Saturday, August 1, 2015

WHAT'S THE POINT


I am constantly bombarded with super helpful people that are more than willing to tell me what “the point” is of something.  “The whole point of squats is to go below parallel to hit your hamstrings”, “the whole point of farmer’s walks is to train your grip”, etc etc, you all know the story.  We must realize that what we are observing here is a question of philosophy, not physiology, and that one’s philosophy can in turn LIMIT one’s ability to achieve their goals.



Philosophers were still going to make horrible rulers Plato, get over it
We must not confuse “A” point with “THE” point when it comes to training and exercise.  The entire notion that anything can have “the” point is an existential argument that presupposes some sort of objective ideal form, shared and common among all people.  This simply is not the case with reality.  As painful as it is for us to understand it, there is a world that exists independent of our interpretation of it, and in turn, there are people that think, act, and believe differently than we do.  In acknowledging this, we must understand that there cannot ever be “THE” point, but simply “A” point.
Stoner philosophy aside, the meat and potatoes of this argument is that a training movement can never have only 1 point.  Squats CAN train the hamstrings by going below parallel, but they can also train the quads by going ABOVE parallel.  Also, squats can train the ability to recover from a snatch or a clean.  OR, squats can help develop leg drive on an overhead press.  OR, squats can help condition one for heavy weights while doing a yoke walk.  OR, squats can be used as a conditioning tool during a WOD.  OR, squats can be used to train one to endure misery through long, brutal drop sets.  Squats, in turn, can have many many points, and despite one’s acceptance of the LEGITIMACY of these points, these points still remain.

Image result for squats on a bosu ball
*SIGH*...Why must you mock me?
When we refuse to acknowledge the existence of these other points, all we serve to do is limit our ability to progress.  So often, I have witnessed a trainee who REFUSED to ever squat to anything below “ATG” because, in their mind, that was “THE” point of squats.  In turn, I also witnessed a trainee who never could squat more than 225lbs, because they could never get a bigger load on their backs to train how to better brace for heavier weights because their enforced depth limited their capacity.  Other times, we witness trainees who desire the conditioning benefits of crossfit yet refuse to use a kip in their pull-ups because “that’s not THE point of pull-ups”, and it is THESE trainees who in turn get little out of the WOD.
Other trainees end up stumped when it comes to assistance work, for they only know of the one way to perform a movement.  A few years back, I released a blog post demonizing the use of full ROM in training that received a massive amount of flak from many trainees who could not grasp the benefit of stopping reps short in order to train different parts of a ROM.  Then, the “Spoto Press” came about, and everything changed.  One observes the paradigm shift here, where a movement must be renamed/rebranded such that this movement’s “THE” point still remains intact. 

Image result for Eric Spoto press
If you don't touch your chest in training, you'll NEVER bench 720lbs...unless that's exactly what you did
That’s just madness.  We don’t need to rename a movement everytime there is a slight change in the angle or a shift in emphasis.  Why not simply be a rational human being and understand that the movement works for YOU, not that you work for the movement.  The only loyalty we owe to form and technique is based on its ability to obtain our goals, and a movement that fails to meet our goals does not deserve our consideration.
Never get trapped in believing there is ever any point to any of this aside from meeting your goals.  At the end of the day, it’s just lifting heavy weight.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

THINGS I’VE LEARNED AS I’VE GOTTEN OLDER: PART I


As I’ve written in the past, I’ve been lifting weights and performing some manner of exercise regularly since I was 14, and as I near my 30th birthday, I thought it fitting to list some of the things that I’ve come to accept as I get older.  These are things that, when I first started training, I firmly disagreed with and fought, but as time went on, I came to see the light.  In turn, I imagine that the audience that will benefit the most from them will not internalize them (much like I did not), but at least those that share my experiences can also share a laugh with me.

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"Psh, so what that you can turn your skin blue and see into my soul, what could you POSSIBLY know?"

-“Someone else’s lack of success does not invalidate my own.”  I’ve been posting on forums since I was 16, and I’ve been involved in huge, multi-day flame wars arguing about exercise methodology.  One of the biggest sins anyone could ever commit against me was to claim that my methods “don’t work”.  If someone dared to tell me that Westside Barbell, 20 Rep Squats, Pavel’s 3-5, or any other program I had success with did not work for them, it was on.  Insults, slurs, questioning of masculinity, all manner of accusations and innuendo, nothing was sacred, because war had just been declared.

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Why was I this stupid?

