Sunday, September 14, 2014

YEAH, BUT...

Here is a fun game to play at home: find any article on training that allows for comments, look at when the article was posted and then compare that time when the first dissenting comment appeared.  In most cases, this will be a difference measureable in minutes, and despite how amicable one may attempt to phrase the comment, the understanding is the same: I read through this and disagreed with it within seconds of doing so.


"*Psh*, I bet the author never even READ a Russian study on lifting."

What this indicates is a lack of even being willing to entertain the ideas of the author.  No time whatsoever was invested in actually absorbing or understanding the thoughts of the writer, or trying to earnestly reconcile the ideas presented with the ones one presently holds.  Instead, it is evident that the reader was doing their best to combat cognitive dissonance by rapidly employing every defense mechanism they had access to.  Justification, rationalization, pointing out of logical fallacies, appeals to exceptions, appeals to authority, etc etc, they all shine through as a reader points out just how wrong the author is to challenge their beliefs.

You need to be honest with yourself: if you have no intention of having your views changed, it does you no good to read something with an absolute closed mind.  If you ARE willing to learn or at least entertain different ideas, it behooves you to spend at the least a few hours milling over what you have read before you come to a definite conclusion on just how wrong it is.  Rarely is it the case that someone is 100% wrong on the subject, and in most cases you can actually gain some incredibly brilliant insight from even the most unlikely of sources.  It requires us to ignore our mind’s attempt to protect our current beliefs by screaming out objections and actually being willing to consider the views of others.


Not the best posture for learning


On this topic as well, we must understand that, when analyzing the words of those who are successful, we should examine what it is that most those authors different from us, not the same.  So many times when an author comes out with some comprehensive article on their approach to training, the reading audience is only receptive to the parts that speak to what they already hold to be true.  George Leeman is one of the shinning examples out there right now, were readers are willing to accept his philosophy on training hard, hitting big lifts, eating big, etc, but as soon as he talks about training high reps for strength and only using partial rep ranges, all the justifications in the world come out.  “Oh, he can manage that because he’s a freak/on drugs/right genetics/etc etc”, in essence throwing out the only part of George’s advice that we can actually attribute to WHY he is successful.  Everyone else on the internet is training hard, hitting big lifts, eating big, and many of them are also on drugs, and yet almost none of them are enjoying the same success that George is.  Why is it that we assume it is the things he does that are the same that are resulting in his success, rather than what is different?

On the topic of following the trend of success, why not compare the results of the author with the results of the reader. In many cases, the reader who is the first to point out how “wrong” the author is has never personally experienced any actually success in their own training.  They have lived off of a diet of all the “right” things, and yet, for some reason, aren’t getting the right results.  This is due to the fact that they require the support of volume rather than success, and in turn seek those things that are repeated ad nasuem by the population of other non-successful trainees, rather than instead being willing to listen to something that only gets mentioned in select instances by the elite.  These are the same people that come on to forums asking for someone to give them some links so that they can PROVE some guy at the gym wrong about high reps vs low reps, because now that they have encountered resistance to their viewpoints and do not possess any degree of self-confidence, they must once again be reassured about their decisions.  The successful do not require reassurance, their success is self-evident.


When you're the baddest man on the planet, you get to eat all the ice cream you want

If you catch yourself reading something, and your first response is to reply “yeah, but”, stop.  Allow the information to fully process, see if you can gain something from the exchange, and realize that most likely the author already had the thoughts you are having now, and still felt that what they were presenting was valid even despite that.  See if you can figure out why.



Monday, September 8, 2014

UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE

The analogy of training being like war is trite and exhausted at this point.  We constantly see facebook updates where, somewhere between “#BEASTMODE” and “#KILLINGITALLDAY” someone also manages to work in that they are going into battle or prepping for war with the weights.  Though the obvious opportunity for mocking is here, what we can also extrapolate from this is how many carry a mentality that ensures their failure.  In their bravado, many in fact demonstrate that they lack the tools to make progress in training, because they effectively lack the understanding in how to wage proper war.


For starters, don't eat all of your MREs before you get to the field

Many authors have already discussed the various types of warfare available and exercised historically, from Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Socrates, George Washington, Mao Zedong, etc, but for the purpose of today’s discussion, we will highlight a war of attrition versus unconventional/guerilla warfare.  The sad reality is, when most trainees “go to war”, they are engaging in a war of attrition.  They have hunkered themselves in for a long, protracted fight wherein it is a contest of sheer willpower between two factions, and whoever can endure the most misery, hardship and sacrifice without totally folding over wins.

This notion may sound romantic in our “blood and guts” training mentality, but historically, this is the type of warfare waged out of desperation, not strategy, and is the absolute last resort when all other appropriate avenues have failed.  No country ever willing engages in a war of attrition, but instead they end up in one.  Both countries, fully believing in their ability to win in a conventional, quick and violent war, instead find themselves in a prolonged, grueling and ultimately worthless campaign brought about by an inability to plan or adapt.  Battles are fought over inches of territory, while most forces die from environmental factors rather than from the enemy.

