Sunday, September 29, 2013


No official post this week.  Instead, a chance to watch my video and learn from my experience as a powerlifter trying strongman

Didn’t cut weight for this, because it was my first time competing and I didn’t want to mess around with extra variables.  Weighed in at 197lbs.  Ate a light breakfast of 4 cherry poptarts, a McDonald’s sausage biscuit and a large diet coke.  Was sipping on half Gatorade/half water throughout the day to stay hydrated, and the comp was right across the street from a Costco, so I was able to have pizza for lunch, which is always a good day.
I did practically no warming up for events.  One reason for this was because there was a pretty big turn out for the comp (9 people alone in the 200lb division, and probably about 25 people total), so getting access to the implements was tough.  The other reason was because I simply don’t spend much time warming up in general.  Never really felt a need to.  While other people were foam rolling and stretching, I was sitting on the floor drinking Gatorade.

First event was the 200lb axel clean and press for reps.  Clean each rep.  This was the event I was the most worried about, mainly because up until a month ago I had never done a clean in my life.  I made an axel to train with in my garage, and the very first time I attempted to clean, I sprained the holy hell out of my left wrist.  Since I only had a month to get good at events, I kept training with the injury and went through 100 motrin tablets in a month, but the most worrisome thing was that whenever I sprained my wrist, my grip was shot in my left hand.  I knew that if I re-aggravated the injury, my grip would be done for the rest of the comp.  Also, since cleaning injured my wrist, I was never able to train very heavy for high reps.  I could either go heavy, or light for high reps.

Amazingly, everything came together for the event.  I thought for sure I was going to need to continental clean after the 3rd rep, but I was able to get the weight up with a double overhand for 7 reps.  My biggest problem was overcoming my body’s natural instincts to set up for a deadlift instead of a clean.  You can see it in the video where I go to do the first pull and roll the bar too close.  Once I got out of my own head, I could move the weight.  Also, after watching most of the other competitors, I realized I was one of the strongest, if not THE strongest guys in the 200lb weight class (in terms of actual static, 1rm strength), and wanted to make a point by strict pressing the first rep.  It was a dumb thing to do, but it made an impression on the other competitors.  It didn’t really matter much anyway, as my leg drive was purely cosmetic whenever I did try.  I had managed to get decent at it in the gym, but fell back into old habits on comp day.  7 reps put me in 4th, with 1st doing 10, second doing 9, and third doing 8.

Next event was the 500lb yoke walk/300lb sled drag medley.  I was able to practice the sled, but had never even seen a yoke in person before.  There was a chance to warm up with the implement, but I turned it down, mainly because after the first event I knew my cardio was crap and I basically had to save every ounce of energy I had for each event.  I wore my elitefts SHD knee sleeves for this, and was thankful I had them, because the support went a long way.

Just like on the clean and press, I set up for the yoke like it was a squat, which was a big mistake.  The bar was too low on my back and made it impossible to control.  I could get a few steps before my hips shot out from under me and my legs went wonky.  I did this a few more times before the judge told me to put the bar higher on my neck.  This made a huge difference, and I was able to walk much further with the implement.  I was also holding my breath the entire time, trying to use the valsalva maneuver, which was a mistake that the judge told me to quit doing, and that helped as well.  I still wasn’t comfortable with the implement by the time I got it to the finish line, but I at least managed.

Grabbing the sled was an entirely different problem.  I had trained up an incline with a wide sled with long straps, so I was used to putting a LOT of force into my backwards drag.  This was a rogue sled with two skis on a level surface with a short chain, which meant that as soon as I grabbed the v handle, it went flying.  I ended up losing my footing and falling backwards from walking too fast with it, and actually had to move slower because I couldn’t coordinate my feet with the rate of the sled.  I barely made it to the finish line before the event ended, having to fall backwards and row the sled the last few inches to make it in time.  In general, I knew footspeed was going to be my weakness for this comp, and it’s something I need to work on.

Farmer’s walks with 180lb per hand for 40 meters with a turn at the mid point was next for me, and since my wrist was feeling good I wasn’t too worried about this.  I knew my footspeed would be mediocre, and I posted a pretty average time of about 39 seconds.  Amazingly, it was my right hand that lost its grip rather than my left.  I think I may have set up the right poorly at the start, because it started to slip before I made the turn, and once I had made the turn the implements bumped into each other and it forced me to drop.  Otherwise, pretty uneventful, my training with the implements helped out.

