Saturday, January 24, 2015

BEING LAZY DOES NOT MAKE YOU HARDCORE

Humans will always seek a way to justify their nature as not only acceptable, but in fact preferable and ideal.  This of course comes into conflict with the reality that we are a flawed species and our nature is contemptible, such to the point that it is only those that rise above human nature that are worth emulating.  We seek this justification of our natures because it is far easier to simply convince ourselves that we are the ideal than to instead change ourselves INTO the ideal.  Oddly enough, it is this laziness that is crucial to our flawed nature, and in turn many trainees attempt to transform this laziness into a manifestation of being “hardcore”.

We have all seen this delusion before.  At present, it’s very en vogue to not engage in direct ab training under the premise that “squats and deadlifts will train the core”.  Not only do these trainees claim that they do not need to engage in direct ab training, but they scoff at those who do, because surely these trainees just aren’t squatting and deadlifting heavy enough to get a good ab workout.  I ask you dear reader, on what planet is it hardcore to do LESS work?  Wouldn’t the real warrior be able to squat and deadlift heavy while ALSO employing some heavy and intense direct ab work?  Why is it the case that geared powerlifters, who put on their backs hundreds of pounds more than their raw maxes must engage in intense ab work to be able to support such a load?  Shouldn’t it be the case that simply squatting such heavy weights is more than enough to build up an incredibly strong core?


I suppose we could draw the conclusion that his abs got strong enough to do this from squats...if we were stupid


What of those trainees who refuse to engage in any sort of grip training?  Why is it that these are always the same trainees that bemoan the necessity of getting in “grip work” on NON-grip exercises?  These same individuals belittle lifting straps and those who employ them under the premise that it’s not “hardcore”, but when it comes time to do some grippers, plate pinches, static holds, etc etc, they are nowhere to be found.  They get their grip work from deadlifting, doing rows, doing chins, essentially, from NOT training their grip, and in turn, they develop weak grips.  Meanwhile, those that actually care about developing an impressive grip recognize the value in conserving their energy on the non-direct work so that they can really focus when the time comes.  Those that care about being stronger know they need to work MORE, not less.


This guy is going to feel pretty silly when he realizes how weak his grip is getting

Direct arm work receives double the disdain from the fake hardcore crowd, for not only is this a chance to justify laziness as superiority, but additionally an opportunity to espouse one’s lacking vanity and condescend those who desire physical improvement.  Curls are used as a punchline by those with pipe cleaner arms who speak of the benefits of chins and pressing for total arm development, while those trainees who actually possess enviable arms in terms of strength AND development understand the value of direct training.  Every successful strongman, arm wrestler, highland games competitor or any other strength athlete will dedicate time to direct arm work, for what sense does it make to allow yourself to have weaknesses when the goal is to be stronger?  Meanwhile, those who scoff at direct training will continue to achieve nothing while awarding themselves the accolades of being hardcore.


"Lol, curls, am I right guys?"

I recall an age when being hardcore was classified by how MUCH people trained rather than by how little.  We whispered of trainees who spend 3, 4, 5, even 6 hours a day, training marathon sessions, with no muscle group spared.  We admired those who competed in multiple sports and athletic endeavors, being well rounded and capable.  Athletes who were big, fast, strong, swift and tough, who ate nails and bled battery acid.  Why did we turn our admiration to the unaccomplished?  Why did we decide to praise those who train so little and accomplish just as much?  Is it because it’s simply easier to lower the bar than to rise above it?

Bring back hardcore for real.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

EVEN MORE RANDOM THOUGHTS

-I haven’t got 8 hours of sleep in over 4 years.  That’s supposed to be important, right?

-Why is it en vogue for beginners to eat 5 thousand calories while training with the lowest volume possible?  We are so afraid of overtraining, but where is the fear of undertraining?

-On the above, the trend I constantly note whenever someone is unable to put on weight is a lack of conditioning in their program.  They always employ the same justification of not wanting to burn even MORE calories, but anyone who has performed some decent conditioning knows that your appetite is going to increase exponentially.  Whenever I want to lose weight, I do less work, whereas when I want to gain weight I do MORE work.


