Sunday, March 31, 2013


I have written a lot on touch and go deadlifts in the past.  This will be a compilation of those thoughts/posts.

(For those unaware, I only train my deadlifting touch and go.  I picked up this style after a massive back injury prevented me from deadlifting for over 3 years, and this was the only painfree way I could return to training.)

All Deadlifts Should be Touch and Go

Hear me out first
“A deadlift starts from a dead stop on the floor.  That’s why it’s called a deadlift.  If you don’t pause on the floor, it’s not a deadlift.”

I will agree with that, purely because I am a semantic asshole.  That said, it’s a terrible reason to choose how you do an exercise.  Anyone who has done a deadlift knows that breaking off the floor tends to be more the most stressful portion of the lift, even if you are strong off the floor.  Breaking a very heavy weight off the floor is taxing.  Doing it multiple times in a workout is very taxing.  Doing this multiple times a week/month in turn is incredibly taxing.  In many cases, it makes recovery between workouts difficult without excessive eating/sleeping (which I am very much in favor of, but also realize that many have lifestyle that will not support this/don’t want to get excessively fat).

The touch and go style ensures that you break off the floor significantly less in a workout (I’ll still break off the floor at least twice, once for the initial, and one more time after the first put down to see how many more reps I can eek out), making the entire process less taxing.  Additionally, many make the argument that dead stop deadlifts are more analogous to a competition deadlift, since you only do one rep in competition.  I argue that with this logic, the touch and go is actually a better tool for training for a heavy single.  Anyone that has ever seen or taken part in a grinder deadlift has see the common 7-8 second agonizing single.  When you perform deadstop deadlifts with a weight you can do for 5 reps (for the sake of argument), none of these reps are going to last longer than 1-2 seconds, and thus your body learns how to strain for this long when it comes to deadlifting.  When placed in a situation where it needs to take 7 seconds to get from floor to lockout, it is in foreign territory.  When you perform a touch and go set for the same amount of reps, you in turn are maintaining tension for 5-10 seconds, meaning that your body is able to handle this sort of tension and knows how to remain tight.  Though the weight you will be using during the deadlift will be heavier in competition compared to your touch and go training lifts (which can be remedied with ROM progression training, which I have addressed here, the time you are straining will be equal.

Though some may make the counter argument that dead stop deads get you stronger since you get better at breaking off the floor, and anything you can break off the floor for a working set you can definitely do in competition, I would argue that since touch and go deads are less taxing and make it easier to recover between training, your strength will increase at a faster rate (due to less needed deloads/resets/time off), and you will either at least meet or surpass the deadstop crowd, and be less burnt out/injury prone as you do.  With breaking off the floor being the most stressful and taxing part of the lift, it is going to be the part most prone to causing injury as you fatigue toward the end of the set and experienced form deviation.
Additionally, use straps with touch and go.  The bar is going to be off the floor for a LONG time, don’t let your grip ruin your workout.

Weak From The Floor

A question that was asked of me about touch and gos, and my answer.

"Sort of an intro question here, but have you ever found that you're weak off the floor?"

So your question actually ties into a rant I've had before. I will attempt to be succinct but make no promises.

Did I mention my education is in politics?

Short answer: No.

I don't believe there is such a thing as "weak off the floor" for a raw lifter. It logically makes no sense, as the floor by definition is the hardest part of the lift for a raw lifter, much like how off the chest is the hardest part of the lift for a raw bencher. In my deadlift training, anything I can get off the floor, I can lockout, because I have accomplished the hardest part of the lift at the beginning and now simply have to complete the lift. If I cannot break the weight off the floor, I am not "weak off the floor", I am simply weak. Once I get strong enough to be able to break a weight off of the floor, I will be strong enough to deadlift it.

Now at the same time, I do recognize the limitations of touch and go deads in that there is not as much practice in breaking weight off the floor compared to deadstop reps. This is why, in my training, I break the weight off the floor twice in a set. I do as many reps as I can in one go, set the bar down, rest, and then repeat for one more set. Not only is this more practice, but additionally it's practice in breaking weight off the floor in a fatigued state, which bears a similar benefit to breaking all of your reps off the floor, but at the same time allows for a significantly higher weight to be utilized compared to a pure dead stop set.

To put in perspective, I recently did a touch and go set of 5 reps of 590. I managed to do 4 reps before I had to put the bar down, rested for about 90 seconds, and then did one more rep. Realistically, if I were to do a deadstop set of 590, I most likely would've been able to manage 2 reps. Maybe a triple. I essentially broke the exact same amount of reps off the ground, but got WAY more time under tension with the former over the latter.

But lets be real and acknowledge that, even in the raw training world, there are guys who are very fast off the floor and struggle at lockout (I won't name names, as I don't want it to be construed that I am in any way "calling people out".  I respect these guys, because that's pretty crazy).  What ultimately is the benefit of being fast off the ground in a training perspective?  Being "strong off the floor" by definition means you are also "weak at lockout", as you can't simply be "strong all over".

