Sunday, March 1, 2015

ECONOMY STRONGMAN TRAINING

One of the biggest obstacles many have to overcome in the realm of training for strongman is “access to the implements”.  The question “how do I train for strongman without access to the implements” is asked on numerous forums/occasions, and most answers gravitate toward the reality that training to be strong, fast and athletic will do more than enough to take care of any strongman hopeful.  However, what I hope to accomplish here is to establish the fact that “having no access to the implements” simply means having no WILL to have access to the implements.  There are several low cost strongman training implements out there that can easily be integrated into one’s at home training or possibly snuck into a commercial gym should the need arise.  I will be addressing how to acquire/fashion these implements and what limitations one will encounter attempting to map these on toward the real implements used in competition.

THE AXLE (total cost: $55)

Image result for mariusz pudzianowski axle press
Disclaimer: The act of pressing an axle will NOT make you Mariusz Pudzianowksi

I have written about the awesomeness of this implement on many occasions, but will briefly summarize once again.  The axle is similar to the barbell in that it is a straight bar that you can put weight on.  It differs from the barbell in that it is about 2” in diameter, has no rotating handles, in many cases no knurling on it.  It is also one of the most common implements one will need to press in strongman.  I’ve competed in 5 contests so far, and every single contest had an axle press in it (one clean and press for reps w/cleaning each rep, one clean and press w/clean once and press away, and 3 medleys with an axle in it).  If you look through NAS or US Strongman upcoming competitions, you will find the axle appears in the majority of the competitions as well, so training with one is crucial.

Making an axle is simple.  Get to a home improvement store that sells plumbing pipe.  Find the largest galvanized steel pipe you can that will still fit a weight plate on it (I brought along a 2.5lb plate to check all this out, but a 1.5” pipe should most likely do the trick).  Have an employee cut the pipe to 7.5” (Fun fact: most “7 foot barbells” are slightly longer than 7’, and if you want this to fit in a rack, you’ll want it longer).  Buy a roll of duct/gorilla tape.  Measure 2’ from each end and wrap the tape around this point over and over again until you have created collars large enough in diameter to stop your plates from rolling in toward the center of the bar.  Congrats: you have an axle.  If you want some cheap clips to hold the plates on the bar, you can buy some battery clamps at the same hardware store, as spring collars tend to not fit on here.  Otherwise, locking collars work well.

From my experience, training with this style of axle will make you stronger come competition day.  The lack of knurling will make your grip awesome, and my axle at home tends to be slightly thicker than anything I’ve seen in competition.  If you are lucky enough to get an axle with knurling in competition (happened to me once), even better.  This will last a long time when it comes to pressing.  I have been told by a fabricator that it most likely will not hold up for heavy deads/drops from overhead, but I have yet to try that to be able to give you a report one way or the other.



On display: Homemade axle. Not on display: cardio



KEGS (prices vary depending on availability)

The keg is another incredibly valuable resource to have as a budding strongman.  Kegs can be pressed, thrown, carried, or put over a bar depending on the intent of the contest promoter, and their unique shape/size makes it difficult to replicate the technique needed using anything else.  Thankfully, depending on how big of a party town you are in, kegs can be pretty cheap.  You can usually find someone on craigslist looking to get rid of one, or you can try to bother local bars and offer to pay the deposit on a keg.

I will at this time get into the legality of keg ownership.  When you purchase a keg of beer from a distributor, you are BUYING the beer, and they are LEASING you the keg.  The brewery still owns the actual keg, while all you own is the beer.  This means that, when you buy a keg and do not return it to the store, even though you paid the deposit on the keg, you still do not own the keg.  The brewery still has legal ownership of said keg, you simply lost your deposit on it and did not return it.  It is most likely the same thing when you buy one of these kegs off of craigslist/from a bar, so if you find this aspect squeamish, this method may not work out for you.  It is however worth noting that "illegal keg ownership" is incredibly decriminalized, so unless Anheuser Busch comes by your garage for a surprise inspection, you'll be fine.

image 1
Odds are, if your keg still has the brewery stickers all over it, you don't actually own it

If you want to buy a keg straight up, it gets a little less economic.  Brand new ones costs about $120, which is still an awesome deal for such a versatile and valuable piece of equipment.

What really makes kegs economic though, is loading them.  If you want a sloshy/challenging keg, you can load them with water straight from the hose.  Use your bathroom scale to find out how much weight you put in it.  If you don’t want it too sloshy, you can always fill it to the very top and make it insanely heavy.  However, if you want a more stable filler, you can buy sand from any home improvement store for about $2.50 for 50lbs.  Comparing that to the cost of iron plates makes it soon incredibly obvious why a keg is such a great economic choice for a strongman, as once you’ve made the initial investment on the shell itself, you have one of the cheapest loadable implements on the planet.


