Saturday, November 21, 2015


As I recover from my ACL/meniscus reconstruction surgery, I find myself with an abundance of free time.  This is an ideal circumstance to take the time to write out how I was training strongman in detail, as prior to this point I would only summarize due to a lack of time.

This still won’t be all inclusive, as I would make adjustments as needed/desired, but it will serve as a very solid outline to base your training off of.  This will be based off a training cycle with no specific contest in mind, so something of an off season.


5-6 days of training a week

4 days of lifting

2 sessions of event practice
-Farmer’s or front carry

Other events included into lifting days

This will mean that 2 a days are occasionally necessary, or very long training sessions, depending on how you can structure your schedule



1: Matt Kroc’s 16 week bench program, or 5/3/1, or someone else’s bench program, or ROM progression
--(I’ll be honest, I have no idea how to program the bench, so I just use someone else’s program.)

1.b: Do sets of 3 of heavy DB rows in between your warm-ups on bench, and do sets of 20 of band pull aparts in between the work sets

2: 3 way seated DB shoulder circuit (press halfway overhead until the triceps want to take over, front raise, lateral raise)
--40-50 reps on the overhead, 10 for front raises, 10 for lateral, no rest between movements

2.b: Sets of 3 on heavy DB rows in between sets of the circuit

3: 1 set of max reps of DB rows with weight you’ve been using for 1.b/2.b (should be around 20+)
--Alternate straps 1 week, no straps the next. 


1: ROM progression suspended safety squat bar squats w/chains
-1 set of max reps touch and go (Should be around 4-7 reps)
-Strip a plate per side, 1 set of max reps deadstop (Aiming for 10 reps)
--This is a 7 week training cycle with a 1 week deload (8 weeks total).  You’ll suspend the SSB by chains in the rack and want it started high enough that, by week 7, you are squatting at powerlifting legal depth.  Keep the weight the same each week and just increase the ROM by 1 chain link.  The first set is going to take a lot of energy to break the bar off the chains, so settle in to grind, and then just tap the bar to the chains for the remainder of the set.  The next set, break the bar off the chains for every rep.  I would wear wraps for the first set and sleeves for the second.

2: Reverse hypers
-Alternate: 1 week do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, then 1 week do 3 minutes of reverse hypers. 

Superset with

2b: Glute ham raise sit-ups (hold a plate behind your head for more resistance)

3: Car deadlift simulator
-Work up to a max set of 6-8 reps.  Stick with this weight each week until you can hit 14 reps, then add a plate and start over.
--If you have the energy, after the first set, drop 2 plates per side and go for another max rep set OR go for a massive strip set, just taking off plates after each set


3: Axle cleans
-Work up to a max triple
--I was doing these for quite a while, but hung it up to focus on the car deadlift.  You could also try other implements, like the log, sandbag or keg.


1: 3 week wave rotation
-Week 1 (Skill day): Clean each rep (log, axle, keg or sandbag) work up to a top set of 10-12, then rest and do another set with the same weight for as many reps as possible
-Week 2 (Rep day): Clean once and press away (I always stuck with axle), work up to a top set of 8-12, then rest and do another set of the same weight for as many reps as possible|
-Week 3: (Heavy day) Either clean once and press away or press out of the rack, 4-6 reps with leg drive, then rest, strip some weight, and hit a set of 4-6 reps strict

1b: In between all sets, perform 20 reps of band pull aparts

2: Incline dumbbell bench
-Either keep the incline the same and hit 4-5 sets of 10, or go for the highest incline you can for a set of 10, then lower the incline a click each set and go for max reps until you’re flat benching (rest between sets, this isn’t a dropset)

Superset with

2b: Lat pulldown for sets of 10-12
-You can use chins instead if you want.  I had to switch them out because my elbows were killing me.

3: 100 reps of axle curls
-Either straight set it or do a drop set.  Just get the 100 reps as fast as possible

4: 3 sets of band pushdowns


I would train this as a 2 a day, doing one session very early in the morning and the next session a few hours later.

1: Carry medley
-There is no wrong way to do this, just make it suck.  I would use a distance of about 50’ and then carry kegs, sandbags and/or farmers.  If possible, vary the weights so that you have a chance to keep moving fast on these, and then start with the heaviest and work to the lightest.  I literally would come up with the workout while I was setting up the implements, and the goal honestly was to just suffer as much as I could.  I would normally only be able to do 2-3 runs before I was just totally gassed, so this is just something intense.