Next event was a deadlift medley with a 500lb 18” pull, 405lb trap bar, 315lb barbell and 365lb axel.  I had pulled 600 in a powerlifting comp at 181 a year before and 620 for a double with straps a few months prior to this, so I came in confident.  Only thing I was sweating was the axel pull, just because I had issues with it in training because of my wrist, so I chose that as my first pull.  I hit up a smelling salt beforehand, because I’m still a powerlifter, and blitzed through the course.  Only thing I could’ve done to do this event faster was move quicker between the implements, because I managed this in under 15 seconds.

Final event was 220lb atlas stone over a 40” bar.  I had built a stone trained out of 2 45lb bumper plates, but was only able to work technique with that.  This was my first time with a real stone, and at a real weight.  Also my first time using tacky.  When the event started, I lapped the stone first thing just to get a feel for the weight and the technique.  I did this for 2 more reps before I realized I was strong enough to just move the stone form the floor to the bar in one movement, which saved a lot of time.  I used a deadlift technique of getting the stone rolling toward me before the pickup so that I could use it’s momentum to roll back onto my heels, which really helped me move fast.  Sometimes, the judges would deadstop the stone, which would kill my strategy.  I managed to get 12 reps with this, and knowing what I do now, I’m sure I could’ve got another 2 reps in.

All in all, I had a blast, and am really proud of my showing.  I’m going to continue to build my static strength, because I love powerlifting and I’m good at being strong, but I’m going to ensure that I work an event into my training at least once a week to improve my conditioning and technique.  My cardio and footspeed were my weaknesses coming in, along with just my general inexperience, and I think I can definitely improve those come next go-round.  I would love to see a contest with a max rep or weight deadlift and a log press next time, and will keep my eyes peeled for what is available to me.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I’ve written on this topic in the past, but wanted to expand upon it and go more in depth.  Keep in mind, this is just a theory I have, but I think I am on to something.

The concept of accidental strength is based upon the notion that, as trainees, we can be unaware of weaknesses we possess.  You may be diligently tracking your training and noting trends as they appear, but sometimes there can simply be unknown variables affecting your progression.  Due to the fact that we cannot train every movement every time we train, and that the principle of training economy will dictate that we make use of the movements that we know will produce the results we desire, we have a tendency to stick with the same movements whenever we train.  A powerlifter will bench, squat and deadlift, an Olympic lifter will do the clean and jerk and snatch, a strongman will drag and carry, etc.

...crossfit maybe?

In selecting certain movements to train, we are in fact doing so at the exclusion of other movements.  This necessitates us to ask why it is that we chose not to do these movements.  I present that there are two basic reasons to not do a movement, the first being that we know it does not benefit us, and the second being that we do not know if it benefits us.  Arriving at the first conclusion necessitates experimentation, in that we must have attempted the movement with enough frequency/sincerity to know that, despite our best efforts, it is not helping our progress.  Everyone is different and will have their own movements that do not work.  For me, the best example I can think of is bent over rows, which, no matter how many times I have tried, simply do not help me get bigger or stronger.
In the case of the latter reason we are not trying something, we owe it to ourselves to attempt the movement in the hopes of achieving accidental strength.  We may find that, despite the fact that one has a strong bench and overhead press, the incline press is a very weak movement for this person.  They have never been in a position where they have needed to move weight in this fashion due to their strong horizontal and vertical pressing ability, and have been able to compensate with one or the other when the need arose.  When forced into a less than ideal mechanical position, thus removing the lats ability to contribute, the weakness manifests itself, and in turn represents an opportunity to grow stronger.  By strengthening a weakness in this less than ideal position, it allows one to display greater strength in an ideal position.

A secondary contributing factor to accidental strength is the reality that no person is a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter.  I am moving away from these terms, and instead contending that one is a beginner, intermediate, or advanced trainee of specific lifts.  What I am getting at is that, if a lifter has spent years training as a powerlifter, it is quite possible that they are an intermediate or advanced bencher, squatter, or deadlifter, but when you give them a strongman log to overhead press, they are in fact a beginner log presser.  The ramifications of this reality is that one has a much greater potential to grow exponentially in this new lift compared to one they have mastered, due to the nature of “beginner gains” and rapid adaptation to a new stimulus.  This advanced bencher may need to spend years adding an extra 5lbs to their bench, but they can add 20lbs to their log press in a matter of months, if not weeks, which will have significant carryover to their ability to press in general.

