Saturday, February 27, 2016


I have bemoaned and lamented the lacking intensity of many trainees approaches, along with spoken at length at the dire need for intensity in training so frequently that I feel it becomes necessary to directly address the subject.

(Before I continue, in point of clarity I want to explain that I am referring more to the notion of intensity of EFFORT rather than the understood concept of intensity referencing percentage of maximal load. I realize it upsets the nerds to misuse the term, but throughout this writing please understand my meaning.)

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The variable the one MUST bring to training is intensity. All other variables are controlled outside of training.  Frequency is a matter of scheduling, programming is a matter of research (for good or for ill), consistency is a matter of habit, etc etc, it all occurs outside of training, but once one enters the gym, they MUST act with intensity.  If not, then all that work performed outside of the gym was for naught.  However, in most cases, a trainee fixates so much on what is performed outside of the gym that they forget just how necessary it is to actually perform once they arrive. They are of the belief that, as long as all the external factors are in place, the results will arrive.

This stems fundamentally from a misunderstanding of the words of authors and lifters. Intensity is rarely spoken of as a necessity because it is PRESUMED by the author that one will employ it. When one writes of programming, it is with the understanding that the programming will be executed with violence and intent. When writes about the necessity of deloading, it is with the understanding that one will necessitate a deload DUE to the amount of intensity they brought to training.  This is presumed because it was inherent in the acts of those who wrote and spoke of lifting (that were successful in their pursuits), and in having always been present, the notion that one could train WITHOUT intensity was inconceivable.  However, new lifters took this lack of emphasis to infer that intensity was of minimal value, and that, as long as one fulfilled the mathematical requirements of the sets and reps, they would get the results. It became a program, rather than a guide.

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This isn't in the 10 Commandments..but God probably still doesn't want you to do it

In addition, intensity became a quality that was more and more difficult to find, encourage, and cultivate.  With the downplay of childhood athletics, rough housing, and basic play, children grew into adults who at no point ever learned how to actually push themselves physically in any capacity. They simply were unaware of the sensation one feels when actually TRYING. They had coasted through a digital and neutered existence free of discomfort, and they attempted to apply this same lackadaisical approach to the transformation of their bodies.  The body, stubborn in its willingness to alter itself, was unpersuaded in these attempts, as it rightfully should be.  Without proper stimulus, what motivation does it have to change?

And still the problem continued!  A lifetime of lethargy left many the new trainee physically unable TO exert themselves, even if they mustered the courage to try.  We observe this all the time; when a trainee is accused of not bringing enough intensity to the gym, they’ll always explain how the throw up at the end of EVERY session and are always breathing like a freight train and sweating buckets, so surely they MUST be lifting with intensity.  However, what they describe is the same histrionics of an obese man trying to walk up a flight of stairs.  All this trainee is demonstrating is that they are so physically unable to perform that they’re not in enough shape TO exert themselves to the degree necessary to elicit change.  Put simply, they actually need to get in shape to workout.

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I bet this feels like one helluva workout

One cannot measure their intensity by how much puke or sweat or blood they leave behind in the gym.  All that does is demonstrate a lack of hygiene.  Intensity is about existing outside of one’s comfort zone, with the longer amount of time being better.  It is about riding the razor’s edge between hard training and injury, and always pushing the limits further and further toward the latter direction.  One must condition their mind to not quit such to the point that the body FAILS under the stress being performed. One must be intimately familiar with “dangerous” sensations, like light headedness, seeing stars, exertion headaches, blurred vision, blown out capillaries, etc etc. THIS is intensity.

Do not confuse an inability to perform with performing to the max of one’s capability.  One must have enough capability TO exceed themselves. This means one has to constantly be discovering their limits in their attempts to surpass them.  If you’ve never failed a squat, deadlift, bench, etc, you’ve most likely never lifted with intensity. I do not mean failed as in saying to yourself “Oh man, I didn’t have a single rep left” as you rack the bar with comfort.  I mean fail as in, the bar is on your shoulders, you squat down into the hole, try to get out, throw the bar over your head into the pins, fall backwards, slam the back of your head onto the pegs of the squat rack and get pissed at yourself for missing the rep. I’m talking about a bench rep that descends onto your throat 1mm at a time as you try with everything in your power to fight it. I’m talking a deadlift that has your whole body in convulsions for over 15 seconds as you hitch with everything in your power before finally having the bar rip out of your hands (or, if you’re wearing straps, pull you to the floor face first).  Those who are lacking intensity are terrified of ever failing, while those who have intensity are terrified of NOT succeeding.  One avoids failure, the other does everything they can to win.