Of the two, which one looks like they are in the process of building muscle?

-A lot of people tell me that if I keep training the way I do, I won’t be able to keep it up when I get older.  F**k, I’m damn near 30 now, so these bad effects better catch up to me quick.  Right now, I could just retire and be stronger than a lot of those who said it was inevitable that I’d be crippled will ever be after a lifetime of “safe” training.

-What are these people who are striving to be injury free saving their bodies for exactly?  Do they know something I don’t?

-I found that I became a better lifter when I read fewer studies and more philosophy.

-Ignorance is strength.  It seems to me that the more people learn, the more problems they have.  The only people that seem to have anterior pelvic tilt are those who know what it is.

-If you refuse to use yourself as an example, you should not be an advocate for a method.

-Don’t we train to get stronger?  Then why are we so afraid of being put in a mechanically weak position (bad form)?  What is the point of all that strength otherwise?

-Clint Darden just hit a deadlift PR while on chemotherapy.  What was your excuse again?

-I feel like the novice class in strongman is encouraging more people to be weaker rather than to participate in the sport.  The sandbagging is pretty disgusting too.


"No, really, I swear, it's my first competition."

-I enjoy how polarizing a force George Leeman is.

-Competing has been the most beneficial thing I ever have done for my training career.

-In beginners, I note a love for training.  In veterans, I note a need for training.

-There is a direct relationship between a lack of success and a desire to tear down others.  The strong guys are always supportive, the failures are always destructive.

-Criticism from someone who is unsuccessful is equal to accolades from the successful.  You wouldn’t want someone who failed to approve of your training, as it surely means you are going in the wrong direction.

-Stay away from “beginner’s sections” on forums, as they are full of beginners advising beginners on how to not be beginners.

-Go to Home Depot, buy a 2” pipe cut to 7.5’ and use some duct tape to make collars.  Congratulations, you have an axle, it only cost $50, and it will be incredibly valuable for your training.  People waste more money on junky supplements.

-Weighting shoes are awesome.  However, I went over 10 years training with Chuck Taylors just fine.  But now that I have these shoes, I’m not looking back.

-My grandfather was a self-educated and successful real estate mogul, who would always ask the people with degrees “If you’re so dang smart, why aren’t you rich?”  It has been my guiding principle when viewing the advice of others.

-The reactive slingshot works better with dumbbells.  Or maybe I am just a terrible bencher.

-Getting a propane grill has improve the quality/quantity of my meals.  I love to cook now.


It all makes sense now

-It is a good thing I am married.  Otherwise, I would have the most amazing home gym and no money whatsoever.

-I observe a direct relationship between unwillingness to cook and lack of progress.

-I can either spend 20 minutes warming up to avoid injury or 2 seconds not giving a f**k about getting injured and spend the rest of that time lifting heavy stuff.

-There is always time and ways to train.  I saw a ton of people complain about gym closures this holiday season, while I was clean and pressing a sandbag in my in-laws basement.

-If you can lose all your gains in 1 week, you never had any.

-I notice that only beginners seems to use the terms “bulking” and “cutting”.

-Not doing things has never helped me heal.

-I have a “resting” heartrate in the low 50s after downing an energy drink.  I got asked at my last physical if I run a lot.  I laughed and laughed.


The only time I run is to get to the front of the line of one of these

-Holy f**k I drink way too much caffeine.  1 energy drink and about 6 diet sodas everyday.

-Been following Matt Kroczaleski’s bench program for 13 weeks now.  Works great.  If you are on the fence, do it.

-Temptation is not a thing.  You either want something bad enough to do what it takes or you don’t.  If the only way you can succeed is to be free of choice and forced into isolation, congratulations, you are a prisoner.

-As I read, I understand that I read for the joy of reading and the challenge of learning.  It is the discovery that compels me.  As I lift, I understand that I lift for the joy of BEING strong.  I receive no joy from the act of lifting, while at the same time, if I were simply given knowledge I would find that joyless as well.

