Saturday, April 21, 2018

SIZE, NOT BODYBUILDING.  STRENGTH, NOT POWERLIFTING


This is going to be a little rudimentary for my regular readers, but it’s something I’ve been observing a lot of recently and it needs to be addressed.  We once again witness the human folly of attempting to rapidly classify a complex idea into a bite size digestible chunk as it relates to training, and specifically training for the goals of being bigger and stronger.  People take too quick a shortcut here and think “I want to get big, bodybuilders are big, so I want to train bodybuilding” or “I want to be strong, powerlifters are strong, so I want to train powerlifting”, and it ends up going in such weird directions that a trainee who is all full of energy and enthusiasm just ends up spinning their wheels and achieving zero goals.  Once again, I offer you a plea to not make this so complicated. The only reason you should be training like a bodybuilder or a powerlifter is if you are competing in bodybuilding or powerlifting.

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Let's go with "nay", unless you have a powerbuilding meet coming up

Let’s clear this up right now; bodybuilding is not the sport of getting big, and powerlifting is not the sport of getting strong.  I know I just blew some minds with that, so allow me to clarify.  Yes, you need to get big to successfully compete in bodybuilding, but there is MORE to the sport than that, and, in turn, MORE to the training than that.  Specifically, in bodybuilding, you have to get big in the right spots in order to create an illusion of being even BIGGER than you actually are.  This is why a tapered waist is so valuable; it makes shoulders look even broader.  A quad sweep makes the quads look larger.  These are all very fascinating things to consider when you are going to step on a stage and do your best to make yourself look as big as possible to win against your peers…but do you need to care about it if you want to get big?

Hell no!  Getting big is super simple; people have been doing it for centuries.  You just need to lift weights, eat food and sleep.  That’s it.  Someone, everyone who HASN’T read an internet article of book knows this.  My dad never read anything about training, but he knew that lifting weights got you big because he watched Pumping Iron and had a buddy in basic training that lifted weights.  My grandpa never lifted a weight, but he knew lifting weights got you big because it was a thing you just knew.  But somehow, with all of our education, people have deluded themselves into believing that there is some sort of secret combination of reps and sets out there that you have to pair together JUST right with the exact perfect amount of volume and bodyparts split or else, no matter how hard you try, you won’t get big.  Jesus man, look at all the programs John McCullum wrote about in his “Complete Keys to Progress” series, or the Perry Radar routines, or Stuart McRobert’s stuff, or all the crazy things guys like Sandow or the Saxon trio were doing.  It ain’t that hard; lift weights, eat and sleep and you’ll get big.

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I'm just saying; compare his strength score to his intelligence

Do you need to be strong to compete in powerlifting?  It certainly helps, yeah.  A strong powerlifter is going to have a solid shot at winning...but that’s not the only thing a powerlifter needs.  A powerlifter needs to also be SKILLED, both at the execution of a lift (to include all the various powerlifting tricks regarding reducing ROM as much as possible while aligning oneself into the best position to maximize leverages) and at the ability to handle maximal poundages.  In addition, a powerlifter needs to know how to peak for a meet, such that they properly manage fatigue in their training that they are able to keep maximizing their ability to lift maximal loads while still being able to show up on meet day not excessively fatigued to the point that it interferes with training.  Do you, as a trainee, need to care about all that if your goal is to get strong?

Hell no again!  Wanna know how to get stronger?  The answer may shock you.  Lift weights!  Once again, everyone ELSE seems to understand this, and these people don’t even lift!  It’s a cliché’ at this point.  “Man I’m weak; I need to go lift weights.”  Why can’t our super educated masses on the internet seem to grasp this?  You don’t need a peaking phase, you don’t NEED idealized frequency, you don’t need to monitor volume, you don’t need to hit some sort of golden ratio between big 3, you don’t even NEED to do the big 3 itself; you just need to go lift some weights!

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It doesn't even need to be a barbell

I’ve beaten this drum so much, but its truth; getting big and strong is NOT that complicated.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite.  The “dumb jock” stereotype is a stereotype for a reason.  You REALLY don’t have to be smart to get big and strong; you just have to work harder than everyone else.  Hard work takes no talent, it takes no intelligence, and it takes no skill; it just takes drive.  It takes a willingness to say to the world “f**k you; I CAN” when others say you can’t.  So many great athletes got there simply because they were willing to do what others weren’t, and for many, it means simply showing up, working hard, and repeating for years on end.

