Sunday, February 23, 2014


I have witnessed a confusing trend in the world of lifting these days, one in which trainees speak of how much they love to train.  I hear of how people love to squat, or love to deadlift, or love to clean, and in general, just love to train.

I don't understand this.

Would you care to explain it?

Training should not be loved, it should be despised.  It should be offensive to us to train.  In general, we should hate to train.

Why?  Because love will cloud the mind, while hate will focus it.  When we are in love, we are forgiving, when we hate, we are merciless.  We freely and willfully associate with those that we love, while we distance ourselves from those we hate.

Allow me to expand the metaphor here.  We must keep in mind at all times that training is a means to an end, not the end itself.  However, those who have decided to love the means are in turn no longer pursuing the end, but pursuing the means purely for the sake of pursuing the means.  We must love results, not training, and we must hate training, not results.

Those that love their training are those that are willing to engage in non-beneficial training purely for the sake of being able to train.  They will continue to follow non-successful strategies due to the oath of love they have sworn to their training, for they are full of forgiveness and empathy.  Those that hate their training will only engage in the bare minimal amount of training necessary in order to accomplish their goals, because like a truly dedicated person, one is willing to endure what they hate in order to acquire what they love.

No one loves taking medicine, everyone loves feeling better.  No one is drinking cough syrup for the flavor, but for the benefit of being able to stop coughing.  Your training and goals should mirror the same relationship.

"Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down" probably killed a lot of diabetics

On the subject of relationships, to continue to expand the metaphor, when we love someone, we tend to see past their flaws and accept them for who/what they are.  When we hate someone, their flaws are magnified, and the only features we focus on.  Your training needs the same critical eye of the latter, where you view it as purely a flawed object.  With this view, you are no longer married to pet movements, such that you do not NEED to squat, or deadlift.  You are using your training only as a means to achieve your goal, and movements only have value as a means to accomplish this end.  Anything not helping your meet your goal is of no value, and will be cast aside.

This isn't romance, this is a toxic relationship that you know you shouldn't be in but you keep coming back to it because you're addicted to the outcome.  

Just when I think I'm out...

We don't love training, we love results, and we endure training.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


In lifting, there is a commonly held opinion that the best way to get better at the competition lifts are to perform them exactly how they are done in competition.  The go to phrase is that you have to "practice how you play", and that, if you do not perform these lifts in training as you would in competition, you will not be making these lifts stronger for competition.

I feel that those who hold this opinion must not have any athletic background, because with any scrutiny, it falls apart.

Although I'm not totally sold on this training method

To understand the issue with attempting to map this pithy expression onto lifting, one must understand that with non-lifting sports, weight training is not the competition itself, but purely a means to get stronger for one's sport.  As such, we must understand that, with sports, we are dealing with two specific instances where effort is employed to improve performance.

1: Practice
2: Training

We must not confuse one with the other.  When one engages in practice, the intent is to rehearse the movement patterns in order to ingrain them into muscle memory.  For example, when a basketball player practices free throws, they are practicing the mechanics of shooting the basketball with the intent of making it into the basket.  In contrast, the intent of training is to improve the attributes of the player, not their mechanical skill.  When one engages in training, they become bigger, stronger, faster, leaner, better conditioned, etc, while when one engages in practice, they become better.

This ultimately is the conflict that confuses lifting trainees, because in our mind, becoming better at lifting is equated to becoming stronger, but the reality is that these are two very different things.  Two lifters could add 50lbs to their bench press, but one could have managed this because they become a better bencher, and the other could do so because they became a stronger bencher.  Ideally, you will become both through your efforts, but in doing so it becomes necessary to know when you are practicing and when you are training.

The guy on the right may be a better fighter, but I wouldn't want to get hit by the one on the left

Not every lifting session is necessarily a practice session at the lift, and in many cases one can instead engage in training for the sake of not becoming a better lifter, but a stronger one.  In these instances, it is the case that one may have technique on a lift that in no way mirrors their form on a competition lift, but is very much accomplishing the goal of making the trainee stronger at the lift.

Squats not to competition depth can be employed to overload the muscles involved in the lift to make them stronger.  Touch and go bench presses can be used to overload the triceps.  Touch and go deadlifts can be used to maintain tension in the lower back.  Low bar squatters can squat high bar to develop their quads, and high bar squatters can squat low bar to develop their hamstrings.

Ok, no, shut up

The argument proposed that training this way will somehow develop poor muscle memory resorting in one failing in competition is again one that ignores athletes that employ weight training that compete in other sports.  A football lineman will perform heavy squats with a barbell on their back from a standing position, even though said lineman will start a play on the line, in no way standing upright and moving straight up and down.  Why is there no fear of this lineman falling back on "bad muscle memory" when it is their time to perform, yet when it comes to a lifter we give them far less credit?  Do we assume that lifters are unable to distinguish between form used on a competition lift and form used on a training lift?

