Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Differences In Brain Development Between Males And Females May Hold Clues To Mental Health Disorders


Thanks to some more recent books on the subject, we know that male and female brains are more alike than different. But it may be in the small differences that we can find the sources of some mental illnesses.

Differences In Brain Development Between Males And Females May Hold Clues To Mental Health Disorders

Many mental health disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, produce changes in social behavior or interactions. The frequency and/or severity of these disorders is substantially greater in boys than girls, but the biological basis for this difference between the two sexes is unknown.

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have discovered differences in the development of the amygdala region of the brain - which is critical to the expression of emotional and social behaviors - in animal models that may help to explain why some mental health disorders are more prevalent among boys. They also found a surprising variable - a difference between males and females in the level of endocannabinoid, a natural substance in the brain that affected their behavior, specifically how they played.

The study results have been published online this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Margaret M. McCarthy, Ph.D., the senior author and a professor of physiology and psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, "Our findings help us to better understand the differences in brain development between males and females that may eventually provide the biologic basis for why some mental health conditions are more prevalent in males. We need to determine if these neural differences in the developing brain that we've seen in rats may cause similar behavioral effects in human babies."

Dr. McCarthy and her colleagues found that female rats have about 30 to 50 percent more glial cells in the amygdala region of the temporal lobe of the brain than their male litter mates. They also found that the females had lower amounts of endocannabinoids, which have been dubbed the brain's own marijuana because they activate cannabinoid receptors that are also stimulated by THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.

Researchers also found that the female rats also played 30 to 40 percent less than male rats. However, when these newborn female rats were given a cannabis-like compound to stimulate their natural endocannabinoid system, their glial cell production decreased and they displayed increased play behavior later as juveniles. In fact, the level of play exhibited by females treated with a cannabis-like compound was very similar to levels in male rats, the researchers found. Yet exposure to this cannabis-like compound did not appear to have any discernible effect on newborn male rats.

Dr. McCarthy, who is also associate dean for Graduate Studies and interim chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, notes, "We have never before seen a sex difference such as this in the developing brain involving cell proliferation in females that is regulated by endocannabinoids."

E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president of medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, "The results of this study provide important clues to brain differences between males and females and may increase our knowledge about how these differences may affect both normal and aberrant brain development, thereby enhancing our understanding of many mental health disorders."

Source: Leigh Vinocur, University of Maryland Medical Center

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tom Matlock - Men and Compulsive Behavior: Where Does This Instinct Come From?

Interesting post from Tom Matlock at Huffington Post. Men are much more prone to addiction than are women - or so it seems. It would make sense - we are more likely in general to self-medicate our feelings away, especially anxiety and depression, with drugs, alcohol, porn, and/or gambling - not to mention sex.

Men and Compulsive Behavior: Where Does This Instinct Come From?

Tom Matlack, Former venture capitalist turned writer

Posted: November 25, 2010

I'm an addict. I've been sober for almost 15 years. When I hit bottom, there was little question that I needed help and fundamental change. I had become a one-dimensional man. I had serious problems that ultimately landed me in a church basement, bawling my eyes out. My life was out of control.

I have only recently started to believe that I might actually live a normal life span; I always assumed I would die in a dark corner somewhere, broken and alone.

Insanity has been defined as repeating the same behavior and expecting it to produce different results. We define addictions as those forms of obsession that are most obviously destructive, like booze, drugs, sex and gambling, but any habit can become an addiction when the behavior becomes more important than loved ones, work and life itself. It's slow-motion suicide with the built-in delusion that this time the indulgence will lead to lasting happiness.

In the years since recognizing my affliction, I've spent a great deal of time trying to understand both manhood and addiction. I've concluded that I am not alone.

It seems that at the very core of the American male's predicament is obsessive behavior done with an irrational hope to produce deep and lasting pleasure.

The porn industry is the biggest online business in this country; every month, Americans download 1.5 billion pornographic videos. Ten percent of adults admit to having an Internet porn addiction, and 70 percent of those are men.

Virtual poker is the second-biggest online business in the U.S.; by some estimates, as many as 148 million Americans -- just less than half of the U.S. population -- gamble regularly.

Alcohol and drug addiction affects at least 23 million Americans; men are twice as likely to be affected as women.

The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported that 32 percent of American men are obese and five percent are morbidly obese.

With this taste for excess in mind, I think it's safe to say that the number of male addicts is large and growing.

But I am not just talking about the category of behaviors defined as addictions; I am really talking, more broadly, about obsessive behavior. As I have looked more closely at my own problem with addiction, I have come to see booze as merely a symptom of a deeper problem in my life and in the lives of many men just like me.


I don't drink anymore, but I still fall into repetitive patterns of behavior as though they were the only safe way to engage with the scary world around me. And everywhere I look I see men, whether or not they qualify as addicts, doing the same thing.

Where does this instinct come from? I have spent countless hours examining this question in therapy, AA rooms, and in my writings. It comes down to the equivalent of trying to define God: the more I think about it, the more I realize that it doesn't matter. What matters is the realization that my addictive personality, and some form of Spirit, both exist; otherwise, I wouldn't have suffered the way I have, nor would I still be alive despite the times I could have died.

An important question is whether obsession is always a destructive thing. Should we all seek the ascetic life and refrain from that extra cup of espresso, the TV remote and the BlackBerry?

In some ways, my obsessions have served me well. Many years, drunk and sober, I sought out wealth and power as ends in themselves. I drove everyone around me insane. Believing I had nothing to lose, I took massive risks. This single-mindedness paid off: I became wealthy and powerful.

But here's the rub: an addict, or merely an obsessive-compulsive person, is never satisfied. Whether the obsession is money or making art, even if it has profoundly positive results, it's not going to produce lasting pleasure.

In my case, the satisfaction was short-lived. All the doing, the running, and beating my head against that same wall didn't change how I felt about myself, even in the moment of glory. By our cultural standard, I was a success. But I was far from happy.

As I talk to my friends, and the guys I meet as I travel the country, I see myself. I see fear. I see the struggle to be satisfied. I see men who keep on running, with no destination in sight.


Thankfully, I've been delivered from the most destructive forms of addiction, but my obsessions persist -- little behaviors that allow me to hide from myself and my loved ones. Luckily, I have learned to recognize my attempts to isolate. So, I seek out the things that make me feel complete, often spending time with my wife and three children. I try to take in the fullness of the good that comes my way. And, perhaps most importantly, I am constantly trying to reach past my habitual patterns of behavior, even when I find it difficult.

For example, I have always been afraid of crowds. In my drinking days, going to a cocktail party meant drinking a fifth of vodka beforehand, just to dull the self-conscious pain. More recently, I have often found my way to the bathroom during social events to hide out and use my BlackBerry.

In contrast, my wife is one of the most socially graceful people I've ever met. She is energized by the connection with new people, often while helping the less fortunate or learning about some breakthrough in medical science. Because of her gregarious nature, I find myself at social engagements almost every week.

