Thoughts On Squat Thrusts

I am starting to have a bit of a fitness crisis. I have not been working out much lately.

For the past few years, I have mostly been doing squat thrusts for fitness. I do between 10 to 20 sets every minute for about 30 minutes. And the issue is that it is making my legs get bigger and making me worried I might become some sort of quad monster.

I know that squatting a lot can make your legs bigger, especially the thighs. It can make the front of your legs bigger. Or the back. Or the outside. For me, sometimes it feels like all the growth is on the inside, particularly near the top. It is starting to crowd my boys out. I sometimes worry that I will have a hard time fitting into a seat on airplanes. Or I will have to spend the rest of my life walking like I have to go number two all the time. Like I have to ride the fudge dragon. Sign the paperwork. Serve an ace. Plus I just don’t like feeling my legs touching.

Sometimes I also feel like I am encouraging uneven leg growth by all my workouts these days. Sometimes I do kicks and punches, and the kicks seem to work the inside more that the rest of my leg.

It’s not that I did not think my legs would get bigger. I wasn’t expecting them to get bigger quite that way and cause problems.

I started this about eight years ago. I read an article on the New York Times about workouts people were doing outside of gyms. I read the comments on the story (which are not a cesspool like Breitbart). A lot of people talked about their no-gym workouts. One commenter said they did the “prison workout”. I search for that term, and I found a few pages that used that term for different sequences of burpees. I guess they are easy to do in prison yards or cells. Some people did nothing but burpees for their workouts.

I found out later that some people use the term “prison workout” to refer to workouts using different calisthenic exercises, because those are also easy to do in your cell.

One common sequence was to do countdown sets: A set of 20, then a set of 19, a set of 18, etc down to 0. I thought, “How hard can it be?” So I decided to try it out.

I went down to the small, not very good fitness room in my apartment building. I decided not to jump since I have had knee problems in the past. But I still did the pushup. I think I got down to 16, but I think I did three sets of 16 before I realized that I was losing count. I only lasted ten minutes. How hard can it be? I found out it can be pretty hard.

The next day my arms were tired. But I decided to persevere. So I started doing workouts in my apartment. Eventually I started adding some kicks and punches, jumping jacks, mountain climbers and a few other exercies, but squat thrusts were the basis. I think the squatting helped my knees. I was a bit worried then about my inner thighs getting bigger. But it was not too bad then.

I was unemployed when I started this. I started working out on my own to save some money. I quit the gym not just to save money, but also because I never really talked to anyone when I was there.

After doing this for a year, and after I had another job, I thought about going to a gym again. There was a boxing gym near my apartment. I thought about going in to ask about rates and schedules. But before I ever did, I saw a class through the front window, and the class was doing squat thrusts. I thought to myself, why should I pay money so some doofus who barely made it out of high school can yell at me to do something that I am doing on my own anyway.

My first few years in Austin I did not do too many squat thrusts. I was living on the second floor and I was worried about disturbing the people below me. The complex had a nice gym, but I got tired of people knocking on the door like I was some damn doorman. It only happened a few times, but it should not happen at all. Now I am on the first floor in an apartment with a wooden floor.

And now my legs are really starting to get big. To the point where sometimes getting in and out of my car is difficult. And now I have to keep pulling my sweatpants up every few sets. I don’t have the thigh gap the ladies love.

I like squat thrusts because I feel like I am preparing myself for anything. I feel like I can push myself harder than with other workouts. Plus I don’t need to go to the gym. And the squats help my knees.

I don’t have great range of motion, but a bit better than the Crossfit Efficiency burpees. Burpees and squat thrusts have the fundamental motions of the human body. Another issue with the way I do them is that my spine is neutral, and not much arm/shoulder action. But it is my one stop fitness shop.

I found out about this guy named Funk Roberts who really pushes burpees. Funk Roberts said to have feet wide and put your hands in between, but that really hit my inner thighs. Having my hands about shoulder width with feet a few inches behind and pointed out was okay.

Portrait of the Imperial Bodyguard Zhanyinbao (1760) by unknown artist, available at Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

A Lot More Difficult

I used to be able to work out more than I can now. Part of it is due to scheduling, part of it is due to age.

I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted as long as I exercised. But now, sometimes even if I do exercise regularly, it is not enough. I am reaching a point where I may have to make some serious changes to my diet. Like giving up chocolate. Cutting out junk food will require some serious mental discipline.

I used to work out to make my whole body bigger. Now I work out to make my stomach smaller, and that is a lot more difficult.

Perhaps there is a limit to what exercise can do. Working out more as I get older is not as hard as I thought it would be. Eating less, on the other hand, is proving to be a lot more difficult than I thought.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Fitness Journey 008

So for the first two semesters I went to TKD three times a week. The workouts were pretty intense: lots of blocks and punches up and down the gym, kicks in place, calisthenics. A few times we did jumping kicks and punches down the length of the gym.

I would also walk across campus to the gym and get there about 30 minutes early. I would go through the stretching routine before class. I got pretty flexible pretty fast.

I do not remember if I did any exercise on the off days.

During breaks I would do kicks, punches and blocks in the basement.

Image from Wikipedia


Fitness Journey 007

So I transferred to UIUC. Two other guys who lived on the same floor at WIU also transferred. They were brothers who were from a town close to Macomb. They were the only two people I knew.

