Recent Progressions

I thought I'd take an entry to talk about…me.

I've really been feeling good these last few days, and, I'm fully expecting my fat loss to begin kicking in, again. For my last photo update, I was 193 as I recall. It took another month or so to break the 190 barrier, and since then I've gotten as low as 183, and back as high as 186; currently 184ish.

As soon as I break 180, I'll get more photos done; people have been bugging me mightily for an update. There were these, just last month, from Mexico. And where does it end (or, begin)? My best current guess is about 165.

I've also been toying with the idea of some short videos of some of the exercises I do. There have been big changes there. For a long time I got into the "rut" of two sessions per week, pretty intense; but, then it seemed to get too routine, i.e., 3 sets and 10 reps in each. A few months back I incorporated a more cross fit type of workout with a rapid pace, new exercises, and so on.

Those who've followed along with my excursions into "extreme fasting" know that I've been doing nearly all my workouts fasted (12 hrs +; often 24-30), under the absurd notion that animals don't do pre and post workout "nutrition" when they go hunting for food. No; they hunt when hungry, and not always with success. We're highly adapted for it. Those adaptive genes lay dormant, and it's up to you to wake and express them. Don't be surprised if it makes you look years younger.

However, after about 15 months of working out fasted, I noticed I was getting to dread my workouts. I realized I was getting into the same rut I was in with the workouts themselves, and it was all adding up to chronic routine. So, I have modified my fasting intervals to end them at dinner the day before my workout. Then, if the workout is in the morning, it's an overnight fast — and this has always been pleasant. If the workout is in the afternoon, then I eat in the morning. So, I'm still fasted, but far more mildly — from 6-12 hours, nominally. It has made a tremendous difference, as I am now excited again to hit the gym. Also, I have changed the routine dramatically for the weight lifting day. I'm now mixing it up all over the place, with lots of new exercises. Most of all: Big Weight. Now, instead of doing 10 reps on the bench at 135 x 3 sets, I'll do 5 reps at 135, 2 at 185, 1-2 at 205, then go to 235 and have my trainer help lift it and I'll do negatives.

A new exercise I've incorporated, and it's probably my favorite ever is a bent over row using the big barbell. I warm up 3-5 reps with one 45-plate, then quickly go to 2, 3, and then 4 plates (180 pounds plus the bar). Then we slap on a 5th plate and the trainer helps lift it so I can do holds and negatives 2-3 times. It is simply the most amazing thing, because; number one, it's a very primal lifting move. Think of bending at the knees and waist and picking up something heavy. As a primal move, it's a very compound one. When I finish a set with heavy enough weight, I can feel it everywhere.

So, to make a long story short: I'm making progress, again. While it can be disappointing to go months with little progress in terms of additional fat loss, it ought to be remarkable enough that you don't go backwards. That will never be and options; and indeed, that where diet comes in and is so powerful.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. justin on March 31, 2009 at 15:46


    I can relate to what your describing, which I'll sum up as just routine fatigue. It's hard to imagine hunter-gatherers hitting such a plateau as their workouts were their work — their means of survival. Us domesticated humans have to rely on sheer workout motivation and the carrot of improved physique to get us through our workout grinds when they get boring.

    When would running for your life get boring? It's too varied and intense to get bored with it!

    I press on to get into the 160s as I have been plateau'ed in the 170s it seems for months. I also try and take a step back and appreciate how far I've come and be satisfied with all the myriad benefits of being healthy even if I haven't acheived supreme abdominal definition.

    Press on!

  2. Get Primal on March 31, 2009 at 16:35

    Hey Richard, great news on the weight! I don't know your workout history but sprinting is about as good (and primal) as it gets. Most of my workouts are bodyweight stuff but when it comes to actual weights I like deadlifts, power cleans, front squats and combinations using all of them together in complex movements. Wrecks the entire body! I'll send you an invite to my blog in case we haven't done that yet, lots of great workout ideas if you're looking for any.

  3. Adam Cilonis on March 31, 2009 at 16:43

    I think like most of us that have gone PRIMAL we don't "see" the gains after a undetermined amount of time, unless of course it comes from the scale's screen. Rick I am hear to tell you that you may have stalled in the fat lost area but overall it is quite shocking how much younger you look! Next, here is something else that you may not realize…now this may be that I'm older, but you seem to be way more fun these days, just more active in all aspects – I had an absolutely great time this weekend! And lastly, you have made huge gains in other people lives. I have been dramatically changed in the area of nutrition and fitness and it's 95% your doing with the other 5% coming from other great bloggers! So thank you for all you have done and continue to do for me!