Sometimes I fall back on protective behavior that is born of my disease, the belief that I am not good enough just as I am. But I'm getting better at fighting those instincts. These days, I put out my hand to a stranger and say, "Hello, my name is Tom. It is really great to meet you."

Lasting pleasure, it turns out, comes when you successfully battle your obsessions rather than submitting to them.


Click here to read other stories in the special addiction package from the Good Men Project Magazine.

Darrell Dobson - Aesthetic Experience and the Transformation of Self: The Mature Masculine

This talk/paper by Darrell Dobson was given at the 2004 International Conference: Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies in Newport, Rhode Island. I'm not a big fan of the Jungian approach to masculinity, especially the "archetypal masculinity" stuff by Moore and Gillette, among others, but this is still an interesting paper.

I like his premise of using self exploration - autobiographical self-study research - as a way to explore a topic. Obviously, a sample of one cannot be extended to men as a whole, but it does make for a unique perspective.
Aesthetic Experience and the Transformation of Self:
the Mature Masculine

Darrell Dobson
University of Toronto

In the last six months I have been immersing myself in aesthetic experiences, in both high art and popular culture, that are distinctly masculine. From the authors Ernest Hemingway and Michael Ondaatje, to the television series CSI and Law and Order, to the musicians Lou Reed and Dan Bern (an American folk singer I like to describe as a mix of Kurt Cobain and Bob Dylan), I have recently been partaking in art made by the guys. This has been a new phenomenon in my life as for some time, my favourite musicians have been the American folk duo the Indigo Girls and the Canadian singers Sarah McLauglin and Jane Siberry, and my favourite novelist has been the Brit Iris Murdoch (before the movie, I might add).

As a piece of self-study, this paper is influenced by Bullough’s and Pinnegar’s “Guidelines for Quality in Autobiographical Forms of Self-Study Research.” These authors delineate how it is that self-study transcends purely personal relevance: “When the issue confronted by the self is shown to have relationship to and bearing on the context and ethos of a time, then self-study moves to research” (15). This paper is a first attempt to make some sense of a recent phenomenon in my life and research, and I offer it to you because I suspect this scenario does transcend merely personal relevance.

In their book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, The Jungian analyst Robert L. Moore and mythologist Douglas Gillette acknowledge that Western society has been deeply patriarchal for thousands of years and that patriarchy has been oppressive and abusive of the feminine characteristics and virtues and of actual women, a situation which still exists and still needs to change. They are concerned though that “in their radical critique of patriarchy, some feminists conclude that masculinity in its roots is essentially abusive.” Moore and Gillette counter this view by asserting that “patriarchy is not the expression of deep and rooted masculinity, for truly deep and rooted masculinity is not abusive: patriarchy is the expression of the immature masculine. It is the expression of boy psychology, and, in part, the shadow…of masculinity… Patriarchy in our view is an attack on masculinity in its fullness as well as feminity in its fullness.” They go on to assert that “what is missing is not, for the most part, what many depth psychologists assume is missing; that is, adequate connection with the inner feminine. In many cases, these men seeking help had been, and were continuing to be, overwhelmed by the feminine. What they were missing was an adequate connection to the deep and instinctual masculine energies, the potentials of mature masculinity. They were being blocked from connection to those potentials by patriarchy itself, and by the feminist critique upon what little masculinity they could still hold onto for themselves” (xviii). In order to redress this imbalance, Moore and Gillette go on to describe what they see as four archetypes of the mature masculine: the king, the warrior, the magician, and the lover.

We live amongst a frequently undifferentiated condemnation of the masculine. Movies, books, ideas, systems, and attitudes are frequently critiqued and dismissed solely on the grounds that they are masculine. We educated men, particularly those of us interested in the arts, have learned implicitly and explicitly that the means of not being patriarchal was to become more feminine, and we have in many ways been rewarded for doing so. This powerful social phenomenon was exacerbated for many men by growing up with either an absent or negative father energy, and the confluence of these trends has often led us to be complicit in the suspicion and condemnation of the masculine. Those of us who have been trying ardently throughout our lives to not be patriarchal, trying in so many ways not to be our fathers, in such a context, can find ourselves alienated from our own mature masculinity.

The next step in understanding my recent predilection for the highbrow detective stories of Michael Innes leads me to Carl Jung, who in addition to addressing the symbolic nature of dreams, neuroses, myths, rituals and religions, writes directly about the arts in The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature, where he considers the artistic process and the social role of art in depth. He writes much less on the individual role of aesthetic experience, the topic I am interested in here.

In her book on Peter Pan, Ann Yeoman, “We may turn to art to learn better how to create and continually recreate ourselves and to remember that the fully and consciously lived life is a life of deeply committed symbolic action” (119). This is a very compelling idea. Individual aesthetic response represents a process of self-revelation in the life of individuals. Personal responses to art function in a similar way and with a similar purpose as responses to other manifestations of the unconscious mind, like dreams, fairy tales, myths and rituals. Jung wrote, “A great work of art is like a dream” (SMAL 104), and he said, “[W]hen an archetypal situation occurs we suddenly feel an extraordinary sense of release, as though transported, or caught up by an overwhelming power…That is the secret of great art, and of its effect upon us” (82). The charged nature of aesthetic response signifies that the aesthetic experience reveals important psychological information. The fact that one has a charged aesthetic response is a signifier that there is an aspect of the art object or experience that triggers the individual’s psychology and that one ought to consciously reflect on this object or experience. It carries some import; it seeks to bring vital knowledge to an individual’s consciousness. One should note and reflect on the aesthetic response and approach it in the manner of approaching a dream in Jungian psychology.

Aesthetic response is not predictable nor is it guaranteed to be repeatable. Other individuals will not necessarily have a charged aesthetic response even when encountering the same art object or art experience. So, afterwards, one can reflect, Why did I find that experience or object to be beautiful, moving, or disturbing? Why does it stay with me? Why am I drawn to or repelled by that painting, dance, music, or poem? Other people did not and do not necessarily have the same experience. Why did those visual, musical, or literary representations affect me here and now? If one encounters the same art object or art experience at another time, one may or may not have the same or even a similar experience. One’s psychological position may be different, and so the unconscious does not necessarily attach a charge to the experience in the same way. The nature of aesthetic response is dependent on one’s current psychological position.

I do not want to present a view of aesthetic response that is interpreted merely as therapy, which might connote that an individual is ill and needs rectification. Jung is clear that the unconscious mind and its representations are part of a normal psychological state (MS 20); they are not merely important for the neurotic or psychotic or even the socially or personally maladjusted. Creating and responding to manifestations of the unconscious is a healthy part of normal psychological development. To do so is a means of knowing oneself and living a more holistic, balanced life. Aesthetic experience then can serve as a means of metamorphosis.