As was previously mentioned, kegs can be used for just about anything to make someone strong.  Get your keg and lean how to clean and press it overhead.  Once you can do that, pick it up and run with it as far/fast as you can.  Once you can do that, try to get it over a bar/load it to a platform.  Pour sand out/put sand in as needed, or get a few different kegs of varying weights and have an awesome workout.  One other major benefit of the keg for a home gym owner is it’s a fantastic platform to put heavy dumbbells/logs on to eliminate the clean out of a movement, or something you can stack a sandbag onto during training.


SANDBAGS ($65, if not less)

Image result for World's strongest man sandbag
One of the few times where "sandbagging" isn't being used in reference to the Novice division

For cost of sandbag, I’m referencing the Ironmind “Tough as Nails” sandbag, but there are tons of vendors out there and lots of DIY options.  As the name infers, this is a bag loaded with sand.  Reference the above section on kegs to see why having a sand loadable implement is a boon for the strongman on a budget.  However, what makes the sandbag different from a keg is that, while the keg will maintain it’s size and shape in most circumstances (assuming you don’t drop it from lockout and dent it…oops), a sandbag is far more chaotic, and will shift and sway as you attempt to pick it up.  This means cleaning and pressing a sandbag will make you strong all over as you attempt to overcome a heavy moving object escaping your gasp, while running with a sandbag will require a deathgrip.

Sandbags can be used to do pretty much anything a keg can do.  You can clean and press them, put them over a bar, toss them, run with them in a medley, etc.  I will caution that the “Tough As Nails” sandbag is NOT, as I have managed to create a small tear in it by dropping it onto a small rock on my sidewalk, and the stitching is coming undone due to constantly dragging it on concrete.  I should take better care of my equipment, but the name mislead me.  Thankfully, you can always gorilla tape a sandbag, and if you get a cheap furniture dolly, transportation becomes easier.

One other boon of the sandbag is that, for how versatile of an implement it is, it’s very much transportable.  I had a competition last January, and 2 weeks before it I was going to my in-laws for Christmas in New Years.  Knowing I was going to be there a while and might not be able to get to the gym often, I threw my sandbag in the car and was able to do a huge variety of workouts with just one piece of equipment.  I got very good at cleaning awkward objects, lapping heavy implements, pressing a moving weight, etc etc.  You don’t need to bring a whole gym with you, just one sandbag can go far.

Again, if you can get these cheap, make a few in different weights.  Variety is good.



FARMER’S WALKS (Oh so many possibilities)

Image result for World's strongest man sandbag
A REAL blacksmith understands the value in bringing his OWN anvil to the job

There is just no excuse to not be training the Famer’s Walk (in terms of equipment availability, I don’t want to start a stupid war discussing the validity of this exercise as it applies to synchronized swimming).  The whole point of the movement was to BE simple: grab something heavy in each hand and walk with it.  To say you don’t have access to the equipment is just false.  In terms of getting close to what you’ll use in competition, that’s where things can get a little trickier, but not by much.

The obvious go to is dumbbells.  Find the heaviest ones in your gym or get some plate loadable ones and go to town.  What will suck about this approach is the pick up: DBs tend to be much lower on the ground than farmer’s handles, so you’ll have to do the deficit deadlift from hell just to pick these up.  If you got 2 kegs, you can make your life easier put setting one on each side and grabbing the dumbbell, or do the same with benches at your gym.

What inevitably happens with the above is that the dumbbells eventually aren’t heavy enough.  In this case, you could always buy the Spud Inc traveling farmer’s handles, recently released for about $65.  These things look awesome to me, and may make it into my gym bag at some point if I’m ever traveling and want to still train farmers.  Again, no excuses here, and plenty cheap.

If you don’t want to pay someone to build you farmer’s handles, you’re in luck, because aside from the axle they’re one of the easiest implements in the world to build.  I build a pair of side loaded farmer’s handles out of about $80 worth of plumbing pipe with a hand drill.  It really sucked and took about 4 hours, but they can hold up to 285 per hand with no issues.  You could build a pair of top loaded handles using wood and flanges/plumbing pipes in probably a fraction of the time with a power screwdriver.  Just get some 2x6s, cut them to about 5’ in length, get four 1.5” pipe nipples at about 1’ in length and a flange for each nipple and install the flanges/nipples at either end of the boards.  You now have the posts for your farmer’s walk implements.  All you need now is to decide how high you want the actual handles, by the appropriate sized pipe nipple/flange/L pipe, and you can make your handle.  Use wood screws to secure the flanges and you’re set.  This should help out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DFhlXarHAPI#t=0

  Then, of course, there is always stuff like this

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-portable-farmers-walk-handles/



IN REVIEW

If you build/assembled everything above, you’d have an axle, keg, sandbag and some farmer’s walk handles.  You’re looking at spending anywhere between $150-300 depending on how sophisticated/legal your build is, about the cost of 1 quality barbell.  For that cost, you have the ability to train for the following events.

