Saturday, September 24, 2016


I have written around this concept so many times, but now I want to just get it out there and have it fully established.  When I first started training, I believed that it was an infinitely complex process, with millions of variables to consider in order to be successful.  Everything needed to be finely tuned and optimized in order to have any chance of being bigger and stronger.  Meals had to be timed perfectly with the exact right ratio of protein to carbs from the purest of sources, volume of training had to be exactly correct, along with the golden amount of frequency, absolute perfect form, the most ideal movements scientifically proven to release the optimal amount of natural testosterone and GH, etc.  Hell, I even scrapped the sides of my blender to make sure I wasn’t losing out on any of the protein in my shake, for I was SURE that doing so would lead to my downfall.  The further along I got in my training, the less any of that stuff mattered, and the more I tried to experiment to find out if it was even possible to really train wrong, and fundamentally I realized that, as long as 3 principles were met, success was a given.  Those 3 principles are effort, consistency and time.

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Honorable mention goes to being crazy

To start, I pick the word effort because lifting nerds have ruined “intensity”, and now I can’t say that without someone telling me that intensity only refers to percentage of 1rm and can in no way mean effort of intensity applied in a workout.  But now that we are done talking about, it really is about intensity.  It’s about applying yourself to the workout with reckless abandon, pushing WELL out of your comfort zone and basically trying to make the entire training session suck as much as possible.  This is a massive missing variable in a lot of trainees’ protocols, and the reason is that it’s not really something that can be taught.  There is an alarming amount of adults that went through their entire childhood without ever needing to physically exert themselves in any capacity, as they never played any sort of sport or engaged in any sort of serious recreational physical activity.  As such, when undertaking a physical training program, these individuals only know how to exert themselves to levels that are unproductive for facilitating change, but meanwhile, because it is a level of exertion higher than 0, they assume they ARE pushing themselves.  It’s painful as an outside observer, for you can clearly pinpoint the issue, but can’t possibly explain how to fix it in a way that is useful.  It’s like trying to describe the color blue to a race of blind aliens.
Those that get it understand; suffering must occur in order to experience growth.  Training isn’t fun, otherwise more people would do it.  One must constantly apply skull splitting effort and intensity to their training to see the results they want.  No, I’m not saying you need to find a 1rm on face pulls or try to max deadlifts everytime you pull; I’m saying that you need to be breathing hard, leaving sweat on the equipment, getting red in the face, feeling uncomfortable, and fighting with your innerself on if you really want to continue or not.  20 Rep Squats breaks all the “rules” of the internet; the rep range is too high, the volume is too low, there are too few movements, and it ignores science.  And amazingly, it has been working for decades, because despite all its “flaws”, it’s one of the biggest crash courses in effort and intensity one could ever experience.  6 weeks of it transforms you in ways that go way beyond the physical, and by the time you’re done, you finally “get” effort.  However, the sad part is that the people who start it and don’t get it never will.  They’ll quit at rep 11 and then wonder what all the fuss was about.  It sadly can’t be taught.

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People might be able to read the book, that might be able to comprehend the book, but few will actually understand it

After effort, we arrive at consistency.  I’ll be honest; I cannot actually understand lacking this quality, but through observation I understand that it is necessary.  When I talk about consistency, I’m talking about the consistent application of the above mentioned effort along with consistently training in general.  Too often, trainees will engage in training binges; they’ll watch a Rocky movie, get “inspired”, and go off on a hardcore 2 week training bender.  0400 wake up times, 3 hour training sessions, living, eating and breathing training.  Then, one day, they hit the snooze alarm…and the next day they do the same…and then the next…and pretty soon it’s been 4 months since they trained, before they watch another movie and start the cycle again.  This trainee lack’s consistency, and it’s the downfall of their success.  They might be able to train superharcore, and they may spend years doing this, but you can’t undo 4 months of not training with 2 weeks of hardcore training.  One needs to show up constantly and consistently if they wish to make progress.
Tying into consistency is time, and though they may appear like the same concept, they differ enough to be different principles.  Whereas consistency is about showing up constantly to train, time is about applying this consistency over a long period of time.  How long?  Years.  Any trainee that bemoans being on a program for 3 whole months and not seeing progress just plain doesn’t get it.  Try going through a 3 year rut before finally seeing some light.  It happens to everyone, and only those with the mental wherewithal to withstand the badtimes are the ones who make it big.  The best part about the time variable is that it requires NO talent whatsoever; you just gotta stick it out longer than everyone else.  I’ve been training long enough now that I’ve seen internet superstars come completely out of the woodwork, blow way past my best numbers in a matter of years only to completely burn out and regress back behind me while I kept chugging along.  Whoever doesn’t quit first tends to win this game.