I can now consider the role that my interest in Hemingway, Dan Bern and CSI is seeking to play in my personal development, which brings me back to Moore and Gillette and their four archetypes of the mature masculine: the king, warrior, magician, and lover. In an original contribution to Jungian theory, they suggest that each of these archetypes has a bi-polar shadow, one characterized by an active stance, the other by a passive stance. They write, “An Ego that does not properly access an archetype will be possessed by that archetype’s shadow and left oscillating between the shadow’s two poles” (King Within 44). The mature King is good and generative, he comes close to being God in his masculine form in every man; he underlies and includes the rest of the archetypes in perfect balance (49). Two of his important functions include ordering and the providing of fertility and blessing (52). The immature masculine aspect of the king energy can be seen in its active manifestation as the Tyrant, who is not creative and generative, only destructive (63). He exploits and abuses others and is ruthless, merciless and without feeling when he is pursuing what he thinks is his own self-interest (64). The passive aspect of the Shadow King can be seen in the Weakling Prince formed when the baby boy’s grandiosity and gloriousness are attacked from the beginning and drop off into the unconscious for safekeeping (70).

The Warrior archetype has mostly been seen in his shadow forms and so people are often understandably uncomfortable with it, particularly women who have often been the victims of the immature active aspect of this archetype, the Sadist (74). The mature warrior is the active energy that moves one forward in life. It is the source of the energy that empowers one to actually do that which needs to be done, to move out of a defensive position about life’s tasks and problems and to take action (79), and is characterized by an alertness and presence of mind. The Sadist is the active shadow stance, hurting others, and the Masochist is the passive shadow stance, seemingly a pushover or whipped puppy, hurting oneself (94).

The Magician is the knower and the master of technology. In his mature manifestations, he is the shaman, the ritual elder. All knowledge that takes specialized training to acquire is the providence of Magician energy (98). The active shadow magician is the Manipulator, a sorcerer’s apprentice who has not mastered his technologies or himself and who reeks havoc. Think of the effect of our technologies on the world’s environment to see his work. The passive shadow Magician is the Denying Innocent One, who leaves us feeling manipulated but is slippery and difficult to challenge or pin down.

The Lover brings the masculine world of eros and is needed to balance and alleviate the other archetypes. He is the healthy embodiment of sensuous pleasure in the world and of the body without shame. He is the aesthetic sensibilities and the means of relatedness. In his active shadow he is the Addicted Lover and in his passive shadow he is the Impotent Lover.

In a synthesis of a Jungian perspective on aesthetic experience and Moore’s and Gillette’s explication of the mature masculine, I have discovered a context within which I can understand my recent experiences with high art and popular culture. They have served as a means of personal development and transformation in a manner similar to that of dreams. My interest in them reveals a compensatory drive from my unconscious and since both I and the art objects are also imbued with the imbalances of the collective unconscious, they also speak to a larger social relevance. My surreptitious attraction to action movies is really about my need for the mature Warrior energy in my own life, in which this energy is likely to be passive, and this need is shared by a present and historic culture dominated by the shadow warrior in his active stance, the Sadist. My secret affection for CSI and Law and Order (the original series of both, I should add) is really about a need to further integrate the mature Magician archetype, an imbalance again shared by the collective as evidenced in our facility for destroying our homelands with our technologies. The Canadian author Michael Ondaatje, whom you might remember as the author of the novel The English Patient, from which the movie with Ralph Fienne and Juliette Binoche was made, appeals to the mature lover in me, particularly in his novel In the Skin of the Lion, a poetic and sensuous work full of beauty and suffering, which I highly recommend. That there is a collective need for the mature lover can be seen in the continued reports that the predominant use of the internet remains searches for pornography, an aspect of the Addicted lover. My forays into some Tales of King Arthur arise because of a longing to further integrate a mature King energy in my own life; an imbalance again reflected in the collective mores, for which of our contemporary leaders, regional, national, or international might be considered to be drawing on the archetype of the mature King, generative and good? We suspect the field is occupied almost entirely by tyrants and weakling princes, but must remember that the shame cannot be projected onto one man, party, or country.

Ghandi declared that we must be the change we want to see in the world, and such is the personal path of the mature masculine. We must not simply project blame for the immature masculine onto others and do nothing ourselves, and so I take seriously my burgeoning inclinations in the high and low arts as a message from my unconscious about the life giving potential and growth to be found in further integrating the aspects of the mature masculine in my life.

According to Jung,
By giving [the archetypal image] shape, the artist translates it into the language of the present, and so makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life. Therein lies the social significance of art: it is constantly at work educating the spirit of the age, conjuring up the forms in which the age is most lacking. The unsatisfied yearning of the artist reaches back to the primordial image in the unconscious which is best fitted to compensate the inadequacy and one-sidedness of the present. People and times, like individuals, have their own characteristics and attitudes…very many psychic elements that could play their part in life are denied the right to exist because they are incompatible with the general attitude…Here the artist’s relative lack of adaptation turns out to his advantage; it enables him to follow his own yearnings far from the beaten path, and to discover what it is that would meet the unconscious needs of his age. Thus, just as the one-sidedness of the individual’s conscious attitude is corrected by reactions from the unconscious, so art represents a process of self-regulation in the life of nations and epochs.

I have been so bold as to think you might be interested in my recent reading, viewing, and listening habits because I suspect that I have been interested in art that represents just such “a process of self-regulation,” as it is obvious that our epoch and nations desperately require the energy of the mature masculine. Thank you for your kind attention.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NPR - What Do Women Really Want? Oxytocin

Shots - NPR's Health Blog

A little post from NPR's health blog, Shots. on what women really need - women who release more oxytocin are happier. They are also more interested in sex. So, you might be wondering, how do we increase oxytocin levels in our girlfriends or wives? Answers below this article.
Happy woman stretches out her arms at the beach.

This woman's body is probably pumping out a lot of oxytocin.

A male scientist says he's discovered what makes women happy.

It's a hormone called oxytocin, says Paul Zak, a researcher at Claremont Graduate University. Zak presented evidence to back his case today at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

Produced naturally in the body, oxytocin can trigger labor contractions and lactation in women. It's also been shown to boost feelings of trust and empathy in both men and women.

Zak, trained as an economist, was part of a team that studied oxytocin levels in college-age women before and after they received a $24 gift from a stranger.

Acts like this, which show kindness and trust, are known to cause oxytocin levels to rise. But the amount of increase varies widely from person to person.

In this study, women filled out surveys about their satisfaction with life before they received the gift. And comparing the survey results with oxytocin changes revealed a clear pattern.

"Women who release more oxytocin are happier," Zak told the audience at the neuroscience meeting. "They like being around other people more, they have more sex per month, and they have more resilience to adverse events."

The reason for these differences probably has to do with oxytocin's ability to encourage people to form relationships, trust other people, and empathize, he says.

