Sunday, January 26, 2014


Why is it that we as a people feel the need to ask others for permission to succeed?  Are we lacking in self-esteem that we do not trust ourselves to be the producer of our own success, or is it so that we can place all the blame on others when we fail?  Are we building up our excuses before we even start on our journey, padding the path ahead with opportunities to fail rather than succeed?

Why do we feel the need to ask others for critique?  Whether it be on a program we developed or on our form.  Do we honestly not know what is right and wrong, or is it that we have hope that, though we know in our hearts we are wrong, someone may actually approve and validate our foolishness?

I have recently seen the question asked many times of if someone suggests that a beginner follow a protocol.  I feel that the sheer presence of this question is indicative that a beginner should not do whatever he is asking this question about.  Anyone who is lacking the confidence in their own knowledge and ability so much that they need to seek out the validation of an outside source before venturing onward is simply not going to have the necessary resolve to gut out the difficult parts of their journey.  We need bullheadedness, we require stubbornness, we demand the tenacity to fight against logic and reason at all turn and the blind fanaticism necessary to bend reality to our own will.  “I reject your reality, and substitute my own”.

The thing is, I'm pretty sure he can do that

Someone finding themselves in the position that they require permission before they attempt something still feels that they have something to lose.  You have clearly not reached the bottom of the barrel if you fear failure by following this path.  Those who are terrified of being pioneers need only stick with the established norms to succeed, as the path is well trodden and documented.

I am in no way speaking out against the established norms.  I think there is great value in following the path of those who have been successful, as their path clearly has merit and the means for success.  I am speaking instead of those who test the temperature with their toe rather than diving in when exploring uncharted waters.

"And the Angel did say 'Trust me, the water is totally fine.'  But it was not fine, for the Angel was a dick"

When faced with these questions, my response is always the same.  “I do not suggest you do anything, I can only relate what I have found to be successful”.  I find that the question of “Do YOU suggest I do X” is one with nefarious intentions, as it seeks to set me up as the recipient of future blame should the endeavor fail.  The trainee can say that it is not THEIR fault that they met failure, as they were given bad guidance at the start of their journey, and clearly were in no position to succeed from the start.  I find that, when our success or failure hinges on the actions of others, we tend to work with much less vigor that when our success is based entirely upon our own effort.

If you want to learn how to walk a high wire in a hurry, never use a safety net.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Here is something I’ve been playing around with for a while.  I’m sure I stole this idea from Dante and John Meadows, but it’s still fun for me to explore.

When I first started training, my concern was ensuring that I was always prepared to give my all for the first big heavy set of the day.  I would rest and eat well for it, ensure that I was warmed up, get my music going, and give it my all.  I was my strongest for this set, and was able to push the heaviest weight I could.

The side effect of this is that it meant that my remaining work in the workout was going to suffer.  If I really gave that set my all, I could count on going through the motions on the assistance work, if I even managed to get that far at all.  Sometimes, the first set would be so grueling that it turned out to be the ONLY set of the day.  20 rep squats can do this to you easily, as can a really good and heavy deadlift single.

"Good work Dave.  Now lets hit some squats, GHRs, reverse hypers, ab wheel, and hamstring curls if we have time"

As I progressed through my training and began to use my training volume, I discovered another great location to put in my greatest effort: the absolute LAST set of the day.

The premise and execution are simple here.  When operating on the very last set of the day, there is nothing to save yourself for.  You can totally give your all and throw everything you’ve got at the set, and once you have enough energy to limp out of the gym, you are done with the workout.  This is far more beneficial to a trainee compared to having to wait long enough to recover from a killer set before moving on to the REST of the workout, as you greatly reduce your training time.

Surprisingly, doing this for a half hour between sets does not keep your heart rate up

Secondly, making your last set of the day the biggest after an already grueling workout has a built in self-limiting function that can ensure a somewhat safer “balls out” set.  When you try to push yourself when you are at your freshest, it means you will be handling incredibly heavy loads (for your body at least), which in turn means that the consequences for making mistakes are drastic.  When you train at the end of the day, your muscles are already exhausted and your strength is reduced, meaning that, even though the set thoroughly kicks your ass, the weight isn’t as heavy as it could have been.  Having this mental assurance can also mean that you will be less afraid to keep pushing through a tough set compared to when you’ve got a heavy weight on your back and the fear of consequences on your mind.