People make up rules because they don’t want the answer to be effort.  They come up with the craziest ideas.  “I know my program has me lifting 3 days a week, but I’m still sore from yesterday.  I heard from somewhere you shouldn’t train when you’re so, so I’m going to rest until it goes away.”  Are you insane?!  Keep training!  Where did you get this rule from?!  “I heard you have to train the same bodypart 2x a week for optimal growth, so I can’t follow this program that works for everyone.”  Are you nuts!?  Quit making up rules and go train!

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I seem to be going heavier into DnD than I anticipated for this post

And this is why people can’t wrap their brains around effective programs designed for getting bigger and stronger; they try to evaluate them like they’re bodybuilding or powerlifting program.  It’s no secret I’m a fan of 5/3/1, and that’s because it’s exactly what it is supposed to be; a simple program for getting bigger and stronger.  And then people evaluate it like a powerlifting program and say “it can’t work; you only bench once a week”.  Hey chief, that’s cool if your goal is to set a PR on a max bench single, but if you want to get strong, benching once a week is dandy, because it means you can spend the rest of the week getting stronger.  “5/3/1 can’t get you big because it doesn’t have the right amount of volume.”  Jesus man; how did you calculate the volume on the conditioning work?  How did you calculate it on the jumps and throws?  It’s not a bodybuilding routine; you’re doing more than lifting weights.  And the same is true for other established “get big and strong” programs, like Juggernaut Method, Westside Barbell for Skinny Bastards, Super Squats, etc etc.  You can’t evaluate these as bodybuilding or powerlifting programs because that’s not what they are, but at the same time, you most likely ALSO aren’t a bodybuilder or powerlifter, so why do you care?

You don’t need to train like a bodybuilder or a powerlifter; you just need to go lift.

And your conditioning sucks.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2018 EMPIRE CLASSIC STRONGMAN COMPETITION WRITE UP


Time for another write-up.  Bottom line is that I took second overall, and my training cycle worked out well.  Hit some goals on the circus dumbbell, had a blast on some natural stones, and got to do a coin box deadlift, which was on my strongman bucket list.  Oh yeah, also, I got to meet Bill Kazmaier and he gave me a trophy, so that’s pretty awesome.


He is STILL huge

Showed up to the competition feeling strong.  Didn’t deload the week of, did no weight cutting, and just treated it like an events day.  Really trying to avoid peaking at this point.  Without further ado, the video and description.



Event 1: 450lb Coin Box Deadlift (axle, no straps)

As per usual with deadlift events, I did absolutely zero specific training for this event.  I’m a solid deadlifter, I train ROM progression so I’m good at a variety of heights, and I have to spend so much time getting better at other things in strongman that, when I can find something to relax on, I take it.

This was a lot different than I expected it to be.  The “axle” was really just a pipe fitting that went inside the coin box sleeve, and as a result it was incredibly whippy and rotated in your hands.  Pretty much the opposite of an axle.  In turn, the difficulty wasn’t going to be the grip, or the stiffness of the bar, but more that the coin boxes were going to sway with every rep and try to knock you on your ass.  This happened to me around rep 3, and I found myself falling forward with the rep.

Beyond that though, I was able to execute my gameplan of “go deadlift”.  The judge was getting on me to lock my shoulders back, and I made sure to exaggerate it a ton to avoid missing reps.  Jacked up my left shoulder a touch, but it healed before the next event.  I needed to beat 22 reps, I was trying to keep count, lost it, yelled “REP” and then “HOW MANY REPS?!” and still got nothing, so I just kept pulling until I ended up with 25 or 26.  Good enough for first in the event.

Event 2: 175lb Keg/200lb keg/200lb sandbag carry and over bar medley

I have 2 kegs and 1 sandbag at home, but the weights are 100, 182 and 250+ respectively, so I got creative training for this event.  I have a 45lb weight vest, so first I got good with running the 100lb keg, then I got good with the 182lb keg, and then I focused on doing runs with the 182lb keg while wearing the vest. All my sandbag training was built around just working on the pick up of my heavy sandbag, and that was honestly to get me better at stones.