  4. Jeff on March 31, 2009 at 17:35

    Hey Richard,

    You are doing great. Congrats on getting it below 190. Amazing. Keep up the great posts and the progress. I wouldn't worry about the weight that much. Your body composition is definitely coming along.

    I too like the idea of the fasted workout, but doing it always seems like not enough variation. I don't like anything "always". Taking in the breakfast and skipping lunch makes sense to me from time to time. I am going to give that a try as well.

    I second the sprint comment. There is nothing like sprints, especially with the FiveFingers in the grass or beach.

    How do you do 5 plates on the barbell? Doesn't that make it off balance? If you are talking 5 plates on a side then you are hercules!

  5. Michael Bender on March 31, 2009 at 22:30

    Hi Richard,

    Awesome progress.

    I would like to second the previous comment regarding sprinting. Additionally, in keeping with the primal theme, I would like to share some guidelines gleaned from experience and copious reading on functional training. I have used the guidelines for a long time and they have served me well.

    1. lift heavy objects from the ground, the deadlift in all of its many and varied forms is the KING of exercises.

    2. Press heavy objects overhead. Military press (STANDING, not seated), or handstand pushups are examples.

    3. Pullups/rows – there is something very primal about being able to move your bodyweight through space. Ropeclimbing is great. Rows from rings also work.

    4. Anything that involves hip extenstion – sprints, squats, deadlifts, kettlebell/dumbell/sandbag swings or snatches, you name it, just do it.

    5. Throw heavy objects. This is self explanatory…and just plain fun. I use bags of sand in the back yard.

    6. Carry heavy objects. Same as above, but not as much fun. Overhead, or farmer's walk or for a real kick try a slosh-pipe (10ftx6in PVC pipe half filled with water).

    7. Heavy, multi-joint movements are the best for developing functional muscle. Isolation exercises are in large part a waste of energy. Biceps and triceps will develop naturally and symetrically from the big pushes and pulls. The heavy, multi-joint movements will take care of the big stuff AND the small stuff.

    8. Avoid "mirror muscles". Most guys do a lot of bench presses and arm curls because that is what they can see in the mirror. The mark of an athlete, the ultimate in functional muscle, is a fully developed muscular back, shoulders and hips and tight torso. Man-boobs (from benching) are not natural, or necessary. Neither are big arms dangling from puny shoulders. They have no precedent in nature and they aren't functional.

    9. Muscles will adapt to the stresses of exercise very quicly, but tendon and ligaments take much longer. If you are over 40, much, much, much longer. Most injuries occur in the tendons and ligaments. Just because your mind and muscles are willing doesn't mean that you are ready for a big increase in weight or intensity. That is what is meant by "start slowly". These connective tissues can take 6-12 months or more to adapt. Be aware.

    10. Anything that moves your body through space incorporates a kinestic awareness that is physically and mentally challenging and is in most cases the preferred movement pattern when compared with weight moving around a stationairy body.

    I hope readers find these guidelines helpful.

  6. Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2009 at 16:14


  7. Chris - on April 1, 2009 at 07:41

    Nice job, and keep it up!

    I'd like to second virtually everything that Michael Bender said above.

  8. Marc Feel Good Eating on April 1, 2009 at 04:52

    Great post Richard.
    I just posted about my experience with "The hungry hunter". Makes sense to me 😉

    Also thank you Michael Bender for the great comment, I'll be sharing that one.

    Thanks again Richard for all the great info!!!!!

  9. Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later on April 1, 2009 at 05:22

    Very much chimes with my experiences Richard – working out fasted in the morning after dinner the night before works well for me. I try to eat a light dinner so that I still get that fasted workout feeling.

    Random, intense workouts is also the way forward. If you look at my own workouts you'll see just how random they have become!

  10. Joe Matasic on April 1, 2009 at 05:35

    I think he means 5 plates on side of a BARBELL, not a dumbell (the one you use to bench with) then you grab it one end with both hands and lift with the other end (empty) on the ground. I'll need to look for a vid for proper form but I've seen it in old weight lifting books. Every seems to do dumbbell rows.

    This would work for my home workout that I'm planning. I lift at the gym at work but its been a pain lately and I want another workout but can't get to the gym here because of schedules.

  11. Joe Matasic on April 1, 2009 at 05:45

    Yeah, I agree, sometimes when the workout becomes routine it becomes a drag. I don't necessarily workout fasted though I have when my lifting schedule falls into my IF. But sometimes the gym is just to busy (free gym at the office) and its not worth it to lift so I'll do it the next day instead, then the schedules don't mesh.