-Axle clean and press (clean once and press away)
-Axle clean and press (clean and press each rep)
-Overhead press medley (axle, keg, sandbag)
-Axle deadlift (reps, max weight, in a medley, etc)
-Keg clean and press
-Keg toss
-Keg load
-Carry medley (keg and sandbag)
-Sandbag clean and press
-Sandbag load
-“Stones” (the mechanics with lapping a sandbag/keg and getting it over a bar can be similar)
-Farmer’s walk
-Farmer’s walk deadlift

Not to mention to massive amount of “overall strength” training with such awkward implements will develop, which will benefit you in a variety of strongman movements.  You’ll have the majority of your bases covered in competition day, with the yoke walk probably being the only event that can’t really be replicated/improved without some exposure to the equipment.

Good luck in your training!

Monday, February 23, 2015

BEYOND GOOD AND BAD FORM: NIETZSCHE AND LIFTING PART 2


“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, contrary to popular belief, does NOT find its origins in terrible pop music, but instead is a thought that originates once again from the work of Nietzsche.  This thought has been adopted, adapted and bastardized in millions upon millions of permutations, serving as fuel for plucky bumper stickers and slogans on size small t-shirts worn with high socks, knee wraps, Chuck Taylors, short shorts, a 18mm belt, and no achievements.  Nietzsche’s intent, however, was not to establish how “hardcore” he was for his belief that the endurance of misery, pain, hardship, toil and injury was the road to self improvement, but instead a lamentation on the current trend of society to MINIMIZE these stimuli.  In seeking security, we doomed the species.

 Image result for DYEL shirt
You know what would go good with this shirt?  Muscles.

Recall my earlier discussions on Hobbes, who defined the state of nature (as in man’s natural state) as a constant state of war over resources, wherein life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.  With this understanding, it seemed only natural to want to escape the state of nature and establish some sort of means of security in order to ensure the survival of the species, hence the formation of government via the social contract.  By promising to not engage in war with our brothers, we promote the safety of us all.  However, Nietzsche questions if such a species is even worth saving, for by existing in this state of safety, we grow soft, weak, and worthless.  Yes, life in the state of nature is terrible: for the weak.  For the strong, the state of nature is a tool meant to keep one sharp, well honed, able and strong.  It is the stimulus necessary to challenge, make stronger, and make better.  Those who thrive in the state of nature are the zenith of all that is human, achieving their full potential, while those who perish benefit humanity by no longer polluting the species with their weakness.

 Image result for fat person on rascal
,,,'merica

We can once again witness how easily these lessons apply to those of us who seek to grow bigger and stronger.  So many in the realm of training seek to minimize toil in all capacities, desiring only to pursue the path of least resistance in all instances.  We observe those who switch out squats with leg presses because they are easier, abandon deadlifts for trap bar lifts because they hurt less, avoid conditioning because it is unenjoyable, etc etc.  In contrast, we also recognize that, despite the myriad of training approaches and protocols employed by all successful athletes, the one variable that all seem to hold in common is their ability to endure gut wrenching, blood vessel bursting, skull cracking brutality, pushing well beyond the pain tolerances of most mortals and returning to training time and time again.


However, the avoidance of toil is not simply to be witnessed in the gym, but within the mind as well.  Trainees refuse to endure the torture of not KNOWING how to train.  Rather than fiery death and endless torture, Christianity originally defined Hell as simply the absence of God’s presence, believing that nothing could be more miserable than knowing that one is truly alone.  For the trainee, not being able to attach one’s self to a paradigm, guru, group, community, etc that validates one’s beliefs is in turn their own personal Hell.  There could be nothing more terrible than to not know if what you are doing is right, to have no idea if you are actually progressing the way you need to, if your plan is effective, etc etc.  However, those who are unwilling to endure this Hell in turn are the ones who achieve mediocrity at best, aligning themselves with some sort of lifting cult wherein they can constantly pat each other on the back for following the “one true way” while throwing heretics off of cliff sides for daring to speak out against the unity of the whole.  They choose security over improvement.