Image result for Skeletons playing chess

The key here is that all 3 variables need to be present.  We’ve all witnessed someone trying to leverage only have 2 out of the 3, and we know how it ends.  Those with effort and time but no consistency are the aforementioned living Rocky montages that go hardcore for 2 weeks and then rest for 4 months.  They believe that sustaining this cycle of self-destruction for a decade allows them to say they’ve been “training for 10 years and have nothing to show for it”, despite the fact that, adding it up, it’s more like they’ve trained for 40 weeks over a 10 year span.  Only time spent training is actually time spent training.  Those with consistency and time but no effort are the clock punchers at your commercial gym that have been doing the same thing day in and day out for decades and still look exactly the same.  It’s sad to watch, because they clearly have the time and patience to make this work, but they’re squandering it all due to a lack of effort.  And finally, those with effort and consistency but no time are simply the impatient ones wondering why they don’t have it NOW.  These folks are honestly in purgatory, and it could go either way.  If they just wait it out, they’ll get the results they want, but if they try to compensate for a lack of time with a surplus of effort and consistency, they tend to be the ones that burn out before they really reach their potential.
Get all 3 squared away, and no matter what else you do, you will succeed at this.  Let 1-3 of them fall away, and no matter what else you do, you will fail.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


The discussion on willpower always fascinates me, because I believe that I may have a backwards understanding of it.  In my mind, willpower is the ability to compel oneself to act against their instincts and desires.  One of the greatest demonstrations of willpower that is constantly mentioned is that of G. Gordon Liddy holding his hand over a burning candle, letting the flame burn his flesh.  He would perform this feat until the people watching got disgusted, and used this demonstration when he was being interrogated to explain how he simply would never crack, his explanation being “the trick is not minding”.  Anyone who bought the Matt Kroc DVD witnessed a similar feat with Kroc driving a dull nail through his bicep with his bare hands.  Clearly, these were individuals with an absurd amount of willpower, and they used it to do things they didn’t want to do…so why do so many people think they need willpower simply to do the things they want to do?

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He is the only dude that can get away with a photo like this

I constantly observe people that say they want to lose weight, or they want to get bigger, or they want to get stronger, or just in general, in some way, they want to physically improve themselves.  These same people then turn around and ask how they go about acquiring the willpower to achieve their goals. To mean, something has been lost in the translation here.  If you want something, why would you need willpower to get it?  Isn’t the motivating drive toward something we want DESIRE?  Don’t we already have a built in mechanism as humans to chase those things that we want?  Why would one need willpower to do what they want?  It makes zero sense.   No one, outside of masochists, WANTS to drive a nail through their bicep or burn their flesh with a candle; that is why it requires EXTREME willpower to accomplish these feats.  Willpower is necessary to overcome our base instincts and do what is wrong.  But self-improvement?  Why would one need willpower to pursue that?

I argue that those claiming they are lacking willpower are in honesty simply poorly prioritizing.  If one makes their primary goal to achieve greatness in whatever endeavor they pursue (strength, leaness, winning in competition, etc etc), they will naturally gravitate toward the actions that will facilitate that goal.  In point of fact, it would require a significant amount of willpower to DEVIATE from that path, for it would require them to ignore their driving force and priorities in order to accomplish something that works against their end goals.  However, if one decides to prioritize things OTHER than their goal of self-improvement, they will simply gravitate toward those actions, irrespective of if they assist in their goal of self-improvement.

