Saturday, November 26, 2016


The other day, I read a few folks on a forum I visit discussing my training/training log.  Specifically, they were discussing the amount of effort and intensity I bring into my training, and how it was a level they never felt they could personally obtain, whether through volition or otherwise.  I’ve been called “beast”, “crazy”, “a machine”, etc etc, and in all of these instances I am always a little puzzled.  I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that anyone else isn’t doing; I’m just training hard and doing what it takes to succeed.  However, the further I analyze my own past and the success of others, the more I come to terms with the fact that my sense of normalcy is fundamentally warped, and that this stems from a consistent practice of abnormality.  Essentially, I’ve made a habit of being crazy.

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
I mean...not THIS crazy

Norms are traditionally a product of culture, society and upbrining.  In general, what we consider normal tends to be a product of what we are exposed to on a consistent basis, and those that dwell in a consistent location tend to develop somewhat homogenous norms.  Everyone has, more or less, the same concept of what is normal.  This bodes well when it comes to fitting in with society, not being an outcast, and receiving many of the perks of the social contract, but it unfortunately doesn’t serve one well who DOES wish to exceed beyond the levels of average.  Average is average; it’s how we define mediocrity.  Greatness exceeds average, which means it is, by definition, weird, and outside the realm of normalcy. 

What does this mean for a trainee who wishes to move beyond normalcy?  They need to engage in a consistent habit of abnormalcy in order to set that as one’s new personal norm.  We must create our own norms outside of the currently accepted ones, and we must be our own source of exposure to serve as self-reinforcement.  The more we engage in those abnormal activities, the more they seem normal to us, until our sense of what is normal is so fundamentally off base with society that we lose the ability to even understand that it IS abnormal.

Image result for elevation training mask
Make no mistake; this guy KNOWS he looks like a douchebag

Like building up a tolerance to poisons, one must start with small dosages that gradually increase as tolerance builds.  Probably one of the simplest and most well structured ventures into new norms would be the time tested Super Squats program.  It pushes you past your comfort zone, but guides you by the hand the entire way.  Once you come out the other side of those 6 weeks of Hell, you’ll be a new person, and well on your way towards setting some new norms.  From there, you simply keep the momentum going.  Training through sickness and injury, training in extreme heat and cold, 2 a days, 3 a days, conditioning sessions that make you vomit, blowing out blood vessels and capillaries, etc etc.  It’s an arms race of insanity, and the only solution is escalation.

The question that always arises in these situations is how to start, and the answer is another time tested secret to success; fake it until you make it.  Contrary to what the internet would have you believe, bravado isn’t inherently a negative thing.  Certainly it is annoying, but for a trainee seeking to establish some new norms, it can be just the thing necessary to make that first step.  You don’t have to be born crazy; you can just pretend until it starts to stick.  Buy your own hype and believe you really are unstoppable, convince yourself that you have what it takes to be just like those you idolize.  First you have heroes, then you BECOME the hero, but there is no shame in engaging in a little imitation along the way.

Image result for awful cosplay
But at least put in SOME effort

The more we practice being crazy, the more it becomes habit, and in turn the more it becomes our first instinct.  It’s self-perpetuating; we practice being crazy so often that, when the time comes to decide, crazy becomes the natural instinct, which reinforces being crazy even further.  Eventually, one need not fake it, because one has had such consistent practice that it IS “normal”.  Now, this is a bit of a razor’s edge, because eventually the decision point will come where you really SHOULD back down and act “normal”, but your instincts will guide you closer to the fire than you should go.  Self-awareness goes a long way but honestly…you’ll get much further always betting on crazy than you will always hedging your bets.  Even one blown out ACL later, if I had to do it all over again, I’d have rather stuck with being crazy than back down and be normal.

…and that is probably just a sign of how far gone I am.    

Saturday, November 19, 2016


I find that many times, in matters of training, there are many things that we consider good and bad.  The good are those things worth pursuing and the bad are those things that we should avoid.  However, these good and bad things are simply assumed, and more precisely presumed whenever matters of training are discussed, and it artificially and arbitrarily influences the way that discussion and advice is vectored.  I argue that it is the imperative of all trainees to question everything and assumed nothing when it comes to becoming bigger and stronger.

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
This guy coulda done himself a favor if he bothered to ask his trainer "why?"