As I get older, I realize that it doesn’t matter if something doesn’t work for someone else: it only needs to work for me.  Yeah, maybe if I wanted to get into personal training or coaching it would be super awesome for me to have a portfolio of the most effective programs for the largest populace readily available, but since I only train for me, it only needs to work for me.  If someone else is unable to succeed with my methods, that sucks for that person, and hopefully they can figure out what works for them, but as long as I am progressing, I’ve got nothing to worry about.



-“Your body doesn’t know what ‘Wednesday’ is.”  When I first started training, everything was incredibly regimented and structured.  I had to lift weights Mon, Wed and Fri, and do martial arts Tues, Thurs, Sat, and Sun was a long run day, and if I ever missed ANY training sessions my whole week was “ruined” and I could feel my “gains” slipping away.



"Crap, I missed my Saturday Squat workout!"

This is just something incredibly common with beginners, and the biggest thing holding these people back is that they are handcuffed by the 7 day week.  The 7 day week is entirely a human construct, not something the body knows how to operate on.  We built it because it was convenient for a Gregorian calendar, but in no way does it dictate ideal training conditions.  Once I got a job where the schedule was essential random and everyday was subject to change, I learned that, as long as I got in a training session whenever I could, I’d continue to get stronger.  Some weeks, I’d cram in 4 lifting sessions back to back because it was when I could, and other times I’d be lucky to get in 1 lifting session within a 2 week span, but as long as I was consistently making the effort to train, I continued to grow.


The other thing I learned was about flexibility of a plan in totality.  When I was a rank beginner, if my plan was to bench on Mon, squat on Wed, and deadlift on Fri, and I missed my Wed workout, I would just deadlift on Fri and not squat that week.  I eventually learned how to just carry the workout forward, such that I would now be squatting on Fri, deadlifting on Mon, and benching on Wed.  You have to break out of your Rainmanesque schedule and just keep training what you need to train.  If you stick with it long enough, you’ll most likely “get back on schedule” anyway.

Monday, July 20, 2015

YOU DON’T NEED TO LIFT YOUR HEAVIEST TO GET TO BE AT YOUR STRONGEST


This something I wish I knew when I first started training, and though I’ve addressed it in part through many rants, I want to get it completely out in the open.


It seems logical that, in the pursuit of strength, one must lift heavy things.  The logical extension of this thought process in turn develops such that, if lifting heavy things makes one strong, lifting heavier things makes one stronger.  The more you lift, the stronger you become.  However, we must understand that amount of weight lifted is not always an indication of pure strength, but is instead a manifestation of many facets of ability, to include ability/skill, state of fatigue, state of emotional arousal/hype, bodily health, etc etc.  Sometimes, what we interpret to be strength is instead something entirely different.

 Image result for tyrone biggums lifting bus
Sometimes, it's just sheer willpower...but most likely it's drugs

Being unaware of this concept, many trainees attempt to max out their non-strength variables in the hope that, in doing so and allowing themselves to move heavier weights in training, they will get stronger than if they were to lift lighter weights.  They lift in the afternoon, after getting plenty of sleep and eating several meals, properly stretch out/warm-up, take a pre-workout supplement, get hyped up watching youtube videos, crank the tunes, etc etc.  They put themselves into the most optimal and ideal state for moving heavy poundages and pick the highest priority lift first in order to ensure that they move maximal weight during their training. Surely THIS is how one becomes the strongest.


But let’s think about this for a moment.  Suppose, in the above mentioned scenario, the trainee was able to squat 500lbs for 10 reps.  Now, suppose, in some alternate universe, on the exact same day this trainee instead only got 4 hours of sleep, trained first thing in the morning in dead silence with no protein supplements or motivation at all and hit squats last after hammering leg press, GHRs, reverse hypers and the ab wheel.  The alternate universe trainee only manages to squat 450 for 10 reps…yet despite the difference in weight lifted, did either trainee actually possess different levels of strength proper?  The external variables have all been altered, but did anything actually change on the INSIDE of the lifter?

Image result for Muscle bodysuit 
No, wearing this will not help find the answer


This is the point we must understand: the strength is ALWAYS there, barring of course autoimmune disease and other such maladies.  One’s ability to CHANNEL the strength may be altered, but the strength itself remains a constant, and it’s this CONSTANT we are wanting to improve in training, not the other variables.  Yes, in a competition, we strive to create the optimal environment to move the most weight, but in training our goal is to improve the attribute of STRENGTH, not weight moving ability. 


This understanding is vital toward one’s success, as it allows us significantly greater freedom and lack of stress in training.  One of the constant lamentations made by the full body trainee is how, after the first lift of the day, the remaining lifts suffer.  This trainee believes that they are making their first lift stronger at the expense of their other lifts.  What this trainee must understand is that they are still developing strength for all of the movements they train, they are simply altering the conditions upon which they train them.  Being aware of these conditions is crucial toward tracking and monitoring progress, as is being able to keep them somewhat constant, but the strength is still being developed regardless of the uniformity of these constants.  As long as the effort and intensity is present, one is developing strength.