This strategy DID work, and I was very fast with the kegs, but in retrospect I shoulda practice my loading more, because that is where I ended up being weak.  I manhandled the kegs, but I had a poor starting grip on the sandbag, and trying to muscle it over the bar was no go.  Had to reset and re-attempt.  Slight consolidation is that I missed first place by 9 seconds, so I still wouldn’t have made it even without the fumble, but I know how to do it better.

For one of those “game day” factors you never consider; while training picking up the sandbag, I always did it on a level floor.  At the show, they had stacked the sandbag all the way on the end of a horse stall mat, which made it so that the sandbag was on one level while my feet were on another.   Just something I never thought to worry about.  I’ll probably practice some “poor placement picks” in the future.

Event 3: 225lb Log clean and press once, 125lb Circus Dumbbell clean and press each rep

This is the event I had the most anxiety over, because I’m awful with the circus dumbbell.  I spent a lot of time drilling the technique with it to get better, and got as many tips as I could from Brian Alsruhe’s video.  For the log, my secret strategy was to get strong/good enough to viper press the log, so that I’d have more time to work on the dumbbell.

My log strategy sorta worked.  The log at this competition was a BEAST.  Lots of folks failed to press it, and when I tried to viper a weight I had hit for multiple reps in training first thing in the morning, it was ugly.  Couldn’t tell you what made this log suck so much; must be some sort of balance issue.

That said, I still got the fastest rep on the log in my weight class, and so I took my time when I approached the circus dumbbell.  I was the only one to press the log at this point, so I was already ahead in my field, but I also knew that the guy currently in first place was a monster at the circus dumbbell, so I had to get set up well but also move quickly enough to get in some reps.  The first rep I was set up very solid and it moved smoothly.   Set it down, went for a second, not as good a set-up but still got it down.  It hit the floor, I heard “10 seconds left” and figured “f**k it”, grabbed it, got an awful set-up and just brute forced it up into lockout.  It was like a combination dumbbell and side press, but right before time ran out I got the rep.  I still got beat in the end, but I was super amped about this performance.  Last year, I only managed 1, and it was by pure luck.  With more time, I coulda gotten even more reps today.  The training cycle paid off.

Event 4: Natural stone medley (215, 225, 265, 285)

Here was another even I was amped about.  I don’t have natural stones to train on, so I spent all my time picking up my sandbag and training my stone of steel, figuring that the two of those would combine into something worthwhile.

I had no strategy with these particular stones, and just sorta figured it out as I went.  The weights weren’t bad, but you had to figure out where they were heavy and how they wanted to get picked up.  Each time I’d grab the stone, I’d have to take a few seconds to sorta “learn” it and then try to set it up.  The third stone was a mankiller among the field, as it was very long and flat compared to the others.  The final stone did NOT want to get picked up, and you had to sorta roll it into your lap, turn it around, sweep in from the stop and lay it on the platform.  I did well for myself with only one fumble, and missed first place by 3 seconds, which was painful.  I DID take pride in the fact that I didn’t need wide receiver gloves to pull this off, nor did I need to complain to the promoter when he said “no wide receiver gloves” until he eventually reversed his decision.  Come on folks; gloves on a natural stone?  What the hell is the point?

Event 5: Power Stairs 300lbs/350lbs/375lbs

I trained for this one a little bit with my swing handle, but eventually I just got fed up with it and figured what would happen would happen.  This really wasn’t a technical show, and I figured being strong would get me pretty far.

I handled this better than last year, and did a solid job of letting my quads push the implement forward.  I had a stumble at the end that sucked, bruised up my thumb and opened up a callous in my hand, but otherwise I did about as well as I expected.  Something in the realm of 22 seconds, which was good enough for second.



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CLOSING THOUGHTS

This went well.  The guy who took first is a solid dude, trained by his pro-strongman dad and part of a group of awesome strongman competitors.  Being able to beat him in 1 event was awesome, and coming close on a few others was solid.  I overcame the circus dumbbell, and plan to never do it again until they next time I have to.  The time on the log paid off.  I need to work on my loading, but lapping is solid.  With a new competition coming up in July, I'm going to keep up the momentum I have established.