-At my last contest, I observed an inverse relationship between time spent warming up and performance.  The top performers warmed up the least.

-New deadlift training protocol idea: ROM progression from 2 angles.  Each week alternate between mat pulls and top down deadlifts.  Start mat pulls at 7 mat height, start top down deadlifts down to a 3 mat.  Each week, remove one mat, until I am performing mat pulls off of a 5 mat and top down deadlifts down to the floor.  The weight on the top down is heavier than the mat pull, getting me used to handling heavier weights, while the mat pull gets me used to breaking the inertia.  Should be another 7 week cycle.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"A VERY HEAVY NEW YEAR 2015" WRITE UP AND VIDEO


“A VERY HEAVY NEW YEAR 2015” WRITE UP

Just completed my 4th strongman comp and ended up placing second.  This is the first time I’ve placed in a comp, and placing this high is just amazing.  Everything really seemed to come together, and it looks like a lot of the lessons I’ve learned from previous competitions/comp experience really shined through.  My training paid off as well, and that’s while training at home by myself with limited equipment first thing in the morning.  While some things are still fresh in my head I want to get them down.

PRESS MEDLEY

Implements for this event were a 225lb axle w/tires, 115lb circus dumbbell, 165lb keg and a “mystery object” that turned out to be a fire hydrant.  The mystery object was originally supposed to be a sandbag.  I took 2 weeks of vacation before the comp to visit my in-laws and didn’t want to pack a whole bunch of gear to train with, so I threw a 150lb sandbag in my car only to find out they were cutting it out of the comp.  I was pissed at the time, but I think all the time I spent training with the sandbag just got me good at cleaning and pressing awkward objects anyway, so it was a net gain.

I came into this with a gameplan of hitting the axle first, then the dumbbell, then the keg, then the fire hydrant.  Thought process was that the axle was the heaviest and required the most technique, the dumbbell required technique, the keg just required me to hulk the weight up and I had a chance to train with it before the comp and the fire hydrant was a crapshoot, so I would save it for last in case I couldn’t press it.  That way, I would have at least a fast 3 implement time should I fail on the 4th.

When the event started, I was actually caught off guard by how easily I cleaned the axle.  Cleaning is never my strong suit, and every person before me had to continental the weight up, but I just threw it up to my shoulders.  In retrospect, my ghetto axle at home is harder to work with than the comp ones because it is thicker and has no knurling at all, so I think that’s what made this so much easier.  However, it ended up slowing me down a little because I was anticipating more of fight.  My leg drive also fell apart as a result, but I can still press 225 strict just fine.  Lesson learned here: anticipate success rather than failure.

Moved on to the circus dumbbell and made a rookie mistake: I went back to powerlifter mode and waited for a press command.  It was only a second, but it did throw off my rhythm and made it that my first attempt to press the weight went flat.  Gathered up my reserves and hit the second attempt just fine, but this is where things got interesting.

 I can only speculate what happened psychologically, and my thought is that I got really upset with myself over missing the press command and just sort of melted down, because once I got the dumbbell over head I flew into a rage.  It’s still crazy for me sitting here the next morning to think about, but I was legitimately angry about something and I still can’t quite figure out what, but it manifested in me completely abandoning the gameplan on the spot and being absolutely furious at the fire hydrant.  I did not give a shit about technique, and just wanted to show dominance over it, so I grabbed it, threw it up to my shoulders and pressed in the dumbest way I probably could have.  By the grace of god, the judge gave me a down command the second I lost my grip on the fire hydrant, so I just let it slip through my fingers and went to the keg.

I was still in the same state of fugue when I reached the keg, but thankfully I was realistic about my lack of coordination and trained all my keg work to be about brute strength rather than technique.  I did not lap and roll the keg up, but instead just ripped it off the floor to my chest and pressed it.  I threw it to the floor and really had to calm myself down, because I was still pissed off over something I couldn’t figure out, but I ended up taking 3rd out of 7, which is a great showing for me.  Upon reviewing the video and hearing the jeers of my fellow competitors, I used pretty much zero leg drive the whole time, which is pretty badass, but also means I’m losing time by strict pressing.  I keep training leg drive in my training, but I imagine that when the chips hit the floor, I go back to what I’m good at.  Still, was feeling good after this event.