What is most interested is the fact that you are achieving the same ends of a heavier weighted workout with a lighter weighted workout through this method.  The pre-exhaust principle shines through from back in the golden era of bodybuilding, and you are still able to thoroughly trash your body with a weight that you would typically consider to be “light”.

In applying this approach, I find it beneficial to pick a lift that essentially summarizes the training of that day.  If you were training the squat that day, you could do a 20-30 rep set of squats, front squats, safety squat bar squats, box squats, belt squats, etc.  If it was bench, you could do bench, incline bench, dumbbell bench, floor press, dips, etc.  You can throw in drop sets, circuit work, forced reps, any intensity amplifying movement you desire.  The sky is the limit here, because once this set is done, so are you.

What is also interesting is the ability of this set to transfer to your training.  With understanding that there are many types of strength in this world, one must also understand that there exists the strength that is available to you when you are freshest, and the strength you have when you are absolutely depleted.  Being able to use heavier and heavier weights on this last set of the day is absolutely improving your maximal strength and allowing you to develop the tenacity necessary to remain strong even when physically exhausted.  Anyone who participates in any sort of athletic event knows what an absolute boon this is.

Being able to fight like the left when you're on the right will terrify your opponents

If you try this yourself, check your ego before you start.  Do not be afraid to start with a weight that seems comically light to you, because at about rep 26, suddenly, the joke is over.  Start light and build up gradually overtime while still developing your strength through the rest of the workout, and you will most likely start to see some very positive results in both size and strength.

Monday, January 13, 2014


This thought process is the spiritual successor to my latest rant on form being overrated.  If you see overlaps, I apologize, but this is still an issue.

Oftentimes, in training, we are presented with a caution about pain.  “If you do that, you will hurt yourself”, “that is going to hurt you”, “that hurts just to watch”, etc.  These sentiments are all predicated upon the same notion, that of which being that an activity results in pain.  The inference that is further made with this statement is that, since this activity results in pain, it is therefore an invalid practice.  The pursuit is unworthy, because the pursuer will encounter hardship.

"Screw this, I'm just gonna get some cheetos"

Surely, when phrased in this manner, you can witness the faultiness of such a notion.  How is the sheer presence of the possibility of pain enough to discredit the entire worthiness of an activity?  Is not suffering an essential part of the pursuit of something great?  Has greatness ever come to those that have not suffered in some capacity, to include those that we consider “blessed”, whether it be by genetics of fortune?

I argue quite the contrary, in that the fact that pain can be encountered through an activity grants it far more merit than it does discredit it.  We witness those activities in training that result in pain, to include squats, deadlifts, overhead pressing, conditioning, etc, and contrast that with those activities performed in the gym with minimal pain potential, to include light machine circuits and dumbbell work, and it becomes obvious which has the greatest contribution to success.

"100% natural"

On the topic of success, when we analyze those that have succeeded in the iron game, I defy you to name any who have done so without encountering some manner of injury.  In some instances, the difference between champions and those that showed potential but never prospered is the very ability to recover and grow from constant catastrophic injuries.  Dave Tate spoke of how he had a talent for training around and through injuries, and passed on this talent to many other trainees in order to ensure their own success on the platform.  For these individuals, pain was an foregone conclusion in the pursuit to greatness, it was the method in which it was dealt with that determined the success of the trainee.

To go back to the pain prophets that we opened with, I question why it is that the potential risk for pain is of such great concern, yet they will willfully engage in activities with far greater chances of far greater risks with no concern at all.  How many of these individuals drove to the gym, knowing full well that their risk of being involved in an automobile accident is far more significant than their risk of gym injury?  How many shower without a slip resistant mat?  How many avoid undercooked meats, drink within moderation at all times, never exceed the speed limit, come to full stops at stop signs, etc etc?  Why is it that these “risks” are permissible, while the risk of pain in the pursuit of greatness is considered abhorrent?

Because the average man is only willing to take the risks that allow him to remain average.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I am ready to slaughter the sacred cow on this one, because I’m honestly just getting sick of this.  Go onto any lifting forum on any website, and I guarantee you that within the first 2 pages of posts, you’re going to find a form check thread, and that’s on a slow board.  On a highly trafficked one, you’re going to see many of the threads on the first page are dedicated to form checks.  Videos will take one of two possible directions, the first being some kid who clearly has no basic understanding of how to lift in the first place and should be spending more time working on GPP than hitting the iron, and the second being someone freaking out about the most minor of details in their form.