2: Yoke (3 week wave)
-Week 1: Light weight, 3-4 runs of 50’ down and 50’ back (100’ total per run)
-Week 2: Medium weight, 3-4 runs, first 2 50’ down and 50’ back, last 2 are just 50’ runs
-Week 3: Heavy-ish weight (don’t be stupid, stay fast), 2-3 runs of 50’
I honestly was enjoying my super heavy yoke runs of 30’ and 700+lbs, but considering I blew out my ACL and meniscus doing this in a contest, I probably shouldn’t recommend it for training.


1: ROM progression mat pulls
-I have written about this extensively, and nothing has changed.  Touch and go, 1 max set, 7 week waves with 1 week of deloads, use straps.

Read more here:

2: Strip some plates per side, perform a double overhand pull and hold for time.  Try to beat last week’s time until you hit 90 seconds, then go for more weight.

3: High rep squat challenge workout
-Once again, this is what I’ve written about in the past.  You can use what I’ve used, or come up with your own.  There is no method, only madness.  High reps, lots of volume, little rest.  I used a straight bar for this, but a safety squat bar wouldn’t be bad either.

Read more here:


-Why a bench day for strongman?  Because benching helps my overhead.  Whereas all of my overhead work was with leg drive, benching was about the only heavy strict pressing I was performing, and it would pay off.  Additionally, I have a powerlifting background, and can’t give up the bench.  If you don’t like it, consider making it an incline day, close grip, or whatever gets you going.

-The safety squat bar on the squat day is by design.  Squats are awesome, but the safety squat bar squat has a ton of carryover into strongman, especially if you round your upperback with it.  It builds the deadlift, uses a similar posture to a stone load, and in general builds up a ton of brute strength, ESPECIALLY when trained to break off the chains.  Additionally, you can fight for a rep with the SSB way harder/better than you can with a straight bar.

-You can’t do too many band pull aparts.  I have suggestions for how to train them in the program, but feel free to do even more.

-I honestly didn’t like how little backwork I was doing on this program, but it was working just fine.  Feel free to add in more if you can recover from it.

-For the press rotations, I would normally keep the axle as the rep day, and then rotate between the log and the axle on the heavy day.  The skill day had more wiggle room, and could be just about anything I felt needed work.

-I was using a deadlift bar on the deadlit days.  I liked it, and I think it made my recovery easier since it was easier on my lower back with the flex in it.  Deadlift bars are awesome anyway.

Feel free to ask any questions.

Monday, November 16, 2015


I made the comment in the title once in one of my many streams of consciousness, but now is the time to expand. 
The notion of the “intermediate” lifter is poison.  The very premise is vastly more destructive than it is beneficial, and it needs to be wiped out if we have any hope to progress in our training.
The intermediate is the safe space for a lifter’s ego.  It provides solace, allowing one to stake a claim of experience without having the actual success necessary to back up their words.  It is the banner of the lifting bookworm, well read but poorly trained.  We must declare war on this holy ground and allow no quarter to those seeking its sanctuary.

Ok....maybe one of the FEW times where worrying about your posture is justified

We all understand what a beginner lifter is, at least in theory.  A beginner is someone starting out, learning the basics, developing some fundamental strength and technique, and just beginning their journey.  An advanced athlete seems equally easy a concept to grasp, as these are those individuals that have achieved a high level of performance and clearly demonstrate a mastery of their craft.
But the intermediate?  There is no clear definition, so many have taken it upon themselves to come up with bizarre standards based on a handful of lifts.  Strength standard sites and lifters comparing numbers in an insane chase to be crowned the title of “mediocre”, yes!  And these stats are constantly discovered to be laughably low, a reflection of the trending low standards we as a society maintain as part of our physical decline.
However, what becomes even more destructive WITH these standards it the tendency for trainees to engage in an aggressive campaign of number chasing in order to “earn” these titles.  When told that all one needs to do is deadlift 315lbs at 200lbs bodyweight to be “intermediate”, trainees decide to dial in their form, shorter their ROM, buy a belt and the right shoes, and do whatever it takes to get this number as fast as possible.  That way, they can tell everyone “yeah, I’m an intermediate lifter”.  This is meaningless: you have gotten no bigger or stronger in your pursuit for a title.

