Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Hobbes’ proposal to exit the state of nature was through the formation of a “social contract”.  To greatly summarize his intent, the idea was that a collection of people realize that life within the state of nature is not worth enduring, and that they are willing to sacrifice all of their liberties in order to ensure their freedom from that existence.  The state of nature was one of absolute freedom, and as man discovered, their human nature compelled them to exercise this freedom toward terrifying ends, thus safety can only be ensured in the absence of this freedom.  To guarantee this security, all rights are forfeit to a sovereign, essentially a leader or government, who in turn ensure the safety of the members of the social contract.  It is important to note that the “contract” of the social contract only exists between the members, not the members and the sovereign.  The sovereign has no vested interest in the individuals in the social contract, simply in maintaining the security of the members from the state of nature.  Those who feel that life in the social contract is worse than the state of nature are free to leave, but that is their only freedom.

What does this mean for you the gym goer?  You too must sacrifice all your freedoms and liberties to a sovereign in order to be secure and stable.  This means you relinquish your ability to make and modify plans so that you can follow with blind intensity the teachings of at least one author or school of thought.  The intent here is that you remove yourself from the equation and place all your faith and trust into the man and the system.  You attack it with full ferocity, knowing it will work and that you are growing.  If you question the sovereign, you are free to leave the social contract or die.

Sometimes, depending on who you follow, the outcome is the same
What is the benefit of this contract?  Much as in the case of Hobbes’, you are granted stability.  Rather than being a victim of your own devices and stagnating or declining, you are granted the stability of consistent gains that are afforded by sheer hardwork and (if fortunate) intelligent programming.  By having a “sovereign”, you are now following the orders of a higher being, which means you can abandon your own thinking and leave full faith and confidence in this being.  As conflicting as this may be with the western notion of “rugged individualism”, the benefit of this arrangement is that no further justification or understanding is necessary in order to press on with the program, which means you don’t have to worry yourself sick about if you are making optimal gains or if your movement selection is ideal.
How do you know who to select as our sovereign?  For this, we turn to Socrates via Plato.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I have an idea kicking around in my head that I want to flesh out.  My educational background is heavily influenced by political theory and philosophy, due to having both my bachelors and masters in political science with a minor in philosophy.  As a result, it tends to be how I understand most concepts, regardless of their actual background.  What I am going to attempt to construct here is an extended metaphor that plays off of western and classical political theory as it applies to lifting.  For the sake of the reader, I will explain the metaphor and its roots as I progress, rather than leaving the subject matter assumed, but if you want to dive deeper and political theory interests you, it would behoove you to read Hobbes’ “Leviathan”, Locke’s Treatises of Government, Machiavelli’s “The Prince” along with his discourses, and Plato’s “Republic”.  Additionally, I will not be citing my work here, as this is not an academic paper, but credit is due to all the above.

I will be releasing this in multiple parts, so bear with me.
In “Leviathan”, Thomas Hobbes presented to us the state of nature, to mean the state of man without government.  In the state of nature, the state of man is one of war, as man fights with each other over resources.  Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, as there is no security against those who desire your resources, and even those few men that are powerful by nature of their genetics still fall victim to fragile alliances formed by others whose greed compels cooperation until they are able to defeat the immediate threat.  This is due to the fact that human nature is self-serving and greedy, and that man is primarily concerned with their own survival and possession of resources rather than the betterment of their fellow man.

I'm just saying
When we start training, we are in the state of nature.  We have no knowledge or experience to guide us, and simply stumble around in the dark grasping at straws.  We battle for the resource of knowledge, and it is a clumsy battle waged out of greed and fear rather than one strategically fought.   We chase after the latest fads like home exercises DVDs, or we follow old dogma about high reps for cutting and low reps for bulking, or we take routines from magazines or we just wing it.  We program hop from gimmick to gimmick, like man rushing from resource to resource.  The end result is the same, as our gains are both poor and short lived.

In Hobbes’ cases, it was human nature that resulted in the state of war, but what is to be blamed for our state of nature in the gym?  It is still the fault of human nature.  Instead of avarice though, we are dealing with the sin of pride.  Admitting that we know nothing is a humbling experience that few wish to willingly engage in.  In our “everyone is a winner” culture, people feel ashamed to not be great at everything always.  We feel that, as intelligent human beings with the ability to reason, we should easily be able to craft our own training routines from the start with zero snags.  The reality is though, we all start somewhere, and as novices, we require help for us to be able to know how to progress. To quote Mitch Hedberg “I tried to teach myself how to play guitar, but I didn’t know how to play, so I was a bad teacher”.