    I try and change up the routine every couple months. In fact I'm about to again. Everything from the exercises to sets vs reps vs weight and method. The phase I'm on now is a little lower weight but take a couple seconds to lower the weight(on the negative) and then try and push hard up. Its definitely harder. Yesterday I skipped squats and added standing military press at the end. Still did those dead lifts first though. Next I think I'll try the bigger weights with fewer reps. Now if I just had a gym out in the sun 🙁

  12. Dane Miller on April 1, 2009 at 07:32

    Richard, ever train with bands or chains? Negatives I feel can lead to some severe damage and really put a hurting on the nervous system. Negatives aren't terrible but I wouldn't do them for very long periods of time.

  13. Michael Bender on April 1, 2009 at 09:13

    I wish I could take credit for those guidelines being original, but they aren't. I hunter/gathered them from a lot of sources, most notably Dan John, Jack Reap, Scott Sonnon, Dr. Eric Cobb and Pavel Tsatouline.

    Any one of these guys individually offers a treasure trove of info but when you put them together they are amazing.

    Throw in a little Devaney logic regarding workout timing/frequency and you have a powerful and adaptable workout template.

  14. Michael Bender on April 1, 2009 at 09:38

    I second Dane here.

    One negative rep can be productive, but doing more is probably not recomended. Frequency is also an issue – once per week max is about the limit of benefit for most. Doing more reps or more frequently can can lead to the burnout that you described.

    Bands are a great investment. Infinetly adaptable, lightweight, portable, and mimic the strength curve of our muscles.

    Throw one across your back to make pushups harder or hang one and put your foot in it to aid with your pullups.

    Iron Woody Fitness or Lifeline both offer quality at a reasonable price.

  15. Scott Miller on April 1, 2009 at 10:47

    Whenever I or anyone I know gets into a rut, I go back to the Big Five for a few weeks:

    o Squats
    o Deadlifts
    o Weighted dips
    o Pull-ups
    o Lunges (with weight)

    All of these are multi-joint, full-body movements. When your full body is in motion, you work the core automatically, plus your nervous system is extra stressed leading to more muscle growth. The Bulgarians discovered this decades ago, and have done quite well in Olympic lifting versus much more populated countries.

    Really, unless you're a pro bodybuilder, these are the only five movements you need to do. Isolations on calves, biceps, etc. provide very very little incremental benefit. I never bother with single joint movements — my biceps and calves, for example, are quite impressive.

  16. Tom Stone on April 1, 2009 at 05:51

    As you're familiar with the work of Eades, I assume you are familiar with the interesting book they co-authored, Slow Burn Fitness Revolution? I've recently started that program… so can't speak to its results from personal experience… but enough of it made sense to me to give it a try.

  17. Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2009 at 08:12

    Exactly right, Joe. The empty end goes into the steel corner of a weight machine for stability.

  18. Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2009 at 10:33

    Got the invite, & thanks.

    Yep, more and more I'm getting into the deadlifts, bent rows, power cleans, squats. Haven't done a front squat, but I think I will. For the standard squats, I was using the Smith machine but found it created back issues. I went to just doing them free and like much better. I can do more weight and have no back issues.

  19. Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2009 at 10:37

    Excellent. I'm in agreement and my trainer has been coming around to most of this, after two years, now.

    I'm printing this out and taking it to him tomorrow.

  20. Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2009 at 10:54

    I have not done bands or chains. Recently, I have been having lots of fun with the TRX straps.

  21. Michael Blowhard on April 2, 2009 at 10:53

    I vote that you make and post some videos. Looking forward to them.

  22. animal pharm on April 2, 2009 at 17:38

    Hey Richard!

    Cool vids are a GREAT idea! 🙂

    I finally discovered OLY LIFTING recently. If I stop deadlifts for 1-2wks, I noticed I don't power thru my runs or boxjumps as fast or as high. But after a deadlift or other Oly WOD at X-fit *WOW* I fly when I run, smash hills, and explosively jump (without leaving half of my shins on the box as I *URRG* sometimes do).

    !!Girls can Oly lift, coz I do… don't underestimate the POWER of these amazing moves.


  23. Richard Nikoley on April 2, 2009 at 17:43

    Where have you BEEN, G? I've missed your writin' SKILLZ!

    Man, I'm sorry to say that I'm dropping the ball over at TYP forum. I hope Dr. D isn't dissapointed. I just have so many balls.

  24. g on April 2, 2009 at 22:08

    Yes… u sure have balls… big Paleo… balls…

    Can't wait 2 hear all about !!them and how u r going 2 take ovah the WHHUURRRRRLDDD! *aha ah*

  25. Jeff on April 4, 2009 at 04:39

    Wow. Cool idea! I never thought of doing rows that way. I usually load up the bar symmetrically and pull up. I will have to try that. Thanks for the clarification. 180+# is an awesome weight for rowing.

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