Which I suppose is only slightly worse than trying to find a fed with no current records so that you can win a plastic trophy

Others wish to believe that an intermediate trainee is one who progresses at a rate differently than a beginner trainee.  Once again, we run into the issue where one falsely conflates number of pounds moved with amount of strength possessed/gained, but, for the sake of argument, let us suppose this argument has merit.  What now becomes contentious is this notion of “intermediate routines” wherein one believes that the routine dictates the rate of progress.  A beginner routine progresses every workout, whereas an intermediate routine is once a week…but wait, I thought it was the TRAINEE who progressed, not the routine?  Wouldn’t it be the case that, so long as the same intensity of effort is applied by the trainee, their body will make the necessary growth at the necessary rate?  Are we honestly of the belief that, through the power of mathematics and alchemy a training routine will dictate the rate of biological adaptations and transformations within the body, or is it the case that, irrespective of the routine, a trainee progresses at the rate that one’s body is able to progress?
And for the love of God, why would there even be such a thing as an intermediate program?  Wouldn’t one, by the very nature of their “intermediateness”, have enough awareness of their own body to be able to do what it takes to continue to make progress?  Don’t we tend to call the people who are STILL learning the basics “beginners”?

This is the issue with the language employed by those so eager to categorize: they want to quickly be granted a title for their efforts but in the same breath they claim that they are merely the results of sets and reps applied mechanically.  The human element has been removed, as though the outcome of training is the same regardless of the amount of blood, sweat, tears, and skull rupturing intensity is applied.
I propose we eliminate the intermediate term from our lexicon and understand trainees as simply belong to one of 2 categories: beginners, and non-beginners.  This will force more honestly and self-reflection, while at the same time offering little reward for self-promotion. We will know when we are beginners, as we are still asking questions, learning and growing.  We will know when we are not beginners as we will have the basics figured out, know how to train ourselves to keep growing, and have some results to show for our efforts.  Hitting certain stats like a high score in a video game will be inconsequential to our standing, as our ability will be reflection in our actions.
And, ultimately, if people can’t tell that you lift, you’re a beginner. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015


They say write what you know, and I know quite a bit about being injured from experience, so here we go.  For those of you just checking in, on 10 Oct I ruptured my ACL, tore my lateral meniscus and fractured where my patella and tibia meet on my left knee.  This is the first major injury I’ve had in a while where I could no longer “suffer in silence”.  Before, I dealt with muscle and soft tissue injuries that, though painful, I could hide from the outside world, but now I had something that was affecting basic movement function and forcing me to limp, which in turn forced me to have to explain my injury to a lot of folks.  Here are some of the lessons I have learned in this experience.
1: People want you to be more hurt than you are 

Especially Mike Tyson
This was probably the most shocking and upsetting part about this experience.  I’ve had many injury role models through my training career, 2 most significant ones being Dave Tate and Matt Kroczaleski, and both spoke infinitely about the power of positive thinking as it relates to injury.  Matt even talked about how, a week out from the Arnold he was on crutches due to a severely swollen IT band, and essentially “willed” it to heal in time for the meet.  I’ve taken the same approach, talking about my next contest that I was going to compete in, planning my recovery training cycles, and ultimately still staying as absorbed as possible in my lifting.
It turns out that it was absolutely for the best that I did this, because I received very little in the way of positive thinking from any of my peers.  The most common response when I tell people about my ACL is “oh wow, that sucks, you’re going to take a LONG time to recover”.  Oh hey cool, thanks for that asshole, like I didn’t have that thought running through my mind a few thousand times a day.  Glad you took the time out of your busy day to educate me on ACL reconstruction and recovery.  Other sentiments include how I’m probably done competing, how it takes a long time to recover from the surgery (which is also just plain wrong), how I’ve probably stopped working out by now, etc etc.