Some exceptions may apply

To take a personal example here, as I have noted previously, I am training for a strongman competition.  Despite spending years training the powerlifts, and having a fair degree of success with my best comp lifts at 181 as 502/336/601 (and current gym lifts of 545 squat for a double, 340 bench and 620 deadlift for a double at 200lbs), I have never trained any of the strongman lifts.  One of the events I am training for is the axel clean and press.  The first time I tried to find the maximal amount of weight I could axel clean, I got as high as 190lbs.  I could not get anything higher than that to my chest, despite my best efforts.  The next time I trained the lift (2 days later), I managed to get 210lbs to my chest.  That is a 20lb PR in 2 days time, simply because I got better at the movement.  Adding 20lbs to my max deadlift takes about 8 months.  Meanwhile, my ability to clean bigger weights has a positive impact on my ability to generate power, which is a positive quality in most athletic and strength endeavors.

Pursuing accidental strength is a surprisingly easy task.  When I structure a training program, the first lift of the day is the lift I am intentionally training that day for the sake of growing stronger (IE: the squat, bench, deadlift, or overhead press).  This means that the first movement of the day is both a training movement and a measuring device.  I train this movement to grow stronger, and if I am stronger on this movement than I was last week, that means I am training correctly.  The second movement I perform is a supplemental exercise that I train for heavy volume with the intent of making that first movement stronger.  If this was the day I benched, then this supplemental exercise could be 5x10 benching, overhead pressing, incline pressing, etc.  This is a great place to put into practice the pursuit of accidental strength.  Instead of sticking with the tried and true, use a movement that you haven’t used before.  If you always bench medium grip, go close.  If you’ve never used dumbbells, use them.  Use chains, use bands, go crazy.  Give it an honest effort, not just 1 training session.  If, after a month, your first lift has stalled or regressed, do something else.  If, however, your primary lift continues to increase while you train this supplemental lift, congratulations, you have grown accidentally strong.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


There is beauty in purity.  The pure is the uncorrupted, the untouched, the essence and very spirit of an object.  We admire purity when we observe it, and we seek it in its absence.  It is with this understanding that we should in turn endeavor to be pure in our dealings, actions, and persons.

What I am arriving at is not a question of morality.  I am not speaking of steroids or cheating or any such ethical debate.  That is a personal choice, and not my place to judge or advise.  What I am instead speaking to is the idea that one must embrace what they choose to be, and in turn choose to be something that they would endeavor to embrace.

Within lifting, many trainees spend their time wallowing in regret and pining for a different approach rather than committing to their current gameplan.  These are the people that pay lip service to abbreviated training while they are simply bidding their time until they can move on to a “hypertrophy program”, or people who are in a “bulking phase” that just want to have a six pack.  Their actions may tell one tale, but their minds tell another.  While they may be married to their plan, they commit adultery in their minds by lusting after the future.

Clearing your history doesn't help when she's been watching you the entire time

We have to live in the moment.  This is not a call to hedonism, but to living our training.  When we decide that we are strength training, we have to exist purely for the love and want of strength.  We cannot strength train in the hopes of accidentally improving bodycomp along the way, but purely to become stronger.  When we cut weight, we must exist purely for the need to cut weight, with no backward glances at getting larger or stronger.  Our commitment must be 100% to our objective, as we give it all of our mind, body, spirit and soul.

Those trainees who cannot accomplish this are yo-yos.  They are the children who declare with much bravado how they are going to cut, spend 2 weeks losing weight, become terrified when they appear to be growing smaller, and go back on their plan, repeating the constant process of wheels spinning.
 They are the ones who sell the party line and say they endeavor to build up a strength foundation before moving on toward physique training and then attempt to sneak in 14 different movements into an abbreviated program, leading them to question their own lacking progress.  They are impure, and in their impurity they achieve mediocrity.  We seek the pure because it is rare, and those who succeed in this world of the impure will in turn stand out among their peers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


When I was a child, I idolized strength.  The first time I witnessed someone being big and strong, I knew it was what I wanted to be.  I devoured stories about men with great strength, watched movies with strong characters, and was in awe of strong people.  Men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hulk Hogan were heroes to me, along with the competitors in the World’s Strongest Man and anyone else I could find that had become famous for being big and strong.

As I grew older, I heard whispers of “cheating” from other people.  These guys were all on steroids, had amazing genetics, took all sorts of supplements, etc etc.  What these people had done, us average joes could never hope to accomplish.  We didn’t have the genetics, we didn’t have the drugs, we didn’t have the time, these guys were special, and we weren’t.  The message here was that we should not listen to these people, because what they had accomplished was impossible for us to manage.  We were mere mortals, while these guys were special, and in no way could they give advice that would help us be like them.