Though obvious from an outsider perspective, trainees still engage in this exact same approach when it comes to how they lift.  They believe that success is simply the byproduct of time invested, and that, as long as they follow the path everyone else is following, they will achieve success.  To these “warriors”, the war against the iron is a war of attrition, where every day we give it our all in hopes of making an inch of progress.  It is this same mentality that allows unsuccessful trainees to claim future successes, just like many unwise generals, believing that victory is guaranteed, it’s just a matter of putting in the time and effort.


Listen buddy, I read Starting Strength, so just STFU and listen to me because I'm going to be HUUUGE

These wars don’t work folks.  If you want to win, you need to employ a page from the playbook of Washington and Mao Zedong and engage in some unconventional warfare.  Against an enemy with overwhelming force and firepower, your best bet isn’t a head to head conflict, but instead hit and run tactics designed to cause chaos rather than direct damage.  You don’t win a war by killing the enemy, but instead by killing the enemy’s will to fight.

This is the same war we must be waging in the weightroom.  We aren’t going to win by using the same tactics that everyone else is using.  If that were the case, everyone else would be successful.  There is no Geneva Convention for us, there are no peace treaties, the ceasefire has ended, it’s time to fight dirty.  This means doing things RADICALLY different from everyone else, because we wish to end this war quickly and violently.  Everyone “knows” that you have to train deadlifts?  Cut them out.  “Need” to rest 48 hours between workouts?  Train everyday.  Have to train the body as a unit?  Train your right side on Monday and your left side on Tuesday.

 
Sigh....no

It’s not about being different for the sake of being different, it’s about observing the data you have before you.  The boon of the internet is the fact that everyone is documenting their lives and actions, and as a results you can witness the effects of certain actions without having to take them yourself.  And the reality is that most people are failing with their approach to training.  Everyone is using the same warplan, starting off with some Stronglifts, then transitioning to the Texas Method, then to 5/3/1, then a little bit of smolov jr., rinse and repeat.  Where are the champions here?

Those that have won the war are those that fought a bloody campaign that ran counter to convention.  When asked what routine they employ, almost every successful lifter reports that they don’t have a routine, and just do what they need to succeed.  These are the unconventional guerilla warriors who brought down empires through sheer force of will and ingenuity, throwing out the playbook and winning by any means necessary.  You hold no treaty with yourself nor the lifting community at large, and if you must be a war criminal in order to end the war on your terms, I say it’s time to go nuclear.

The training world is full of people in red coats marching in straight lines and politely trading shots with their body in the hopes of victory.  You need to put on the warpaint, find a sniper spot and plant some claymores.  While everyone else fights for inches, you need to fight for victory.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

HOW TO RESET

The reset is the aspirin of the lifting world, by which I mean it is the quickest “go to” solution for all problems, and as such it is constantly misused and abused by people who lack real understanding.   Not progressing in your lifts?  Reset the weight and work back up.  Form getting bad?  Reset the weight and focus on STRICT form.  Got injured?  Definitely time to reset.


Progressing too fast and making the internet jealous?  You better believe it's time to reset

Folks, doing the exact same thing and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.  If the method we were previously employing led us astray, why do we think that doing this exact same method again is the solution?  This is the same thought process employed by addicts and perpetual losers, always thinking that it’s going to just take one more score to get everything right.  We need to instead break the cycle and start working toward success.

In order to make a reset worthwhile, we must first understand how most people reset, and in turn why it fails so often.  The most standard approach to resetting is to remove 10% off of one’s current training weight while keeping everything else the same.  This is operating off of the premise that one builds momentum while lifting, and that by starting the process over, we can essentially “sneak up” past a previous sticking point, move through it, and progress towards our next sticking point before starting the process over again.  In essence, it’s an attempt to recreate “beginner gains” by intentionally creating a detrained athlete.

I ask you, dear reader, how it is that we are to get stronger by using less weight and keeping all other variables the same?  We are doing absolutely nothing to force our bodies to grow and adapt, but instead we are REWARDING it for failure.  We have trained our body to understand that, if it fails to grow stronger, we will give it a break and a chance to relax.  What incentive does this give our body to perform, knowing that failure will be met with a vacation?  We must instead train our bodies to understand that failure will only result in punishment, and in turn inspire it to constantly strive for progress for fear of the repercussions.


The Soviets charged into battle against impossible odds because it was still a better fate than what waited for them back home if they didn't

Clearly, the previous approach we were using was not a successful approach, or we would not be in a situation wherein we need to come up with a solution.  As such, I propose that, when one resets the weight, they must change the other variables as well to elicit a positive training effect and inspire progress.  Lower weights CAN make one stronger, but not when employing the exact same approach which originally led one to stall.