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I honestly can't even fathom what he was hoping to accomplish

For example, someone who prioritizes being lean will make the dietary choices that facilitates that priority.  Someone who prioritizes eating delicious food in gluttonous amounts will make the dietary choices that facilitate that priority.  In the case of the former, zero willpower is required for the trainee to “resist the temptation” of off menu food choices, as the trainee is simply abiding by the driving force that facilitates meeting his priority. The only temptation they experience is the temptation to continue doing what it takes to succeed.  It would take willpower to DEVIATE from this path, while staying on it requires none.  It is the same for the individual that wants to eat yummy food; they will eat the food they like and resist the temptation to stop doing that and start eating in a way that results in being lean.  They need no willpower to follow their priorities.

I observe this personally, as I’m sure many others have.  The very first time I got appreciably lean (reference the very first post in this blog), I had a powerliting meet that I was cutting weight for.  I started off at a fluffy 202lbs and slowly got down to a lean 190 to make the cut to 181.  During that time, I ate a very bland and repetitive diet of primarily ground beef and veggies.  The diet was no sacrifice, there was no martyrdom, and no willpower was required; I wanted to compete at 181, and this was what I had to do to get there.  It would have required willpower for me to deviate from this plan, because I would have been acting against my priority.  The thought of chowing down on pizza or fast food caused me distress, because I knew it would hinder me from my goals, so I abstained.  Consequently, I made weight, set some national records in my fed, and won “best lifter”, a goal I had been chasing for a while.  Additionally, once the meet was over, I went on a fast food binge that lasted about 2 years, because my priorities had shifted from making weight to eating yummy food.  It wasn’t until 3 years later that I found myself prioritizing being lean for the sake of being lean, and for the past year now my diet has been largely the same as it was for the 3 months prepping for that meet, minus a weekly cheat meal.  I once again require no willpower to follow this diet; I simply prioritize being lean over being gluttonous.

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Try to develop an Ego that is jacked enough to beat the Id to death with the Superego

The same happens with a strongman contest looming.  In the off season, I sleep in through a lot of my morning workouts and end up circling around and knocking them out in the evening.  I am prioritizing comfort over progress.  However, when I sign up for a show, I have zero issues waking up at 0445 to train.  I did not suddenly gain a surplus of willpower; I shifted my priorities.  If I sign up for a show, spend the money to register and travel, take the time off work, and have my friends and family watch, I want to win, and I do what it takes to accomplish that.  Waking up early and training hard makes me better than the competitors who sleep in and train while comfortable, so I do it without question.  It would take willpower for me to skip a morning workout, because it would mean working against my goal and forsaking my priorities.  And to further add, when in the off season, it is easy to gravitate toward training the things I like, but when a show looms I train the things I need to train, regardless of if I am good at them.  No willpower required; it is me meeting my priorities.

If you find yourself in a situation where you must exercise extreme amounts of willpower to meet your goal, ask yourself if it really is your goal.  Why would you need to be trying so hard to do the things you want to do?  Why wouldn’t it come naturally?  Why wouldn’t you eagerly perform the actions that will get you what you want?  Why must you be a martyr; with much suffering and misery and calling of attention to your “sacrifice”?  Perhaps you simply haven’t prioritized it as much as you think you have.  Perhaps you actually prioritize comfort, sloth, and gluttony.  There is nothing wrong with that, it’s your priorities, but maybe it is these priorities that are holding you back.

Image result for Fat people stuffing their face
We all have our priorities

Put simply; maybe you just don’t want it bad enough.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Everyone tells me that beginners are magical unicorns that have the ability to linearly progress from workout to workout, and that it is the absence of this ability that defines when one is no longer a beginner.  You ascend to intermediacy once you can no longer progress between workouts, and must instead only progress weekly, and one becomes advanced once they can only progress monthly.  That, is of course, ridiculous.  What has happened here is that people have too narrowly defined what “progress” actually is, and in turn, they have narrowed their own pursuit of progress to the point that they miss out on opportunities to constantly improve.  Why limit yourself?  You should be progressing EVERY workout.