One of the most pervasive and destructive assumed evils in training is that of injuries.  For some reason, it is always a given that injuries are “bad” things, and therefore all training should be based around remaining injury free.  I have even witnessed some trainees argue that being injury free is the MOST important thing about training.  This is insanity.  The most important thing about training is meeting the goal of your training, and if your goal is to be injury free, I cannot see any reason to even ENGAGE in training.  Simply driving to the gym puts you at an INCREDIBLE risk of getting into a car accident, resulting in massive injury and possible fatality.  Additionally, the shower is one of the most dangerous places in the home, with an incredibly high risk of slipping and cracking your skull, but not showering after training could result in some sort of bacterial infection, so you’re pretty much screwed there too.  I haven’t even begun to address the potential for risks associated with actually performing any manner of training, but needless to say, life is a deathtrap.  If injuries are to be avoided, so is training.

WHY are injuries bad?  What makes them worth avoiding?  Because they make us feel bad?  Folks, this is called hedonism: the avoidance of displeasure and pursuit of only pleasure.  There is no room for the hedonist in training, as those unwilling to endure misery will not prosper.  Or are we claiming that injuries will ruin our ability to train/compete?  How then, do we explain the cases of Matt Kroczaleski, Dave Tate, Brandon Lilly, Louie Simmons, Dorian Yates, etc etc, all lifters who excelled to some of the highest echelons of their endeavors while suffering catastrophic injuries along the way?  Are we willing to believe that the recreational lifter who works a desk job is somehow going to injure themselves even worse than these individuals while lifting substantially less weight with lower intensities less frequently?  Are “career ending injuries” actually career ending? 

Image result for Brandon Lilly squat injury
If this dude can come back from this, I assure you that your tendinitis will be fine

Instead, I offer the reality that we do not consider injuries inherently bad, but simply instead as something that “is”.  Injuries are a fact of training as much as they are a fact of simply existing.  If we vector our training to avoid injury, we vector our training to avoid training.  We should instead train the way that makes us bigger and stronger, and be at peace with the fact that, yes, we will most likely get injured.  Once the injury happens, we simply adapt, overcome, and heal, giving us an opportunity to become stronger in many ways.  By declaring all injuries universally bad and worth avoiding, all we manage to do is make ourselves weaker overall.  Once we allow ourselves to be willing to be injured in the pursuit of greatness, we stand a much better chance of achieving our goals.

In contrast, we are also told many things are good, and find ourselves pursuing them because they are good…but what MAKES them good?  Mobility is constantly espoused as a good quality, one we should always be in the pursuit of, to the point that entire books, websites, seminars, and CAREERS have been dedicated to the furthering of mobility…but Jesus, how mobile do you really need to be to lift some weights?  How mobile was Paul Anderson?  Look at him squat; dude’s hamstrings ran into his calves and he couldn’t get down much further than that.  Good enough for a gold medal and some of the strongest feats a human could ever accomplish, but the internet would have you believe he needs to work on his mobility until he can squat ATG.  Look, if you want to be a contortionist, mobility probably SHOULD be your primary focus, but if all you wanna do is the big 3 or run with some kegs, you probably don’t need to spend a whole lot of time getting mobile.  You can get mobile ENOUGH, but why spend time getting more mobile when your goal is to get big and strong?

Image result for Paul Anderson squat
When your "ATG" is powerlifting legal, and you're just so goddamn strong it doesn't matter

The supplement industries have been bamboozling us in this same way for decades as well.  Pre-workouts increase performance in training.  Is that a good thing?  Really?  Why?  Why are we trying for maximal performance in training versus competition?  Why not build up our baseline of strength in an unaroused state that can be easily replicated and tracked in order to ensure progress versus constantly training in varied states of arousal via stimulants that make training difficult to evaluate?  Is doing 3 more reps as a result of being overstimulated necessarily better than 3 fewer reps when you’re at rock bottom?  And this is one of the more easily understood “goods” out there.  What about the more obscure stuff that supplement companies promise you under the assumption that those things are good?  Increased pumps?  Do I want that?  Scientifically formulated to increase base levels of testosterone by over 40 points?  Is that good?  The most high tech arginine delivery mechanism legally available?  What the f**k does that even mean?!

The only “good” here is that which helps you accomplish your goals.  Escape morality here; you’re allowed moral relativism when it comes to your training.  The goal posts ARE allowed to move, good and bad ARE malleable and influenced by external factors, and YOU are the decider of it all.  Don’t let alone dictate what is good and bad for you; question everything that is told to you and force THEM to justify it.

Image result for socrates drinking hemlock
What's the worst that could happen?

And be prepared to piss a lot of people off in the process.  That’s a lesson Socrates learned.  