Shout out to Will Ruth and Graham Langley from r/strongman.  Got to hang out with you both, having met Will in person for the first time.  This, of course, meant needing to do the predator handshake.


Will gave up some weight to compete up at 200lbs and gave his all on every event.  I loved watching the spirit.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

HELD TOGETHER BY WILLPOWER



I’ve been running into a rash of people calling me “gifted” these past few days and it’s been making me chuckle.  I apparently have those super special genetic gifts that simply require 18 years of continuous training to unlock.  And when I rebut with this, they STILL maintain that I’m gifted, but now it’s different; it’s because I’ve been able to train for 18 years that I’m gifted compared to the average person.  Specifically, they point out how gifted I must be to have been able to train for 18 years without any serious injury that prevented my training.  At this point, I can no longer continue the dialogue, because I have inevitably collapsed a lung from laughing too hard, which ironically enough contributes to my growing list of injuries.  There is this myth that success training is injury free training, and that the way to the top is to never stop because of an injury.  It’s not that you never stop from injury; it’s that you never let an injury LET you stop.  No matter what breaks, you just keep on pushing through, because you are held together by something stronger than muscle, bone, tendon or sinew; you are held together by willpower.


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I suppose hate is a good second choice


Yes, it’s true, and it can be done.  The secret is: it sucks!  And that’s why no one does it.  But it’s completely FREE for the taking.  It’s all up to you, and it’s a choice YOU get to make.  Isn’t freedom awesome?  When you get hurt, YOU get to choose if you are done or not.  YOU get to choose if you will heal or not.  YOU get to choose how the recovery will be.  People tend to choose the easy way BECAUSE it’s easy, yeah, but should you decide to take the hard way and be held together by your willpower alone, you will grow greater and stronger than ever.  THIS is the secret to those “gifts”; it’s the gift of accepting accountability for your fate.

Yeah, that above paragraph is a little cosmic, so let me wind it back a bit to reality.  Here’s the first thing: most people don’t even know the difference between pain and injury.  They consider them to be the same thing.  Look, I get it: people don’t like pain.  Hell, I’m mostly a person and I don’t like pain, primarily because I’m not a masochist.  Humans, in turn, are instinctively conditioned to avoid pain when possible.  But that’s the great thing about being a human: you are not a slave to your instincts.  Quite the opposite: you have WILLPOWER, and in turn you can override your instincts.  Your mind tells you to take your hand off the candle flame because it’s hot and will burn you, but ask Gordon Liddy about that.  The trick is not minding.  Knowing this, the pain vs injury thing becomes a little more clear, because pain is something you CAN work through, which in turn makes it NOT an injury.  This is why, when people ask me a question about training through injuries and then they bring up something like tendinitis I look at them like a dog looking at a wristwatch.  That’s not an injury.

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See this guy gets it

So what is an injury?  And injury implies dysfunction.  It means that even with all your willpower, you cannot make your body work the way it normally does.  You can’t just pain tolerance your way through it.  When a bone breaks, you are injured: unless you are Wolverine, you’re not going to will it back together quickly.  Same with ligament ruptures, muscle tears, tendons fraying apart, etc.  But here once again we still witness the opportunity to be held together by willpower.  For one, training need not cease simply because injury occurred: it simply needs to be altered.  Far too many trainees are willing to just stop training the entire body for simply an appendage injury, ignoring the fact that they still have 3 good limbs, along with an entire upper and lower torso and neck intact.  “But what about IMBALANCES?” the weak masses cry.  Hey guy, would you rather have 4 weak limbs or 3 strong ones?  Seems like a pretty easy choice for someone who actually cares about being strong, no?   

And it’s the same for recovery too.  Immediately post injury you get to make the decision of how you’re going to react.  The day after I blew out my left knee, I spent 4 hours walking around an aquarium with my family because I make a promise to do so, I did squats 6 days later, and I trained 2 days post-surgery.  I did my physical therapy religiously, trained what could be trained, got strong, and got recovered.  And do I have pain?  Hell yeah I do, and I will myself through it, because I’m not dead yet.  Meanwhile, the entire time I was at physical therapy, I witnessed a ton of people who had just quit.  They complained and lamented their condition and cursed the doctors for “torturing them”, whereas I begged for more resistance, more aggressive therapy, faster recovery.  My mind was simply unready to let my body die. 

