Sunday, June 30, 2013


Been stuck at a lot of presentations recently.  Had a chance to get down some thoughts.

-"Whether you say you can or you can't, you're right"

-I no longer care about science and just look at results.  Correlation is as good as causation to me if it means that same outcome.  Science is usually so far behind the guys in the trenches that, by the time it catches up, it's too late.

-How to design your own program: hit the lifts you want to make stronger, and then hit the lifts that make that lift stronger.

-Assistance lifts are just that: assistance.  If your main lift goes up and your assistance lifts go down, you succeeded.  If your assistance lifts go up and your main lift goes down, you failed.

-ROM progression will cure cancer.  I'm calling it.

-Even in a gym full of machines, I find myself drawn to the basics.  I think machines are good for small muscles, but I still want straight weight for my compounds.

-I have been doing over 200 chins every upper body day, 130 rows a week and 200 band pull aparts a day.  So far, no overtraining, but I AM getting bigger and stronger.

-I am away from my spouse for 9 weeks and thought I would live the life of an ascetic (no, not aesthetic).  I still go out to eat.  Environment isn't the factor, it's motivation.  With no meet in sight, I don't want it bad enough.

-On the above topic, going out to eat is no excuse to deviate.  Almost everywhere does salads, or burgers or wings or some form of meat or veggies.  If you want something tasty, that is fine, but be real about it.  You are your own worst limitation.

-Additionally, I can eat ok on the road by grabbing protein shakes and eating meat while tossing the bread at burger places.

-The only tricep work I do these days is pushdowns for prehab.  I am starting to think that, for a raw lifter, they have limited value compared to the chest and shoulders.

-My metabolism/insulin sensitivity/whatever makes diet easy honestly.  I pout on muscle and fat easily, which means, to put on muscle with limited fat, I simply eat more meat and veggies.  It is a boring approach, but being honest with myself and not force feeding myself carbs does the job just fine.

-The idea of being injured does not enter my head any more, let alone the fear of injury.  The idea of getting further inured isn't a concern once I get inured.  Bad things happen, but this is a long road, and an injury isn't even a blip.  If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to keep getting stronger.

-These days, I doubt the ability of a natural trainee to bulk, but I am still thankful that I tried in my early 20s.  A massive caloric surplus has to make you stronger, and that strength will be a boon when you go to train for body comp.

-My history goes as follows: follow common sense-stagnate-realize that is all wrong and defy every convention-stagnate-defy all of the conventions I created from before-realize I am following common sense.

-If I were to design a workout now, it would be all sets with no reps listed.  You will figure it out.

-On that topic, consider setting rep total goals that you shoot for in the workout rather than hard set reps and sets.  Volume is volume.

-If the only reason you do something is because you don't know why you shouldn't, stop doing it.

-Beginners need and crave structure because, left to their own devices, they will stay in their comfort zones and stagnate.  As you advance, structure becomes limiting and can suffocate your progress.

-If it takes more than a sentence to describe your current goal, you won't meet it.

-Let me kill the sacred cow on squat depth.  I don't see a need to hit depth in training.  The stretch reflex carries you from the hole to above parallel, and it's up to you to do the rest.  Think of it like firing a rocket out of a slingshot.  You wouldn't start the engines on the rocket while the slingshot was pulled back, you'd wait until it released it's energy.  I don't think you can make the reflex stronger, so I don't see why you need to train it, whereas spending time blitzing the "above parallel: portion will carry you the rest of the way.  ROM progression does this, as does squatting to your natural depth without forcing yourself to go any deeper.  I see this as reducing training injury and failure rate.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


The fear of overtraining is pervasive across the online landscape.  Everyone has a rule or protocol in place to ensure that someone doesn’t overtrain.  If you train more than 3 days a week, you’re overtraining.  If you do more than 50 reps in a workout, you’re overtraining.  It’s all the same, with the “HIT Jedis” being the butt of many “fear of overtraining” jokes.

And if I may go off on a rant for a second, seriously, f**k Arthur Jones.  Nothing to do with his system (I can talk to that later), but by all accounts, the man was a prick.

