Tuesday, October 25, 2016


I have been asked on numerous occasions how one goes about building willpower.  People perceive me as someone who has a substantial amount of willpower due to the amount of pain and misery I tend to inflict upon myself in my pursuit of training, along with how I’ve trained around and through numerous injuries.  Their belief is that I’ve acquired a large amount of willpower through some sort of process, and that it is something that can be replicated in order for others to do the same.  In reality, similar to my discussion on the impact of priorities to willpower, I find that willpower is more the product of one’s psychology and philosophy rather than a quality that can be directly increased.

Image result for Matt Kroc nail bicep
But I suppose doing something like this couldn't hurt.

In my experience, one of the keys to possessing large amounts of willpower is an understanding that one’s body is not one’s self.  “Self” is an entity entirely separate from the body.  The body houses the self, but is in no way the manifestation of the self.  In fact, the body is what LIMITS the self.  We have our own ideal image of ourselves, but our body limits us from achieving that ideal, because the body is imperfect.  This understanding is crucial in the quest for willpower, for it is the foundation for one of the key elements of willpower: resentment.  Specifically, we experience self-resentment, for we resent our bodies for not being what we envision as our “selves”.  As much as we have been conditioned to believe that self-resentment is a negative quality, we must understand that resentment is in fact crucial to the “creation” of willpower.  Resentment is inherently a lack of satisfaction, and a satisfied man has no need for willpower.  For what would a satisfied man will toward?  He would have no need.
 This base of self-resentment segues into understanding exactly what an act of willpower is: an act against one’s nature.  As I’ve written before, one needs no willpower to do something that they want.  Acting in accordance with our desires in completely natural, to the point that many religious groups decided to make such acts “sins” as a means of instilling a sense of morality and provide some means of controlling a population.  For you Hobbes fans out there, the state of nature was reported to be solitary, nasty, poor, brutish and short because it was a constant state of war, as man fought against each other for resources to ensure survival.  Despite the hardships, that was not a life of willpower.  Willpower would be required for one to EXIT the state of nature and form the social contract, because it would mean acting against one’s base desires and drives and performing an action that seems entirely alien.  Why is this understanding important?  Because it’s indicative of the reality that, to have willpower, one must resent their current self more than they enjoy chasing their desires.

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I mean, does this scream "willpower" or what?!

Overcoming out instincts (what many perceive to be an act of willpower) necessitates that one have so much self-resentment that it overcomes one’s self-preservation instincts.  Essentially, one has to be so unsatisfied with the way that their body is limiting their expression of their self that there are NO risks in any actions.  Either the body is broken, or the body improves; either is an acceptable outcome.  Why would one want to preserve something that they resent with every fiber of their being?  Why would one have any desire to spare their body pain, misery, torment, anguish, damage, fatigue, and ultimately destruction, when it is the body that prevents one from being their true self?  When one resents everything that their body stands for, they will find no difficulty doing whatever it takes to change it, in whatever way that happens.
Once all of this occurs under the hood, we witness “willpower” occurring.  Specifically, when one is in the process of either destroying or improving their bodies, they meet resistance in the form of pain, fatigue, sickness, injury, etc.  When one resents their body to the point that they are willing to destroy it, resistance of any form should result in anger.  Resistance is the body striving to maintain the status quo and deny you your ability to express your true self.  It is opposing you in your goal.  This SHOULD make you angry.  The absence of anger in this situation is indicative that one lacks the proper amount of resentment in order to affect change ON their body.  Once this anger takes hole, willpower occurs.  One feels the pain, injury, fatigue, sickenss, etc, and their rage drives them to push through and conquer the body as it tries to fight back.  The body is not the self; it is the enemy OF the self.