I must surely be wasting away, sitting on the couch eating Cheetos

I’ve actually even encountered people that were upset that I wasn’t “taking this seriously”, talking about how I should be more concerned about my injury, quit making jokes about it, and basically dictating how I should react to my own tragedy.  Essentially, people are upset that I’m not reacting to this the way THEY would, which is to say, to lay down, die, and wallow in self-pity.  Why is this you ask?  Well because…
2: You are a reminder of other people’s failures

You become something of a pariah for being injured for 2 reasons.  The first is that someone getting injured is a small reminder of our own mortality.  Much like how, in many cases, the death of a loved one is tragic not so much due to the loss of a person as it is a reminder that one day we too will die, witnessing an injury/knowing an injured person is a reminder that we’re all mortal and run the risk of getting hurt.  In turn, people will turn into personal injury lawyers and detectives, trying to find the exact reason why you got hurt so that they can assure themselves that it was all your fault and they’ll be totally fine.  It’s funny, but in many cases your injury will panic others far more than you.
However, the second reason you become somewhat reviled for being injured is due to the fact that, should you keep positive, stay active and recover quickly, all you’ve done is point out the inadequacies of others.  People LOVE to use injuries as an excuse to finally stop working out.  You hear it all the time; “I used to lift weights, but then I hurt my back/knee/elbow/shoulder/foot/cranium/pineal gland/etc etc”.  This was their get-out-of-jail-free card that finally allowed them to sit on the couch and eat Cheetos like they always wanted to in the first place.  Some folks even just develop phantom injuries that no doctor can diagnose (because they don’t exist), skipping past the pesky actual “getting injured” part, in order to fulfill this need.  Meanwhile, they see you limping between stations at the gym with a knee brace on and it instills within themselves a righteous sense of shame.

I will admit, I have been abusing this joke on my own
And allow me to stop here and clear the air: I don’t feel like I am better than anyone else because I lift weights.  That’s so stupid.  I could be using this time to do something productive for society, like volunteer at a soup kitchen or something.  It’s a very selfish thing that I do, and I do it because I like it.  However, it just so happens that the thing I like to do (and really, I more just like the getting stronger part of it, and lifting weights is what I have to do to get there) is something that other people feel OBLIGATED to do because it’s a part of being “healthy”.  This is what creates the rift: people see me doing whatever it takes to continue to pursue my passion and interpret it as simply me doing whatever it takes to be healthy, while they deprioritized health in order to use that time/energy to pursue THEIR passions.  It’s a matter of shifted perspectives that create tension, but you need to be prepared to encounter this static as an injured athlete who is going to recover.
3: Care and Feeding of an Injured Athlete   
So, having now been in the shoes of a visibly injured athlete, I’ve learned how to treat one (or at least, how I would prefer to be treated). 
-Nietzsche talks about how pity is one of man’s greatest sins, and in this situation that holds absolutely true.  The last thing you want to do to an injured athlete is pity them.  Though possibly well meaning, this just emasculates them, treating them like a cripple or a leper or some sort of weak defenseless animal.  Instead of saying “I feel so bad for you”, tell them about how they’re going to bounce back quickly.  This isn’t “making light” of the injury: it’s providing hope and re-assurance.  The athlete most likely has already gone through whatever mental anguish you’re trying to share with your pity, and offering more isn’t doing anything but making them resent you.  Be positive for them.

-As the athlete, stop whatever it was you were training for and find something else.  Preferably, something really different that you have no frame of reference for.  For me, I went full tilt into a real deal bodybuilding program.  Specifically, I followed the detailed bodybuilding program in Matt Kroc’s “Insane Training” book.  This was so outside my wheelhouse that I wasn’t able to notice a lack of strength or ability in any of the lifts, because I wasn’t DOING any of the lifts that I was familiar with.  You still have to work within the limitations of your injuries, yes (I’m not doing Crossfit or weightlifting), but finding a new training goal as quickly as possible will allow you to still train and not go crazy.

Unless you NEED to go crazy in order to train I suppose

-Even when you comeback, make things different.  The hardest thing to contend with is knowing your previous strength and watching yourself be unable to realize it in your current form.  One of the ways around this psychological angst is to instead use variations of the movements you set your PRs with so that you aren’t quite doing what you did before.  If you always deadlifted with a deadlift bar, switch to an axle when you get back into deadlifting.  Always squatted with a straight bar?  Use a safety squat bar.  Benched with a barbell?  Go swiss bar.  Etc etc.  The strength you build with these movements will still carryover back into what you did before, but you’ll be chasing and setting new PRs, rather than trying to reclaim old ones, which will be far less distressing and more rewarding.
Remember: time heals all wounds.  You’ll get better eventually, and it’s the people who keep coming back after injuries that stand out as the great ones.  Keep strong and focused, and no matter what you’re dealing with now, it’ll blow over.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Ah, the 1 rep max.  The Holy Grail of strength training.  This is what we live and die for, what all of our training amounts to, what all the hours in the gym are building up to: the ability to lift the heaviest weight we possibly can for 1 rep.  This is what separates the men from the boys, and with every additional 45lb plate you can put on the side, you know you’re becoming something.