Image result for Rocky IV 
In the first one, he went the distance.  In the 4th one, he ended the Cold War. Winning is better than not losing.

Which do you want to be?

Friday, February 19, 2016


As much as people don’t like to hear it, the most significant factor that contributes toward getting bigger and stronger is simply time.  Yes, you need to bring intensity to your training sessions, and effort, and consistency, and some intelligent training is pretty cool too, but ultimately, you gotta do this for a while before you start getting results.  The longer you do it (assuming you have everything else figured out), the better your results.  This is why you simply CAN’T cram for an event.  Whether it be a strongman comp, powerlifting meet, bodybuilding show, beach vacation, high school reunion, mugshot, wedding, etc etc, you can’t try to compensate for a lack of time with an increase in all other variables.  It does not work.

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Also: you aren't going to grow all your hair back by then, just stop

We witness people attempting to cram for events all the time, even with methods that seem noble or genuine.  The question constantly arises of what to eat on contest day to “maximize performance”. What combination of macronutrients and timing is going to allow one to REALLY tap into their potential?  How should one eat to have the best day possible?  The truth is, nothing you put in your body the day of is going to do anything significant to improve your performance; all of that was supposed to happen in the training leading UP to the show.  Furthermore, eating completely different from how you were when you were training for the show is most likely going to jack up your digestion and cause you to crap yourself during an event, which is DEFINITELY going to have a negative impact on your performance.  Anyone stressing over “day of” factors is someone who simply did not do what it took to be able to crush the competition.  Mariusz Pudzianowski pulled his calf in the qualifiers for the 2008 WSM and STILL went on to win the damn thing because he had spent so much of his time training well for the event that NEGATIVE “day of” effects couldn’t get in his way.  Whoever shows up the strongest is going to win.

Going back a step, we witness this as well in regards to the week of the event.  People CONSTANTLY want to know how they should train the week of the show.  Tons of internet discussion is devoted to this topic, with everyone having some sort of Zen Jedi masterplan on the exact combination of sets, reps and percentages that are going to completely unlock someone’s hidden potential the day of the show.  Here is the reality; you cannot get stronger or better in one week, but you sure as hell can get injured and weaker as a result.  Strength and ability should’ve been built up in the training leading UP to the week before the show; if you’re not ready by then, you f**ked up your training and you’re not going to salvage it.  There is no cramming for the test here.

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You'd have better luck cramming for this...or better success if you used the right drugs...I'm not sure where I'm going with this

It’s not about having a great workout, or the best week of training ever; it’s about stringing together a bunch of solid workouts over a LONG span of time.  This is something the people striving to shape up in 2 weeks don’t understand; you can’t compensate for time with intensity.  This is why we find attractive physiques attractive in the first place, because they are a representation of dedication and effort.  If all it took was 2 weeks of hardcore training to look great, EVERYONE would look great on vacation.  Instead, it’s the folks that are plugging away constantly over long stretches that have the results that are impressive, and those trying to cram for the exam look and perform terrible.

It was honestly my dad who inspired me to write this, based off something he observed at one of my strongman contests.  I finally had a chance to compete in my hometown, and it was the first time my parents got to watch me live versus on youtube. It really opened their eyes to the sport, and my dad noticed something.  Since I was with my family, I felt an obligation to entertain them, so between events I’d hang out with them, BS, tell stories, laugh and joke, and then I’d hear my name called, go do an event, then come back and hang out.  I ended up winning this show, placing first or second in most events.  When it was all over, my dad said “You know, while you were hanging out with us, I’d see guys pacing in corners, frothing at the mouth, yelling and screaming and getting psyched up, whereas you’d go from hanging out with us to winning the event and back.  You’ve been training for 15 years, and it was like those guys were trying to catch up to 15 years of training in a few minutes of cramming.”