Image result for abandon all hope ye who enter here gates of hell
Maybe a little scarier than just being abandoned by God

Those that become stronger do so by subjecting themselves to the hell of the unknown, pushing forward with no resources, studies, or support from the current community.  Yes, they sweat and bleed and cry in training, but they also do all this while plunging further and further into darkness, not knowing if it is light that awaits them at the end or simply more darkness.  They know that God is dead, and this liberates them.


But why is it that the lessons learned from these pioneers do not eventually get passed down to the awaiting ears of those who refuse to endure torment?  Why does the cult of lifting personality not eventually adopt the methods that DO work, and lead to prosperity?  This is what we will discuss next time, regarding slave morality, perpetuation of mediocrity, and the short lifespans of those who achieve greatness.

Monday, February 16, 2015

RAB FITNESS STRONGMAN COMPETITION WRITE UP



Finally took first place and qualified for nationals at a competition.  Now, I will say that this was a small comp, with only 3 people in my weight class counting me, but amazingly this made every event life or death, as the smallest slip would have me lose my place.  I initially thought that this was going to be a pretty boring contest with so few competitors, but it was actually the most fun I’ve had and really pushed me to give my all.  Training paid off a ton, as did my tune up contest back in Jan.  Here are my thoughts on each event.

EVENT 1: Tire Squat for Reps (371lbs)

Watching the women do this event before me gave me a few ideas/lessons to learn. Walking the bar out gave a lot of people trouble, as the rack was narrow and the tires would hit on either side, making it tough to get set up.  I saw a lot of people that most likely employ a high bar/dive bomb style squat in their training, and this turned out to be a major detriment, as they would fall from the top, hit the tires on the platform, have the bar bounce off their back/forward, and totally lose a squat.  TONS of competitors zero’d this event from this approach.  Thankfully, as a former powerlifter who still cheats with a low bar/slow squat, this wasn’t going to be an issue for me.

Guy before me (who would end up being the guy I chased for the whole competition) hit 15 very fast/smooth reps on the squat, so I had my work cut out for me.  I’d hit 405 in the gym for 17, but that was with just plates.  Coming into this event, my 2 fears were hitting depth and being even on my descent, as in training when squatting to chains I have a tendency to hit the left side of the chain with the bar before the right side.  1 of these fears was legitimate, as I had no issues with depth, but constantly kept hitting the platform unevenly.  On the very first rep, I hit the left side but never made contact with the right.  On the second, the judge called me out on this and no repped me.  From here, I had to make a constant effort to dip down on the right side to make sure I made contact, which made things a little wonky.  I ended up hitting the j-hooks on one rep, and in general just fell out of my groove.

I was credited with 14 reps.  Had I made contact on the no rep, I would have tied for first.  Instead, I took a hard fought second.


EVENT 2: Press Medley (200lb log, 200lb axle, 180lb keg, 115lb circus DB)

Prior to this event (and the tire squat for that matter) I was feeling very light headed and weak.  I figured I hadn’t eaten enough, since my stomach had been a little upset before the contest and I was trying to avoid making things worse.  I sacked up, ate 2 pop tarts and downed a Gatorade, and that seemed to help make the difference, as I came into things feeling much stronger.

I had been practicing this exact event prior to the show, with the only difference being that I had no circus DB at home, so I used fat gripz on a 105lb dumbbell.  I figured that the weights on all the other implements were super light, and it was basically going to be a contest to see who could get to the circus DB first to get the most reps, so I focused on cutting down the transition between the clean and press on each implement and recruit my legs more to press faster.

All of that ended up falling apart, as my light headedness seemed to still plague me a little.  I lost my footing on each clean, forcing me to take a second to re-adjust before the press.  Getting the keg to my chest was slow as well.  However, the circus DB ended up being a pleasant surpise, as I struggled with this exact implement/weight at my last contest, while here I managed 3 clean reps with a 4th that died on the lockout.  Focusing on driving the bell up with my shoulder really paid off here.  If I was smart, I would have held on to the bell and just hit touch and go between reps to really move things faster, but I was trying to have very fast eccentrics here to save my shoulder and cut down on time (to the point that I pretty much dropped the keg off my chest and bent it pretty good.  Promoter got pissed off about that, oops.)

I thought this wasn’t a great performance, but amazingly most the other competitors struggled on the implements BEFORE the circus DB.  Many never even got that far, with the keg being the widowmaker for may.  I am SO thankful I bought a keg to train with, as familiarity with the implement was invaluable.  I ended up taking first here, with second place getting zero reps on the circus DB (he could lockout the bell, but was unable to get his legs locked out).  It also looks like all that time I spent training the clean with each implement paid off.  Very happy with how training paid off here.