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
Like, just keep gradually increasing the size of the bosu ball
Here is the pitfall of how people are defining progress; they believe that the only form of progress is more weight on the bar.  This is endemic due to the recent preponderance of “beginner programs” that focus purely on this goal.  Always add more weight to the bar while keeping everything else the same, and when you can’t do that any more, you have reached the limits of linear progression and need more advanced programming.  But wait, why is weight moved the only form of progress?  If you keep the weight the same but perform more reps, isn’t that progress?  What about if you did more sets, wouldn’t that be progress?  More exercises? Shorter rest times?  Why aren’t these considered progress?
This is the issue faced by the non-competitive trainee; they have no actual end goal to vector their training toward.  These people become obsessed with number chasing, because it’s the only way to quantify their progress to the outside world.  It’s the bizarre doublespeak inherent in this generation of trainees; they abhor vanity and decry those who train “for looks”, but clearly they want validation for their efforts by being able to brag about weight lifted.  That is why these trainees are in constant pursuit of more weight on the bar; they want to be able to report a higher number when someone asks “how much do you lift?”  If they aren’t adding more weight to the bar, how could they possibly be succeeding?  How will people KNOW how awesome they are unless they can tell them how much they can lift?

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I mean, I guess there are always tanktops
An actual athlete training for an actual competition understands that weight lifted is simply one of the many variables inherent toward improved competitive performance, and as such place not nearly as much importance on it.  Even athletes in sports where maximal weight lifted IS the end goal understand that not every training session necessarily is focused on that specific goal at that specific time.  Some training sessions result in improved conditioning, some in improved maximal strength, some in improved skill, some in improved hypertrophy, etc.  It’s a balancing act, and overemphasis of one attribute means to exclude other, equally valuable ones.
This is why the notion of tapped out linear progression is a myth; one can and SHOULD be able to improve from workout to workout at just about any level.  The progress may not necessarily be weight lifted, but it is STILL linear in that it exists from workout to workout as a positive trend.  The trick is the find some way, ANY way, to progress.  Yes, if all you focus on is putting more weight on the bar, you will eventually stall hard, mainly because you neglected to lay down the foundation necessary to continue to progress by training a variety of necessary systems…but Christ, isn’t that insane?  Why do these programs that are obsessed with adding more weight to the bar intentionally set you up to fail?  Why don’t they structure training in such a way to ensure a lifetime of constant success and progress, rather than just heading on a crash course to failure?  I can’t even fathom the insane logic.

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For the gains of course!

Here are some other great ways to continue to progress from workout to workout.  Yes, first there is adding more weight to the bar.  However, you can also keep the weight the same but add more total reps.  On Pavel’s 3-5, that was how we progressed.  You’d do 5 sets of as many reps as you could without going over 5.  Once that total amount of reps equaled 25, you upped the weight.  Constant linear progression, even while weight stayed the same.  Other ways to progress include adding more sets.  This is a sneaky way to add more reps and volume to the work.  If you did 10x3 for 1 workout, 11x3 IS progress.  Another way would be to reduce rest times.  If you watch the clock and are averaging 3 minutes of rest per set, get it down to 2:30 while keeping everything else the same, and sure as crap, you just made some progress.  Another way is to increase the state of fatigue that you’re performing your work under.  If you can perform 3x15 glute ham raises after deadlifting 500lbs for a single, and then you go and deadlift 515 for a single and hit 3x15 GHRs after, THAT is progress.  Another awesome way to progress is increased bar speed.  If you keep the weight, reps and sets the same but are moving the bar faster than before, THAT is progress.  Yet another way to progress is changing the conditions of your pre-training ritual.  If you normally deadlift 600lbs on 3 full meals late in the afternoon and you work up to that on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, THAT is progress.
And those are all just off the top of my head people.  There is an unfathomable amount of ways to continue to progress from workout to workout without EVER increasing the amount of weight lifted.  The people telling you that this quality is only inherent in absolute beginners and more advanced trainees are handicapped are just trying to sell you something or justify their own failures.  Always be improving; have a goal for each session and absolutely annihilate it.

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I'm just saying, there is a clear correlation between constantly annihilating things and being huge and unstoppable
Life is too short to waste time NOT getting better.