LAST MAN STANDING TIRE DEADLIFT

This event took forever, as I was warned they usually do.  We did 20lb jumps from 440-520, and 40lb jumps from there.  If you know me, you know this is my event, so not a whole lot to write up.  I did employ some psychological warfare, and made a conscious effort to remain as calm, collected and bored as possible every time I pulled.  I wanted everyone else to know that their efforts were futile, and that they should just quit because I could do this all day.  A little cocky, but whatever, if you got it flaunt it.

I DID ensure to strap in for every single set.  No points for style here, and I wanted to save my grip for the contest as much as I could.

In the end, it came down to me and one other competitor.  We both got up to 680, which he managed with probably the most magical and gravity defying hitch I have ever seen in my life.  I am nothing but jealous about it.  I pulled a pretty smooth 680, but psyched myself up for it pretty hard since it was down to the wire.  When 720 came around, the other guy withdrew and I thought I had a decent shot at it.  However, being expended from the previous effort, I went to pull, got the weight a few inches off the ground and felt the sensation of something separating in my mid-back.  It wasn’t worth slipping a disk, so I settled with sharing first place.  Not exactly how I wanted it to go, but still, I got some points, and at this point I was second overall in the standings.


YOKE WALK


Did no training for this, have nothing close to the implement.  Gameplan was “be stronger than everyone else”.  Amazingly, that worked, because even though it was only 550lbs, this Yoke just SUCKED.  I don’t know what it was, but every second it was on my back I felt like I was being crucified.  I felt like I had a ton of drops and was making no progress, but looking at the video I actually only dropped 3 or 4 times and got pretty far between drops.  I think what helped me compared to other competitors was simply SOME implement experience (definitely saw a few first time yokes out there) and my willingness to endure more misery, as I would quickly get back under the bar every time it set down.  I probably had the slowest time among those who completed the course, but since that was me and 2 other guys, I got 3rd again.  This put me in second overall by 4.5 points, trailing first by 4 points, so pretty wide margins all around.

One thing I did take away from this is that I was very uncomfortable having weight on my neck, and I think this stems from the fact that I haven’t been hitting the safety squat bar as much as I used to.  It’s a great piece of equipment and I credit the majority of my success with it, so I need to get it back into my routine.  It should also help my dead climb back up.


TIRE FLIP

No training on this one, came into it cocky thinking that my deadlift strength would payoff.  Looking at the video though, I was moving slow.  In the future, can’t be wasting time waiting for the tire to fall.  Soon as I flip it, set up for the next one.  Technique sucked too, need to be able to one shot it each time.  I also dropped it at the end of the event, and had I been better with my technique I would’ve closed the gap on time.  I took 5th on this, getting beaten out by a 10th of a second by 4th place.  Was still in second here, now at 19.5 points with third at 16.




LOADING MEDLEY

Used some new tacky on this, which seems like a dumb idea considering the last time I botched stones was because I used new equipment, but things actually worked out well.  Prior to the contest I looked up what the weather was going to be like, noticed it was going to be cold, and picked up some Elite cold weather tacky.  The rest of the internet seemed to dislike the stuff and prefer spider tack, but by the time stones rolled around, no one’s spider tack was working, while the elite (though incredible tough to work with) was plenty sticky.  It definitely has my endorsement.

That aside, the event changed day of the contest, and instead 2 atlas stones and 2 natural stones, we were loading a 240lb atlas stone, 250lb natural stone, 275lb sandbag and 310lb atlas stone.  Once again, all that time at my in-laws with a sandbag was going to pay off.  Life works out funny sometimes.

