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The Highlander Standard
How to measure your progress in fighting Frailty
How do you know if you’re defying age? If you’re strong enough? Healthy enough?
The Highlander Standard is your guide.
Here are the 10 markers a Highlander should strive to meet:
If you’re a strength athlete, the strength goals may seem easy, and the cardio goals may seem hard. They did for me at first. That’s what The Highlander is all about. Helping strength athletes live stronger for longer by improving the these 10 markers of strongevity.
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Here’s why each of the 10 standards matter:
The farmer’s carry is the most effective overall strength training tool for the Highlander. It’s a full body movement that improves strength across the entire body as well as encourages stability in the lower leg. A farmer’s carry is a strong marker of grip strength, which is one of the most powerful indicators of longevity. We use farmer’s carries as part of the functional warm up for any athlete.
Highlanders need the ability to pick heavy objects up off of the ground. A deadlift demonstrates how much weight one can efficiently pick up off of the ground. It doesn’t matter if you deadlift a straight bar, trap bar, stiff leg, whatever. Just be able to pick up heavy weight.
Highlanders need the ability to hoist heavy objects overhead. An overhead press trains the ability to press overhead with a barbell or dumbbells and can be seated or standing. It doesn’t matter if you press with a barbell, a log, an axle, push press, split jerk. Just be able to put the prescribed amount overhead.
Slow is weak and weak is old. Propelling yourself in the air requires speed. It cannot be done slowly. A Highlander must maintain the ability to exert speed against an object. We train various jumps and throws as a staple in our functional warm up. Our progress in the jump is measured by how high we can jump.
Zone 2 Efficiency
Highlanders measure zone 2 cardio efficiency as a ratio of zone 2 wattage (power) divided by bodyweight. The higher a wattage you can hold and stay in a zone 2 heart rate, the better your overall cardiovascular base. Beginner Highlanders will likely be on the low end of wattage/bodyweight. Zone 2 efficiency improves slowly with months of consistent effort.
VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during hard exercise. A higher VO2 max means your body can utilize more oxygen, which means you can output greater effort during exercise. A Highlander wants a high VO2 max to guarantee a strong heart capable of great effort. We achieve a greater VO2 max via zone 5 cardio. We test VO2 max via local providers here or here.
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard your heart has to work to pump blood. A lower blood pressure means a healthier heart. Highlanders lower blood pressure through exercise and diet. You should test your blood pressure at the same time to get an accurate picture of heart health. I recommend in the morning, and you can do both morning and evening if you want. We test blood pressure via at-home monitors.
Resting Heart Rate
A lower resting heart rate typically means a more efficient heart. Highlanders want a low resting heart rate, which we train for primarily through zone 2 and zone 5 cardio. We can measure resting heart rate by taking our pulse. Most blood pressure monitors also give resting heart rate, as do the Apple Watch, Oura Ring, or other wearables.
Peak Blood Glucose
Highlanders want to avoid metabolic issues so that our energy systems function efficiently. While we can check for metabolic issues, especially diabetes, via a1C, a better way to check on how your body processes glucose is by monitoring how high glucose levels go after meals. The best way to monitor glucose peaks is through a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). A CGM needs to be prescribed by a doctor, although it may be obtained through modern health companies like Levels (disclosure, my fund is an investor). Low glucose peaks come with healthy mitochondria from exercise as well as consistent diet that avoids excessive glucose-spiking foods (sugars, breads, pastas, sodas, etc.).
Body Fat %
Body fat percentage describes the amount of body fat you carry vs total body weight. Lower numbers are generally better so long as reduction in body fat doesn’t come at the expense of muscle mass. Body fat percentage is measured via a DEXA scan which is an x-ray that measures fat vs lean mass including bone tissue. Highlanders get DEXA scans via local labs that you might find here or here.