This is time that could be spent doing chin ups...or dragging a sled...or going for a run...or doing taxes, or just anything

For the former, my advice is to start over.  Build some coordination and strength and start working some basic motor patterns.  This stuff isn’t complicated, it just requires some athleticism.  To the latter, I say stop checking your form and start lifting.  Form is never going to be perfect, and if it is, you’re lifting too light.  Any activity that is building strength is going to require you to venture out of your comfort zone, and this means experiencing minor form deviations.  If you spend all of your time worrying about these deviations and refusing to add weight until everything is 100% perfect, you will never get big or strong.

This need for absolute perfection in form stems from the crippling fear of injury that exists in a population that is undertrained and overstressed.  These people do not understand the reality that this is a lifelong pursuit, and that no one is going to make it out of this alive.  Everyone is going to get hurt at one point, and it’s your ability to come back from it that makes you a champion.  You’re never going to have form that is so perfect that you are injury free, and if you do, it will have come at the cost of actually lifting heavy enough weights to have an impact on your physique and strength.

Pictured with: torn left calf, torn right quadriceps, torn left pec, torn left lat, separated right acromioclavicular joint, two detached biceps tendons, torn his right and left tricep and numerous back injuries

There is always some resident “form expert” on each forum as well, dedicated to pointing out how someone’s left big toe is out of alignment with their right earlobe, reducing maximal power output by at least 17%.  These guys never look impressive, nor do they lift impressive amounts.  The time that they invested in becoming the greatest expert on youtube in diagnosing lifting dysfunction came at the cost of moving heavy iron and experiencing agony.  There is no prize in having the greatest internet form, and your accomplishments will be invisible to anyone who meets you.

When it comes to the helpfulness of strangers, whether they be on the internet or otherwise, understand that you are simply hearing the physical and verbal manifestation of cognitive dissonance and defense mechanisms.  No one “corrects” your form because they want you to succeed and be a better and stronger trainee.  They do this because it is how THEY train, and they do not want to witness someone succeeding employing a method that is different from their own, for the ramification of this reality is that THEY may be wrong.  Rather than change their perspective and admit to their own fallibility, it is much easier to attempt to change everyone else to their own paradigm.  When receiving the wisdom of strangers, measure their success before you give weight to their words.

Let us not confuse form with technique, and many are want to do.  The idea exists in the mind of the uneducated that somehow, when all the mechanical aspects of the lift come into alignment, one will be able to affect all the desired muscles and reach the intended outcome of a lift.  Bull, if you aren’t making the muscles work, you aren’t working the muscles.  I can curl a barbell from my waist up to my shoulders with a straight back and totally end up neglecting my biceps through the process, and conversely I can “cheat” and only curl the bar halfway while absolutely destroying my arms.  In many cases, “perfect” form dictates imperfect results, as it’s not simply about what the body looks like while it moves and object, but how it moves to create that image.

On this topic, let us understand that “textbook form” is a farce.  There is no possibility for there to be a universal “good form”, because such a notion presupposes a specific goal on every trainee on the planet.  It operates under the notion that every trainee that puts a bar on their back and squats does so for the same reason.  Is it not the case that powerlifters, strongmen, weightlifters, crosssfitters and bodybuilders squat, and that each one is going to squat differently than the other in most cases?  How about differently constructed trainees?  What of the powerlifter who is squatting to develop stronger quads versus the one who squats for a stronger posterior chain?  Do they employ the same form simply by nature of the fact that the lift is named “squat”?  Form will always be dependent on goal and individual, and as such the notion of a universal “good form” is laughable.

And when is the last time you associated  the word "textbook" with "strength"?

 Additionally, have some faith in yourself and your body.  It is rarely the case that you perform a movement 100,000 times with no pain and one day your spine shoots out through your anus because you had “bad form” the whole time.  Warning signs can show themselves, and it is up to you to interpret them and adjust as needed.  On the other side, if you are constantly in pain while training, and everyone tells you that you have “good form”, stop listening to insanity and start saving yourself.

It ultimately will always come down to the end result.  Are you meeting your goals with your method?  If yes, then the form check is meaningless, as clearly your form is working, regardless of how it appears.  If no, try some honesty before you seek the aid of others.  Can you honestly not see something wrong with your form before you ask outside sources?  With the wild availability of information provided by the internet and others, are you still lost?  How did the pioneers of lifting manage without youtube?  Maybe that is why so many of them managed to get big and strong without worrying about mobility work and long warm-ups, but that is another rant, for another time.