Additionally, if one is to practice how they play, why do we not demand that the lineman perform all of his weight training in full pads, after many explosive starts off the line, dehydrated, fatigued, most likely partially injured, with several 300lb men trying to tackle him?  Once again, we understand that the point of either training or practice is to produce better results, and this necessitates creating an environment conducive toward this goal.  A boxer does not learn the fundamentals of the sport while being mercilessly pummeled by a professional fighter, but instead is gradually taught more and more of the sport while resistance is gradually increased.  And even a professional fighter at the peak of their game does not fight their training partners in training with the intention of beating them, but instead spars at a lower resistance with the intent of improving their abilities and strengthening weaknesses.  Rarely is it the case that we actually practice like we play, but instead practice so that we get better at what we play.

This is not to say that a lifter is absolved of their responsibility to practice their sport.  A lifter must be able to execute the competition lifts under competition conditions come the day of the competition.  However, this does not mean that every lifting session they perform must be a practice session.  Some sessions may definitely be dedicated toward practice, whereas others are dedicated to training.  As a lifter, it is your responsibility to understand when you are performing one and not the other, and when you NEED to perform one and not the other.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Video first, with write-up to follow

Summary up front: Came in 4th of 9.  Missed third place by 1 point.  Really pleased with my performance, especially with the constant changes I had to deal with, both in the competition and prior to it.  Loving strongman, want to keep doing it.

When I originally signed up for this competition, it was 2 hours away from me and had a last man standing deadlift and no yoke walk, which made me happy.  By the time to competition rolled around, it was 5 hours away from me and became deadlift for reps with a yoke walk.  Still, I wanted to get another competition in, and this one looked fun.  Also, there were zero weight classes, which actually seemed pretty exciting to me, as it meant the competition field would be pretty big and diverse.  At 5’9 and 200lbs, I was definitely one of the smaller folks there.

Morning of comp, my stomach was messed up.  Loaded up at Sizzler the night before, and something wasn’t settling right.  Took 2 children’s pepto to help settle things and showed up to the comp site feeling good otherwise.

Did my traditional zero warming up while the promoters continued to postpone the rules briefing to give us more time for warming up.  Maybe one day I will embrace foam rolling and mobility work, but right now it meant I had a lot of downtime to eat poptarts.

First event was the overhead press medley.  120lbs dumbbell, 225lb barbell, 200lb axle and 200lb log.  I didn’t really train for this (or honestly much of the competition), just letting my overhead press training take care of the strength portion and figured I’d just wing the cleans.  I did get some work with my log at home to learn the technique, but for the barbell, this was literally my first time ever doing a clean.

Murphy reared its head here when the guy before me dropped the dumbbell from the overhead position and severely bent it.  I was the last guy in the medley, so there wasn’t much discussion for finding a replacement, I just had to deal.  The “cambered dumbbell” proved pretty unwieldy to me, and after a few attempts with it, I moved on to the barbell.  The clean wasn’t terrible, but I had expended so much energy on the dumbbell that something I had strict pressed in training before was taking a lot out of me.  After a second attempt, I got it overhead.  I moved on to the axle with a much easier clean and press, then onto the log where I again had issue getting the weight overhead, but managed on a second attempt.  I finally came back to the dumbbell and gave it an honest try with some leg drive.  Despite being a little gunshy with my recently re-dislocated shoulder (managed that 2-3 weeks ago by rolling over in my sleep), I managed to get the weight overhead.  I didn’t have a fast time, but I was one of the 4 or 5 people that even managed to complete the medley, so I wasn’t in a terrible standing.

Next up was farmer’s walks, 200lb per hand, max distances, turns every 50’.  I did 180lb per hand in my last competition, but dropped at the turn around, and this time, we weren’t allowed any.  I didn’t train the walks themselves for this, but instead was holding 405lb double overhand for max time in my gym (I managed 65 seconds before the comp).  Since time wasn’t the factor, I took this way slow and controlled, and attempted to gut it out for as long as I could.  I managed to clean a little over 150’ before I kicked the implement with my back foot on the turn and ended up dropping the implement, but this was a good enough showing for 3rd place in the event.

Next event was the “Death Medley”.  500lb yoke for 100’, 500lb tire for 10 flips, and 400lb sled for 50’.  Anyone who watched my last video knows that the yoke walk was not kind to me the last time I did it (and coincidentally the only time I had done it prior to this competition), but I did take some lessons from the experience.  With a powerlifting background, the 500lbs on my back wasn’t a concern at all, so I set the yoke height very low so that, when I picked it up on my back, I had a lot of clearance from the floor.  My coordination is terrible, and any chance I had to not let the skids kick the floor I was going to take.  This, combined with remembering to take short steps and set the bar high on my neck made this much easier for me, as I managed to need only 1 set down total.