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No joke, I was ready to do this if it was going to get me results

You have the complete and total control to decide WHEN you are going to quit moving forward.  You are an agent of pure willpower manifested into human form.  You can decide to stop moving as soon as you meet any resistance, or you can carry on through everything.  You can run forward until you have to walk, walk until you have to limp, limp until you have to crawl, and crawl on your belly until it’s just your fingers dragging your body across the ground.  Your will can carry you much further than your body wants, you simply have to be willing to let it happen.  Let yourself be bound together by willpower and you will never truly fall apart.   

Saturday, March 31, 2018

HOW MUCH YA BENCH?


Oh boy do I love to ask that question, or any permutation of it.  “How much ya bench/squat/deadlift/press/etc”.  Why?  Because whenever I’m asking that question, it’s immediately after someone has given a LOT of advice on that movement.  And what do I get?  Silence, re-direction, insults, indepth explanations on how that doesn’t matter, poor analogies, etc.  Very rarely do I actually get a number back.  Why?  Because these people are charlatans that are all too willing to give advice but totally unwilling to provide examples of their own success in following this advice.  People are all too willing to open their mouths at any opportunity but once it comes time to put money where their mouth is, they back off and bring up the defense mechanisms.  Here’s a thought; if you are unwilling to answer this question, you should be unwilling to provide advice on the matter.

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I realize I am dating myself with this reference

“But coaches aren’t always the best athletes!” Shut up: you sound stupid right now.  Know what my follow-up question is whenever I hear that defense?  “Cool story bro: how many people have you trained and what do THEY bench?”  Because the best coaches didn’t BECOME the best coaches by just reading a lot of online abstracts and then spewing out theories; they tested out their ideas on themselves and their athletes, refined the process, and produced RESULTS.  Theories are meaningless without data to back them up, and you parroting greatness doesn’t in turn make YOU great.  That’s a cheap trick used by people who are incapable of original thought or success.  If you want to play the coach defense, then be a coach.

But furthermore, let’s go on to explore more about refusing to give an answer.  What does THIS prove?  Shame.  Absolute shame in one’s own lacking accomplishment.  I’m far from the strongest dude ever, but I take pride in what I’ve done and how hard I’ve worked to get there, and if someone asks me the question of what I lift, I’ll share it.  Hell, I’ll give them a video if I have one.  I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done, and I’m willing to let my results speak for themselves.  If YOU are unwilling to do the same, ask yourself what that means about your own confidence in your advice. 

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Although sometimes confidence isn't all that great

Look; not everyone deserves to give advice.  I know this is upsetting in a world where people want to cry “free speech” any time they are challenged, but the truth is, all opinions AREN’T equal, and some ARE more valuable than others.  You submitting your opinion on training is only muddying the waters and diluting the pool of good information.  Yes; even if you have good intentions.  Yes; even if you are quoting the experts.  People screw up what the experts say ALL the time.  Do you know how many times I cringe seeing people talk about “accessory” exercises in 5/3/1?  I went through and control+f’d all the books I had from Jim; he doesn’t use that word.  How about how much people jack up the Westside Method, especially considering these people never actually TRAINED at Westside?  How about people that talk about “Coach Smolov” like he ever actually existed?  How about people that took Bill Starr’s 5x5 program for football players and decided to apply it to lifelong couch potatoes?  Let me put it simply; you’re not helping.

Meanwhile, those that succeeded tend to “get it”, even if they lack the cited sources and peer reviewed studies to back it up.  They “get” what Wendler means when he says you can build maximal strength with sub-maximal weights.  They “get” the difference between straining and testing when it comes to the max effort method.  They “get” how you can still make progress even if you aren’t training a muscle group the idealized amount of times a week.  They “get” the difference between effective cheating and poor form compared to ineffective training.  There’s a certain level of understanding that simply cannot exist purely academically; it needs to be experienced and replicated in order to be understood.  Many times, these guys that are moving heavy weight “in spite of themselves” are intuitively familiar with the exact concepts you feel that they are unaware of.  They may not have read it in a study, but it’s there.