I suppose there are exceptions

With this acknowledgement, one also realizes that, in the realm of missed training lifts, the percentage increases significantly with one who is weak at lockout versus weak off the floor.  When you are weak off the floor and go to pull a weight you cannot handle, the lift is missed before it starts.  The weight is welded to the floor and not going anywhere.  In terms of energy/time invested and impact to your recovery, it's going to be minimal.  You also aren't going to be grooving much of anything into your motor pathway, as you simply aren't moving. 

The alternative is not the same.  When you are strong off the floor, you can very much pull a weight off the floor that you are not capable of locking out, which you won't discover UNTIL it's time to lock it out.  This is going to be far more energy and time invested in a failed lift, which will in turn impact your recovery as well.  You will have to keep in mind that this is entirely theorycraft for me, as I have never had the issue of being strong off the floor, and it may perhaps be the case that someone who has this attribute can indicate from their warm ups what can be accomplished in that training session, but this is what I see as being a potential issue.

Monday, March 25, 2013


-If you want to lose weight or stay on a diet, only use a hand basket when you shop.  You will prioritize high value stuff like meat and veggies over chips and snacks, as the latter takes up way more space compared to how much value it provides.  Also, gallons of milk and pounds of meat tend to smash squishy stuff like bread and twinkies, and will crush your chips.  This also ensures that you eat fresh food and nothing goes to waste, since you will only be able to carry a week's worth of food.  To really drive the experience home, walk to the grocery store instead of drive if you can.

-When you start a new program, pick assistance work that is easy to go heavy (bar weight) on.  Your primary work sets will be light, so you can handle heavier assistance work.  It should auto-regulate such that, when the primary sets get heavy, you stall on assistance work and have to change movements.  Pick something where bar weight is light due to other variables (bands, chains, fat gripz, angles, etc).

-A deadlift is just a weighted hinge.  You should move like one of those mechanical drinking birds.

Seen here
If you feel something contracting, you need to get tighter.  Once you get your whole body tight, it's just grip and hinge.

-This has been my conditioning work as of recently.  10 KB swings-5 dips-5 chin ups.  As many rounds as you can do in 15 minutes.  Real ass kicker, and hits just about everything.

-I haven't locked out a rep since my meet 4 months ago.  I have also put on 20lbs and my joint pain is gone. Coincidence?

-Doing a long set of band pull aparts/pushdowns?  When you reach failure, let your hands drift a little out toward the ends of the band.  Its effectively a drop set.  The less you let your hands drift, the longer the set can go on.

-Are there any 600lb raw squatters running smolov?  I really want to know.

-I am getting to the point where I can't even read about programming anymore.  As cool, unique and nifty everything seems, it's all just lifting weights.

-I am going to be training in commercial gym for an extended period of time due to an upcoming move.  Rather than give up my deadlift mats, I am going to cut 7 of them in half to make "mini-mats" that I can carry in a gym bag.  When there is a will, there is a way.

-My gym hasn't had a mirror in 5 years.  My form is the best it's ever been.  If you are checking your form in the mirror, you are lying to yourself.  Go by feel.

-If one day of bad sleep or one missed meal impacts your training, you have deeper issues that you need to address.

-Almost every deadlift problem can be solved by two things.  1: Bring your feet in.  2: Lose fat.

-Things I don't know how I lived without them.  13mm belt.  Ironmind straps.  Meadows row handle w/landmine.  Texas Deadlift Bar.  GHR.  Reverse Hyper.  Safety Squat Bar.

-If you aren't doing conditioning because you don't know how to do it, you are making excuses.  Do SOMETHING.  Play a sport, go for a walk, drag something heavy, do some yardwork, just be active.  

-People that say they prefer chalk to straps are missing the point.

-Stop looking at movements in terms of pros and cons against each other and just ask if they help meet your goals.  If they do, use them.  If you can't use them now, wait until you stall, and then use them.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Got some thoughts clunking around in my head.  Want to get them down on paper.

I don't have a meet coming up.  Not as in "not in a while", but simply not at all.  I will be moving soon, and don't know when I will compete next as a result.  I have entered a prolonged "off season", and it's allowed me to become inventive.

Here are my thoughts on training assistance work.

1: Jim Wendler said it best.  Don't major in the minors.  If you don't have your shit together on the primary lifts, figure that out first before you even worry about assistance work.  That said, what I am writing here is going to be very intensive on the assistance work, mainly because the primary stuff tends to take care of itself.

2: There are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.

Thank you Donald Rumsfeld/Samuel L. Jackson

What's a known known?  We KNOW that you become a better bencher by benching, a better squatter by squatting, and a better deadlifter by deadlifting.  When everything else in your world has fallen apart and you are clinging to a tub of protein powder and listening to AM radio to hear if it's safe to come outside, you can take solace in these facts.