I mean, if you’re a powerlifter, maybe.  Otherwise, why do you care so much about it?  I’ll tell you: because it’s the highest number you can quote when someone asks you “How much do you lift?”  You can take pride when your bench starts with a 3, or your deadlift starts with a 6.  Random bystanders will be agog over your prowess that you can hit THAT number, jaws and panties will equally be dropped, and you will officially be “the man”.

But are you strong?

This too I suppose

We’ve once again witnessed the false conflation of numbers equating to strength, in doing so failing to recognize all the factors that contribute to a 1 rep max.  Yes, you need to strength to be there to hit high numbers, but other things, such as: shortening the ROM, peaking, increasing efficiency of motor unit recruitment, learning how to use more muscles, manipulation of bodyweight/bloat, etc etc all contribute.  It is entirely possible to increase your 1rm by vast amounts with increasing your strength in the slightest.  Dave Tate remarks about this phenomenon constantly, mentioning how he can add 50lbs to someone’s bench after meeting them one time by teaching them HOW to bench.  This is super cool if you need to hit a lift for a powerlifting meet…but it’s not making you stronger.

In the pursuit of a greater 1rm, many trainees forget that their real goal is to get STRONGER.  They believe the 1rm to be a manifestation of strength, but quickly forget their intent and mistake the metric for the goal.  This is why “beginner programs’ comprised of low volume and high frequency with low reps have become so in fashion: it allows a beginner to rapidly peak their strength and observe a very fast rise in their 1rm.  However, this is also why these programs tend to stall pretty rapidly and leave a beginner in a scarcely better position than where they started.  Strength was not built, it was simply realized.

Not like this

It is also for this reason that programs that actually BUILD strength are so looked down upon by beginner trainees: there is no sexy fast acceleration toward an increased 1rm.  I have a confession to make; I hang out on reddit’s fitness forum and delight in recommending 5/3/1 to beginners just to watch my post get downvoted and insulted by people who have accomplished nothing in fitness.  Why does this happen?  Because 5/3/1 (and other programs with logical progression schemes, assistance work, sustainable progression, etc) builds strength but does not peak it.  It is criticized for being “slow” because trainees fail to realize that their 1rm not rapidly accelerating is not an indication of slowly gaining strength, but instead a sign that one is actually BUILDING the strength required TO peak.

Strength takes a long time to build.  It’s the least fun part about getting big numbers.  Technique can be corrected within minutes, leverages can be changed in weeks, new equipment can be bought instantly, but strength is just a constantly, dull, slow, monotonous grind.  If one is observing rapid gains in numbers, one must be honest with themselves that these are most likely NOT the results of strength increasing, but instead an example of improved proficiency in the movement, or some other factor starting to click.  It can be super exciting, but we must remember our goal here.

If this kid gets it, why can't you?

If you are a beginner, quit worrying about your 1rm, quit testing it, and just start grinding away.  Hitting a 2 plate bench after peaking, setting the world’s highest arch, retracting your shoulder blades as far back as they can go and getting your ROM down to 2” will simply not result in as impressive of an result (both for your physique AND your strength) than if you can hit cold, on an average training day, after having not trained the movement in a while.  One requires squeezing out every last ounce of strength available for one final push, and the other is a demonstration of an ever present baseline of strength that could be peaked and turned into something monstrous.  Plug away diligently, make your progress within a variety of rep ranges, and recognize when strength is actually being built. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015


(Author's Note: I tend to write a lot of these entries in advance and post them weekly.  I wrote this a week before my last competition, wherein I most likely tore my ACL [consult with ortho pending].  This all still applies, but it explains the context.)

Dear readers, your fearless author has overcome yet another ridiculous injury in his quest toward being bigger and stronger.  This was actually a 2 parter, and mainly the result of stubbornness and idiocy.

Many of you who are familiar with my training history are aware that I tend to get a recurring lowerback/glute injury about once every 6 months.  The very first time this happened, I couldn’t walk for 2 weeks and I had to give up on deadlifting for 3 years.  It’s now gotten to the point where it’s more a minor annoyance than anything else, as the injury happens less frequently and I’ve become (somewhat) smarter about handling it.