Even his trainees can't stand to look at him
Anyway, it’s all silliness, at least in the capacity we experience it.  The people that fear overtraining are people who have never actually worked hard.  These are the people that never ran 2 a day practices, or did “up downs” in a 100 degree wrestling room to sweat out weight for a match, or went through a basic training environment, or any sort of real “push to the limits” moment in their life.  The people who managed to avoid these experience have no idea just what sort of limits the human body has and how far it can be pushed before it actually breaks.

Let me explain it with a metaphor.  Worrying about overtraining is like worrying about catching the clap from banging Megan Fox.  You need to focus on actually making progress before you concern yourself with the consequences of succeeding.

Editor's note: Is Megan Fox even relevant anymore? Who do the kids talk about these days?

If you keep pushing yourself to the point where you actually overtrain, you will at least be making amazing progress up until that point.  If you always shy away from hard work to avoid this overtraining boogieman, you’re simply not going to grow.  The average person avoids strain, you must seek it and forge your body with iron and spite to be able to stand out.

Overtraining isn’t going to happen in a workout.  It’s not going to happen in a few workouts.  It’s going to take a consistent, day in and day out for months on end hardcore balls to the wall leave no prisoners kind of effort to really start to reach overtraining, and up until that point, you will be building something terrifying inside of you.  Your work capacity will be insane and you will have the fanatical thousand yard stare of someone that has lost their sense of self into something much bigger.

Now, I am not claiming that it’s impossible to push yourself too hard in a workout.  We’ve heard the stories of rhabdomyolysis resulting from hardcore crossfit workouts, but you also have to keep in mind that those stories involve someone starting out on the program in a group setting where they were pushed against their will by others.  If you are training solo or with a workout partner, your odds of this are rapidly diminished, and I of course say that with no scientific backing whatsoever.

And I am saying all this as someone that has actually experienced overtraining.  I know the symptoms well enough in myself after having it happen twice.  I’ll get sore in muscles that never get sore (calves, hamstrings and abs are big warnings for me) and my desire to train will cease to exist, to the point where I will dread lifting.  However, in reaching this point in my training, I had blown past previous stagnant PRs and transformed myself physically, which, no matter how much I needed to rest or change my gameplan at that point, could not be taken away.  The overreaching I did to get there put me in a much better position than if I had gone home early a bunch of times to avoid the overtraining boogieman.

I heard he only shows up if you say "20 rep squats" 3 times in a mirror

“There is no such thing as overtraining, just undereating” was a great quote by the barbarian brothers.  Of course, they were roided to the gills, but it’s still something to keep in mind.  Within yourself lies the capacity to push much harder than you thought was possible.  Don’t listen to the naysayers and conventions that hold people back from reaching their goals.  Experiment, push, and find out what is possible.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


When deciding on a path to getting bigger and stronger, one must realize that there are in fact two parts to this equation.  There is the path, and there is getting bigger and stronger.  Many times, people get so fixated on the path that they have chosen that they lose sight of the goal itself.  As I have said in many previous posts, if you aren’t progressing toward your goal, your efforts are worthless.

What am I getting at here?  Let’s say your goal is fat loss.  You decide you’re going to run to help with your fat loss.  You pick something like couch to 5k, and work diligently, building yourself up from a couch potato to a physical specimen about to crush your first 5k.  You cross the finish line, get your medal, and post a picture of facebook that gets at least 14 likes.  Congrats.  Did you lose any weight?

I feel like the message got lost somewhere along the line

Runners and former fatties aren’t the only ones guilty of this, not by a longshot.  Many lifters lose progress to their pet lifts and ego.  Someone decides they want a big chest, so they decide to chase a 315lb bench press.  They bust their ass, do their research on building a bigger bench, throw on chains and bands, and hit their bench goal, only to look in the mirror and still see the same bird chest they started with.