Like this, if the book was "Supertraining"

What is a known unknown?  This is going to depend on your own personal level of knowledge and investment in training.  There are many people much smarter than me when it comes to training.  These people can calculate band tension, understand WTF a circa-max cycle is, understand all the little biological nuances that are involved in muscle and strength building, etc.  I don't know these things, but I KNOW that I don't know them.  I know the information is out there, and if I really wanted to, I could learn it.

What is an unknown unknown?  It's something that we don't know that we don't know.  We are unaware of something even being relevant that we don't even realize that we don't know it.

How do these all come into play?  It depends on where you are in your training.
When I am closing in on a meet, I default to known knowns.  My assistance work is very specific and deliberate.  I bench to become a better bencher, and I pause the bench on my chest and lock out each rep, because I know that is what is expected of me in competition.  It's the same for the squat as well.  I use what I know works.

In my current off season?  I am in the realm of unknown unknowns.  I am intentionally avoiding specificity as much as possible, and doing things I have never done before.  I don't lockout my reps, I don't pause on the chest, I use bands, chains, fat gripz, dumbbells, etc.  Variety is the name of the game here.
Why would I do this?  Because it's possible that there is something that could make me stronger that I simply don't know about.  It's possible that I could "accidentally" get stronger by doing this.  I will be bringing up muscle groups that I didn't even realize were lagging, hitting angles that I didn't know were relevant to a movement, and developing a skillset that was apparently vital to a lift that I completely lacked.  Is it a total shot in the dark?  Hell yeah it is, but I've got no meet in sight, what do I care?  And really, if my bench doesn't increase, but my incline swiss bar fat gripz bench went from 135lbs to 200lbs, who am I to say that I didn't still get stronger?

Once I DO find something that works, it's now become a known unknown.  I have identified a potential valuable asset, and it becomes my responsibility to research, dissect and understand it.  I do myself a disservice by not exploiting this newfound tool, and the more I understand and am able to manipulate it, the more I am able to progress with it, to the point that it may soon become a known known in terms of what exists in my toolbox.

As I stated, close to a meet is a poor time to experiment, but without experimentation and change one will eventually reach stagnation, thus it becomes imperative that, in these times of offseason, you don't give in to fear and simply stick with "what works", but use that time to find out if there is something you are missing.  In a program like 5/3/1, you still have basic heavy work to keep your strength in check, and this in turn allows you to really let off the breaks and see what you are capable of.

Ignore the naysayers who speak of how the smith machine is garbage or how barbells are the only way to get stronger.  If something makes you bigger or stronger, who cares what it is?  There are no points granted to how you got to the destination, simply that you reached it.  I would rather reach paradise in a Pinto than be broken down on the side of the road in a Corvette.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I was stuck in a meeting at work and started charting out what sort of assistance exercises I could do for my bench press, thought I'd pass on my notes here to inspire others. If you have followed my training, you know I train in my garage, and everything I own has been personally funded, which means I don't have nearly the variety of equipment available to me that most people in a well stocked gym do. That said, I found I actually could do 2000 different variations of bench alone based on what I had.

Here is how I broke down the variables available to me in order to develop variations

Flat bench
Incline bench
Floor (floor pressing)

Swiss bar

W/ fat gripz (for reference they also make an "extreme model" too if you want to open up your options)
W/o fat gripz

Grip width:
Close grip (BB/Swiss bar only)
Wide (BB/Swiss bar only)
Parallel (DB only)

Pause at bottom of movement:

Lockout reps at top:

Height of starting point:
No real way to put a number to this, you can go any number of inches/measurements off your chest (not applicable to floor press)

Method of height of starting point:
Chest (not applicable to floor press)
Chain suspended (BB/Swiss bar only) (not applicable to floor press)
Boards (BB/Swiss bar only) (not applicable to floor press)
Pins (BB/Swiss bar only) (not applicable to floor press)

Modifications to bar:
Reverse bands (BB/Swiss bar only)
Against bands

Basically, from here it's like chinese food. Just pick something from each column and you've built a bench variation to use.

One of the key things here is that some low cost/high effect things to get to increase your variability is some fat gripz and some resistance bands. Chains are awesome too, but not very portable.

That, and it doesn't take much to have a lot of variety available to you. Very minor modifications can result in almost totally new movements.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Every time you see a radical physical transformation, whether is be on TV, in a magazine, or with someone you know in real life, the same question comes out.

"What's your (their) routine?"

Everyone wants to know what the routine and diet was that resulted in this transformation.  What's the secret?  What is the magic formula?  How do you go from A to B?

The thing is, these questions ultimately miss the point.  They're based upon a false notion that it's all just a formula.  Plug in X amount of sets with Y amount of movements and you get Z results.

