that isn’t going to get injured even while you’re doing a little bit more difficult feats of strengths.
Logan: Have you found personally that with time and practicing all these different things, that you become much better in tune with your body? I know I make that. I consciously focus on working on that and developing that. It’s really where you kind of come to see your body as an ally rather than like a stupid enemy that you’ve just got to shut up and push through the pain.
Todd: Exactly. Even like setting goals for bodyweight exercises, a lot of people have a goal, I want to do 100 pushups in a row or whatever else and realizing that maybe your body isn’t supposed to do 100 pushups in a row, your specific body. Maybe you need to focus on something else and learning to listen to your bod. Sometimes, progress happens faster when you, and maybe more than just sometimes but most times, your body progresses faster when you actually listen to it and you scale back when you are more fatigued or your muscles are aching too much and you’re like okay I need to take a rest because your body needs that balance. But yeah, over time I’ve certainly more aware.
Now of course, working on a startup I’ve become less aware of my body. There are always different phases in our lives when we have less awareness or more awareness of our body but definitely I try to make it a practice to kind of take stock of your body. Because there was a stretch when I first started the company—we’re still in startup mode—where I was sick for like a month straight. For two or three weeks, I’d have like a cold and I’d get better. Then I’d end up with whatever, something else. Okay, working morning till night even though I eat healthy regularly and take vitamins is just so much stress on the body. So I needed to scale back and just take a couple of days to just let my body and mind just not think about the startup and just say okay, what is my body doing? That’s when my body can actually recover.
Logan: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s crazy, the stuff we put ourselves through with the business. I guess that’s the good test of being able to balance and listening to your body as you go forward. It’s kind of ironic I know. Multiple people in the fitness industry, they’ll say like I’m too busy building the business to even workout, which is a little hypocritical. But we all go through periods like that at times and you’ve got to adjust.
Todd: That’s true. So you need that balance. You need to have that balance. It’s just critically important. That’s what they say. You spend your younger years building wealth at the expense of your health and then in your later years, you spend your wealth taking back your health. It’s like all right, this doesn’t quite make sense.
Logan: Yeah. We always want what we don’t have.
Logan: For people that may not be familiar with bodyweight exercises beyond pushups, squats, sit-ups, that sort of thing, what are some areas that I guess if someone starting out with this that you’d like to have them focus on building?
Todd: Yeah, after they do some basic movement-based exercises, starting off with the basics of course. You start off with the basic pushups and squats because that’s what a lot of people are used to. Then because those are like on a singular plane movement patterns, I like to start to incorporate a little bit more dynamic movement patterns. An example would be like a Hindu pushup or Hindu Squat where you’re actually moving a little bit more dynamically and incorporating more muscle groups into that single movement pattern. Then continue to progress from there.
It’s like you’re progressing along the lines of increasing movement patterns and then increasing strength patterns, doing more and more difficult exercise because, as we said before, the bodyweight world is a rabbit hole. You can go deeper and deeper but I like to help people focus on their mobility and actually loosening up their body, not loosening up as in becoming flaccid and I can do the splits or something but actually increasing that mobility, which is like flexibility under strength or under stress, improving that aspect first and then diving deeper into a little bit more difficult exercises like pistol squats and starting to work on handstands and that type of thing.
Logan: Yeah, not everyone needs to do the splits but everyone ought to be able to do a full squat where they can get rock bottom, right? It’s kind of a basic human motion that unfortunately the majority of the population has lost by never doing it. But it be gained. That’s the good news, right?
Todd: It can be. That’s the challenge of like sitting on chairs all day long. I think people have heard that you probably shouldn’t sit on chairs. The fact of the matter is most people are still going to sit on chairs because that’s what society tells us to do. We’re at a business meeting or we’re at our desk. Most people are not going to be squatting on their desk, although that would probably be best.
Logan: Or to go to the bathroom.
Todd: Exactly. So we’ve got to think of ways that actually work in people’s daily lives, frequently getting up and walking around, even doing leg swinging motions at your desk, doing squats, some light squats at your desk. And then of course when you wake up and before you go to bed, doing something a little bit more dynamic and elaborate will help to curb a lot of those issues with sitting at your desk. Because yeah, you’re right; a basic movement pattern is doing a full squat. We should be able to squat. In Asia and China, people wait for the bus in a squat position. Here we have a bench. It’s like okay, what are we doing here? Totally putting us at a disadvantage. But there are some things that you can do to help that.