We miss you man
So how do we move out of the state of nature?  By developing a social contract and employing a sovereign.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


"You don't need to load creatine."

"You need to lift 3 days a week."

"You don't need to deload."

"You need to eat 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight."

We all know these statements.  The internet and the gym are rife with them.  Everyone is looking out for your best interest and letting you know what you need and what you don't.  It's all bunk.

Unless you are talking to your coach, no one knows what you need, nor do they care about you.  They are expressing to you what "you" need so that they in turn can justify their own decisions.  Coincidentally enough, what you "need" happens to be exactly the same things that they do.  If some guru never loaded creatine, then clearly no one needs to do it.  If someone never squats, then no one needs to.  Etc, etc.

Seriously, avoid gurus whenever possible (Sorry Mike)

I grew up on Pavel Tsastouline.  From him I learned Pavel's 3-5 and deloading.  Whenever I deloaded, I would grow sustainably stronger.  But then, I learned that I didn't need to deload, and that the time I spent deloading was a waste.  I took this new found knowledge and rushed headlong into 3 years of stalling.  Once I started deloading again with Jim Wendler's 5/3/1, I started to progress again.  Funny isn't it?

Know what I've never needed to do?  Mobility.  No matter how much the world tells me that I need to do mobility drills or else my knees will explode, I seem to continue to get stronger and stronger.  Meanwhile, many will continue to train mobility while forgetting the entire reason why they are doing it: to get stronger.

Just need a little more mobility and THEN I'll be ready to squat

The reality is, needs are going to be entirely user dependent.  Dan John probably gave us the best basic idea of what movements one needs to do

1. Push
2. Pull
3. Hinge
4. Squat
5. Loaded Carry

And from here it's a whole world of possibilities and quirks that are altered due to the circumstances of the user.

This means you will sadly be required to enter the terrifying realm that is self discovery via trial and error, but those who are brave enough to undergo that journey are those who in turn are able to prosper.  If all you ever do is listen to the talking heads of the world, you will remain average and unaccomplished, because the reality is, the people who talk the most are the ones who train the least.  Those that are out there busting their asses are too busy breaking records to be able to engage in a 4000 post long flamewar on the net or a debate at the gym.  And honestly  who would have the balls to argue with someone like Derek Poundstone or Matt Kroczaleski on what it takes to get bigger and stronger?  Only those that are protected from their own inadequacies via the anonymity of the internet.

*Artist's depiction of event

Once you've taken the bold step of finding out what works, it becomes vital to shut out those little voices that are going to tell you that what you're doing isn't actually working.  If you are getting bigger and stronger from Xbox, don't change a damn thing, because it's working.  If something just plain does not work for you, quit trying to put the square peg in the round hole and just move on to what works.  If it was all so easy and obvious, we'd all be doing the same routine.  Find out what YOU need and do it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


As I previously noted, I am in the middle of a move at the moment.  I said my goodbyes to my Texas Deadlift Bar as I packed away my home gym in a storage unit.  Given that I still have to train, I have been forced to utilize public gyms.  We have all heard the horror stories: guys curling in the squat rack, people training with gas masks on, guys in extra medium tank tops showing off their tribal tats, etc.

It keeps getting funnier every time I see it

My question is: why does this matter?

Why are people so fixated on what everyone else at the gym is doing?  How is that going to make YOU a better lifter?  Why waste any energy focusing on people being silly when you could instead be thinking about what went right and what went wrong in your last set, what your gameplan is for your next set, what meal you're going to make next, or pretty much ANYTHING that will actually make you better at lifting?

The reality is, there is a lot of unearned elitism being expressed among the ranks of internet lifters.  People that read through a forum post on Mark Rippetoe's "Starting Strength", discovered compound lifts, and decided they were God's gift to the weightroom.  They sneer at everyone else following their "terrible routines" while they stick to a steady diet of all of the movements with none of the intensity.  When the people they mock grow while they continue to stagnate, they blame genetics, drugs, diet, sleep, etc, when the reality is that they bought their own hype.  Like zealots, they clung to their "one true faith" at the cost of actual enlightenment.

In retrospect, the Koolaid flavored pre-workout supplement was in poor taste

Am I saying that the majority of the masses in a public gym are educated in lifting?  Of course not.  As my blog has mentioned many times, the world of lifting is full of dogma, mysticism, folklore and nonsense, and most people won't explore past what is readily available through word of mouth.  However, what many lack in knowledge, they make up for in intensity and dedication, which are skills that a new lifter can't learn from reading alone.