I had never done a tire flip before, but managed to figure it out pretty well.  I think my heavy deadlifting background helped, as the first flip I barely needed to use my knee to move the tire, and subsequent flips went pretty smooth.  After the first 5 flips, I took off my elitefts SHD knee sleeves because it felt like my quads were about to explode from the pump.  After the 10th flip, my conditioning wasn’t feeling too hot, but I was currently setting the mark to beat and knew the sled drag wouldn’t be terrible.  I fell down as soon as I broke the inertia, which is exactly what I did at my last contest, but otherwise, had no issues and completed the medley in 2 minutes, which was good enough for third.  After spending 15 minutes trying not to puke, I was ready for the next event.

Next up was the arm over arm F150 truck pull.  Did zero training for this (are you seeing a trend), and figured I’d just pull a truck.  That’s pretty much what happened too.  I noticed a guy that started standing and fell backwards to start the pull, and I gave that a try.  I noticed I spent too much time pulling with only one hand, and when I was done, my left shoulder felt like it exploded, but otherwise, pretty uneventful.  Finished in 33 seconds, good enough for a 5th place finish.

Final event was my event.  405lb deadlift for reps.  I had pulled 600lbs for 7 reps total in a recent training session (4 before the first put down, 2 before the second, and a final one after that), and the only concern I had here was if my cardio would hold up.  I hit the nose tork, strapped up, and went to town.  We were told that we could do touch and go, but whereas the two other guys I was competing against had bumper plates, my bar had iron, and the judged got on me for bouncing the weight, and my back was too fried to control the eccentric, so I pulled deadstop for the most part.  I managed 19 solid reps before trying for a sketchy 20th.  The ref wasn’t having it, and after fighting for a few seconds, I set it down to regroup and make sure I got that 20th.  I tied for first on this event, which just makes it all the more painful that I didn’t get that first 20th, as I would have taken this event which would have gotten me a podium finish.  Got 4th place by 1 point, but I also made a lot of fans with my last performance.  I’m not so much a strongman as a deadlifter that competes in strongman competitions, haha.

I’ve got no real injuries, bumps or bruises to speak of.  Feeling good and got nice and fat after it was all said and done.  Going to keep my eyes peeled for future events, and until then will keep doing the things I suck at and trying to become a more well rounded strongman.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


We all have bad days in training.  Sometimes, it is for reasons would could see coming, to include a lack of sleep, poor nutrition, nagging injuries, break ups, hang nails, leap years, confusing your antipsychotics with your antidepressants, etc.

"No, I haven't seen your LSD, have you seen the dragon in the kitchen?!"

Sometimes, the bad day has no explainable reason.  You walk into the gym, and it’s like someone turned up the gravity.  You were having a great day, yet, as soon as the bar gets in your hands, nothing goes right.  What was once your easy warm-up is soon turning into a grinder, and the prospect of hitting your desired reps and weight that day goes out the window.

Regardless of how you ended up in this position, it happens.  The question is, what do you do now?  Many are tempted to hang up the workout when they feel the warm-ups falling apart, feeling it’s better to just come back another day when they feel stronger.  Though a viable option, what if you decide to push through?  What do you get from this?

I mean, aside from this

You are developing “bad day strength”.  We know that it is true that we cannot always be at our peak strength, but what is also true is that we can bridge the gap between our good days and our bad days by training ourselves to be stronger when we are weaker.

What we’re arriving at here is the notion that a “PR” is not a universality, but instead contingent upon the conditions of which it occurs.  Your all time PR is a PR set in ideal conditions, with adequate rest, nutrition, warm-up, rest, timing, and preparedness.  However, you can just as easily have a bad day PR, which is to say, the heaviest weight you can lift when you are poorly rested, underfed, and overstressed.  Knowing this information about yourself becomes valuable, for as bad days occur, you have an ability to measure how much you have progressed by comparing previous bad day PRs with current ones.  You may have only hit 6 reps with a weight that you should hit 10 of on a good day, but perhaps that is a 4 rep PR on a bad day.

By improving your ability to be strong under less than ideal conditions, you are making yourself a stronger person in general.  Your strength is not dependent upon your ability to peak, but instead always available, even under the worst of conditions, and you in turn gain an understanding of just how much you are capable of even when things are at their worst.  For a powerlifter, this knowledge is incredibly valuable in determining your opening attempts.  For a strongman, this is helpful in terms of knowing what you can expect out of yourself later in the competition, when you have to hit deadlift for max reps after a heavy loading event or medley.  For anyone, this is vital toward understanding that many of your limitations are self-imposed, and within in you dwells the potential for great strength under any circumstances.

He didn't have time to do his mobility drills before this, but somehow he managed

Not every bad day in the gym is a day wasted.  Sometimes, bad days are the perfect opportunity to develop some bad day strength.