Many studies have shown that people with strong relationships are happier.

Women in this study confirmed the link between oxytocin levels and efforts to bond with another person. Those who released the highest levels of oxytocin were also most likely to send some money back to the stranger who gave them the original gift.

OK, then, so I'm sure you read the article before you got down to this part, right? Because what really matters is that the woman you love is happy, right?

Seriously, if she feels that you are manipulating her, you might as well get a blanket from the closet and set up camp on the couch for the next few days.

Here are ways to naturally boost your body's oxytocin production:

Walk this way. Just linking arms, holding hands, or draping an arm around your significant other, child, or person you care for can produce an increase in oxytocin. Don't be afraid to show affection, and if you want to stop and hug during the walk, hug! Really, it's that simple.

Daydream about your significant other. Research out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered that happily married women quickly released a dose of oxytocin when asked to think about their husbands. But of course, try not to spend too much time apart. "While absence is said to make the heart grow fonder, from a neurophysilogical perspective there is little doubt that regular intimate contact with a loved one is preferable," says Crook.

Count on your cat. Husbands and wives can be moody and go through affectionate dry spells, but it always seems like a loyal pet is there to make owners feel good. And because the release of oxytocin is triggered by touch, petting a dog or cat you love can also increase oxytocin levels, explains Crook.

Find comfort in familiar favorites. The smell of your mother's signature chocolate chip cookies, hearing kind words from someone you care about, waking up early to hear the dawn choir chirped by chickadees and other backyard birds—these are all ways to boost oxytocin. Crook says immersing yourself in familiar and comforting smells, sounds, music, and even pleasant thoughts and memories can coax your oxytocin meter higher.

So there were five ways to increase oxytocin naturally - the fifth one is making love. The "cuddle hormone" increases quite a bit during sex, then peaks at double the normal levels at orgasm (one of the reasons having sex triggers birth contractions in pregnant women). It also generates the emotional intimacy and bonding of the post-coital bliss - unless you fall asleep right away.

Have (good) sex. Adults seeking an oxytocin surge should head for the bedroom. The hugging and touching during foreplay fires up the love chemical, and orgasm spikes the hormone level to two times the normal amount. This opens the door to a relaxed feeling and a greater opportunity to bond with your partner.

Interestingly, among premenopausal women, oxytocin is naturally higher during ovulation because estrogen intensifies the love hormone. This may partially explain why women seem to be more prone to touch and other displays of affection during ovulation.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Article Review: Obstacles to the dynamic understanding of therapist-patient sexual relations

I reviewed this article for my sexuality and sex therapy class. Gutheil & Gabbard (1992) look at the complexity of the therapist-client sexual relationship from a psychodynamic perspective - while the therapist is always violating ethical codes in having such a relationship, it's not nearly so cut and dried as people tend to view it.

When I was an undergrad way back in the day, my Psych 101 professor (who also had a private practice) was well-known in the community for sleeping with his attractive female clients. This was 1987 - there probably was not a law against it, although I'm sure even then it was an ethics violation. But no one ever reported him that I knew about. He was the guy most people think about when they hear of a therapist sleeping with a client - and while that is the majority of cases, it is certainly not ALL of them.
Full citation:
Gutheil, T., & Gabbard, G. (1992). Obstacles to the dynamic understanding of therapist-patient sexual relations. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 46(4), 515-525. Retrieved from MEDLINE with Full Text database.
Here is the introduction to the paper, just so it is clear that I nor the authors are condoning sexual misconduct and sexual relationships between therapist and client. [Interestingly, I did not feel the need to do this for class, but I do here in this public space.]
Therapist-patient sexual misconduct represents a serious problem in clinical, legal, and ethical terms. Sexual relations of this nature are harmful to patients, destructive to the work of therapy, and damaging to the profession itself. Such behavior has become one of the chief sources of malpractice litigation against psychiatrists in recent years, and several states have now criminalized therapist-patient sexual misconduct.

Given the gravity of the issue and the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamics that lead to such tragic distortions of the therapeutic relationship, it is alarming that the topic has become—in some quarters under some circumstances—undiscussable in rational and temperate discourse for reasons that include political and policy concerns. This difficulty in discussion, which constitutes the main topic of this communication, appears to relate to a number of factors, including a widespread longing for simplicity of world view, a longing that prompts resistance to a more complex (and hence, a more realistic) analysis. The unfortunate effect of this undiscussability, however, is the creation of an empirical and conceptual blind spot in the precise area where we desperately need to increase and expand our understanding.

The problems we are identifying were nicely captured in a recent Newsweek cover story entitled "Thought Police" (12/24/90). The essence of this article was that a number of current problems cannot be addressed in public discourse because they are seen as "politically incorrect" and thus unwelcome to their respective audiences. Strikingly, this form of oppression was highlighted in the story as occurring on academic campuses, traditionally arenas of freedom for unfettered discourse.

In the case of therapist-patient sexual misconduct, the "politically correct" version of the phenomenon is that a psychopathic male therapist preys on a victimized female patient, who herself plays no role in eliciting such behavior, and who is always severely traumatized by the experience. To attempt to examine the psychodynamics of the therapist, the patient, or the interaction between them may be viewed as either "blaming the victim" or overly sympathizing with the offender. In other words, it is not politically correct in some venues to approach cases of sexual misconduct as complex interactions deserving detailed and systematic psychodynamic understanding.

As an example of the kind of interference with empirical scientific inquiry with which we are concerned, one of us was recently presenting a paper to a large workshop audience on the subject of borderline personality disorder. In passing it was noted that a study of sexual transgressions by mental health professionals in an inpatient setting revealed that the patients involved were predominantly borderline. The presentation was immediately interrupted by a woman in the audience who said that therapist-patient sexual relations were caused by predatory male therapists and that it was therefore inappropriate to focus on the patients involved. The presenter explained that he was in no way "blaming" the patients but simply reporting the results of a study.

Another audience member rose to her feet and said that therapist-patient sex was always the fault of the therapist. The presenter agreed that only the therapist could be held responsible for the boundary violations under discussion. He went on to say, however, that studying the transference-countertransference dynamics of such interactions was extremely useful in that it provided a basis for educating professionals about warning signals and the need to seek consultation when such signals arise. A third audience member suggested that education was of no value and instead proposed that criminal penalties analogous to those for rape were the only answer.