Image result for Tim and Eric think about your dad

Yes, I paraphrased the above, but think about that; someone with no background in this sport was able to figure it out in one day.  No amount of psyching up will beat time, nor will the right diet the day of or the right week of training.  Remember the fable about the ant and the grasshopper: come winter time, one will thrive and the other will starve.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


I find that many trainees have a desire to be indestructible.  They train, live and act with this goal in mind.  The hope is that, by being indestructible, they will be impervious to damage and injury, which will ensure a long training career that results in the greatest possible outcome for their effort.  However, observing those that have actually made it to the top, one realizes that these individuals were not indestructible, but instead possessed another distinct and altogether separate quality: they were unkillable.
A desire for indestructability is ultimately a desire that is motivated by fear.  Fear of injury and, at its root, fear of pain and discomfort.  One who wishes to be indestructible wishes to never experience pain, and they take all measures possible motivated BY the avoidance of pain at all costs.  These are the people performing hours of mobility work, stretching, foam rolling, hot stone massage, prayer, ice baths, animal sacrifices, etc etc in order to avoid muscle pulls.  It’s the people that prattle on about “injury prevention” as a training goal.  It is those who ultimately never progress, because one of the easiest ways to remain indestructible is to never encounter any danger.  If you avoid any potential harm, you will remain unharmed.

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"I am invincible!"
The trait of being unkillable is wholly different.  The unkillable can only be identified THROUGH their constant exposure to pain.  They are the prototypical horror movie zombie; they break bones, snap ligaments, tear muscles off the bone, and just keep coming back for more.  Whereas the indestructible do not bleed, the unkillable spit blood in the face of their aggressors, daring them to hit them again.  While the indestructible feel no pain, the unkillable laugh when they receive pain, and they smile a broken toothed smile at the inflictor.  They crawl out of the wreckage on two broken legs with a knife between their teeth, still ready to slit throats and take down everyone in their path.

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Yeah, he's missing 2 arms, but who is on the ground getting kicked right now?
The key difference between the two here is that being indestructible is a passive act, while being unkillable requires action.  One becomes unkillable by being such a stubborn, aggressive, tenacious and dangerous sonuvabitch that it’s just not worth the fight.  You become unkillable when fate would rather just leave you alone versus having to deal with your insanity.  Kafka touched on this retelling the story of the Odyssey, wherein, upon arriving to the location of the Sirens, Odysseus plugged his ears with wax and chained himself to the mast of the ship.  By all accounts, these measures were meaningless, as the song of the Sirens was said to be able to penetrate wax and compel men to overpower chains…and yet Odysseus passed by unharmed.  Kafka posits that, upon seeing a mortal so hellbent on beating the Sirens song, the Sirens felt compelled to relent without challenging Odysseus.  They saw a fight that just plain wasn’t worth having, as any mortal batshit crazy enough to chain themselves to the mast was most likely going to be more trouble than he was worth.
In one of the greatest westerns of all time (Tombstone), Wyatt Earp, played by Kurt Russell, displays one of the best examples of when the indestructible meets the unkillable.  Being surrounded, with multiple guns drawn on him, Earp chooses to place his pistol square on the skull of the man in front of him.  When informed that there’s no way he can kill all the men drawn on him, Earp replies that, yes, he’ll go down, but not before “turning your head into a goddamn canoe”.  I’ve included the scene here for your pleasure, but really, watch the whole movie. 

Earp wasn’t bulletproof.  He wasn’t indestructible, he instead made himself unkillable.  He made it so that, even when clearly at the disadvantage, he won out, because he became a fight that wasn’t worth having.  People knew that, if you tried to kill him, he was taking you down with him, and ultimately those people preferred being indestructible rather than unkillable.

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*Spoilers* It ends up not working out so well
To quote Nietzsche, that which does not kill us makes us stronger.  If your end goal is to avoid any situations that could result in harm, you’re not going to get stronger.  However, if you keep getting back up time and time again everytime something knocks you down, daring it to do it again, you’re going to get strong, and you’re going to win.

“You don’t know where I’ve been…”