First stone was no real issue.  Lapped it this time instead of trying to one shot it.  Natural stone I was dumb on, and tried to grab it like an atlas stone instead of considering the design of it.  Grabbed it at the front instead of the back, and it fell backwards out of my hands.  Regripped and one shotted it.

The sandbag had a few interesting factors.  Second I was second overall, 5 other guys had a crack at it, so it was covered in tacky and actually stuck to the floor, so I had to break the grip of the tacky first.  Secondly, one of the volunteer loaders was way in my space while I was trying to work with this, so I had to shove him out of the way with the sandbag to get myself some space to work with.  After that though, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Got it in my lap, inched up to the platform, used it to brace the bag, and loaded it.

The 310 stone was a disaster.  When I went to pick it up, I noticed it was incredibly slipper and smooth.  Then I looked at my forearms and realized that this stone was covered in dirt, and now, so were my forearms.  So my tacky was pretty much worthless at this point, and I tried every way I could to get a grip on this stone.  I tried getting my hands under it, my shins against it, bear hugging it, front squatting it, etc.  If I could have hacky sacked it up, I would have.  It just wasn’t happening.  Sprained my right lat slightly toward the end and just about gave up, but figured f**k it and kept going until the whistle blew.  No idea what my placing was on the event, but I did reasonable well, and enough for second overall.



I have another contest in Feb, but it has some very similar events.  In all honesty, this contest was just supposed to be a tune up to get me ready for that one, but after this showing, I may just do the Feb one for fun.  Either way, still a great experience.    

Sunday, January 4, 2015

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN EXPERIENCED?

I hope you appreciate the Jimi Hendrix reference, because this is going to be pretty caustic otherwise.  I am getting sick of seeing the same thing across forums, facebook groups, and, of course, in person: people giving advice on subjects that have ZERO experience in.  In the world of lifting and fitness, this is just getting absurd, because it stands blatantly obvious when someone is talking out of their ass due to the fact that they look and perform like crap.  Yet someone, these people have the audacity and outright lack of shame to offer their 2 cents to any poor misguided stranger that is willing to sacrifice their time (and their progress) by listening to them.

We need to establish something here and now: until you have actually experienced success with a method, you do not know if it works.  You might have an inkling, an idea, a thought, an opinion, a verifiable source, etc etc, but without the actual process of making it work firsthand, there is no “knowing” on the matter. All we are doing is speculating, and it is destructive.  We are diluting the pool of those who know with noise from those who don’t, and it is because of this that it’s impossible to get decent information on training in any medium.  Everyone feels that they are equally entitled to an opinion on the matter, and it’s up to the person seeking information to sort out the worthless from the worthwhile.



"So...I've never actually PERFORMED surgery before, but I watch a LOT of House...I think I got this."


What is the purpose of those who “contribute” without experience?  Do these people honestly hope to make people better with their random guesses and theories on training that they gleamed from years of reading and not lifting?  Or, more likely, is it that these people offer advice due to satisfying their own personal desire of being seen as an “authority” on a topic?  In the power/relationship dynamic, they are able to assert their superiority over those who need advice by offering it, even if they honestly have no actual experience or knowledge on the issue.

These people are always quick to jump to the same defense: “The best coaches aren’t the best athletes”.  Factually correct, HOWEVER, the best coaches have a track record of creating the best athletes. Your fat co-worker who tells you that diet coke makes you fat does NOT have this claim to fame, nor does the skinny kid talking about how to “train for hypertrophy” on the internet, nor does the guy who squats 225 talking about running smolov to really bring up the squat.  Parroting great coaches does not in turn give you their knowledge, credentials or reputation, ESPECIALLY when we consider that all we receive from these coaches is a soundbite in time, and that good coaches are constantly in flux with their methods.  Louie Simmons, love him or hate him, is constantly changing the Westside Method, and generally, by the time we get to read an interview from him it’s old news and he’s on to a new idea.  All we manage to do by regurgitating what smarter men think is to be behind the times.