EVENT 3: Carry Medley (475lb yoke, 500lb frame, 200lb keg, 200lb sandbag) 35’

I was dreading this event.  Footspeed is still my weakness, and though I have been hitting parts of this hard (farmer’s one day of the week, keg/sandbag medley the other) and training 50’ish versus 35, I was still doubting myself.  Additionally, the event originally called for farmers, but the promoter switched it to frame at the last minute (which I thought would be better for me, but still, not what I trained for) and I still don’t have a yoke to train with at home, so I knew I was going to have to wing it.

Thankfully, both of the competitors ahead of me made some mistakes (the joy of being in first, I got to watch and learn).  The first guy moved really fast, and looked like he would be a major threat, but he had lost some time figuring out how to pick up the sandbag, and ended up tripping over his feet at the very end, crashing and burning hardcore straight onto the sandbag.  A truly epic fall, but it also put me in the fight.

The second guy also looked like he was blazing fast, and instead of holding the bag horizontally, he just bear hugged it and ran it forward.  All hope looked lost until he made a rookie mistake: he fell onto the sandbag at the end when he loaded it, not knowing that time didn’t stop until he took his hands OFF the bag.  By doing this, he killed at least 6-8 seconds off of what would have been a VERY competitive time.  Seeing that gave me some hope, but it also let me know that I had to have a perfect run.

I did something different setting up under the yoke this time: I took a narrow stance. Usually, I would take a squat stance, squat the yoke up, then bring my feet in and start moving.  I realized that this was just killing my time, and knew that I needed to make the pick-up and my first steps a fluid motion.  Soon as I heard go, I stood up and started moving forward before I had a chance to know if I even had the yoke cleared.  Watching the tape, it was still a pretty sloppy run, but definitely the fastest/smoothest I’ve ever moved with a yoke.

I jumped from the yoke into the frame, and in doing so felt my left ankle twist a little as I hit the edge of the implement.  It was thankfully a minor tweak, as I was still able to successfully grab the handles and motor forward.  The training with the farmer’s paid off from what I could tell, although looking at the tape I could definitely have stood to take shorter, faster steps.  We were allowed straps on the frame, and I had them on me in case I needed them, but my grip was just fine.  That was a positive, as I knew any time spent strapping up on the frame was time lost.

It felt like I sprinted back to the keg, but looking at the tape it was more like a jog.  I’ll have to actually work on some sprints in the off season to minimize this time.  I had been training with a 182lb keg, and was curious how big of a difference the 18lbs was going to make.  Answer: a lot.  I was able to move pretty quickly with the keg at home, but this became more like a quick walk.  I tried hard to pick up high and lean back to free up my legs, but it was garbage.  I knew that if I wanted a shot, I had to make it up on the sandbag.

Here is where training with crappy equipment pays off.  Prior to my Jan contest, I took a partially filled 150lb sandbag with me to my in-laws and trained with it for 2 weeks.  I got real good at picking it up off the floor.  When I got home I put 50 more pounds in, still had a lot of space in it, and trained the carry medley.  A few weeks before the comp, I finally took out the slack and had a well packed bag, which was much easier to pick up off the floor.  However, at this comp, the bags had a TON of slack in them, and competitors that were used to well packed bags seemed to struggle with finally the sweet spot to grab a loose sandbag, with lots of time lost.  I knew that I needed to tip the bag to the side, catch it with my left hand, dig under with my right and throw the bag up high to sort of “sneak up” on it if I wanted to keep all the sand in one place.  It went flawlessly, I got the bag high up on my chest, totally clear of my hips, and managed to really book it to the loading area.  I got that bag upright and threw my hands up in the air to show that I was totally “hands off”.  It worked out well, as I ended up taking first on an event that I was sure was going to be my worst.  A great showing for a fat slow kid.


EVENT 4: Last man standing axle deadlift.

Not a lot to write up on here, except the promoter said this was going to be done with a deadlift bar, and then switched to an axle.  He seemed to take a lot of joy in these last minute changes, when really, as a competitor, it was just annoying.  I didn’t pack axle straps, since we weren’t deadlifting an axle according to the contest I signed up for, nor did I bother to train for this.