Logan: Yeah. And how do you like to fit isometrics into this training? Is that something that everyone should get into at some point or is it more for specific people looking for specific goals?
Todd: Isometric really helps with a concept called maximal voluntary contraction. It helps to recruit all your muscle fibers within a single motion, or not even a motion, within a single exercise. So a lot of times like with bodyweight exercises, that’s what a lot of people misnomer is like how do you make a pushup harder? Somebody would do 20 pushups. Okay, what’s the next step? I guess 30 is. The only facet that they know how to change is total number of reps.
Logan: Right. There’s a lot you can do.
Todd: Exactly. There’s a lot that you can do and one of the things that you can do is isometrics to focus on strengthening your chest. Even just doing what I call the prayer pose where you place your hands together and you squeeze your hands together as hard as you can. You’re recruiting maximum amount of muscle fibers in your chest. Or you push against the wall, you’re recruiting actually more muscle fibers in a single exercise than you would be if you’re just doing just the standard pushup because the number of muscle fibers that are going to be recruited is going to be based off of the resistance. That’s kind of how that works.
So I do recommend that most people do isometrics, especially if they’re not using any type of weighted exercise. If they’re just doing the standard bodyweight exercises, I do recommend that they incorporate some type of isometric exercises because it helps to increase the difficulty kind of from that maximum voluntary contraction perspective and really focus on the neuro—As you know, and you’ve talked about it in your books too, Logan, the neurological developments that happens when you’re actually doing the isometrics because it puts a great amount of stress and strain on the nerves as well, which is needed to improve overall strength. But then also there’s the element of muscular strength and muscular development with isometrics, too. But I find that combining movement-based bodyweight exercises with skill-based exercises like isometrics is like a perfect yin and yang balance to improve like strength and skillfulness and strength and movement.
Logan: Plus with the isometrics, you can really hit muscles in angles and certain ways that can be very difficult, if not impossible, to replicate with other exercises.
Todd: Right. I I have a whole routine that I do with isometrics using a towel. Just using a single towel even for the upper body, you can just hit some really cool angles in your shoulders or in your triceps or in your back that is much more difficult to get with just using bodyweight exercises. Because that is one of the difficult things about it. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of bodyweight exercises that you can do but it can be a little bit more challenging to isolate. Bodyweight is fantastic for whole body functional development but say you wanted to get the rhomboids or say you wanted to hit the lateral delts, we can think of a few exercises that will do that. I can probably think of maybe seven or eight exercises with weights to do that. Incorporating isometrics and like I say using a towel, you can really target these specific areas to help develop those more effectively.
Logan: Right, and that has a lot of utility in pre-habing or rehabbing an injury because you can target those fine points, right?
Todd: That’s right. Exactly. Super important. It’s hard to overdo isometrics. You are just using your own body and you’re not necessarily even using gravity. While you can potentially overdo like a handstand and all of a sudden you fall on your head or something or you injure your shoulder, but if you’re focusing on shoulder development using a towel and isometrics, it’s actually really hard to overdo it especially if you have some type of injury.
Logan: Right, because it’s going to be self-limiting. You can’t pull harder than you can pull.
Todd: Exactly. That’s exactly right.
Logan: Right. So just for more clarity for people, do you have people do a lot of isometrics just like with the towel or different things as well as isometrics like holding the bottom position of pushup and squeezing harder on that?
Todd: Yes. Exactly. I kind of lead them through a bunch of different exercises and specific exercises. Most people think isometrics as like holding a bottom position like a plank. That’s kind of like the typical isometrics but then there are isometrics that are what’s called yielding isometrics. You know about it all this, too, but for anyone that’s listening you’ve got yielding isometrics where it’s like you’re pushing against a force that is movable. So the example would be that prayer pose where you put your hands together. Okay, technically you can move that to change the variation or change the difficulty that you’re pushing against with your hands.
But then also you can push against an immovable force, which is called overcoming isometrics. Say you were to push your hands against a wall and force yourself to try to move that wall. You can push until you’re blue in the face, you are not going to move that wall. That would be like an overcoming isometrics where you’re really recruiting the maximum amount of muscle fibers. Anything in between, you can use those three types of isometrics in like any variation to focus on any part of the muscle, any area of the body. Even pushing against a wall, say you just shift your body and take one hand off the wall and you start pushing on the wall with one hand and then you can do any angle in between where both hands are on the wall versus one hand that’s on the wall.