What is the ultimate falling out here?  It’s the failure to understand that methods are just that: methods.  Methods are not goals in and of themselves, they are simply the path toward the goal.  Your metrics should always revolve around progress toward the goal, not progress in the method.  If your goal is to lose fat, and your mile time is getting worse while your weight and waistline is dropping, you are doing something right.  If you can build a 50” chest with a 135lb bench, congratulations, you have met your goal.

Ok, maybe we need to lay down a few ground rules 

This necessitates a degree of brutal honesty with yourself.  It’s very easy to get caught up in what other people say your goals are.  I’ve known tons of guys that ultimately wanted to just look good, but were uncomfortable with admitting that vanity was their primary motivation, and kept chasing strength goals with the hope that they would accidentally look better.  Not only did they not meet their real goal of looking better, but because their hearts were not actually in getting stronger, they spun their wheels for years and made minimal progress in that regard as well.

There is no shame in your goal, whatever it is.  There is, however, a great deal of shame in failing to meet your goal.    

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


If you have been following my blog, you've probably seen this analogy before, but I will still recap.  Niccolo Machiavelli helped usher in an era of political realism, wherein instead of discussion how things ought to be like classic political philosophers did (such as Plato and Socrates), he discussed how things were.  In doing so, he came to terms with the reality that sometimes good leaders are going to need to do evil things.  What people tend to oversimplify as “the end justifies the means” is more Machiavelli’s understanding of the workings of luck, or “fortune”.  Fortune is a fickle mistress, and in order to be the most fortunate, one needs to have the greatest degree of flexibility in their leadership.  A leader who refuses to bend will eventually break, but a leader who is willing to use every tool in their toolbox when their use becomes necessary is one that will prosper and maintain rule and stability over his people.  One is not evil for the sheer sake of being evil, but for the sake of being a good leader when doing evil becomes necessary.

Maybe tone it down a little

How do we apply this to training, and specifically the notion of property as it relates to your training program?  The impact is twofold, the first being that careful analysis of your training is absolutely necessary in order to know what will and will not work for you.  Machiavelli’s political realism necessitated a thorough understanding of your present situation in order to develop a strategy.  One could not simply be an idealist and do what will work in a perfect world, but instead employ the strategies that are necessary in our fractured and imperfect reality.  If you have prior injuries, certain movements may need to be removed from your toolbox.  If your work capacity is garbage, Smolov just plain ain’t going to happen for you.  Use this reflection to discover your weaknesses so that you know what needs addressing.

The second aspect of this concept is knowing that you cannot be married to a movement.  Your loyalty exists to progress and progress alone.  It doesn't matter how much you like a movement, if it is not helping you reach your goals, it is worthless.  Additionally, it does not matter how well something works for everyone else if it does nothing for you.  Do not let your people starve and your kingdom fall because you are unwilling to commit the evil of squatting above parallel, for fortune is a fickle mistress, and she favors those who can adapt to her changing whims.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


John Locke took a crack at the social contract as well, and in doing so introduced a concept of liberty as it related to the protection of property.  Whereas Hobbes’ social contract involves an
unquestionable sovereign with absolute power, Locke felt it was necessary to protect the product that is the result of man mixing his labor with his environment.  A sovereign still maintained peace for those in the contract and kept them from the state of nature, but was forbidden from the properties of those within the contract.  With this protection, not only was stability the goal of the contract, but prosperity as well, for man could now not only be free from the dangers of the state of nature, but could in turn labor to create and improve the environment within the social contract for the betterment of both self and others.


What is your property?  These are the things that require your own personal input on a program.  Under the rule of your absolute sovereign from above, you will grow and learn, and in doing so will discover certain ideas and concepts that resonate well with you and result in prosperity.  Additionally, you will also encounter ideas that, regardless of the success rate experienced by others, simply do not work for you.  No two people are alike, and though the general principles for growth remain the same, there always exists a realm of individuality and modification that can result in better, more sustainable growth with minimal risk of injury.

Do not use your property as an excuse to avoid hard work or training that you do not enjoy.  The liberty you have is not granted to you to make you weaker.  The intent here is that you utilize the liberty granted to you here in order to maximize the benefit of the social contract, and in doing so your sovereign is in turn able to continue to provide security and prosperity for you.