By the time Moses came down with the 10 Commandments, God already came up with the 613 laws in Leviticus



I always ask the same question of these people when they offer advice “how do you know it works?”  The sheepishness of their responses are palpable, with anything from an apology as they realize the gig is up to anger at anyone having the audacity to require evidence for wild claims.  That said, no one should go unchallenged when it comes to this nonsense, and the more obvious their lack of experience, the more harsh the questioning should be.  Dave Tate had a hilarious interaction at a gas station when someone offered to sell him steroids, and when Dave asked if the seller used steroids and received a positive response, he told the guy to get a refund because they clearly aren’t working.  Look at the person offering you advice and weigh the value of it based on how effective it has been for them.  

Friday, December 26, 2014

SQUAT TRAINING PROTOCOL: HOW TO ADD 9 REPS TO YOUR 6RM IN 2 MONTHS

So this is something I've been doing in my own training that has been incredibly successful that I figured I might as well share.


Squats have never really come easy to me, and they're probably my most temperamental lift, with a constant flux of gains and losses throughout my training career.  Recently in my training, I decided to start training them with more volume at the end of a heavy training session to see what would happen, and the results have been pretty positive.  So far, I have gone from squatting 405 for a very tough set of 6 to an easy set of 15 in the span of 2 months with just sleeves and a belt, and it seems like there are no signs of stopping.

Amazingly, this is not actually my primary squat workout, but just something I've been doing for assistance work.  That being said, it's had a positive impact on my squat performance in general, but I still advocate having an actual heavy squat day to train alongside this approach.




THE PROTOCOL


Here is the approach that I have used so far.


-Pick a heavy weight (as in, something you can manage for 5-6 reps), perform one set of max reps with this weight.


-Rest as long as needed in order to be able to do half as many reps (rounding up) as that previous set and perform the set.


-Rest enough to be recovered, then strip a plate per side (or a quarter per side if you are using lower weights) and perform one set of max reps with this weight.


-Rest as long as needed in order to be able to do half as many reps (rounding up) as that previous set and perform the set.


-(If possible) Rest enough to be recovered, then strip a plate per side (or a quarter per side if you are using lower weights) and perform one set of max reps with this weight.



You'll know you're done when this happens



If you managed that 5th set, your legs should pretty much be completely full of blood and walking is impossible.  Even if you didn't, those first 4 sets are an ass kicker.


Train the squat like this once a week, as the END of a workout, not the start.  The point is that you should be prepared to have nothing left when it's all said and done.  If you are saving yourself for more work, you won't be putting in the necessary effort and intensity.


PROGRESSION



Progression on this approach is as follows.


-On the first and third sets, add 1 more rep to your previous best from the last workout.


-Second and forth sets same protocols as before (rounding up is important here).


-If you can get 20 reps in the first set, it's time to move on to a higher starting weight to start the process over again.


-If you get to 20 reps in the third set, keep at 20 reps, perform as many reps as you can on the 4th set, and then perform a 5th set with that weight getting half as many reps as you did on the 4th set.



ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS


Here are some additional tweaks/modifications I have made with this approach to maximize the benefits for me.


-For your heaviest weights (sets 1 and 2), fully lockout the squats.  All other sets, do NOT lockout the weight.  The heavy sets are more for strength/moving heavy weight, while the lighter sets are about getting blood flowing to your legs.  For the lighter sets, I keep the ROM shorter, coming out of the hole and stopping once it feels like my quads want to takeover/lockout.


-If you are short on time and have built up to at least 12 reps in the first set, instead of dropping the weight you can just keep performing sets of half as many reps until you reach a single.  This won't get as much of a pump, but is still pretty brutal.


-Take off your sleeves in between sets!  The first time I did this workout I wore my sleeves the whole time and it felt like my quads were going to explode from the pump.  That sounds cool, but it's going to limit your ability to hit future sets, which kills the volume.


-You're going to be sore for days after this.  Massaging the legs and light work goes a long way toward helping recovery.


Also, don't forget your post-workout nutrition



If you follow this, enjoy the pain it brings.  Let me know how it works out for you, and if you have any questions.