Sunday, September 13, 2015


Part III of the series.  I'm still learning after 16 years of hitting the iron, but here are a few more lessons that seem to only get learned from experience.


-“You can’t outtrain a bad diet.”  When I was 16, the only thing I wanted in the world as abs.  I had been training for a while, and had gotten a little bigger and stronger, but my midsection was still unimpressive.  I decided that I was going to dedicate the summer between my junior and senior year of high school getting a six pack.  I was quite well read on the internet, so I knew that the secret was to do fasted cardio as soon as I woke up so I’d be in the “fat burning zone”.  In fact, I was going to get abs SUPER fast, because along with fasted cardio in the morning, I was going to do cardio at night too, doubling the effort, and therefore getting the results in half the time.  I ended up running 16 miles a day on some days (8 miles in the morning, 8 miles in the evening), with other days comprised of rope skipping, heavy bag work, swimming, etc.  Consequently, I worked up quite an appetite with all of this, and ate tons of cookies, sweets, ice cream, etc.  I was starving!

Image result for man vs food pizza challenge
"Gotta carb load"

You know how that story turns out: I ended up in great cardiovascular shape with no abs.  Even as a 16 year old, with hormones flooding my system (which, by the way, is INCREDIBLY overplayed online, but that’s another rant) and a training regimen that could put some Olympians to shame, I couldn’t outtrain the crappy diet I was living off of.  As I got older, I stared to learn the value of eating quality food if I wanted to positively impact my physique.  Comically enough, the times where I had visible abs in my life where the times when abs WEREN’T my goal: it was just a side effect of pursuing my goals.  When I was heavily invested in fighting, powerlifting, or strongman and eating right to further my training, the fat around my midsection melted away and I looked like someone that was in shape.  Effort and intensity are crucial to building muscle and strength, but they don’t feed you.

Also, to add just a little more to this lesson learned, I really wish I had learned how to cook when I was younger.  I spent so many years eating crap when I could’ve just as easily (and for a much smaller expense) learned how to operate a slow cooker and a foreman grill and been set.  If you’re at home and the majority of your meals come out of a box, do yourself a favor and master the above mentioned tools (and a microwave), learn how to make 4 meals (that include at least 1 vegetable), and eat well for at least the majority of the week.  You’ll thank yourself later.

If you want to simulate being married, get one of these and you'll have a home cooked meal when you get home.  However, you still should throw away anime love pillow.

-“Strength is built when it ISN’T being demonstrated.” Allow me to indulge myself, this is a trip down memory lane.  My absolute fondest memories of training are when I was 21-22.  I got married at 21 (and yes, we’re still together, so she must be as crazy as I am), started a new job, and used my income to create the bare bones of my home gym (which today, has grown into quite a monster).  I was following “Westside”, at least as I understood it by having read every article on elitefts along with their basic training manual. I would discover years later that I had no clue what I was doing, but I was at least following the whole 2 DE/2ME day approach.

I love looking back upon this time of my life, for along with the bliss of newlywed life, I was making phenomenal progress in my training.  My deadlift went from 475 to 540 (no belt, I didn’t own one) in the span of 9 months, along with various other improvements.  I assumed that this MUST have been from the maximal effort work I was doing, wherein I would spend 1 week squatting, 1 week deadlifting, 1 week front squatting, and 1 week doing a good morning, in all cases working up to a PR on a single rep. Sure, I was doing a ton of assistance work, but you don’t get stronger without lifting heavy weights in the 1-5 rep range, and while everything else was “for hypertrophy”, my only chance to gain any strength was on these ME days.

I just wanted to point out that Louie is the only white guy that can do this WITHOUT looking like a tool

Many many many years later, I realize what it was I was doing back then.  I was accidentally getting strong by following a sound program with great intensity even if I had no idea how it actually worked.  ME work teaches you how to STRAIN, which is a fantastic quality to learn and master when one’s goal is to demonstrate their strength, but strength itself is a product of a whole lot of muscles coming together at once: muscles that were built up with the ASSISTANCE work.  I wasn’t getting stronger when I was performing max effort work; I was learning how to better recruit my available strength to its maximal extent.  The times where I was building strength were the times when I was diligently plugging away at my assistance lifts: bringing up weak points and hammering the muscles from different angles. It wasn’t sexy, there were no burst blood vessels, I wasn’t yelling about Valhalla, but it was where the magic happened.  I now understand that max effort work is a time to figure out what is and is not working with training, and assistance work is the time to fix these issues and allow myself to grow stronger, such that, when I do more max effort work, I can lift more weights and get even better.  Powerlifters don’t do powerlifting meets to get stronger, they train.

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