Image result for Juggernaut vs professor X
AS much as it pains me, there is a reason that Professor X always won these fights

We understand now that building willpower is simply building resentment.  In turn, resentment is built by increasing the divide between the body and the self.  The further this divide, the greater the amount of resentment, which in turn means the greater the amount of willpower demonstrated.  One who is content with how their body represents themselves will have no need for willpower to affect change.  One whose self is only marginally different from what their body represents will only have a marginal amount of willpower.  However, for those where the chasm between their self and their body is enormous, their amount of willpower will appear immeasurable, for they possess enough resentment to overcome vast amounts of pain, suffering, fatigue, injury and anguish.  In order to "build willpower", we must build the self.  We must envision our self to be truly unstoppable.
This is my “secret” to willpower.  Yes, it is unbalanced and unhinged, but it works.  Make no mistake; just because I resent my body doesn’t mean I have low self-esteem.  It’s actually the opposite; my self-esteem is far too great. I think far too highly of my “self”.  In my mind, I am the Juggernaut, Superman, Samson and Hercules, and the only thing holding me back is my body.  My neighbors think I’m a lunatic, because during conditioning sessions, they’ve heard me swearing at my body, telling it to harden the f**k up, strap in and hold on because I’m not quitting until the session is over, and f**k everything it has ever stood for.  When I blew out my knee, I blew it out because my “self” was greater than my body, and consequently I spent the next 6 months angry at my knee.  How DARE it try to deprive me of myself.  How DARE it hold me back.  And I punished it with no rest, constant training, and WILLING it to heal.

Still don't understand these folks that can't squat because of "bad knees"

The Hulk had it right.  “That’s my secret; I’m always angry.”      

Sunday, October 23, 2016


I have been accused of being “anti-intellectual” due to my refusal to care about scientific studies on exercise science.  I will say that it’s not an unfair accusation of me, but I feel that I should clarify why it is I don’t really concern myself with these findings.  My formal education is politics and philosophy, and truth be told, I always struggled with hard science, so it would be easy and quick to assert that I simply don’t understand the findings.  However, allow me this opportunity to explain why, due to my understanding of how studies function, I find exercise science information to be of minimal worth at best.

Image result for Squatting on a bosu ball
You know science had to be behind this, because common sense would say "no"
First, let us come to terms with the fact that, in the scientific community, exercise science is incredibly low on the list of priorities.  Yes, we meatheads might think it’s the most important thing in the world, but in all honesty, the rest of the world really couldn’t care less about it.  When we are being ravaged by cancer, AIDS, the ZIKA virus, the obesity epidemic, male pattern baldness, lack of erections, heart disease, poor eyesight, acne, and various other maladies, obtaining “max buffitude” just isn’t a subject that gets a whole lot of funding and grants.  This also tends to mean that the exercise science community tends to be a little smaller and more incestuous than the greater scientific community. It would be fair to say that some people are motivated by passion and some are motivated by money, and when it comes to scientific research, you’ll find plenty of both on the “sexy” studies like fighting cancer and various diseases.  When it comes to exercise science, money is in short supply, which means you’re primarily going to be dealing with those motivated by passion.  That’s awesome for the integrity of the undertaking, but it means that the talent pool is going to be reduced.  The brilliant passionate people will be there, but the brilliant greedy people will be lacking, and in this world, there are a LOT of the latter.
Understanding the limitations of funding and research personnel in the field of exercise science, let us compound that with the confusing nature of actually trying to apply a study to a human population.  Once again, in a field that is constrained by resources (both budgetary and personnel), one tends to observe that participants in studies are those that are cheap and widely available, aka, college students aiding post graduate work.  When it comes to a population of young, virile, healthy people surging with hormones, you could do no better…but when it comes to a population that is easy to control and monitor, you could do no worse.  You can imagine how this confounds the findings of a study on exercise science.  You take 40 college kids, have 10 do low reps, 10 do high reps, 10 do moderate reps, 10 do no reps, and you try to evaluate the results over a 3 week period, only to have 26 of them go on a 4 day drinking bender, 13 decide to start experimenting with acid, 11 spent all their money on video games and are living off 1 pack of ramen noodles a day, 17 sleep 14 hours a day, 14 are so jacked up on energy drink that they never sleep, etc etc, and the findings become sketchy at best.  Yes, we can observe a general trend from this study, but we have to keep in mind that the population they were pulling from aren’t necessarily representative of a normal population, and trying to apply the findings as some sort of universal gospel is silly.