Well…I received this injury 2 weeks ago as of my writing this while performing a set of 2 mat high mat pulls with 600lbs+chains.  It was after the second rep, on the concentric for the third.  I was smart at the time and decided to shut down training.  However, I was an idiot a week later when I decided to try to do some speed farmer’s walks and really focus on exploding off the starting line.  I went from semi-recovered to completely relapsed.  I then thought I could “fix” the injury by performing 3 minutes of reverse hypers 3 times a day.  The next morning, I once again could not walk.

Things looked bad, and though I am now recovered (and will be competing at the end of this week), I felt it necessary to share with you the stages of being injured.  Much like the stages of grieving, it may help you process your own injuries and, for those of you that have never been injured before, you know what to look forward to.  This is pretty much going to be first person perspective, with what goes through my mind during these times.


God I love that show


“Was that my injury?  Nah, probably not.  I’m sure It’s fine.  I’ll just rack the weight just to be safe, but I bet I’m fine.”

*5 Minutes later*


Now, keep in mind that this stage tends to only be realized by those who have ALREADY been injured before.  I find that many new lifters have the opposite problem, and assume ALL pain is an injury.  I’m the opposite, and try to assume all pain is fine.  In reality though, yeah, it’s an injury.  Your best bet is to accept it as soon as possible, because the quicker you accept that you are injured, the faster you move on to rehab.


I mean, yeah, but I suppose he means soon

“Oh god, what if this is it?  What if I finally did too much?  Is my lifting career over?”

There’s no shame in these thoughts…right?  Yeah, it’s probably normal.  But seriously, panic is pretty normal right after an injury.  Keep in mind, you’re still jacked up from the training session, adrenaline is running high and you’re like a wounded animal.  Try to keep calm and composed.  I try to get ice on the injury ASAP.  I know that it’s trendy right now to debate if ice even does anything, but it worked just fine in the past, and once again, getting ice on the injury is all about ACCEPTING that you are injured.  You gotta get out of the denial crap fast so that you can start recovering.  I have wasted so much time trying to pretend like I was fine when I really just needed to BE injured and on the way to recovery.


For my younger readers, you NEED to see this movie.  The Hulk has nothing on this for rage

“Goddamnit, why did I have to go for one more rep?  If I had just stopped 2 seconds earlier, I’d be fine.  Why am I so stupid?”

Like I said, many parallels to the stages of grieving.  We’re basically grieving for our body.  Anger is natural to feel, but it’s also illogical.  Injuries don’t just happen (barring freak accidents), they are the accumulation of abuse that peak at one point.  Your injury was most likely inevitable, and if didn’t happen in this workout, it would have happened at the next.  Additionally, realize you are being angry, and try not to take it out on others, especially loved ones/training partners. 

You’re going to be an asshole while you’re injured.  Try to minimize it as much as you can, because you may need these people to get you some ice or nachos.

Also note that sometimes anger and panic switch on each other in terms of order.  You’ll most likely actually alternate between the two for quite a while.


Sometimes, even when you win, you lose

“You know, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.  It might just be time to hang it up. I don’t really need to compete/do deadlifts/squats/bench/yoke walk/whatever it was that got me injured anyway.  Maybe I’ll just lift weights, or do bodybuilding or something.”

It’s very easy to think that this stage is a sign of maturity: we’re accepting the injury at full value and ready to move on.  In reality though, this is just another form of grieving over the injury, and a rush to attempt to get “closure”.  It’s much easier to just quit than it is to rise and overcome.  If/when you get to this stage, you need to recognize that it’s not the end, and just your mind screwing with you again. 

Almost all injuries are recoverable, so long as the willpower is there.  Brandon Lilly shattered both of his knees and came back to squat.  Matt Kroczaleski and Dave Tate have amazing injury lists and continued to compete/train in some fashion (Dave having recently recovered from a hip replacement and is STILL killing it in the weight room).  Examples are abound everywhere. 

Additionally, this stage can last a LONG time.  I spent 3 years in this stage after my first major back/glute injury, and had sworn off deadlifts that entire time.  In truth, I was too damn young to have written off an entire movement/future in competition over one injury, and it took a massive kick in the ass to get me back into it, but eventually I moved on, and the sooner you can do that, the better.


Christ all of my references are old

“Hey…I can still move a little.”