In a recent article published by one of us,' the common countertransference responses evoked by borderline patients were discussed in some detail. Included among these countertransference responses was the tendency of some therapists to step outside their usual professional role in an effort to accommodate the intense demands and longings of patients with borderline psychopathology. In response to this article, a series of letters accused the author of "blaming the victim" even by examining these dynamics. One such letter stated:
Although Dr. Gutheil asserts [in the article] that he is not "blaming the victim," it is difficult to read his article without a strong sense that the patient's, not the therapist's problems give rise to sexual exploitation by the therapist . . . [Other comments] certainly suggest it is the patient's rather than the therapist's behavior and dynamics that bear scrutiny [in such cases] . [emphasis added]
Note the simplistic "zero-sum game" conceptualization, as though either member of the dyad must be the sole source of the problem. The possibility that both could be contributing to the situation was not even considered. Note also the implication that even scrutiny of dynamics itself may be "aimed" at one or the other party, but not both, in fine disregard of the inherently dyadic nature of therapy; indeed, one might infer, perhaps, that the letter writers believe that only the therapist's dynamics are suitable for scrutiny.
Hopefully, that establishes a sense of what these authors sought to do in this article. My brief summary follows:

Sexual relationships between therapist and clients have become the primary source of malpractice litigation against therapists in recent years. Many states have criminalized sexual misconduct on the part of mental health professionals.

The way the situation is generally viewed - the “politically correct” version - is that a psychopathic male therapist victimizes a wounded and vulnerable female patient who plays no role in creating the seduction. The challenge becomes finding a way into the situation that is honest and that does not look like “blaming the victim” or sympathizing with the offender. There must be a way to deal with the situation as the complex psychodynamic relationship that it is.

Several studies have found that the female patient in these relationships is often suffering from "borderline personality disorder" - I diagnosis that I personally do not support. Reports of these studies elicited accusations of “blaming the victim.”

The authors propose three axioms:
  1. Only the therapist has a professional code to violate, so only the therapist is liable or criminal – is blameworthy. The patient has no ethical code and therefore cannot be blameworthy.
  2. Both the therapist and the client are (in general) competent adults and are accountable for their behaviors, as are all adults. By Axiom 1, the victim is not being blamed. This is only intended to state that a complex interaction of transference-countertransference is at work.
  3. Only a careful and candid examination (without political correctness issues) of the psychodynamic issues can fairly explain a sexual relationship on this type. None of which means it will be easy, comfortable, or reassuring – only that doing so is in the best interests of the practice, the patients, and the public.
The usual obstacles to a careful examination of the situation:
  • All or nothing thinking (black and white morality) - people have a tendency to see these relationships as purely wrong on the part of the therapist, which is only a partial truth. The situation is often, though not always, more complex than it seems on the surface.
  • Gender bias (against males) – a lot of time is spent on this, demonstrating that yes, men are most likely to abuse, but that female-female “boundary violations” happen quite often and are not reported. Further, to even talk about female therapists as violators is often seen to be deflecting the issue away from men, not as presenting a whole picture.
Three primary truths (from the research, one of these is generally true):
  • The therapist was predatory.
  • The therapist felt pursued and coerced into a sexual relationship.
  • The therapist felt the sexual relationship was “true love.”
Three conclusions the authors reach based on the available research:
  1. Objective examinations of sensitive issues such as this do not always yield the results people most want to hear or feel comfortable with – outcomes may not fit “our favorite worldview.”
  2. The “politically correct” model therapist-patient misconduct is often true, but it is not accurate in all cases. Failing to objectively analyze each case because of ideological biases is wrong.
  3. The transference-countertransference developments (of which sexual misconduct is one type) in a therapeutic relationship are, by definition, repetitions of past relationships – they must be viewed in terms of the complexity inherent in all human relationships.
Finally, the authors offer this summary of their research on this topic:
Several dynamic resistances appear to interfere with rational and empirically based discourse about therapist-patient sexual misconduct. These resistances include the lure of reductionism and a longing for simplicity; wishes for "political correctness"; gender bias; and confusion about the nature of the trauma in sexual misconduct.

We conclude that (1) empirical study may produce unpleasant results; (2) "politically incorrect" models of misconduct merit study with care equal to "politically correct" ones; and (3) those reenactments we call transference-countertransference should be viewed in all their human complexity. Only then will our increased understanding of misconduct offer hope of prevention.

One million men dumped because of computer game obsessions

Dudes, seriously. You'd lose a good woman for a video game?

I may not be the right guy to comment on this - I have no comprehension as to why anyone would spend hours a day playing a video game. It sounds to me like a process addiction (think gambling, shopping, eating, sex, etc).

One million men dumped because of computer game obsessions

Monday, November 15th, 2010

More than one million blokes have been dumped by their girlfriends – because of their obsession with computer games, it emerged today.

Homophobia 'virtually extinct' with men comfortable kissing male friends on lips

Researchers found a willingness to spend hours playing games, such as newly released Call of Duty – Black Ops, regularly sounds the death knell for relationships.

The study also found one in two women whose partners own consoles feel ‘jealous’ of the amount of time their other half devotes to games.

And it also emerged four out of ten gamers play computer games every night of the week.

The stats were revealed in a survey carried out among 1,500 gamers and their partners by market research company OnePoll.com.

A spokeswoman said: "It seems like a games console often means there are three people in a relationship.

"It’s a bit sad if the virtual world is taking precedence over the real world.

"These games are brilliant but if they really are becoming an obsession then that’s a bit worrying.”

The study also found the Call of Duty series are the games most likely to cause problems in a relationship along with Football Manager and Grand Theft Auto.

One fifth of men spend ten or more hours-a-week playing games, it emerged.

Eight per cent of men even admitted they had turned down sex to keep playing on their games console.

Seven out of ten blokes admitted their partner regularly became annoyed about the amount of time they spent playing games.

One in ten men admitted they had ditched a date to keep on playing a game with two in ten under 25s saying they have done this.

Other games that caused problems in relationships were Fifa which was ranked fourth and Medal of Honour, which was ranked fifth.

Completing the top ten were Halo, Super Mario Brothers, Gran Turismo, Mario Kart and Guitar Hero.


1. Call of Duty

2. Football Manager

3. Grand Theft Auto


5. Medal of Honour

6. Halo

7. Super Mario Brothers

8. Gran Turismo

9. Mario Kart

10. Guitar Hero

11. Assassins Creed

12. Pro Evo Soccer

13. Resident Evil

14. World of Warcraft

15. F1

16. Red Dead Redemption

17. Need for Speed

18. Fallout

19. Gears of War

20. Angry Birds

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dad's eating habits weigh heavily on offspring

We've known for a while that a mother's diet impacts the life of her child. Now there is new research that shows that the diet of the father also shapes the life of the child.

If this is not reason enough for men to step up and eat healthier, I don't know what else to say.

Dad's eating habits weigh heavily on offspring

Fathers' bad eating habits may have insidious long-term effects on their unborn daughters, according to a provocative study in rats.

Fathers' bad eating habits may have insidious long-term effects on their unborn daughters, according to a provocative study in rats.

Fathers' bad eating habits may have insidious long-term effects on their unborn daughters, according to a provocative study in rats.

It found that feeding high-fat diets to male rodents predisposed their daughters to metabolic problems and diabetes — the first study in any species to show that a fathers' nutritional legacy reaches well into the next generation.