There are a few go to approaches that I have utilized whenever employing this strategy.  For those with limited equipment, one of the easiest ways is to increase the reps or sets you were utilizing.  Even a minor change, like one more rep per set, at least creates a different training effect than was originally being generated before, and means that, when one reaches their previously stalled weight, they will be stronger at it, for they can lift it for more reps.  One can also employ the “+” method witnessed with Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and the Greyskull LP program, wherein one hits as many reps as possible on the last set of their chosen exercise, meaning that they are still growing on strength with lower weights by hitting more reps than were accomplished in previous sessions.  Rest times are another variable that can be manipulated, training the body to be stronger in a more fatigued state than before.  In all of these cases, one can leave everything else the same while still managing to elicit a new training effect.


Other more drastic changes can be employed to ensure that one gets the most from their reset while keeping things generally the same.  The movement can be the same, but set-up can be executed differently.  Bringing the grip in or out on bench or press, playing with foot placement or bar placement on squats, adding chains or bands, or other such minor tweaks can still be different enough such that you will be building strength at different angles than you previously were, which will mean that you can build up weak points you did not even know existed (referring to my previously mentioned “Accidental Strength” principle) and blow past old plateaus with new strength.


In 3 seconds, you have a totally new movement


By far though, my favored method of resetting is to employ drastic changes that in turn refresh both the mind and the body.  Change the implement that you were lifting, going from a barbell to a safety squat bar on squats, or a log on press, or a swiss bar on bench.  Switch from squats to front squats.  Swap out flat bench with inclines.  Keep the basics of the movement the same (a squat for a squat, a horizontal press for a horizontal press), but otherwise forsake your previous efforts for something completely different.  This will revitalize the previously defeated lifter, for you will have no previous PRs to compare against, which in turn means that the “reduced weight” will not cause you emotional distress, but instead simply be a new baseline.  You will once again experience the joy of setting new PRs constantly in the weight room, instead of the potential dread of hitting your previous weight and arriving at a plateau yet again.  Much like the above instance, you will be developing strength in new angles, which will mean that, should you transition back to your original method, you will have greater overall strength to play with.

The big takeaway here is obvious: you do not get different results from doing the same thing.  The only way to achieve something different is to do something different.  One of the greatest freedoms when it comes to lifting is when you aren’t progressing, because at that point you are free to do anything, since what you are presently doing is not working.  Don’t squander this opportunity by following the same obviously flawed plan, do something new, learn, and grow.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I'M NO EXPERT

If you are starting a sentence with “I’m no expert”, just stop.  All you have done is effectively prefaced your statement with “do not listen to the following”.  If you have to clarify that the input you are about to provide is uniformed and derived from a lack of experience, I question why you even feel that such a contribution would be relevant, helpful, or worthwhile.  Are you contributing, or are you simply filling silence with sound?  Is what you are about to say worthwhile, or is it simply you exercising your ability to express an opinion?


At least this guy committed to something

Why do people say “I’m no expert”?  It’s to provide themselves with some manner of verbal conversation insurance.  It’s a statement that absolves one of all liability and fallibility, for they preemptively outed themselves as incompetent.  The intent is so that, when called out for the lacking value in their statement, one can default back to their preface and say “I already said I wasn’t an expert”.

There is no insurance, there is no protection, there is simply reality.  If you lack the confidence in your knowledge and experience to be able to say a statement without prefacing that you aren’t actually qualified to contribute, then you are simply unqualified to contribute.  Have some integrity, own up to your thoughts and feelings, and express your ideas as they are.  If you are assisting someone, provide them with assistance.  If you lack the tools to effectively assist someone, stand down, you are not helping here.  To coincide with David Wong’s analogy in the amazing article of 6 Hash Truths That Will Make You A Better Person, the patient is dying here, and no one cares if you are a good person, only if you can save their life.  Your intentions are meaningless here, only the outcome matters, and if your contribution cannot assist, do not provide it.


If you aren't sacking the QB, you're just in the way

I bring this up due to the massive amount of misinformation, myth, conjecture, rumor, and bullshit that is spread on a daily basis about lifting, whether it be on forums or through conversation.  Everyone feels so eager to contribute their opinion, prefacing their thoughts with the fact that they are “no expert”.  All this does is prevent real, relevant and accurate information from reaching a target audience, for a new trainee with no ability to discern reality from fantasy must sort through an enormous amount of false information to be able to gain even a small nugget of truth.  For every 1 person expounding the value of heavy squatting, there are a thousand talking about how, they are no expert but they heard squats hurt your knees/back/liver/soul, or how too much protein causes cancer, or how muscle confusion is the key to success.

You don’t need to clarify that you are “no expert”, for your results show.  If you have had no success, do not advise others on how to achieve it.  Instead, study what others who have found success have done, compare it to what you are currently doing, find out where the gaps are, and close them.  The fat person giving advice on weight loss and the weak person giving advice on lifting are simply muddying the waters, and every time they clarify how they are “no expert” it is simply laughable.  Advise only on those areas where it is painfully obvious that you are qualified to contribute.  Be an expert, and give expert advice.  Do not simply parrot the experts, or what you heard from those who have heard from the experts, or what you’re pretty sure you remember reading from somewhere from the experts.

Become an expert, such that you can start your sentences with “I am an expert”.