That’s where there is so much creativity that you can implement once you know some of the basics of either isometrics or bodyweight exercises as a whole. So that’s why I’m a big fan. Even on A Shot of Adrenaline, we have long lists of exercises that you can do on these, all three right. There are hundreds of different exercises that you can do because really changing angles is a big part of bodyweight training because you need to focus on, you need to develop different parts of your body, not just doing the same pushups and squats over and over again.
Logan: I remember one time Bud Jeffries and I were talking about isometrics and I think we came up with a list of something like 17 or 18 different types of isometrics. It’s a term that’s used for pushing against immovable resistance but there really are so many different ways in which that can be done. But you like to break it into those three different types?
Todd: Yeah, I think it’s helpful to kind of understand it, just kind of static or kind of pushing against the ground or not even pushing against the ground, you’re like pushing almost against gravity which is against more of your own bodyweight and then some type of yielding, which is like there could be some movement in here as well and then overcoming will be pushing against some type of wall or something that you really can’t move.
Of course, the definitions break down when you like start to understand that the body is capable of so much more than what we ever thought is possible. You can consider overcoming isometrics is like pulling against bar but I’ve heard stories and we know of people that have been able to bend bars. So the body is capable of so much more so I think the important thing is really understanding you as an individual and learning to explore what you can do with your own human body. I think that’s one of the most important parts about isometrics and fitness as a whole.
Logan: Yeah, and then there are blends of them. Isotonic exercise when something moving, let’s just say a pushup for instance, the arms, the shoulders, the chest is really doing the moving but your abs and lower back are contracting isometrically during that. They’re not actively moving. They’re just supporting the body as it goes and you do the rest of the exercise.
Todd: Yes, that’s right. Any variation in between is really fine. Then of course you can add weights to typically bodyweight exercises to make them even more difficult and that can be the fun part as well. I don’t do it as much. Every once in a while, I’ll kind of throw around a kettlebell or add some weights to traditional bodyweight exercise but it’s an element that’s going to make it even more difficult. I know there are these camps of you shouldn’t be lifting weights because you’re going to injure yourself or you can only do bodyweight exercises or you should never do bodyweight for whatever reasons. Okay, it can be combinations of everything. You just have to know what you’re doing and explore it from there.
Logan: I always say that every tool has its advantages and disadvantages and that includes bodyweight as one of those. There are plenty of great advantages which we’ve covered on this call but there are also some limitations in what you can do if you just use that versus some other tools. A pretty natural human movement is picking something up off the ground and carrying it and unless you’re using someone else’s body, you can’t really replicate that same sort of motion with your own bodyweight.
Todd: That’s right. Exactly. That’s a great point.
Logan: So you mentioned you got into Chinese medicine. We talked a bit about how we have like the yin and yang types of training but how has the Eastern philosophy sort of maybe changed your perceptions or guided what you do in training or health in general?
Todd: Well, one thing is very, very prominent. It has helped me have the importance of vitamins and minerals. Before, I was always a big believer of just eat healthy food and you’ll get all the vitamins and minerals that you need. If we were living back in Eden—
Logan: If our food was actually healthy or even our healthy food was really health.
Todd: Exactly. If we lived in a utopia or at an oasis or something, I guess that can be true but we just don’t live in that world. Maybe someday we would but it’s just not a reality. I definitely see vitamins as a supplement. It’s kind of like the fitness is one spoke of the wheel in your bicycle and nutrition and food is the other spoke. Okay, vitamin and minerals and everything else are our supplements. We shouldn’t be relying on those for our end-all be-all. They’re not going to overcome a bad diet but they’re certainly so important for just raising our health and fitness to the next level.
Then when I was studying nutrition and herbal medicine, the importance of good quality nutrition like we just recently took a trip to Colorado—gosh I forget which—there was a tea plant that we visited. They talked about how they harvest the tea. I know, Logan, you and I chatted about this, too. I think the example they used was like chamomile or something. A lot of companies would just take the entire chamomile plant, the roots, the leaves, stems and everything else, grind it up and call it chamomile. But it’s just one part of the chamomile plant that actually has those properties to give you calmness and everything else. You know this probably ten times better than I do but that’s what I learned.
We’ve got to understand where the quality of these vitamins and minerals are coming from in order to give is the actual effects because people will take these and they’ll be like I don’t believe in vitamins or taking supplements because they don’t ever work. Well, we’ve got to look at the quality, like how is this company harvesting that plant that are actually supplying it to you. I know, Logan, you’re a big proponent of actually having good quality.