Thankfully, my normal straps worked just well.  Having long fingers and slim hands helps.  I didn’t have a lot of difficulty with this being my first time pulling with an axle, but when the bar got to 585 I noticed I was struggling more than I should have, and when it came time for 615, I managed to get just below my knees before the weight got in front of me and I dropped it.  I think fatigue and dehydration played a factor here, along with the fact that I had pulled a max dead a month ago in Sacramento (680lb tire deadlift).  I usually go 8 months between maxing, 1 month is just too short of a time.  Also, reviewing the tape, I kept my feet close on every single pull except for the very last one, which is the same thing I id when I failed with 720 in Sacramento.  I need to quit doing that, because in both cases, I lost all my leg drive and tried to stiff leg the bar.

Thankfully, 585 tied for first on this event, but I really should be winning these deadlift events.  It’s my one lift.  My gameplan here is to reduce the barweight I train with while adding some chains, since I seem to have zero issues getting the bar off the floor but struggle at lockout.  The lighter weight should give me a chance to recover from such frequent heavy pulling while still building up my max again.


EVENT 5: Keg over bar (51” bar, 4 kegs from 150-200lbs)

This was supposed to be a keg loading event, but SURPRISE, another change.  Whatever, I didn’t train for it anyway, so I wasn’t too upset.

1 thing I am incredibly proud of myself for thinking of is wearing my squat shoes instead of my chucks.  The 51” bar looked high, I’m only 5’9, and it dawned on me that these shoes would make me slightly taller.  I may consider wearing some boots in the future to achieve a similar effect, but I figured these shoes would also help me get my hips into the keg.

I got to go last again since I was currently in the lead, which gave me a chance to learn from my competition.  The first guy had this first keg’s handles face away from the bar, while the rest faced toward it.  This meant that he could run straight to the bar on the first keg, and then grab the rest of his kegs from the side rather than getting behind them, which reduced transition time.  I ensured to do the same.

The second guy threw his first keg over the bar and almost killed one of the volunteers, which got a stern warning and prompted the promoter to tell me that the next guy to do that would get DQ’d, so I also learned not to do that, haha.

Not too much else to write up here.  The kegs felt much lighter than I anticipated, I moved pretty fast and didn’t take too much time to get the keg over.  My big fear was throwing the kegs, so I slowed down a little, and watching the tape I could stand to cut the transition down between when I get to the bar and when I engage my hips, but otherwise I was happy with my performance.  I apparently took second here, and I imagine the other guy throwing a keg may have helped his time, haha.


FIRST PLACE?

So, for those of you keeping track at home, you may have noticed that I had two first place finishes, two second place finishes, and a tie for first, making me dead even with one other competitor.  So how was it I took first?  I weighed in lighter.  Whereas the other guy had cut down from 215 to make the 200lb class, I walk around at 198ish day to day, so I came in at 197 in jeans.  Finally being too small for my weight class pays off.  It means I should also probably be a 175er, but that sounds like too much not eating.


Already included a lot of my lessons learned in the above, but one other new variable for me was that we competed indoors in an air conditioned location, and I didn’t realize how much it was dehydrating me to be in a climate controlled environment.  I wasn’t sweating at all, yet I drank over a gallon of Gatorade and still had both quads cramping up fiercely right before the last event.  In the future, I’ll have to ensure that I really stay on top of my hydration in those conditions.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

FUTURE TRAINING PLAN

FUTURE TRAINING PLAN

While I have some downtime during the week of my comp and recovering from a slight touch of the stomach bug (zero concerns about making weight now) I thought I would take some time to go over some lessons learned from this training cycle and chart the future of my training.

BACKGROUND:

These past 2 months have been pretty intense.  On 10 Jan, I competed in “A Very Heavy New Year” in Sacramento, and on 15 Feb I will be competing in the RAB Fitness Strongman Competition in Kennewick WA.  Originally, I had signed up for the Kennewick comp back in Dec thinking I would have 8ish weeks to prep specifically for it, but found out about the 10 Jan comp soon afterwards, noticed that the events had a lot of overlap, and decided to use that comp as something of a tune-up for Feb.

As a result, I’ve been pushing events very hard for 8 weeks while letting my strength building fall of my priority list.  This works pretty well for me, as strength has always been my strong point (pun unintended) in my weight class while technique/events are a weakness.  Been spending a lot of time working on my clean for the press medleys, reducing time between the clean and the press, leg drive, and footspeed for carry medleys.

Some things I have noticed is that I started out really terrible at these things but picked them up quickly by dedicating just a LITTLE bit of time and energy toward them.  What I want to avoid is my natural tendency to gravitate toward what I am good at and not train what I am bad at.  Before, I could justify this by saying I wasn’t fully committed to strongman, and was going to return to powerlifting, but I am going to be honest an say that I love this sport and getting better at it will still make me a better powerlifter, while becoming a better powerlifter isn’t going to make me a much better strongman.

