Back to the Bandana 2: The Island

In my own head, I’ve been “in the bubble” for a long time. I’ve lived on an island in my mind. Never an introvert or overtly anti-social, even as an only child. But I don’t really have the luxury of or capacity for “casual”–just hanging out, passing the time. I’ve got too much work to do. It has always been that way.

So with our world facing an unprecedented crisis, I could see all of the obvious inherent peril and potential calamity down the road. I understood the fear. I felt the stress and unease. But I also saw opportunity. The world was on pause. Public became private. And a need to turn away and explore within became what I see as a chance to improve.

The truth is no one is comfortable right now. No one has their footing or feels as solid or sure as they once did. Everything hangs in the balance. Including our dreams.

But where I do find comfort and stability, and always have, is in rigor and routine. Consistent hard work and investment in myself. Taking each day, one at a time, as I have programmed myself during dark days… And dedicating myself to progress, slow and steady. When no one cares to watch.

In the dark, in the shadows, off the grid, under a shroud, an artist works on his masterpiece.

It is in this spirit that I am approaching my training each morning. And the “black bandana mindstate” of last Summer, takes on even greater significance. A new commitment to hard and heavy lifting, consistent cardio and a greater emphasis on efficiency. The solitary process. Alone and internalized.

Nothing fancy or showy. No gimmicks or gurus. Just training with old school intensity—with focus and purpose. And with a plan. For the first time, in a long time, I’ve started to log my workouts. But in a world where I half-jokingly claim to have created the online training journal, I bought a black marble notebook. To document my sets and reps the old-fashioned way, putting pen to paper every early AM.

I like to see the days pile up in ink. They don’t evaporate into the ether of yesterday. They are committed, not just to memory, but to that black marble notebook. They say to write down your dreams, and I agree. But write down your work too.

Each day’s work is the most complicated dream, broken down into its simplest terms. 

To inform my training and frame my thinking, I’ve been studying. A worthwhile diversion that also pays dividends… In the gym, and more importantly, in this article and my ability to transmit my discoveries to you in a manner you might find valuable. Instead of going new school, I’ve gone retro. Dusty books and musty magazines, from a bygone era, with timeless lessons from a simpler time. Back to my roots in the 90s, when wonder and idealism were my primary fuel.

There are no hairdos here or European sweatsuits… No acronyms or acrobatics. Just hoodies and hard work. And sweat of the highest equity. To me, the bandana is a symbol of hustle without pretense. Less “look at me” than look within. Typically cloaked in a black sweatshirt, my hood like blinders over my bandana, headphones on, I am in my zone.

I start my training on the exercise bike–a vintage Life Cycle from a similar era as the training literature I’ve been studying. I allow the cobwebs of my mind to fall to the wayside as I break a sweat. Pumping my legs, I reach for my shaker cup once I’m about twenty minutes deep in my ride. In the cup, in 20 oz of water on slowly melting ice is two scoops of Grindin’ Grape VICE. That first sip is transformative. I can feel it coursing through my veins as I slowly come to life. What follows, with slight variation, is the same, Monday through Saturday. The same split that has served me well for decades, refined and spread over six days.

Pre-exhaustion meets Positions of Flexion meets Heavy Duty. Designed for those short on time but with a heavy helping of hunger. From veterans whose training has gone stale, to rookies enthusiastic about their new endeavor, there is much to be gained here. Not “gainz” but steady and incremental progress piled up day after day, hammered into place over time.

Efficiency is the key, and it can only be obtained with practice, repetition and mastery. But it should always be the goal. We don’t have a day to waste, time is our most precious gift. So don’t spend your workouts in vain. Don’t waste sets or reps fucking around. Get in, get out, and get on with living your life. The growth happens in the other 23 hours.

Torn right from my training log, this is a full week of workouts, exercises, sets and reps included. Fly on the wall, stripped down to the bare bones, with quarantine conditions and makeshift home gyms in mind. Remember, “hardcore” is in your head.