We got together on our first Saturday night on campus and started looking around. We saw a flier in the union for a couple of taekwondo clubs. One of the brothers learned some TKD from a South Korean student at WIU. He said, “This martial arts stuff is cool. We should do it.”

There were fliers for two clubs. One started on Tuesday, and one started on Thursday. We decided to go to the one that started on Tuesday since that would be one more day of training.

So we went to the first one. There were about 100 people there for their first day of martial arts. One of the instructors said that only 1 out of every 100 people who starts martial arts makes it to first degree black belt.

The class started with some stretches. The last part of the “warm-up” was 20 or 25 sit-ups. I don’t remember the number. I do remember that I barely made it. I thought to myself, “I am 20 years old. I am supposed to be in the best shape of my life, and I can barely do 25 sit-ups. Not good.”

I resolved to be the one person who made it to first degree.

Even though I had done some running before this, for a long time in some ways had I considered this moment to be the start of my fitness journey. I thought I was in shape, and I realized I was not.

It turns out that three of us made it to first degree. One made it at the semi-annual black belt test after me.

Image from Wikipedia

Fitness Journey 006

So after I started having knee problems, I started going to physical therapy. My therapist was a very attractive woman.  Sometimes when I put weight on my knee, I would go an inch higher; sometimes my left leg was longer. Things got pretty bad. But my knee eventually got better.

I did weights at the gym. It was a small gym in the dorm. I did not know much, I did not even know that I should work big muscles before the small muscles. I do not remember what I did to stay in shape in the summer between sophomore and junior years. I probably still worked at the grocery store pushing the carts. But I do not think I went to any gym.

In my junior year I transferred to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There I got even more serious about fitness and got more knowledge.



Fitness Journey 005

So I was running a few times a week in the fall of my sophomore year in college. I did not run very far, but a lot of people who were not active were impressed with my mileage.

One day I was running north on Western Avenue after running to downtown Macomb, and I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. I stopped for a few minutes. Then I restarted, and again I felt a sharp pain. I stopped again and did not restart.

I saw a doctor, and found out that I had chondromalacia patellae. When you put weight on your knee, the kneecap should move vertically. With CP, when you put weight on your knee, it moves horizontally, cutting into cartilage. The doctor said that it was because my left leg was not as strong as my right leg. He told me that I should stop running, and I should look into weight training. I was upset since I liked running, but I did look into weight training. Back then I did not know about the different muscle types.

Image from Wikipedia




Fitness Journey 004

For my second semester at WIU, I got a new roommate. Two guys on the floor did not get along, so we swapped. My new roommate was a runner in high school, and still ran non-competitively. Most of my other friends were sci-fi and D&D guys. The sort of people that today we would call geeks. Before it was popular.

He got me into running. The first few times he went with me, then I started going by myself. I would run to the center of town, the same center of town that I was not able to walk to for Thanksgiving break a semester earlier. Sometimes I would run to the town square, rest on a bench, and run back. I think it was about 3 or 4 miles total.

Once I had a chat with three high school kids who seemed impressed by my running routine. Perhaps they were stoners.

I also ran during that summer between freshman and sophomore years, and into the fall. I would put my ID in my left shoe, which might have been a bad idea.

Fitness Journey 003

In the summer and winter breaks when I went to WIU (as well as the summer before going to WIU) I worked at a local grocery store. One of my duties was to collect the carts in the parking lot. I hope I do not get skin cancer; I did not wear a hat.

Pushing all that metal probably helped make me more fit, but I never really considered that as part of my transformation from couch potato to Mr Physical Fitness. I guess that is because it is not something I really chose to do. It was part of my job.

Sometimes I would only get one or two carts. Sometimes I would push in more than a dozen. (Sometimes with only one arm. Uphill. Really.) On Christmas Eve two of us would run all over the parking lot to get carts. We would have three carts between the two of us, and there would be at least four people waiting.



Fitness Journey 002

I went to college at WIU. I was there for two years before I transferred out. There is no interstate running through Macomb, Illinois. When my sister looked at colleges, I told her that if the city did not have an interstate running through it to cross it off her list.

Anyway, I was not really into exercise when I first arrived. The first break for which I went home was Thanksgiving break. I went home a couple of days early, and a friend of mine in the next room also went home the same day as I did. We each had a pretty heavy bag, and we were pretty tired by the time we got to the station. We left before the sun came up, and there was nobody else out at that time. It was snowing which added to the drama. It could have been a scene from a movie: “I won’t make it! Go on without me!” If wolves attacked us we would not have been surprised.

I checked on Google maps, and it was about two miles. We had walked to town before, but we were surprised that we were nearly wiped out. I guess we thought that because we were young that it would be easy for us. That was the first wake up call that I had.

While we were on the platform I spotted one of my professors. So he was also skipping town early. I said hello to him, and he knew he was busted.


Fitness Journey 001

When I was growing up, I was kind of active. A little bit. I did ride my bike around town quite a bit. In the summers I would go to the pool in town once in a while.

But I was never good at sports. In the USA, that is an unpardonable sin. I also had little interest in sports. An even worse thing.

In this country I think a lot of people equate sports with fitness. Gym class had little to do with health, and a LOT to do with sports. So you had a few people doing something, and a lot of people standing around.

I think this might be part of the reason our country is so fat. A lot of people do not get the hang of a lot of games quickly. The few who do dominate the game. I think the use of sports in gym class gives people the idea that exercise and sports are the same thing, and that it is something other people do.