Discover more from The Highlander
The Highlander 2.0
Niching Down Into Strongevity
A Highlander must always evolve, same as this blog. The Highlander is evolving to version 2.0. Here’s what you can expect. Thank you for reading, and please give me your feedback.
Content creator Justin Welsh writes about finding a niche of one. The idea is that the easiest way to get attention is to be a specialist rather than a generalist. His example is instead of writing a cookbook, you write a vegan dessert cookbook (something a Highlander would never use 🥩🥩🥩).
With The Highlander 1.0, I was trying to solve a personal problem: How do I put all the pieces of the longevity puzzle into a program built around my strength efforts?
Where I went wrong in the context of Welsh’s niche of one was taking a program I built for myself and generalizing it for a wide audience. I made a cookbook instead of a steak-loving, weight-throwing cookbook.
The Highlander 2.0 fixes this.
My training looks nothing like the average person who just wants to be a little stronger and live a little longer. It’s not my audience. I’ve read the best way to make interesting content is to write for someone who’s journey you’re two years ahead of.
I’m two years ahead of the strength athlete/enthusiast who has yet to think about longevity. So I write for him or her.
The Highlander’s mission is to help strength athletes live stronger for longer by adding longevity-focused exercise to training. It’s about training for strongevity.
In this intro to The Highlander 2.0, I’ll introduce the three core concepts for the future of this Substack:
The War on Frailty
The Tools of Strongevity
ACT — The Philosophy of the Highlands
The War on Frailty
Frailty is the mortal enemy of the Highlander.
But Frailty isn’t just the image of a stooped grey-haired figure slowly walking up a set of steps. Frailty is systemic. It attacks the body, the heart, the metabolism, and the mind. One cannot be strong if their heart is weak or their metabolism broken.
To live stronger for longer, we must address the four mechanisms of Frailty:
Physical weakness and decay
Fighting these consequences of age is our War on Frailty.
The common longevity tools of exercise, sleep, nutrition, and drugs all help with cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, and cognitive decline, but only strength-focused exercise addresses physical weakness.
Since exercise is the only tool that addresses all four of the consequences of aging, it must be the most important tool for our War on Frailty.
The Tools of Strongevity
Highlanders practice strongevity via five tools in this priority:
Weight training means whatever a strength athlete is currently focused on building. It may be the Olympic lifts, the power lifts, strongman movements, bodybuilding, or some combination. Weight training is the primary objective for any strength athlete and should be subject to the least relative compromise.
The light blue tools in the graph are longevity-focused cardio additions to training.
Zone 2 cardio is low intensity long duration effort that helps build a cardiovascular base and improve metabolic function.
Zone 5 cardio is high intensity effort aimed at improving cardiovascular output (VO2 max).
The dark blue tools are longevity-focused accessory additions to training.
Functional work ensures that strength athletes don’t become immobile robots capable of great strength or physique but minimal useful movement. Functional work includes jumps, throws, sprints, sleds, and carries. Stability work helps address specific joint function through targeted exercises.
Sauna may seem odd to include in exercise, but bouts of sauna exposure induce an exercise-like effect. Sauna is known to benefit cardiovascular and mental function.
A strongevity-focused program must incorporate all of these elements for maximum effect, prioritized properly to emphasize strength by managing overall fatigue.
Highlanders live by a simple philosophy that informs programming: ACT.
A Always major in the majors
C Correct excesses and deficiencies
T Trade off to manage fatigue
The first order mandate of the ACT philosophy is to act. Do something. The components of the acronym guide action.
Always major in the majors means to live by the prioritization of the primary strength goals, then the longevity-related cardiovascular goals, then the accessory (function/stability and sauna) goals.
Correction of excesses and deficiencies is the first principle reason anything works in exercise or general health. Think about it.
If you’re weak at an exercise, you likely have a volume or intensity or technique deficiency you need to fix. If you’re overweight, you have a calorie excess you need to fix. If you take magnesium and you magically stop cramping during exercise, you fixed a mineral deficiency. Everything you want to improve in through strongevity will come through the correction of excesses and deficiencies.
Trade off to manage fatigue is self explanatory. The combination of a serious strength practice with a thoughtful longevity practice demands trade offs because the introduction of longevity adds time and fatigue to overall training. Given we know what our priorities are as defined by the majors, we know where we should trade off when time gets short or fatigue gets high (start by reducing efforts from the bottom of the stack to the top).
In the Highlander 2.0, I’m going to share my own personal program each week to help you learn strongevity tricks and tools to improve your programming. The Weekly Sunday Program email will explore four things:
A review of the work I did the week prior.
What I learned from any experiments I ran.
A fatigue monitor to gain intelligence of how to track when to reduce longevity-focused efforts to spare strength efforts.
What changes I’ll make for the next week and why.
I’m currently training for a bodybuilding show in April. I weight train five days a week on an upper/lower split. My programming is done by Sam Okunola at Renaissance Periodization.
Around my bodybuilding focus, I try to fit in cardio, function/stability, and sauna while managing the extra fatigue they add.
This week, I spent five hours weight training, 2.5 hours in zone 2, a few minutes in zone 5, and about an hour each on function, stability, and sauna. In total, I spent a little over 10 hours in total training.
Experiments and Learnings
The place I experiment with most right now is the functional training. I use this training with the Dan John concept of “the warm up is the workout.” In these functional sessions, I generally do a set or two of strongman-style training (log press, farmer’s carry, throws, etc.) where I don’t go past about a 7 RPE.
So far, the effort doesn’t seem to hurt my ability to train hard on my bodybuilding training, nor is it hard enough to meaningfully drive fatigue.
Mentally, I feel better when I do some things that are purely about strength vs hypertrophy. I plan on eventually cycling some light Olympic movements for warm up is the workout functional work.
The Fatigue Monitor
Fatigue management is at the crux of strongevity training. Our goal is to improve heart health and metabolic function through longevity-focused exercises without compromising our core strength and hypertrophy work.
I track my fatigue each week across six measures:
Overall, I feel good eight weeks out from the show. I have some diet fatigue, so my energy is low, but I enjoy training, my progress is generally good, and I’m recovering well.
When my fatigue factors go too high, I remove some of the longevity exercise volume starting with functional and zone 5 since it’s the most stressful. If I need to remove more, I go to sauna and zone 2, but usually when it gets to that point, it might be time to deload.
Changes for Next Week
I plan on experimenting with zone 2 methods that use more of a full body approach (e.g. elliptical or air bike) to reduce some of the focused effort that usually tracks legs. Curious to see if that will change how well I perform in leg hypertrophy sessions.