ARMS

  • Barbell Curls: 2 sets x 15, 8 reps
  • Incline DB Curls: 2 sets x 15, 10 reps
  • Preacher or Concentration Curls: 2 sets x 15, 10 reps
  • Skullcrushers: 2 sets x 20, 10 reps
  • Overhead DB Extensions: 2 sets x 15, 10 reps
  • Pushdowns or Bench Dips: 2 sets x 15, 10 reps
  • DB Wrist Curls: 2 sets x 20, 12 reps

DELTS

  • DB Side Raises: 2 sets x 20, 10 reps
  • DB Press: 2 sets x 12, 8 reps
  • Bent Rear DB Lateral Raises: 2 sets x 15, 10 reps
  • One Arm Side DB Lateral Raises: 2 sets x 12, 10 reps
  • DB Shrugs: 2 sets x 20, 10 reps

BACK

  • Wide Grip Pulldowns: 2 sets x 15, 10 reps
  • DB Pullovers: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Wide Grip Pullups: 3 sets of BW x 6 reps
  • DB Rows: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Low Cable Rows: 1 set x 12 reps

QUADS

  • Barbell Squats: 2-3 warmup sets, 3 sets x 6 reps
  • Bulgarian Split Squats: 2 sets x 12 reps, weighted on second set
  • Leg Extensions: 2 sets x 15, 10 reps

CHEST

  • Incline DB Flyes: 2 sets x 15, 10 reps
  • Flat Barbell Press: 4 sets x 10-4 reps
  • Parallel Bar Dips: 2 sets x 15 reps
  • Cable Crossovers or Pushups: 2 sets to failure

HAMSTRINGS / CALVES / ABS

  • Stiff Legged Deadlifts: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Lying Leg Curls: 2-3 sets x 15, 10 reps
  • Leg Press or Standing Calf Raises: 2 sets x 20, 12 reps
  • Seated Calf Raises: 2 sets x 20, 10 reps
  • Standing Calf Raises: Bodyweight x 50 reps
  • Crunches: 2 sets x 25 reps

Training Table: POSTWORKOUT #BreakFEAST

For the past couple of years, I train and do cardio to start my day fasted, so decades of broscience teach me that by the time my workout is over, my muscle tissue is desperate for (and highly receptive to) nutrients. My time-management trick for combining postworkout and my first meal, is a simple shake I call a BreakFEAST that combines a classic bodybuilding breakfast with my protein shake immediately after I train. Six days per week it allows me to quickly consume muscle-building nutrition and it wastes no time in prep. It tastes incredible and allows me to get on with my workday. Here’s my BreakFEAST, tweak yours with more or less calories, depending on your specific goals.

Combine the following ingredients in the blender…

  • 1 scoop Slammin’ Strawberry Milkshake FEAST
  • 8 oz. Pasteurized Liquid Egg Whites
  • ½ Cup Plain Oats
  • 1 Frozen Banana (broken up)
  • 1 TBSP Wheat Germ

Back to the Bandana Supplement Regimen

This is what I use, every single training day without fail. It is simple, consistent and effective. My goal is to perform at my best, recover and bounce back to attack the next day, every day.

  • KING: 3 caps AM, 3 caps PM
  • VICE: 2 scoops pre/intra
  • RISE: 2 scoops throughout the day
  • FEAST: 1 scoop postworkout (BreakFEAST shake), 1 scoop in Fairlife milk (between meals later in day)
  • Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Fish Oil before bed.

So that’s a typical week of training, straight out the mud.

Admittedly it is a more extreme split, training six days straight, but that’s why I endeavor to balance the frequency with reduced volume and laser focus. And it also makes that Sunday off day all the more sacred—physically and mentally. Rest is not a luxury that should come easily. It is earned. And remember, at this point my workouts are not simply exercises in exercise, and focused on my strength and physique goals. But they are therapy. For my mind, my soul, my creative intellect and my emotions. And from their daily tests and trials, I am a better and stronger man.

If the exterior world is characterized by daily chaos, what we can control, is what happens within. Behind the bandana, under the hoodie, I am on an island. At any given moment, I have the capacity to push myself further and give more of myself in the currency of effort, alone in my basement, than I ever have before—maybe more than anyone ever has. In that potential is power. I will stack up the workouts, the days, the weeks, one after the other, in ink- and sweat-soaked sheets of marble notebook paper. I will not skip a workout. I will not relent. In that work ethic there is confidence. And it bleeds into every other aspect of my life.

The bandana is our flag. It is a symbol. Of humility meeting ambition. Of blue collar meeting the street. Of a band of individuals unified in defiance to their circumstances, willing themselves to become better, the old fashioned way. By tearing themselves to pieces every day, and rebuilding stronger. Over and over again, all in pursuit of a greater goal. To me it is emblematic of a bygone era, one that lives on inside of me every day.

As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone with my ideas and imagination, with my emotions and my dreams. When all things were possible, if I could see it in my head, if I wanted it bad enough and if I believed. Each day, alone on my iron island, my hood up over my black bandana,  these hypnotic beats banging in my ears, I am that kid again. And nothing can stop me.