Image result for Stupid college kids
I mean...on the plus side...the ice bath HAS been proven to have restorative qualities
But let’s say we can actually go full USSR on the experiment and control exactly how the subjects eat, sleep, and enjoy their leisure time; we STILL run into difficulties due to the subjectivity of exercise science.  A common approach to a study in exercise science is to get subjects to use a percentage of their 1rm for an exercise…but how often have you personally witnessed 1rms that weren’t actually 1 rep maxes?  I can walk into the gym right now, warm-up, and hit what I perceive to be my 1rm.  On a different day, I can spend a few minutes really getting amped up, crank the music, and hit a higher number than that.  On a different day, I can do the amping up, and then hit the nose tork hard and hit an even higher number.  And what if I decide to experiment with stimulants beforehand?  Or what if I’m having a really good day?  Or a really bad one?  What if I ate 3 meals vs trained fasted?  First thing in the morning versus late in the afternoon?  And keep in mind, I’ve been lifting weights in some fashion for 17 years now, and I at least KNOW this about myself.  These studies love to take “untrained” populations, which just means they’re going to have even LESS of a clue about what their actual 1rm is.  They may be exerting themselves as much as they think they can, but a real meathead knows that this guy has WAY more in them if they just dig a little deeper.  We’ve all seen it happen before.  So now, you have a study using an alleged 1rm which is really more like 80% of a 1rm, and now we’re using 80% of that 80% to try to determine if that’s the most effective loading pattern for hypertrophy.  Once again, we observe the difficulties in trusting exercise science.
And then we get into the issue of quality control.  Let’s say we’re still going full USSR on the subjects, and let’s say they actually have enough awareness to know if/when they hit a 1rm, and let’s say these subjects actually know how to strain and push and have some semblance of idea of how to train; do those CONDUCTING the study actually know any of this stuff?  We like to think it’s a given that someone certified in the field of exercise science knows how to exercise, but think about it truthfully; how long does it take an ironhead to REALLY know how to squat?  To REALLY figure out mind muscle control?  To REALLY understand how to get their bodies to move the way they want to move?  Even those of us that read all the books and saw all the studies still took a long time to get it all figured out on our OWN level, let alone being able to evaluate and asses all that when observing an outsider.  When a study has subjects perform 10 leg extensions to evaluate quad hypertrophy, what are the chances that the observer can tell who is actually flexing their quad to accomplish the leg extension versus who is using their hip flexors?  How well versed are they in evaluating if the squat stance utilized by the trainee is actually the best fit for their anatomy, and that the trainee is actually using the right technique (not form) to generate the right findings?  I am certain their formal education has made them incredibly well versed on the biological processes occurring throughout training, but quite simply, how experienced are they in generating these processes?  And do not take this as an attack dear reader; it is legitimately a question.  There are some out there that, were they to conduct a study, I trust them to be able to accomplish this, while there are others that give me no reason to believe in their ability.  Much like understanding the science, understanding the application is also a valuable skillset that not everyone possesses.

Image result for Louie Simmons
And once you have a mastery of both, you sound so crazy and incoherent you have no ability to pass on what you know
This was a long read, but my takeaway is this; studies can be a helpful tool in understanding trends and extrapolating ideas, but treating them like undisputed gospel is folly.  Just because a study comes out saying something doesn’t invalidate something else; it simply means that, under those specific circumstances of that one study, that result could be produced.  Additionally, if you hear some experienced and seasoned ironheads espouse an idea that conflicts with science, it may simply be that the study has not yet been done that proves what those folks know.  This is still a young field, we’re not even close to discovering all the things we already know, let alone the thing we don’t know.  In that regard, I tend to treat experience with more reverence than science.  People have been conducting their own “studies” for decades; it’s just that the lab was the weightroom, and the results were published on the podium.   