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Some dudes may not have even had internet access when they got jacked

Does this mean you always have to be stronger than the person you’re giving advice to?  Not at all.  Again, we’ve seen super strong athletes coached by weaker coaches.  However, what this DOES mean is that you have to be unashamed of your own accomplishments if you’re willing to advise others.  You have to be willing to proudly produce an answer when asked “how much ya bench”, and gladly let the number stand on its own.  You have to be willing to say “this is my advice, and this is my proof that it is good advice”.  And if you can only say half of that sentence, you shouldn’t say any of it. 


Until you are willing to do that, don’t give advice; listen to the advice of those who ARE willing to give an answer.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

ON WORK CAPACITY AND RECOVERY



Truthfully, this is just going to be my chance to rant at people who believe in the idea of “programs for steroid users”, but I had no idea how to title that, and this gives me a bit more of a vector.  I’ve already written previously about how work capacity, conditioning and GPP get mixed all together by people who are hoping to sound smart by using all those terms but also don’t know what they mean so they say them all at the same time every time.  To review though; for our purposes here, “work capacity” refers to one’s ability to recover between workouts, rather than the ability to recover WITHIN the workout.  Work capacity is important, because volume is a critical driver of progress, and as such, ability to recover from amount of volume accumulated in training facilitates the ability to UTILIZE enough volume to drive progress.  Without work capacity, a trainee will stall out and not be able to train hard enough to make progress without the risk of overreaching and burning out.

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Or they'll just do this

So how do we acquire work capacity?  Once again, the trifecta of effort, consistency and, most importantly, time.  It simply takes time to accumulate the ability to recover from more and more volume.  You spend years and years just pounding away in training and, in turn, you train your body to be able to recover from this sort of activity.  And each time you go back to train, you push it just a little harder, and continue to stretch your work capacity greater and greater.  Sometimes you take breaks from this approach, and focus more on intensifying and peaking, but after that time is done, it’s back to improve that work capacity so you can get more volume and make more growth.

It’s worth noting as well that it doesn’t necessarily require lifting weight to build work capacity.  Sure, specificity is dandy, but fundamentally we’re talking about improving the body’s ability to recover from physical stress, and this can come from many forms.  This could be acquired from a lifetime of physical labor, or from being active in athletics from a young age, or even simply being an actively engaged human that enjoys physical pursuits with no specific direction.  There really can’t be enough positive things said about the benefit of being and remaining active.

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Most trainees would love to look like that when they're 80...or now

“Get to the part about steroids!” Yeah, ok, fine.  So first, I’m going outside my wheelhouse a bit, as I have zero experience with anabolics.  Never used them, never even seen them, wouldn’t know where to buy them.  However, the reason I bring them up is that, many times, trainees will see a program posted, look at the total volume, balk at it and right away go “Psh, that program only works if you’re on steroids!”  Or they’ll see a program advocated by a particular trainee and say “It only worked for them because they were on steroids.”  Arnold’s 2 a day split program from his Encyclopedia of Modern bodybuilding is notorious for this charge, as are many other programs.

Here’s the thing; yes, chemicals can enhance the recovery process, but they cannot replicate the benefits of a decade or two spent increasing your work capacity.  Yeah, it can improve protein synthesis rates which can result in better growth and recovery, but if you spent your lifetime as a slug and then shoot up a bunch of anabolics, it’s still only going to be so effective.  Crying “steroids” whenever you see a challenging program is taking the easy way out; the reality is, you need to start crying “work capacity!” 

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But how else will you become a sexual tyrannosaurs? 

These athletes and lifters tend to come from a lifetime background of training in some capacity.  The Soviet lifters engaged in play and athletics as soon as they were able to, and constantly stayed in that state while being groomed to be athletes such that, when the time came to train, they had the work capacity of a horse and could handle absurd workloads, which translated into crazy growth.  We saw the same with the Bulgarians.  Arnold shared stories of his childhood where, for insolence, his father would punish him by making him before hundreds of squats and other bodyweight exercises.  Successful bodybuilders were bit by the ironbug at a young age and spent much of their youth training in some way, Eddie Hall was a national level swimmer before transitioning to weights, Mariusz Pudzianowski’s dad was an accomplished weightlifter that taught those skills to his young son who also had an interest in karate and boxing, etc etc.

