Monday, November 16, 2015


I made the comment in the title once in one of my many streams of consciousness, but now is the time to expand. 
The notion of the “intermediate” lifter is poison.  The very premise is vastly more destructive than it is beneficial, and it needs to be wiped out if we have any hope to progress in our training.
The intermediate is the safe space for a lifter’s ego.  It provides solace, allowing one to stake a claim of experience without having the actual success necessary to back up their words.  It is the banner of the lifting bookworm, well read but poorly trained.  We must declare war on this holy ground and allow no quarter to those seeking its sanctuary.

Ok....maybe one of the FEW times where worrying about your posture is justified

We all understand what a beginner lifter is, at least in theory.  A beginner is someone starting out, learning the basics, developing some fundamental strength and technique, and just beginning their journey.  An advanced athlete seems equally easy a concept to grasp, as these are those individuals that have achieved a high level of performance and clearly demonstrate a mastery of their craft.
But the intermediate?  There is no clear definition, so many have taken it upon themselves to come up with bizarre standards based on a handful of lifts.  Strength standard sites and lifters comparing numbers in an insane chase to be crowned the title of “mediocre”, yes!  And these stats are constantly discovered to be laughably low, a reflection of the trending low standards we as a society maintain as part of our physical decline.
However, what becomes even more destructive WITH these standards it the tendency for trainees to engage in an aggressive campaign of number chasing in order to “earn” these titles.  When told that all one needs to do is deadlift 315lbs at 200lbs bodyweight to be “intermediate”, trainees decide to dial in their form, shorter their ROM, buy a belt and the right shoes, and do whatever it takes to get this number as fast as possible.  That way, they can tell everyone “yeah, I’m an intermediate lifter”.  This is meaningless: you have gotten no bigger or stronger in your pursuit for a title.

Which I suppose is only slightly worse than trying to find a fed with no current records so that you can win a plastic trophy

Others wish to believe that an intermediate trainee is one who progresses at a rate differently than a beginner trainee.  Once again, we run into the issue where one falsely conflates number of pounds moved with amount of strength possessed/gained, but, for the sake of argument, let us suppose this argument has merit.  What now becomes contentious is this notion of “intermediate routines” wherein one believes that the routine dictates the rate of progress.  A beginner routine progresses every workout, whereas an intermediate routine is once a week…but wait, I thought it was the TRAINEE who progressed, not the routine?  Wouldn’t it be the case that, so long as the same intensity of effort is applied by the trainee, their body will make the necessary growth at the necessary rate?  Are we honestly of the belief that, through the power of mathematics and alchemy a training routine will dictate the rate of biological adaptations and transformations within the body, or is it the case that, irrespective of the routine, a trainee progresses at the rate that one’s body is able to progress?
And for the love of God, why would there even be such a thing as an intermediate program?  Wouldn’t one, by the very nature of their “intermediateness”, have enough awareness of their own body to be able to do what it takes to continue to make progress?  Don’t we tend to call the people who are STILL learning the basics “beginners”?

This is the issue with the language employed by those so eager to categorize: they want to quickly be granted a title for their efforts but in the same breath they claim that they are merely the results of sets and reps applied mechanically.  The human element has been removed, as though the outcome of training is the same regardless of the amount of blood, sweat, tears, and skull rupturing intensity is applied.
I propose we eliminate the intermediate term from our lexicon and understand trainees as simply belong to one of 2 categories: beginners, and non-beginners.  This will force more honestly and self-reflection, while at the same time offering little reward for self-promotion. We will know when we are beginners, as we are still asking questions, learning and growing.  We will know when we are not beginners as we will have the basics figured out, know how to train ourselves to keep growing, and have some results to show for our efforts.  Hitting certain stats like a high score in a video game will be inconsequential to our standing, as our ability will be reflection in our actions.
And, ultimately, if people can’t tell that you lift, you’re a beginner. 

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