Now the fun part.  We’ve made peace with the fact that, yes, we are injured, and we seriously contemplated hanging it all up and taking up roller blading.  Then, one day, we realize that we’re not dead yet and that maybe there’s a chance we can come back from this.  THIS moment is crucial toward recovery, and it’s why it’s so vital to get over the initial shock/denial/anger quickly, as the sooner we are ready to heal, the faster we can get to healing.

Rehab at this point needs to be incredibly rudimentary.  I’m all for pushing the body as quickly as it is ready to be pushed, but the key there is that it needs to be READY first.  If we just jump right back to the same poundages that got us hurt, we’re going to really do some damage.

Take some time to replicate the movement pattern that got you hurt in the first place.  Perform this slowly, with no additional resistance.  Find out WHERE within the ROM you feel pain. 

Oh right, everywhere

Now for the counter-intuitive part: keep moving through the painful part of the ROM.

Don’t explode through it: move slowly and intentionally.  You’re trying to restore function and ROM to the injured part of your body.  Many people tend to avoid re-inflicting pain upon themselves under the impression that this is necessary to promote healing, but all it does it train the body to NOT move through this plane.  This is why many people who employ an active campaign of heavy resting find that, though they are painfree once they are “healed”, as soon as they re-attempt the movement that got them hurt in the first place, they feel pain.  The body “healed” under the pretense that it would never need to perform a squat/deadlift/whatever again.  By keeping the motor pattern constant through the healing process, the body learns that it needs to heal while still being able to function.

This is going to be incredibly light and boring rehab.  My usual approach is 5x10 of slow bodyweight squats for hamstring injuries as an example, and I’ll progress to 3x20, 2x30, and eventually 1x50, gradually increasing speed and focusing on maintaining ROM.


Like this, but if all 32 flavors were just pain and being married to a Kardashian

“I’m feeling 70% healed…maybe 72%.”

If you’re diligent and smart with your rehab, it won’t be long until you move from bodyweight to weighted work again.  Usually, this is still a slowish transition.  I’ll go from the bodyweight squats to putting a bare barbell on my back and sticking with the same reps I got last time for bodyweight work (so 1x50 most likely).  From here, I try to progress to 100 in one set as quickly as I can get there, and then the goal is to get 100 with no rest within the set.  Usually, once I can do this, I feel ready to start putting weight back on the bar again.

However, just because your body is healed, there is a good chance your mind is broken.  Injuries suck, they are traumatic, and it’s typical to be worried about getting injured again, especially if you’re doing the same thing that got you hurt in the first place.  Some lifters are so weary of this that they won’t even watch videos of OTHER lifters getting injured, because it puts the bad juju in their head. 

So definitely don't look at that

This requires a careful balance of being smart but game at the same time.  You have to be ready to push your body, but also ready to back off when it starts pushing back.  Thankfully, through all of the rehab you should have a firm mastery of pain in regards to the injured location, and an ability to recognize the difference between when you are pushing the area enough versus too much.  You need to trust the process and get back on the horse quickly.  If you let the weights and movements scare you for too long, you’ll never get back to where you were.


I mean...maybe you shouldn't have said no no no to rehab

“Oh wow, I don’t hurt anymore.”

That quote actually speaks to a few layers of reality, because after you get injured, you’re honestly going to forget what it was like to live pain free.  The majority of an injury can heal quickly, and a muscle can be useable soon afterwards, but a lot of times little nagging pain will be there for a LONG time.  This is another one of the reasons why people spend so long avoiding movements after an injury: they assume any sign of pain is an indication of a lack of recovery.  You’ll probably be “98%” for months before you finally get to 100.

But, like everything else, you learn to live with the pain, to the point that it’s barely noticeable.  It’s a little nagging twinge every once in a while, and you learn some tricks about getting out of your car a certain way to avoid moving through the ROM or brushing your teeth at a specific angle to not bug your shoulder.  You continue to slug it out in the weight room, giving it your all, and usually don’t even notice it once the warm-up is over and the weight gets heavy.

And then, one day, while making a sandwich, you realize that you didn’t feel a little surge of fire in your forearm when you opened the mayonnaise jar this time.  You stand there dumbfounded in your kitchen, moving your arm through a bunch of planes of movement and trying out things that would always trigger pain, and realize that, at some point, you recovered completely. 

Though the moment of the injury was dramatic, the moment of recovery is lackluster.  And sometimes, if you’re super lucky, you injury something else while healing from another injury, and you focus so much on the new pain that you forget the old one.