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Our parents constantly forced us to do things we didn’t want to do (at least, if they were at all interested in raising us to be somewhat productive members of society).  One of the biggest battles, of course, we eating vegetables.  This is a battle waged across dinner tables all over the world; parents engaged in a war of attrition and negotiations with the children, deciding exactly how much “3 bites” of broccoli really is, while the rest of the meals get cold and much TV goes unwatched.  Inevitable, we grow up from spoiled children and become spoiled adults, and many of us live out our childhood dreams of never eating another vegetable again.  Some manage to engage in this practice for the rest of their lives, while others enjoy the mac n cheese orgy for about 3 weeks before they realize what a terrible mistake they have made. Our parents were trying to force us to do something we didn’t like because they knew, ultimately, it would make us better.  When we grow up, we still need to eat our vegetables.

Image result for Veggie chips
No, these don't count

Yes, of course this is a metaphor. You know that’s how I work by now.  However, it’s literal too, because when I look at the diets of many trainees, they aren’t eating any goddamn vegetables.  I blame this on the prevalence of the whole “If It Fits Your Macros” culture, because a bunch of nerds decided they wanted to make lifting and nutrition a mathgame and figured that as long as you hit the calculated numbers, you “win.”  The notion of the benefits of micronutrients and fiber eludes them because it’s not as easily quantifiable or measurable compared to scale weight, but ask anyone living off of BigMacs how they feel once they “detox” and start eating steak and salad, and it’s night and day differences.  “If it tastes good, spit it out”, as quoted from Jack Lalanne, still holds true.  If all you’re eating is stuff you enjoy, you’re probably missing out on stuff that could benefit you.

It goes even further than nutrition though.  In training, we have our “vegetables” too.  Conditioning is one of the most unappetizing vegetables out there, as evidenced by the fact that very few people are eating it.  Lifting weights is “fun” to most people, because it’s only about 20 seconds of exertion max, but you get to feel like you accomplished something, you can move heavy weight, and it makes you look bigger.  Additionally, you get to spend way more time recovering than actually training, so you can tell people you train for 90 minutes, when it’s really more like training for 15 minutes with 75 minutes of rest.  Conditioning is the complete opposite; you strain for far longer, you’re not really moving anything heavy, and it doesn’t generate the outward physical presence that lifting weights does.  Additionally, once it’s done, you feel like you’re going to die for a LONG time after the fact.  However, what conditioning DOES do is make the weight training more effective.  It reduces rest times and improves recovery, which means you can lift more weight for more volume in a workout, which means a better training effect from lifting.  We eat our vegetables here, so that we become better elsewhere.

Image result for Puking after conditioning
Yes, I've seen people do this after conditioning AND after eating vegetables

But even in the “fun” part of lifting weights, we STILL have our vegetables. We all have those movements that we are terrible at, and in turn, we tend to avoid.  I was absolutely awful at the continental clean, so I decided I was just not going to train it. How did that work out for me?  At the same comp where I ruptured my ACL, earlier in the day I ended up zeroing my first ever event in a competition by not being able to get a 245lb axle to my chest.  That’s a weight I have strict pressed before, and could have easily managed at least a few reps on had it made it off the floor.  I failed to eat my vegetables in training, and now I wasn’t getting my dessert.  I apologize, even I am getting upset with how hamfisted my own metaphor has become here, but I’m too committed to change it at this point. However, it took that moment for me to prioritize the movement, and in my most recent training cycle, I’ve been hitting the continental 2-3 times a week, to include using it as a conditioning exercise with a 10 minute EMOM workout, effectively combining 2 “vegetables” into some sort of vegetable medley.  How many other folks decide that they are bad at benching so they’re no longer going to do it?  Bad at squats so they cut those out?  Or what about the guys who are too cool for school and decide they’re not going to do any direct arm work?

You’re an adult, and you can do whatever you want now.  You can set out on your own and eat dessert for dinner every night of your life.  You can never eat another vegetable again, and live out your childhood fantasies of what you would do if you were alone.  But guess what?  The people that are out there eating their vegetables and doing the things they don’t’ enjoy are going to be the ones that beat you.  They’re going to be the ones who toiled and suffered enough during training that, come the big game, nothing will stop them from succeeding.  They’ll be the ones standing at the podium, reflecting the efforts of their labor, while you stay in the stands, munching on French fries and calling ketchup your vegetable.

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How many folks are living these days

Grow up and eat your vegetables.