"A female can develop a diabetes-like disease due to a high fat content in her father's diet before she was conceived," according to one of two reports on the study to be published Thursday in the journal Nature.

When Margaret Morris and her colleagues at Australia's University of New South Wales put male lab rats on a high-fat diet the initial outcome was not all that surprising — the male rats packed on weight and body fat.

What was new is that female offspring of the fat male rats developed a diabetes-like condition in adulthood even though they had normal weight. The daughters also inherited hundreds of altered and abnormal genes linked to metabolic problems and diabetes.

"This indicates that the fathers' high-fat diets altered the development of their sperm, which then promoted an adult-onset disease in the daughters," Michael Skinner, at Washington State University says in an accompanying report.

Obesity and diabetes are fast reaching epidemic proportions. More than two million Canadians have Type 2 diabetes and five million more are at risk for the disease, which disrupts sugar uptake in the blood.

The epidemic has long been tied to sedentary lifestyles and the modern diet of food laced with sugar and fat. Researchers say there is increasing evidence "intergenerational transmission" plays a role.

One theory is that exposure to a diabetic environment in a mother's uterus may predispose babies to Type 2 diabetes. Another is that obesity and diabetes can alter sperm, triggering metabolic problems in the next generation.

Proving it is tricky, as it is not easy to run feeding experiments on people.

To test whether fathers "can initiate intergenerational transmission of obesity/metabolic diseases" Morris and her colleagues fed male rats a high-fat diet and mated them with females on a control diet. The nine males packed on so much fat their weight increased to more than 700 grams, compared to the males on the control diet that weighed in around 550 grams. The males on the high-fat diet also developed glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, hallmarks of diabetes.

Their daughters were not overweight, but the researchers say they soon developed "early onset" impaired insulin secretion and glucose intolerance that worsened with time.

When the researchers examined the genes of the females they found hundreds of abnormal genes. The fathers' high-fat diet "altered the expression of 642 pancreatic islet genes in adult female offspring."

The genes are involved in pathways associated with diabetes. The researchers have yet to test male offspring or whether the genetic changes carry on to subsequent generations.

The findings point to a "paternal role" in the early onset and "amplification of the diabetes epidemic," the Australian team concludes.

Skinner says the work suggests "a molecular mechanism for environmental factors such as diet to affect health and to influence subsequent generations through the germ line."

Shelley Correll - How Gender Stereotypes Influence Emerging Career Aspirations

Interesting talk.

October 21, 2010 - Shelley Correll presents to the audience stereotypes that exist in today's workplace and career field and why men are dominant in the areas of math and science. She gives reasons for why stereotypes cause certain results and shows many studies that have proven these ideas.

Clayman Institute for Gender Research:

Stanford University Channel on YouTube:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Saying Thank You and Goodbye in Dance

Found this at Robert Krulwich's NPR blog - very moving. These kids use dance as both celebration and mourning - a ritual of loss in the East Oakland rain. Krulwich calls it "a celebration so fierce and so tender that it took my breath away" and I agree.

This is the day we give thanks. That is why I want to share this video.

Four friends are gathered on a street corner in East Oakland, California, at the very spot where the half brother of one of them was killed a few days before. It's raining. They are there to remember their friend. They do this, dancing. That is their way, I guess, of saying 'thank you' to the one who is no longer there. At the end of the dance, they say thank you to each other. To them, I say thank you for a celebration so fierce and so tender that it took my breath away.

These dancers call themselves Turf Feinz.

They are:

  • No Noize in the red jacket.
  • BJ is wearing the striped shirt.
  • Man has on the black jacket.
  • Dreal, in the white shirt, is the half brother of Rich D, the young man who was killed.

The video was produced by YAK Films. Their website has more.

It's Holiday Season - Quick Workouts to Keep You Fit

Over the last couple of months, I have become more busy than I can ever recall, and it only seems to be getting worse. I have had to adjust my workouts both because of time limitations and energy limitations - they are shorter, but more intense, focused of basic lifts.

I have actually found this approach to be very effective for me, as a 43-year-old guy with nearly 15 years of lifting under my belt. I have been getting stronger, and I have also been able to maintain my leanness.

I came to this approach by necessity more than by science, so I am pleased to see two highly respected coaches promoting a very similar approach in the last week - Chad Waterbury is a guy I have been following for years, and if he is recommending Jason Ferruggia's new book, I am listening - Charles Staley is also supporting jason's new book, so I'm convinced.

First up is Chad - for what it's worth, I have been using the 2nd approach he mentions here quite a bit - A1: squat or deadlift variations, A2: bench or dips variations, and A3: pull up or row variations - mix and match.

3 Simple Ways for Fast Muscle Growth

by Chad Waterbury on November 22, 2010

I’ll bet you’re confused as ever when it comes to the simplest ways to build muscle. Many coaches and trainers have tried to convince you that you need to add a lot of fluff to your training program: tempo prescriptions, random progressions, and fluctuating training frequencies, just to name a few.

Well, I’m here to cut the B.S. and tell you what really works. So I’m passing on three ways to instantly boost your size and strength – the simplest way possible.

Method #1: 2 Lifts a Day

How to do it: pick two compound exercises – one for the upper body and one for the lower body. Perform those same two lifts three times per week.

Example: pair up the deadlift and standing military press. Out of all the exercise combos that you can pick from, the deadlift and standing military press are two that hit virtually every muscle group in your body. How many sets and reps? You can’t go wrong with 5 sets of 5 reps of each exercise with the heaviest load possible. Do this workout on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

1A Deadlift for 5 reps
1B Standing military press for 5 reps
Rest and repeat 1A/1B combo four more times (5 rounds total)

Progression: focus on adding weight, even if it’s just 5 pounds each week.

Method #2: 3 Lifts a Day

How to do it: pick three compound exercises – an upper body push, an upper body pull, and a squat or deadlift. Perform those same three lifts three times per week.

Example: combine the squat, military press, and chin-up. These three exercises will hit every muscle group in your body. To this day it’s one of my favorite circuits. Again, you can’t go wrong with 5 sets of 5 reps per exercise. Perform this workout on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

1A Squat for 5 reps
1B Military press for 5 reps
1C Chin-up for 5 reps
Rest and repeat 1A-1C four more times (5 rounds total)

Method #3: 3 Lifts a Day with Changing Volume

How to do it: pick three compound exercises like you did for Method #2. Let’s choose the deadlift, military press, and chin-up. Another option is to perform the squat, incline bench press, and one-arm row. Perform those three exercises three times per week but decrease the number of reps for each set every two weeks.

Example: start with 4 sets of 8 reps (4×8) for the first two weeks. Then do 5×7 for another two weeks. Next is 6×5 for two weeks. Finally, finish up the cycle with two weeks of 9×3.