Logan: Yeah. It’s a huge thing. Yes certainly. Since getting into the industry of just seeing so much more of how that is the case, like you were saying with chamomile, you use the little flowers in chamomile. It’s pretty amazing. It does a far wide ranging group of things but some other plants, say stinging nettles for instance, that plant is fascinating because each different part of the plant does different things. The leaves are very nutritional and have like a diuretic, flushing effect. The seeds, this one is not well-known but it’s like straight to your adrenals. It’s a pretty potent medicine. And then the roots are great for prostate health and just supporting the hormonal system. So that’s a pretty fascinating plant by itself. But yeah, most of them you tend to have one specific part that is best used like the chamomile flowers.
Todd: When someone asks me how traditional Chinese medicine affects me, one of the deepest effects that it’s had on me is because I was studying western medicine and eastern medicine in tandem, I got a unique perspective because looking at Chinese medicine, looking at meridians and how qi flows through the body, they would say this meridian leads to this organ or that meridian leads to that organ and most people on the west, this all hocus and just kind of fluffy stuff and whatnot.
But learning, going through nursing school and looking like the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system and seeing how much lines up between the central and peripheral nervous system and how it lines up with meridian flow, which Chinese would say in the body, it doesn’t line up perfectly but there are too many similarities to think traditional Chinese medicine and qi flow and meridians are just hocus pocus. There’s too much similarities between what we call peripheral and central nervous system, neuron flow and then what they call qi flow. This is so interesting. That’s why I’m a big proponent of like understanding how people in the east actually train. They train a little bit more from a calm perspective. We train from a little bit more of a hard perspective. That’s why it’s really important to balance both of those elements.
Logan: I feel taking that eastern perspective, like working with meridians, I’ve done some fun things with that that can then help with the more hard style or yang type of training but I feel that an important component of those yin things, whether qi gong, tai chi or meditation. Even just working with our body, the more you cultivate your awareness even in bodyweight training, I feel that kind of transfers over to sort of this energetic awareness as well if you’re paying attention to it and if you believe in it. Because if you don’t believe in it, that can stop you from feeling it as well. I feel that helps. The more awareness you have in general, more awareness is a better thing. Really what we’re talking about in this whole call is different forms of awareness and how we can build those up and then apply them to different things.
Todd: I remember, doing tai chi for a long period of time, which is what I did, you have certain experiences that are incredible.
Logan: Yeah, those are always fun, aren’t they?
Todd: They are. I remember one time I was practicing in our backyard and it was like early morning. I was doing these deep postures, elongated arms and deep squats and moving in a really flow, kind of like water just moving. All of a sudden, I felt like I was a tornado. It’s hard to describe but it’s like the power I just felt. And I’m like a pretty western guy. I’m not very like crazy, esoteric or whatever but like I felt like this intense strength within my body but it was supple and moving.
So you have these experiences that are just like oh my gosh, like I said before, our bodies are so much more capable. Who could ever imagine? But we’ve got to allow our minds to be open to like, what can my body do? My body is not meant to just come home from work, sit on a Lazy Boy and watch game shows for the rest of the evening. Let’s explore what our bodies can do even beyond just the typical fitness exercises. What does it mean to move energy throughout our body using our mind and using our breath and trying to feel it? Even if you can’t feel it right away, that’s okay. You’re learning that practice and over time, you start to be able to control energy within our own body. It’s a really cool feeling. But then it’s like okay, you can use that for health, your own body and healing. You can use it for martial arts. You can just use it for just general fitness and well-being. You can use it for a lot of different purposes.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. I feel that just working at that, it’s really going to be a lifelong practice and if you work at that, it’s going to pay off in many different ways. Coming from not being naturally strong or fit or anything like that, that’s kind of what led me into these what would be called more esoteric things because I felt there was an opportunity to really go so much deeper than most people have gone before and to really apply these seemingly esoteric things for strengths of concrete physical ways. That’s why it can be so much fun to just show someone the stuff which they’ve never been exposed to before and see it like double the reps they can do on an exercise just because they’re tapping into power that they didn’t know they had based on some of these practices.
Todd: Yeah, I think it’s so important to learn and explore new types of training, which is one of the reasons why I got into bodyweight and isometrics. There are so many variations you can explore.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. So let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about our new startup and how it’s going to change the industry. Ever since you first told me about this, I was oh, that’s a great idea. So talk a little bit about Rally All, what led you to build this and how’s it going so far?