With no contests on the horizon (though I am keeping my eyes peeled), it’s time to find some balance again.  Goal here is to still get faster/better with events while being able to push the max strength up.


LESSONS LEARNED:

-It IS possible for me to overhead press too much.  Prior to the competition training, I was pressing overhead twice a week for assistance, with 1 day focused on strict work and 1 day focused on leg drive, along with employing the Cube Method for Strongman 1 day a week for press.  I ended up getting a shoulder impingement.  I went about a month without any sort of overhead pressing, focusing on just getting a pump with some raises and pull aparts.  Once I returned to overhead pressing, I noticed no drop in pressing strength (I imagine the horizontal pressing helped here) while also having some meat on my shoulders from all the pump work.  Going to cut down on overhead pressing volume while focusing a lot more on keeping the shoulders healthy with more raises/pull aparts/etc.

-Best time for me to focus on cleans is my squat day.  Make it a part of my warm-up and just keep hitting it in between sets of everything else.  The axle is my weakpoint, so going to focus on that a lot, but will also work in log, keg and sandbag.

-I can run Matt Kroczaleski’s bench press workout while training like a strongman, so that’s what I’ll do.  It worked well enough, and takes away the thinking for me.  Bench has been good to me, but I may consider someday running the program with incline/incline with axle.

-The safety squat bar squat is way too valuable for me to ever switch out in my training.  I noticed my deadlift strength dropping pretty quick as soon as I switched this out.  It pretty much is the best movement ever, so I’m going to make it my primary squat movement from now on, while rotating in front/barbell squats at different intervals.

-Farmer’s walks are amazing and I always should have been doing them.  Foot speed has always been my issue, and carrying stuff is dandy, but I really want to start loading this heavy and getting good at it.  Putting this on my deadlift days seems logical enough.

-When I start pushing the conditioning/intensity up, my bodyweight climbs.  Having a contest looming in the future made this a tough battle, but with this off season I’m going to eat and grow as much as my body wants.  Not going to force anything, but will let the chips fall where they may.


GAMEPLAN:




BENCH DAY

-Warm-up: Weighted chins (rest pausing as needed, starting with 45lbs, if I hit 50 reps, I’ll up the weight)

-Matt Kroczaleski’s 16 week bench workout

-Shoulder shocker
(3-5 rounds)

superset with

-Grenade ball lat pulldowns
3-5x10-15
-Kroc rows
1x20-30
-20 band pull aparts in between sets of everything

Notes: Was cutting out a lot of back work due to heavy focus on events, so trying to bring that back.  Used to do a lot of chins on these days, but noticed that my elbows seemed to be getting pretty pissed off from that.  Depending on how they feel though, may swap those and the lat pulldowns every week.


SQUAT DAY

-Warm-up: Cleans with axle, keg or log (if adjustable, working up to a heavy single, double or triple.  If keg, whatever feels good) performed in between sets of everything

-ROM progression Safety Squat Bar squat with chains
1x5-10

-GHR sit ups
3-4x6-8

-Reverse hypers
 3-4x8-12

superset with

-GHR
3-4x8-12

Notes: Ideally, I’d thrown in a back-off squat here, but I train before work on this day and I’m just worthless of I attempt that.  Need to be able to workout, take a shower and get ready for the day without sucking wind and passing out.


PRESS DAY

-Warm-up: NG chins

-Press: Rotating 3 separate days here.  One will be focused on rep work (most likely start at 200lbs, use a log or axle, and clean each rep, since I suck at cleaning so much).  Second day focused on max strength (will avoid singles and go more for triples, since I experience less terrible form here), still ideally want to clean the rep.  Third day will be more skill based, most likely running some sort of medley or just pick a stupid implement and press it a whole bunch (keg, sandbag, FG DB, etc).

-Horizontalish pressing
4-5x8-10 (dumbbells, incline log, whatever needs doing)

superset with

-Rows with whatever the implement of the day is
4-5x8-10


-Curls of some variety
4-5x10-12

-Band tricep pushdowns
1x100

Notes: I see vertical pulling lacking a bit here.  Depending on how long the training day runs, may throw in some chins between sets, just for volume.


DEADLIFT DAY

-ROM progression mat pulls
1x5-12

-Farmer’s walk or carry medley
4x50’ish

-Squats (rotating between barbell, ssb, and possibly front squats)


Notes: Squat training is going to follow my previous mentioned protocol (Heavy set for AMRAP, same weight next set for half as many reps, strip a plate AMRAP, same weight next set half as many reps).  Deadlift training may radically change in near future.  Have an idea of alternating between mat pulls and top down deadlifts.  For now though, sticking with what works.
 