Weeks 1-2: 4×8
Weeks 3-4: 5×7
Weeks 5-6: 6×5
Weeks 7-8: 9×3

These three methods are used by hypertrophy expert, Jason Ferruggia, one of the best guys out there who can simplify your mass-training cycles for non-stop gains.

To find out just how easy it is to quickly gain muscle and strength just Click HERE.

Stay Focused,

Another highly respected coach, Charles Staley, is also recommending Jason's book and has offered up a guest post on his own site from Jason.

Minimalism in Exercise Selection

By Jason Ferruggia

Author of Minimalist Training

Being selective—doing less—is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest. - Timothy Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek

Email, voice mail, text messages, Facebook messages, Twitter messages, paper work, bills to pay, food to buy, kids to raise, responsibilities to fill, commitments to uphold…

It can all get a little overwhelming at times and we need to take steps to minimize the clutter and distraction in our lives. It’s one of the reasons my voice mail is perpetually full. I refuse to empty it. I don’t even know what’s on it. I simply can’t have another inbox in my life. So sometime last year I boycotted voice mail.

Like the Seinfeld episode when Jerry stopped hugging people. Or the one where he refused to have another race against that guy from high school.

“I choose not to listen to voicemail!”

I like to take a bit of a minimalist approach to my exercise selection as well and believe that most people could benefit from doing the same.

You’ve got enough to stress out and worry about. The last thing you need is to constantly be wondering what angle you should set the bench to or if you should hold the weights overhead or at your side during a split squat.

Personally, if I was a single guy who was actively in the game I’d much rather learn more ways to pick up girls than to pick up a bar. (Hint: Smile a lot, dance, joke around, have fun. DO NOT be the tough guy wannabe standing against the wall. That appeals to absolutely no one.)

A lot of people would make a lot more progress if they stopped over thinking, over analyzing and over planning.

A minimalist approach to exercise selection would do them a world of good. You do not need a thousand different exercises to make great progress. In fact, it’s actually difficult to make measurable progress when you use too many exercises and are constantly switching them. You’re essentially just spinning your wheels when you do that.

With that in mind let’s take what’s useful and eliminate what’s not. Let’s focus on one or two exercises for each muscle group and make steady consistent gains on them. Do that until you finally hit a plateau and then make small changes.

Consistency and minimalism are going to be the keys here. Do not over think or try 500 new exercises per week. Use the ones listed below and milk them dry until you can not do another rep or put another pound on the bar.

Let’s start at the top and work our way down.

For neck you need a neck harness. Don’t get caught up in trying to build one yourself or try mimicking one in some McGyver type way. If you want to train neck buy a harness and do 2-3 sets of 20, twice a week.

Traps respond best to heavy deadlifts and Olympic lifts. Deadlift once per week (or every 10-14 days if you are stronger and more advanced) and do cleans once per week. For deads it’s best to keep the volume low and work up to one top end set in the range of 3-8 reps. Cleans can be done for sets across with straight weight for 5-6 sets of 3-6 reps.

If you have a trap bar use it. If you don’t, consider buying one.

That’s all we use at Renegade. The majority of people on the planet can not deadlift safely from the floor while maintaining a neutral spine. That right there is a bit too risky for my liking unless you plan to compete in powerlifting. I haven’t let athletes deadlift with a straight bar for at least ten years and nowadays I don’t let anyone pull from the floor with a straight bar. In fact, most of them even use the high handles on the trap bar.

If you have a preexisting injury or condition that prevents you from deadlifting at all, DO NOT stress out about it. You’ll be fine. Since we are assuming a low back issue heavy barbell shrugs would probably be out. In this case I would do dumbbell shrugs and farmers walks. Shrug one day for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps and do farmers walks another for 3-5 sets of 30-60 seconds.

If you can’t do cleans because of wrist or elbow issues simply stick with dumbbell shrugs and farmers walks. When you can no longer progress on the dumbbell shrugs, start over, drop the weight back down by 30% or so and start doing them with a three second pause at the top.

Those exercises pretty much cover the upper back also. I would add in face pulls and scarecrows on the TRX as well if you need more direct work for that area, however.

For even more mid back thickness stick with 1 arm dumbbell rows and inverted rows on TRX straps, ropes, or rings also.

Like Vince Gironda said many moons ago, the lats can tolerate a lot of work. Chin ups and pull ups are the only exercises you need to worry about here. Don’t be afraid to work up to 100 total reps per week, either.

The problem is that most people are too weak to do chin ups and get nothing out of them.

This is going to come as a shock, especially coming from me, but I still believe what I wrote 8-10 years ago about this subject when I had far fewer readers…

The lat pulldown is probably more effective than chins for 90% of people that do them. That’s because 90% of people do chins for low reps with shitty form. They basically do them for a five rep max… for multiple sets… all the time.

Imagine if every time you squatted you worked up to a 5RM and then did 3-5 more sets with that weight, forcing yourself to get five reps on each successive set no matter how ugly they got, going to failure and beyond.

What would happen? Obviously, you would go nowhere. Which is exactly what happens to everyone who does a 5RM every time they jump up on the chin up bar. By the last rep and the second, third and fourth sets they are swinging, climbing an invisible ladder, poking their chins forward, protracting their shoulders… it’s very ugly.

Now, I can’t in good conscience recommend a pulldown because, let’s face it, it’s not really a badass exercise, nor is it acceptable for people to NOT do chin ups. When you see a guy do 20 perfect chins you think, “That’s pretty sick.” When you see a guy do 20 perfect lat pulldowns you continue on your way to water fountain without giving it a second thought.

What I can recommend is that unless you can do 10 picture-perfect chin ups or pull ups you use bands to assist you.

The bands will help you do the reps with proper technique and allow you to focus on using your lats and keeping your chest up and shoulders back throughout the set. They will actually teach you how to do chin ups properly.

They will also train you to be able to do higher reps. Breathing can be difficult when doing anything with the arms overhead. So no matter how strong you get at low rep chins you will never have the capacity to do a lot of reps if you don’t train with high reps. Bands allow you to get used to that and allow the lats build up some work capacity and tolerance for those kinds of sets.

The other reason to use bands on chin ups is because most muscle groups should be trained with a variety of rep ranges as I mentioned HERE. One day per week you can chin heavy for sets of 5-7 reps and another day you can crank out some band assisted sets of 8-15 reps.

Bottom line? Do chins and pull ups as your main lat exercises but do them band-assisted, on at least one workout per week, until you are strong enough to do sets of 10 crisp reps with impeccable technique.

For shoulders you have barbell and dumbbell military presses.

Do barbell presses once per week and work up to a top end set of 3-8 reps. Press dumbbells overhead 3-5 days later for 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps.

In case I haven’t made it obvious enough times by now, I hate the bench press. It’s far too risky for me to recommend to anyone other than powerlifters anymore. Dumbbells are a far better choice. And weighted, suspended pushups are even better.