Image result for Matt Kroc muscletech photoshoot
Case in point

We once again arrive at the understanding that it is effort that dictates results.  One can get stronger lifting less weight in sub-optimal conditions if the effort they recruit is greater than the one utilized to lift heavier weights in optimal conditions.  This also allows one to re-evaluate “stalls”, in that, if one continues to hit the same numbers for one lift in their program, and that lift is NOT the first lift, AND the first lift continues to increase, then one is still progressing.  Whereas before, someone managed a record of 30 reps of DB rows with 100lbs after benching 315 for 3x5, NOW this trainee has managed to hit 30 reps with 100lbs after benching 320 for 3x5.  That is progress on both the bench AND the row, for one was able to maintain a rep total even under more strenuous circumstances than before.


This is the liberation new trainees need in order to continue to progress even if, according to the logbook, something is amiss.  Understand that, even if lifts are not increasing, or in fact they are decreasing, as long as the effort is present, progress is being made.  When the stars line up, you may be able to hit some crazy records but, if, even on your worse day, running off 2 hours of sleep for 48 hours and only being able to eat 3 pixie sticks you’re still able to deadlift 600lbs, you’re doing alright for yourself.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

JUST DO IT


I read a great quote the other day, and I wish I could remember who said it because it’s completely on point.  “Questions about programming are just asking for permission”.  If you browse any forum dedicated toward lifting, about 100% of the time, anytime someone is asking a question about a program, they are simply seeking the permission to perform an action.  In some cases, they disrespect the author directly, like Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 forum on t-nation wherein kids wonder why Jim built such a stupid program, and in other cases people seek the approval of strangers on the modification of someone elses’ program, but the end is still the same.

Image result for jim wendler
I mean, what could this guy know about getting bigger and stronger anyway?

Why do we seek permission?  Because it alleviates us of the responsibility should our idea fail.  We no longer need to assume the blame for our terrible ideas, as we have received the permission and blessing from an outside agency to proceed.  CLEARLY, it is the case that these authority figures have betrayed us, and it is their folly that led us astray, not our own.  We cannot be at fault, for we did everything we were “supposed” to do.


It is this fleeing from personal accountability that is hindering our progress.  As much as many claim to appreciate the psychological joy of “trusting the program”, it is evident that the trust is merely lip service in this instance.  Doubt still permeates one’s mind in all of their training actions, and they hold themselves back because they refuse to dedicate themselves full tilt toward making substantial progress.

 Image result for bungee jumping
This seems daring until you realize it's a suicide attempt: now it's just non-committal 

Quit asking permission and just do it.  Whatever crazy idea you have, try it without asking if it will work or not.  Most likely, if you believe it’s going to work, and you kill yourself in the weightroom trying to make it work, it will.  Additionally, if you DON’T believe it will work, it most likely won’t. 


Before there was the internet, before there were forums full of beginners, before there was a recommended reading list for everyone and a steady diet of “5x5” was the only recommendation ever, trainees just did stuff.  If you had an older sibling or relative, you probably did what they did.  If you had a coach, you did what they told you to do.  If you were on your own, you just winged it.  And yet, somehow, despite a lack of scientific studies that clearly indicated the exact rep range that promoted hypertrophy along with a maconutrient spreadsheet that dictated down to the exact calorie how much and what to eat, people made phenomenal progress figuring this stuff out on their own. 


I mean...how did he know if he had anterior pelvic tilt without the internet?

There is zero consequence for failure in lifting.  This is something beginner trainees don’t understand.  Engaging on a plan that fails provides numerous opportunities to grow. You learn what DOESN’T work, you learn how NOT to train, you understand what NOT to structure your training around, and in turn have continued to refine and define what works for you.  Meanwhile, REFUSAL to ever do anything that might not work results in one never learning how to best train to suit themselves.  If all you’ll ever do is what has been approved by the majority of the people, you are doomed to a life of mediocrity, because, surprise, the majority IS mediocre.  Asking permission to train is asking permission to remain unelite.


Dare to be stupid.  Dare to go off on the worst training idea anyone has ever had.  Dare to find out the one thing no one has thought to try and go do it.  You need no one’s permission but your own to succeed, and hesitating is simply delaying your ability to achieve greatness.


Don’t wonder if your idea is good, sound, safe, viable, workable, logical, or party approved: just do it.