So yeah, when looking at these routines, it’s quite possible that you shouldn’t follow them, but not necessarily because you “have to be on steroids” to make them work; it’s because you need the WORK CAPACITY to be able to recover from them.  And, consequently, the notion that you can evaluate that a trainee is on steroids purely by the amount of volume they have in their program is absurd; they very well may simply have spent the necessary amount of time to develop the work capacity that grants them recovery from these sessions.  I’ve witnessed first-hand natural trainees progressing off these very “steroids only” programs, and it’s because they were simply lunatics that spent a lifetime becoming machines that fed off volume, and I’ve also witnessed lifetime coach potatoes hop on a cycle of steroids, throw all the volume they could at themselves, and end up looking like a sack of crap because one steroid cycle can’t undo 20+ years of bad living. 

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No, that doesn't mean try different products

This is incentive for WHY you should continue to keep pushing yourself in your training; so that you can expand your work capacity to these levels.  People want to stay on prescriptions of the minimal effective dosage like it’s some sort of badge of honor to do as little work as possible.  Screw that; go hard as often as you can so that you have a super deep well to dig into when it comes time to push the volume.  Keep expanding your body’s ability to recover so that you can keep throwing more at it and continue to grow to a ridiculous level.  Pair this with a solid base of conditioning and you’ll come up with monstrous training programs that accumulate a ton of volume in short order that has you outgrowing everyone.           


Sunday, March 18, 2018

ODE TO SUPER SQUATS



On many occasions through this blog, I have spoken to the value of the “Super Squats” program and eluded to its difficulty and insanity, but never taken the time to fully explain what it is and why I am such a fan of it.  This program represented a big turning point in my training, and is a fantastic paradigm breaker, which is why I am to this day a staunch supporter of the idea that ALL trainees, regardless of goals, should run it for 6 weeks.  No matter what reason you train, following this program will teach you some invaluable lessons that you can get purely through academics.  Without further ado…

WHAT IS SUPER SQUATS

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18 of those pounds are balls

“Super Squats” the book, is a publication by Randall Strossen of Ironmind renown.  In itself it is a fantastic read that goes over some of the history of the iron game, big names, where the squat came from and, of course, the infamous “Super Squats” program and diet.  I first read the book over Christmas of 2006, purely as a curiosity, as I had heard the program and the book whispered about in lifting circles and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  Strossen is a fantastic author, because once I was done with the book I was already chomping at the bit to run my 6 week Super Squats program.  To understand the significance of that, you have to keep in mind that, at this point in time, I was totally drinking the Pavel Tsastouline kool-aid and firmly believed I only needed to ever do 5 reps to get bigger and stronger.  The sheer idea of a 20 rep set was totally anathema to everything I “believed” at that point, but this book sunk its hooks into me.

So you’ll notice I said “20 rep squats”, and yeah; that’s what this program is based around.  But right away people screw that up.  It’s not a leisurely set of 20, so all those people saying “reps that high don’t build muscle!” have to keep in mind that we’re not talking about  20 rep warm-up set.  In fact, the book suggests you start with your 10rm for the set of 20.

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Don't base it off of this set

“If it’s a 10rm, how do you squat it for 20 reps you idiot?!” Hey shut up for a second.  That’s the SECOND part of the program people screw up; these aren’t squats, they’re BREATHING squats.  What’s the difference?  On a normal high rep set of squats, you’ll probably knock out the first 3/4s of the reps without stopping, and once you get to the end you’ll take a few breaths between reps to “rest”.  With Super Squats, you’re taking those breaths in from rep ONE, and these are supposed to be the deepest breaths of your life.  It’s a minimum required 3 breaths per rep, but you are free to do more if you like.