If you’re dead set on pressing a bar do so at an incline. Optimally this would be done with a Swiss bar. If you don’t have one stick with the straight bar. Work up to a top end set of 3-8 reps. Do weighted, suspended pushups or dumbbell presses 3-5 days later for 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps.

Everyone has heard by now that the greatest biceps exercise in the world is the barbell curl.

My recommendation is- don’t do it. I’ve programmed barbell curls in the past but would never do so again. It’s too stressful on the wrists and can lead to elbow problems. Stick with dumbbells; supinated and hammer grip; standing and incline.

Beginners don’t need much in the way of direct bicep work.

If you’re advanced and want to bring your arms up don’t be afraid to hit the bi’s with some volume. They can tolerate and recover from quite a bit. For most advanced lifters a biceps specialization phase would entail 5-10 sets of 8-12 reps twice per week. Start on the lower end of the volume scale and work your way up slowly, assessing your tolerance and recovery ability as you go.

For everyone else beyond the beginner level stick with a more moderate volume. Do 2-4 sets of 8-12, twice per week. One day you can do supinated curls, another day you can do hammer curls.

Triceps respond best to high loads.

That would put the close grip bench press at the top of the list (again, preferably done with a Swiss Bar). I recommend doing it on the floor or off of 2-3 boards to minimize the shoulder stress. Instead of working up to a top end set do 3-5 sets across (using the same weight) of 6-10 reps. On another day do dips for 2-4 sets of 8-15 reps.

If you have shoulder issues that prevent you from doing dips or presses stick with an angled bar pushdown and a pullover/ triceps extension combo with dumbbells or an EZ bar. Do each exercise once per week on separate days, for 2-4 sets of 8-15 reps.

For abs planks are the best and safest exercise you can do, in my opinion.

Start with a plank on the floor and work up to being able to hold it for a bare minimum of 60 seconds. After that gets easy, make them harder by putting your feet in TRX traps, putting your forearms on a Swiss Ball or by using only one arm or one leg.

If you are already beyond that level focus on the Power Wheel rollout and the hanging leg raise. Do three sets of each on two separate training days per week. Those are the only two ab exercises you’ll need for the next six months. Even though Dr. McGill isn’t a fan of the hanging leg raise I still like it and think it’s a pretty badass abdominal exercise, provided you have the strength to do it properly. Getting there will take six months so get started immediately by doing lying leg raises with bent knees. Work your way up to doing them with straight legs then progressing to the bar and going through a series of progressions there.

In 6-12 months you’ll be able to do perfect sets of straight hanging leg raises. Use a similar progression on the Power Wheel, working your way up to being able to doing it on your feet. Until you can do both of those advanced versions don’t worry about other ab exercises. You’re good for a year.

The lower back is covered by the deadlift. Unless you can’t deadlift. In that case you are going to do 45 degree back raises once or twice a week for 2-5 sets of 10-20 reps.

The legs respond very well to a wide array of rep ranges.

To build the legs we all know that squats are king. But they are also very taxing on the body and draining on the CNS. High rep squats build muscle like a mofo but are too dangerous for most people and take forever to recover from. I recommend keeping the reps in the 5-10 range most of the time and working up to one or two top end sets.

After that get your higher rep/ volume work in with something like a kettlebell front squat or split squat.

For direct hamstring work you can’t beat the glute ham raise. If you can’t afford a glute ham bench get the floor model, Partner Glute Ham by Legend Fitness. I have it and love it. These can be trained twice per week for 2-5 sets of 6-12 reps.

If you can’t squat don’t worry too much about it. If those are the cards you’re dealt, accept it and do the best you can. You can get great results with single leg work, glute hams, sled work and heavy Prowler pushes.

Don’t get caught up in thinking you absolutely need to squat.

Training shouldn’t be stressful, it should be fun. The majority of people can’t squat properly and to be honest, more than half the people that do squat probably shouldn’t.

That covers individual muscle groups and body parts. What about speed, power and conditioning?

  • Add jumps to your workout once or twice per week before you train lower body. Stick with box jumps and hurdle jumps for 3-6 sets of 1-5 reps.
  • Medicine ball throws can be done once a week for similar sets and reps.
  • For speed do short sprints with adequate rest.
  • For conditioning run hills or push the Prowler till the grim reaper comes calling. Pretty simple stuff.

For variety you could add in some kettlebell work. Swings one day, snatches the other. Just work them for ten minutes straight with as little rest as possible at the end of your workout. And jumping rope never goes out of style. Go as long as you can, as fast as you can til you need a break. Repeat for ten minutes.

Stretch often to be healthy and get out and run, jump and play as often as possible to maintain your athleticism.

To recap here is your minimalist approach to training:

  • Neck- Neck harness
  • Traps- Deads, cleans, shrugs, farmers walks
  • Upper back- Face pulls, scarecrows
  • Mid back/ Back thickness- 1 arm dumbbell rows, inverted rows
  • Shoulders- Dumbbell and barbell military presses
  • Chest- Dumbbell presses and suspended pushups
  • Biceps- Dumbbell curls; supinated and hammer grip
  • Triceps- Partial range close grip bench press and parallel bar dips
  • Abs- Planks until mastered, then Power Wheel rollouts and hanging leg raises
  • Lower back- 45 degree back raise
  • Quads- squats, kettlbell front squats, split squats
  • Hamstrings- glute ham raises
  • Power- Hurdle and box jumps, medicine ball throws
  • Speed- Short distance sprints
  • Conditioning- Prowler, kettlebell swings or snatches
  • Flexibility- Any kind of stretching, done as needed (which for most people is more than you do right now)
  • Athleticism- Play

For 3-6 months, focus on simply getting better at these exercises in the set and rep ranges advised above and don’t try to reinvent the wheel or change you program every week.

This is the stuff that works.

That’s it.

If even that’s too much to worry about do this three times per week:

Upper body push
Upper body pull
Lower body exercise like a squat or deadlift

Or if you’re going upper/lower:

Upper Body Day 1 & 2- 1 push and 1 pull for 5-6 sets of 5-10
Lower Body Day 1- 1 squatting variation for one top end set of 5-10, glute hams or back extensions for 2-5 sets of 8-20
Lower Body Day 2- 1 deadlift variation for one top end set of 5-10, single leg squat variation for 2-5 sets of 8-20

That’s all.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Jason's
new muscle-building book
"Minimalist Training"

About The Author

Jason Ferruggia is a highly sought after, world renowned strength and conditioning specialist. Over the last 15 years he has trained more than 700 high school, college and professional athletes from nearly 20 different sports. He is known for his ability to rapidly increase muscular size, strength, speed and endurance in all of his clients.

Jason is currently the chief training advisor for Men’s Fitness magazine where he also has his own monthly column called The Hard-Gainer. He has authored over 200 training articles for various other fitness related websites and magazines such as Men’s Health, Maximum Fitness, MMA SportsMag, Today’s Man, Muscle and Fitness Hers and Shape.