   

Saturday, February 7, 2015

BEYOND GOOD AND BAD FORM: NIETZSCHE AND LIFTING PART 1

This was most likely an inevitable turn for this blog, but that does not discount the joy that we will have in the journey.  Nietzsche’s name is very popular amongst existentialist thought and dialogue, and though in pop culture it’s easy to simply write him off as “that nihilism guy”, the reality is that much of his writing can be applied to our endeavors here.  As we have discovered, the realm of lifting is a microcosm of reality itself, and those writers who critique our reality in turn can allow us to critique the world of lifting.  It is with this understanding that we explore the parallels between Nietzsche’s work and weight training.

As with all of my writings on philosophy, I will reiterate that this is not an academic work, and I will in turn not be citing my sources.

 
Beards are the "in thing" among lifting at present, but this mustache trumps all

“God is dead”

When Nietzche wrote the above, many misconstrued it to be an attack/declaration on the death of the Christian God.  Though Nietzsche was more than willing to criticize Christianity in many of his works, the meaning behind this quote was more to strike at the idea that “God” was no longer a compelling force for action/morality in the world.  This was the crisis of existentialism, in that mans’ purpose had been tied to the existence of the supernatural for so long that, if we lose faith in God/God’s relevance, we in turn lose faith in our purpose.  Before, we simply said that we must act and think in a certain manner because God commanded it, but now that God was “dead”, what were we to do?


On the one hand, gluttony is no longer a sin.  On the other hand, definite proof that God has abandoned us.

This existentialists crisis is the same crisis many trainees tend to face upon realizing that everything they have learned about lifting/nutrition has been “wrong”, and in most cases was simply tradition and superstition passed down from generation to generation.  We learn that “high reps to get cut” is false, that “eating fat makes you fat” is a lie, Arnold used steroids and his body is unachievable naturally, the list goes on.  Nietzsche spoke to the fact that, when confronted with this crisis, the logical and inevitable response is one of nihilism.  However, it is here where Nietzsche points out that simply because we must accept nihilism does not mean that we have reached the end of our journey.

Nietzsche speaks on the idea that there are two different approaches to nihilism: negative and positive.  Negative nihilism is what most people envision when they see the word: giving up, being defeated and exhausted and resigning yourself to whatever fate the world has in store for you.  This, of course, is a sign of weakness.  Contrast this with positive nihilism, which is hinged upon the idea that, upon realizing that there is no greater purpose or higher meaning for us, we MAKE our own meaning.  We see the absence of meaning as liberating rather than confining, knowing that it means we are free to pursue life as WE deem fit, rather than as has been predestined for us.  In this instance, the respond of nihilism is a sign of strength, for it means we make our own destiny.

In the lifting community, we in turn can witness these nihilistic responses to discovering that our world is a lie.  There are those that bemoan the fact that there is SO much information out there, and everything contradicts everything else, and it’s so hard to get a clear answer, and could someone PLEASE just tell me EXACTLY what to do?  These people are weak, and have pursued the path of negative nihilism.  Then, there are also those who, upon finding out that their God is dead, cling desperately to a new God.  They worship at the house of Rippetoe, Wendler, Tate, Simmons, Green, etc etc, forsaking all others and freely burning at the stake any heretics that they come across.  These people are too terrified of the ramifications of nihilism to accept a world without God.

 
This of course was one other viable compromise

Then, there are those who decide that realizing everything they’ve learned is wrong means that they are free to train as they deem fit, as there are no longer any rules to confine them.  They train for their own purpose, regardless of what others in society say is the right way to train, or the right reason to train, or any other “rules”.  For these people, approval of “the herd” is meaningless, and in many cases an indication that one is headed toward failure.  Instead, it is understood that those who succeed in a world with no meaning will do so facing the opposition of those who lament their freedom rather than enjoy it.

Of course, simply because we choose to make our own way does not mean that the way we choose is instead the best way to progress.  Many, when given the choice, choose to pursue a life of hedonism, believing that a life free of pain is the greatest joy and, in turn, that this joy is what should at all times be pursued.  However, Nietzsche was quick to critique that a life free of pain was the life of mediocrity, and in turn doomed the species of man to downfall.  Instead, man should seek pain, adversity, toil and torment, for it is this which makes man strong.  The next time we discuss Nietzsche, we will discuss this aspect and how it relates in turn to our goals of becoming bigger, stronger and better.