Todd: Yeah, we’ve actually just launched our beta, our MVP, kind of minimal viable product about a month. Essentially what it is is it’s kind of like a NetFlix for fitness or a Pearsco for fitness where users or any customers have access to live training classes in area of fitness and they’re able to connect in small groups via webcam so actually get community. We’ve seen the industry change over time where people buying fitness videos and DVDs. They get it at home and it’s the same workout over and over again so they get bored with that so they don’t ever do it again. It’s the same thing with like fitness equipment. They buy the equipment out of a late night infomercial. They’re so gung-ho to use it and then two weeks later that stuff is in their basement as an expensive clothes rack. What are we doing here?
We’ve transitioned to now, fitness experts can put on YouTube and that’s great. It’s great for tutorials and everything else but it’s not real community. It’s not actually building an engaging community. So that’s what are vision is. It’s to allow any trainer in the world to do broadcast live training and allow individual users to have access to that training, be able to submit questions in real time, actually see their friends—maybe they’re in Florida and the friend is in Michigan and they have a third friend in California—people able to be in real community in the convenience of their own homes and get access to training from individuals and experts that may be are in China, or maybe they’re in Russia or maybe they’re in wherever but allow these individuals to get access to the highest quality training for a low monthly fee of $14.95. They get access to near unlimited amount of types of trainers and classes.
That’s essentially the vision and it’s going great. We’ve, like I said, just launched. We’re out here in Silicon Valley, continue to raise more funding. So we’re just kind of in the stages of the beginning seed is planted and we’re starting to see it grow and some very strong interest kind of coming from that.
Logan: Yeah. What I thought was really cool about this, a while back I kind of looked at fitness as far as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and really sort of the different levels you can fit that on. A big component for people is sort of right in the middle where you have that community aspect you were talking about. This is why there are different gyms like CrossFits and different things like that. That community aspect is probably one of the strongest components of that.
But also another group of people that tend to get good results is people that train from home where you don’t need to spend the time and the money to go to some place in order to get results because everyone is busy these days. Here you’re kind of bringing those two things together. You can train from the comfort of your home while having the community aspect as well.
Todd: Right. You hit the nail right on the head. We believe that we’ve been missing in the industry. We have these incredible experts providing amazing content but holding people accountable to actually doing it is hard. That’s the place that I love to train, at home and even me, as a trainer I help other people, I can have difficulty like motivating myself to do it. Maybe I’m having an off day or something. It can sometimes be pretty difficult.
But if we can build real community, that’s going to help anyone overcome—it’s like internal versus external motivation. That internal motivation is sometimes so hard to muster up than if you have that external motivation, that’s someone else or other people that are supporting you to help you to do it then it’s much easier to do it. And if you actually do it, well then that’s when you actually receive the results.
That’s essentially the vision. We see it. We see it in CrossFit gyms. We see community in the boot camps all around the world. We see this community but that community is taking place in real space, like a real studio. So that’s what we’re trying to create, that similar level of community and camaraderie and accountability but bringing it to people no matter where they are in their own home.
Logan: And unlike a DVD or a downloadable video, the trainer can give feedback to people through this, right?
Logan: Because it’s webcam to webcam.
Todd: That’s right. Exactly. We live in the day and age where this is possible. Ten years ago, we technically could have but like only CISCO or some of these bigger companies had this capability. Now we have the ability where everyone with an iPhone or an Android phone or a tablet or a laptop, we have the ability to connect. That’s the goal. It’s to create a platform where we can connect around fitness.
Logan: Absolutely. So yeah, I’m excited to just see how this is going to grow in the future. I think you’re on to something here.
Todd: Thanks, Logan, I really appreciate it. We’re excited. Obviously, we’ll be continuing to grow and continue to get the word out.
Logan: Excellent. So where can people go to find out more about this and you?
Todd: They can find out more about this fitness startup at RallyAll.com. To find out more specifically about bodyweight exercises, they can go to my site called AShotofAdrenaline.net and there you can lots of different exercise and workouts. There’s a ton of free stuff on there. They can download different workout plans and get access to videos and whatnot.
Logan: Excellent. And as always, we’ll have links to everything in the show notes for this so you can find that online if you’re driving or otherwise not at a computer at the moment. Okay. Well, thank you so much, Todd. I had a fun discussion today.
Todd: Cool. Thank you so much, Logan. I really appreciate you having me on the show.
Logan: Absolutely. Thanks everyone for listening. Besides checking out Rally All and A Shot of Adrenaline, be sure to hit the iTunes and leave us a review. That helps spread this message so we can talk about exercise, health and herbs and all kinds of fun stuff that we talk about on The Vital Way. Thanks for listening.[/spoiler]