If I was made in your image, why don't I have a six pack?

I ask you, if not these people, who should we follow?  Why would it be that we choose not to listen to the most successful people when it comes to following our goals?  We are using their success to justify their inability to succeed.  We say that the only way they succeeded was because of their genetics and drug use, as though they were successful in spite of their efforts rather than as a direct result of them.  It is this idea that those who have reached the elite levels of strength and size were simply too blessed to know what it takes to actually get there.

Who am I to follow then?  The mediocre?  Those who have not succeeded?  Why?  Because of this notion that, because they cannot succeed due to their limitations, they in turn know how to succeed?  In what realm does this make sense?

This guy must know the best way to swim

Or perhaps it is time for us to understand that those who have reached the elite levels of size and strength are competing against those who are equally blessed, both in terms of genetics and drug usage, and in turn it was their hard work and knowledge that saved them.  Yes, when you are walking among mortals as a god, it is easy to become impressive, but once you are battling on Mount Olympus, the standards have changed.

Aside from this though, we are simply demonizing success, and using its presence as an argument for unfair advantages.  We tell people to work hard and push past their limits, but once they do this, we tell them that, because of their success, it is clearly evident that they had natural advantages all along.  Those who succeed were simply blessed, while those who fail to succeed are “real”?  What a grim view of getting stronger we have developed.  If the presence of success is the evidence of unfair advantages, does this mean we are playing a game with no actual chance of winning?

Faster die so you can end all your friendships sooner

I instead wager that this is merely the argument of the weak in spirit.  If you fight for your limitations, you will receive them, whereas if you refuse to accept them, you will bypass them.  I use him in many examples, but Matt Kroczaleski is a great example of this fact.  As a cross country runner and lightweight wrestler in high school and a testicular cancer survivor, the man clearly has poor genetics for getting bigger and stronger, and was told as much when he started training.  Now, as a successful powerlifter and bodybuilder, the internet chatter is that he is a “genetic freak”, and has only been able to succeed because of this fact.  Once again, we use his success as evidence of some sort of unfair advantage, rather than a testament to the fact that he has accomplished exactly what we are in turn setting out to do as well.

When it comes time to decide who knows how to train and succeed, it is ultimately up to you to decide if you will follow those who have found success or those who have not.  I still have my heroes.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


5: Start overhead pressing

Like I said, you’re only bench pressing.  I know it seems cool to have a big bench, but if you want to look impressive and perform well, you need to press overhead.  Big shoulders are cool, and the strength you develop from a strong overhead will carryover into a lot of other things (to include that bench you want so badly).  Dumbbells and barbells are both great, don’t overcomplicate things, just move heavy stuff over your head.

This will do just fine

6: Don’t be afraid to get a little fat

This doesn't mean getting sloppy and obese, but putting on muscle means putting on a little fat.  Your friends freak out as soon as they can’t see an ab, but they’re also skinny and weak.  The big and strong guys on campus don’t give a crap about their abs, because they’re too busy crushing people in their sports and smashing weights in the gym to care.  You’re a kid, your metabolism is through the roof, and getting rid of fat will be easy once you’ve gained some weight.  Abuse this time now, because you’ll never get it back.  Try to keep it clean, but don’t be afraid of a little fast food when needed.

Just get it protein style and you're good

7: Hammer your rear delts every chance you get

Just like chins, your rear delts want volume, and hammering them will give you some much needed shoulder stability and correct some imbalances between your posterior and anterior delts.  Too much benching and not enough back work is taking a toll on you, and you can start fixing it now by going overboard on the rear delt work.  Every time you lift, do some face pulls or band pull aparts or something, and do the same first thing in the morning or before you go to bed.  I have never heard of someone doing too much rear delt work, strive to be the first.

8: Take creatine and drink more water

Stop listening to your dumbass friends.  Creatine isn’t “cheating” or “water muscles” or any such stupidity.  It’s one of the best supplements on the planet, and its dirt cheap.  Your recovery between sets will be better, which means you can have better/more intense workouts, which will make you bigger and stronger.  You don’t need to cycle it, and just do them damn loading phase.  Some people say you need it, some people say you don’t, but ultimately it’s an extra 20 or so servings, not a big loss either way.  Additionally, creatine is a great lesson in proper hydration.  Drink a gallon of water a day.  Yes, this means being one of those guys that carries around the gallon jug and drinks from it throughout the day.  Who cares what people think, you’re getting stronger.

Stay hydrated