The reality is, it's not that easy.

Apparently this button didn't test well with the marketing demographic.

As much as we want everything in life to be binary and science, the reality is, physical transformation is art.  Science cannot capture the toil, the struggle, the hard work, sacrifice and pain.  Science is cold and unfeeling.  This is art.  Your physique and your ability are an expression of YOU.  Are you unstoppable?  Are you made of cold steel and nails?  Or are you soft, squishy, and possibly cream filled?

Sorry, I'm still not over them being gone.
The reality is, if you need to ask "how did you do it?", you won't be able to.  We like to over complicate this stuff and pretend like you HAVE to do a certain program a certain way at a certain time or else you won't get results, but the reality is, theses are just excuses.  Hard work is hard work.  The people who wake up one day and decide to change themselves through sheer physical toil and dedication get results, regardless of if they are following the "best" plan.  The people who follow P90X and then quit after a week don't, regardless of how well put together the plan is.

I have been called anti-intellectual in my ranting before, but lets address that.  The reality is, I see the human population as over educated these days, and as a result we are missing the "big picture".  We are a society of electrical engineers with no electricians.  All managers and no laborers.  We have lost sight of what it takes for success to happen.  A gameplan is fine and dandy, but without the sheer guts and willpower to forcibly affect change, it is worthless.  

Without the boots on the ground, this is just a man with a funny hat and a riding crop

Our lifting forefathers had none of the resources we have today.  There was no internet for Paul Anderson, Bob Peoples, Bill Kazmaier (in his prime of course), etc.  These men simply had to bust their ass and find out what worked through will power and bullheadedness.  It takes fortitude, mental and physical, to be able to keep returning to the gym and enforcing your will upon your body and the iron.  

From these men we can definitely learn lessons, and while some of them are intellectual (thank you Paul for the gift of ROM progression), the big one to learn is to just get in the gym and bust your ass.  

It's not about how many sets of how many reps of which movements you do on which day.  It's your ability to come back, again and again, and hit the iron hard enough to make an impression.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


In today's high speed culture, multitasking is a highly prized and sought after skill.  The advent of smart phones has made it so that at all times, we can be accomplishing another task, whether it be while driving, standing in line, or on the toilet.  Those who cannot multitask are viewed as slow, incompetent  weak and undesirable, whereas those that can aren't particularly rewarded for their ability, as it's become somewhat expected.  Yet, just like those people texting and driving, if you try to multitask when it comes to your training, you're just going to crash and burn.

And you're probably an asshole, plus your blinker has been on for miles

As appealing as it may be to be awesome at everything, you have to take a realistic look at yourself when it comes to training.  How great of an athlete are you?  Is it possible you have the genetic makeup to be great at many activities, or is it more probable that, if you have the capability to be great at all, it's only going to be at one thing?

Go through your mental rolodex and think of how many athletes you know of that were ever at the professional level in two sports?  Right now, the only thing that comes to mind for me is Bo Jackson.

Yes, I made a reference to Rolodex and Bo Jackson, I swear I am writing this in 2013

On the other end of the spectrum, think about great athletes that have attempted to dabble in other sports, and the results that occurred.  As big of a fan as I am of Mariusz Pudzianowski, his foray into MMA demonstrated that he will need to undergo a vast amount of training to be able to compete at a reasonable level in his new sport.

Don't get me wrong though.  I still wouldn't fight him

Brian Siders, one of the strongest men in the world by powerlifting standards, had a very lackluster peformance in his World's Strongest Man debut as well.  And these are sports that value similar attributes in their respective athletes.  It gets even worse as you attempt to deviate to odder extremes.

Think about it.  Professional athletes are genetic supermen that have trained their whole lives to excel athletically, yet these individuals still need to specialize.  Why is that?  Because very few people have the capacity to be great at many things, and the reality is, if you want to be great at anything, it's going to come at the expense of pursuing other physical goals.

From a personal example, growing up, I wanted to be big and strong, and I also wanted to be a fighter.  In my mind, the two were equated, in that being big and strong would surely make me a great fighter, and being a great fighter would be the purest expression of strength.  In reality though, the goals contrasted.  My lifting would negatively impact my recovery from fight training, whereas my fight training would make me skinny from the energy I expended.  After years of training both goals, I was terrible at both of them.  Once I finally hung up the gloves and pursued strength training full time, my lifts took off, with me adding 140lbs to my deadlift and 30lbs to my bodyweight in a year.

This isn't to say that you can't pursue multiple goals as an athlete, it just means you have to pick and choose the time to chase these goals.  If you try to train for powerlifting while engaging in boxing training and HIIT on your "off days", you're going to burn out quick and have no progress to show for it.  But if you periodize your training so that you have a phase where you are 100% dedicated to strength, then conditioning, then your sport, you will make massive gains in each endeavor.