Are breathing squats an old-timey gimmick?  No; it’s primitive rest pausing!  Now sure, the old timers told you that those deep breaths would give you a deep chest, and maybe there was something to that, but even if that’s not true, what they DO manage to do is force you to take a break between reps to rest and recover.  This gives you the chance to do your 10rm for 20 reps.  HOWEVER, it also forces you to stand with your 10rm on your back for about 2-3 minutes.  Even WITHOUT the squats, that is going to suck, but throw those in and you have the recipe for a TON of tension all across the body for a LOOONG time.  Throwing in some other lifting on top of all that just becomes madness.

WHY SUPER SQUATS

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Can't I just cycle for legs?

As I mentioned before, Super Squats is a major paradigm breaker in a lot of ways.  For one, if you think you train hard, once you run this program you’ll realize how run you were. And, in turn, once you’re done with this program, pretty much nothing else out there will phase you, because you can say “*Psh*, whatever, I ran Super Squats”.  I thought I was a complete Billy Badass before this, and about midway through the 6 weeks I realized I was actually dreading training because it was so awful. 

However, that dread is another reason why everyone needs to run this program; you gain a valuable lesson in obsessiveness.  I realize that word has a negative connotation and yes, being obsessed ALL the time is not a great thing, but if you ever have hopes of being competitive or even simply great at something, you’re going to need to get obsessed sometimes.  Super Squats teaches you to be obsessed about getting those 20 reps.  Each time you succeed, you are “rewarded” by adding another 5lbs to the bar for the next workout.  Whenever you fail, you will spend the next 47 hours thinking about how you absolutely COULD have gotten that last rep if only you weren’t such a wimp.  You’ll kick yourself, beat yourself up, and flat out hate yourself because you’ll be convinced that ALL the growth on the program happens on that 20th rep and, if you don’t hit it, you wasted a training session.  When you run this program, you will live, eat and breathe 20 rep squats.  All time not spent squatting will be spent either dreading the next workout or kicking yourself for failing the previous one.  Once the 20 reps are done, you will feel exactly 1 second of relief before realizing that, next workout, you have to do it again with 5 more pounds.

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Yeah pretty much this

You’ll noted I say “live, eat and breathe” 20 rep squats, because what you’ll be drinking is a ton of milk.  And yeah yeah, everyone is going to say “You don’t need to follow the diet; I know an app that TOTALLY calculates your macros and calories and there’s no reason to eat any more than what the computer tells me to eat!”, again, shut up for a second.  This is once again a lesson in obsessiveness.  So many underweight kids out there are like that because they’re adamantly CONVINCED that they totally eat a TON and they must just have a fast metabolism.  Cool story bro; tell it after you drank a gallon of milk on TOP of a diet rich in solid foods as well.  When you buy in completely to the program, to include the food intake, you suddenly learn how much you WEREN’T eating in your quest to get big previously.  And you’ll find that all those calories are necessary to keep pushing the weight up on those squats every single session.  But if you don’t want to eat that way, well…good luck.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RIB CAGE EXPANSION?!
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Hey maybe it works...

Everyone gets so freaked out over this, and I don’t see it as any different than the “extreme stretching” from DoggCrapp.  Which is to say; just do it.  It’s 20 reps of pull overs; what’ the worst that could happen?  You accidentally develop a little chest muscle?  Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but you may as well run it just to completely take part in the program.

MY OWN EXPERIENCE/LESSONS LEARNED

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I ran this program back in January of 2007 weighing 190 at the start, and finishing in 6 weeks at 202lbs.  Yeah, the book says “30lbs in 6 weeks”, grain of salt here fellows. At 5’9, I was pretty stocky there.  I was in my senior year of college and had access to a meal hall, so I was able to eat a lot of food that was already prepared for me and had very few demands on my time, which made it pretty awesome.  I’d say, if I had to do it all over again, I’d use a little more training volume.  I was running the super abbreviated program in the book, which boiled down to 2x12 of a press (bench or overhead), 2x15 of pulls (rows or chins), the squats and the pullovers.  There were other programs in there with more volume, along with programs in “The Complete Keys to Progress” and “Brawn” that do the same, and I think I would have been able to recover well, but I was trying to prove something by training less and still growing.

Good luck for those of you that decide to take this on.  Feel free to ask any questions you have, and please buy and read the book.