But lets say that the people at your gym are without redemption   They lack both intensity and ability.  Why let them concern you at all?  Because they tie up equipment?  Ask to work in.  What was once a regular part of gym culture is now taboo due to the increasingly passive aggressive nature of our culture paired with our rapidly diminishing interpersonal communication skills.  Rather than talk with someone who is on a piece of equipment we want, we stare daggers at them willing them to die so that they will get off our equipment so we can do our workout in peace.  Honestly, who is the dick here?

My policy when I train in a public gym is that I am a guest in someone else's house, so I am on my best behavior.  As a powerlifter, there is a ton of negative stereotypes about me, and it is my job to be an ambassador for my sport.  That means I smile at people rather than scowl, offer to work in with people whenever I see them longing after the equipment I am on, and offer to share my straps or other goodies in my gym bag.  So many people are upset with how gyms have policies designed to discourage powerlifters that they act exactly like how people expect them to, completely validating the rules set by the gym in the first place.  Don't be the dick that people expect you to be, catch them off guard and kill them with kindness.  You may make a friend, and if nothing else, you might be able to work in a set.

And if you really can't stand it, build a home gym.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


I'm in the middle of a move at the moment, so this week's entry is going to be video from my training.  More evidence of my success with ROM progression and touch and go deads, two posts I have previously made here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


       I have written about the value of hard work when it comes to physical development, but that is honestly only half the equation.  The reality is that hard work without direction is, as is said in the piloting world, "all thrust and no vector".  It is valuable, yes, but without the vector of misery, it can be misguided and improperly utilized.  It is not simply the willingness and capacity to endure misery that is valuable here, but instead the regular and consistent engaging with misery that one must strive for to be successful.

Jack Lalanne summed up this concept adequately with the quote "if it tastes good, spit it out". 

Still the man.

Your mind and body strive for the path of least resistance as a means of evolutionary survival.  It seeks minimal exercise and an enjoyable cuisine because this ensures that one is fat and happy.  Being an impressive physical specimen is unnatural, it is freakish, it is an affront.  This means that to achieve the unnatural, one must act unnaturally and eschew that which in turn comes naturally.  He who in turn endures the most dissonance and misery will be the most awesome specimen.

How so we apply this principle to training?  Do you have a favorite movement?  One you love?  One that makes you feel great, and that you look forward to training each week?  Stop training it.

Did I guess right?

This movement is clearly a strength for you, and playing to your strengths is not making you better.  Pick the movement that you loathe, that is the bane of your existence  that you dread doing, and hammer it until it is your strength.  Endure the misery of this movement session after session while you beat your mind and body into submission with your sheer willpower.  You will find that in the end, by bringing up your weak points, you have made your strengths stronger while turning yourself bulletproof, whereas those who invested this same amount of time avoiding misery have remained stagnant.

Diet becomes a question of misery via spurning convenience and convention.  It goes without saying that you will need to endure the misery of not gorging yourself on delicious food, but this is just the basics, and only doing this will simply make you average and "not fat".  The more regimented and consistent you are in your diet, the better the results will be.  When your will wavers, so will your waistline.  When you forego the convenience  of sandwiches, fast food, and packaged convenience store cuisine, for the toil of actually cooking and preparing for yourself, you excel.  Nothing about diet is complicated, its about eating as a means of performing rather than satiating your desires and Id.

As a personal anecdote, I regularly engage in what I dub "life sucks training".  This is training which, though it may have some positive impact to my strength as a whole, the major intended benefit is to simply generate misery and force myself to endure it as much as possible.  Sometime, nature lends a hand, like when I have to train in my garage at -30 in the winter or 110 in the summer.  Sometimes, it's up to me to be crazy, and do things like ultra high rep squats, neverending drop sets, or whatever else comes in my mind.  By doing these things, I know that I am better than my competition, and that nothing will stop me.  Many times, when life has thrown me such toils as career, relationship, or academic stress, I take solace in the fact knowing that I ran 20 rep squats for 6 weeks, and thus I can do anything.

"I got this."

I've even employed the concept while training my wife to help her with her long distance running, forcing her to use a safety squat bar instead of a barbell for her squats so that, along with training her posterior chain, she has to learn how to deal with the agony that is that devil device.  Her upperback crushes into her lungs and makes it impossible to breathe, and she remembers this experience.  When she is on a run and her upperback starts to fatigue and her breathing gets weary, she is able to recall her training and know that she is too tough to let this defeat her.

Is this to say that you are doomed to a life of misery?  Absolutely not.  It is simply the reality that those who succeed the most must in turn endure the most misery.  To be above average, you will endure more than the average amount of misery.  If you are satisfied with being average, you will go to the gym and do the things you like and eat how you want.  The choice, as always, is yours.