This will never get old

You must also keep in mind that, just as how Locke’s theory was developed after Hobbes, this progression in your training is an evolution rather than a starting point.  You must still have the phase wherein you surrender all control to an absolute sovereign before you start to decide on your property.  An unenlightened man is simply in a state of war, scrambling for resources, whereas one who has escaped the state of nature long enough to evolve can have a greater understanding of how to better their environment.

The question then arises as to how one knows what is best to claim as property in their training, and for this we turn to the teachings of Niccolo Machiavelli.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


In Plato’s “Republic”, Socrates crafts a “city in speech”, wherein the ideal government is constructed.  In this mental exercise, Socrates explained that the ideal state would be one ruled by the philosopher kings, as they possessed the necessary capabilities required to be an effective leader, and then went on to explain the devolution of government from this ideal state, to include one ruled by the military, the merchant class, a democracy, and finally tyranny and anarchy.  As much as it may insult our western idealism, it is worth noting how low democracy is ranked on this scale compared to having a competent leader granted full and absolute power over his subjects.  The reasoning for this choice, much like as Hobbes’ noted, was due to the fact that man is not capable of self-governing due to their nature, and thus require one who is skilled in the art and possessing the necessary qualities of a leader.

When you were designing your own training, you were in that state of tyranny and anarchy, and you realized it was necessary to remove yourself from that situation.  By why make your training choices a democracy?  It should not be up to the masses to decide how you train, it should be up to those who have been successful in training others.  If you seek forums and hearsay as your guidance, you are going to be spinning your wheels and chasing phantoms with minimal success rate.  This is because the democracy, as a form of representation of the population as a whole, contains far more unsuccessful trainees than successful ones, and thus the volume of information you receive is going to be far more vectored toward failure than success.  Even if we were to ignore the intentionally bad information put out under the guise of “trolling”, the simple reality is that the general population contains very few successful trainees, and at best people are simply parroting what successful people have said, and more realistically the message has been twisted and lost in translation.

Those of you who grew up with texting probably have no idea what this is

The merchant class would equate to those that are interested purely in selling you a product (P90X, Insanity, Jane Fonda, etc.)  The interest of these people/companies is in profit, and your success is only valuable to them insomuch as they continue to receive positive endorsements of their products.  They are not here to tailor their merchandise to your success, and everything is cookie-cutter “one size fits all” appealing to the lowest common denominator.  Following their approach will give you greater success than existing in chaos, but will not allow you to thrive or strive toward your own personal goals.  You are at the mercy of the free market, and whatever is the “in” thing at the time becomes your only option.  You must conform your goals to the program, not the other way around.

When discussing the “military” as a sovereign, we are discussing the veterans in the gym.  These are the people who have been in the trenches and fought the battles against the iron, forging themselves to become bigger and stronger.  Their results speak for themselves.  Unfortunately, their results speak only for themselves.  Without the experience of training others, they can only speak from their own experiences, which though valuable, are limited.  A long limbed, short torsoed lifter is going to have different advise for benching compared to one with short limbs and a barrel chest, and a lifter that is naturally predisposed to putting on fat will have different dietary advice compared to a perpetual ectomorph.  You could do worse than selecting the military as your sovereign, but you are limited to their experience.

We have finally arrived at the “philosopher kings” of training.  These are the people with verifiable track records in both being strong and making others stronger.  As much as I lament the internet’s ability to muddy the waters of strength training, it is a boon when it comes to finding the credentials of someone, and being able to tell who is legit and who is simply a guru.  Folks like Dave Tate, Steve Pulcinella, Matt Kroczaleski, Mike Tuchscherer, Jeff Lewis, Jim Wendler, Dan John, Pavel Tsatsouline, etc, clearly know what they are doing, and if you entrust your training to their teachings (or attend their seminars or pay directly for their consultation), you will be in good hands.  You will leave behind the state of nature and thrive in a land of stability and prosperity.

In our next topic, we will discuss the notions of liberty and property in terms of how they apply to your training.