Saturday, November 12, 2016


Alright, so before I get started, YES, that is a reference to a Weird Al song, and I realize that taking parody seriously tends to be a recipe for disaster, but stick with me here.  There is no shortage of intelligence out there today when it comes to training.  There are studies, focus groups, forums, people with PhDs, and all sorts of super nifty tools available.  There are percentages, golden ratios, strength standards, and all manner of facts and figures to aspire to.  So why aren’t we witnessing an influx of better trainees?  Why are Americans at the fattest they’ve ever been?  Why are we witnessing one of the first instances wherein the current generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan than the previous?  Why are we all so smart yet still not succeeding?  Maybe it’s time to be a little stupid?

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
Too stupid.  Real it back in.

We’ve been building big and strong bodies WAY before we had the help of science.  Sandow was born a mere 20 years after the year we decided it was a good idea for surgeons to wash their hands before performing surgery, just to give you a little perspective of where we were scientifically when physical culture was really finding itself.  Arthur Saxon died 30 years before we developed the polio vaccine.  Bob Peoples deadlifted 725lbs at 181lbs in the same year we discovered radiocarbon dating.  Suffice it to say; people were getting big and strong WELL before there was ever a need, want or desire for science to get involved.  The answers were obvious before we even began to explore, and those who made it a goal to pursue it set off with effort, intensity and consistency.

In fact, it was something of the wild west, where everyone had their own method and they all worked!  The Saxon’s developed their own strongman brew consisting of “dark lager beer (or Dublin stout) mixed with Holland gin, the yolk of an egg and plenty of sugar”. Bob Peoples figured out ROM progression, because why WOULDN’T it work, and Paul Anderson perfected it.  Arthur Jones, crackpot that he was, still managed to develop a system that broke every single rule in existence and STILL managed to produce results.  20 rep squats?  Of course it works.  German Volume Training?  Yup!  Every single guy in “Pumping Iron” training differently than everyone else?  They all go to the Olympia!  As I’ve said before, the key for success in all these cases was effort, consistency and time. Pair it with a little blind fanaticism and there is no WAY you can lose.

Image result for heaven's gate least the had good running shoes?

And now?  Are we better?  For how many more people are into training, why are there so many skinnyfat people after a year of training?  Why are there so many people diligently following the absolute most optimal programs and getting terrible results?  Sure, we can blame the poor quality food, the toxicity of plastics, how having a desk job is apparently the worst thing you could ever do to your body and gives you 8 types of cancers and 47 types of movement dysfunctions…but maybe we just traded in too much of the art for the science.  Maybe we killed off our passion and traded it for precision.  Maybe the blood, sweat and tears were traded for 1s and 0s.  Maybe we got too smart, when what we really need is to get a little stupid.

This is my rallying cry to you; dare to be stupid.  Dare to set off on a course that is completely reckless, defies all conventional wisdom, and has no possible hope for success.  Train everyday of the week, and once you can do that, train multiple times a day.  Run yourself completely into the ground at night, and then wake up and do it all again in the morning.  Train your heavy compounds last, work during your rest periods, use the wrong percentages, the wrong reps, the wrong sets, the wrong movements, on the wrong days of the week.  Find out WHY these things are supposedly wrong.  You may discover that it’s actually QUITE difficult to train “wrong”.

Image result for Arnold cheat curls
I already used the squatting on the bosu ball pic, so here you go

This is my guiding principle every single Saturday.  After I train my deadlifts (using some ROM progression, thank you Bob Peoples), I set up the bar in the rack, and on the spot try to come up with the absolute stupidest squat workout I can possibly fathom.  I never have a plan coming into this, and many times things change as soon as I get under the bar.  My goal is simply to inflict maximal misery upon myself, with no rhyme, reason or method taking priority.  Drop sets?  Certainly.  Rest pauses?  You bet.  Pyramids and reverse pyramids?  Why not.  Once the bar is in the rack for good, I’ll usually spend the next 4 minutes swearing at myself while trying to take my shoes off and catch my breath, and then I’ll limp for the next 4 days while it feels like my hamstrings are going to snap like a couple of cold rubber bands.  And then I’ll saddle up and do it again next week.  And doing this has done WAY more for my squat than any intelligent programming ever did.  I’ve traded science for art, effort, intensity and passion, and it’s been a good trade.

I normally try to end on a pithy quote, but instead, let’s go with the lyrics that inspired this.

Put down your chainsaw and listen to me
It's time for us to join in the fight
It's time to let your babies grow up to be cowboys
It's time to let the bedbugs bite

You better put all your eggs in one basket
You better count your chickens before they hatch
You better sell some wine before it's/its time
You better find yourself an itch to scratch
You better squeeze all the Charmin you can while Mr. Wimpole's not around
Stick your head in the microwave and get yourself a tan

Talk with your mouth full
Bite the hand that feeds you
Bite on more than you chew
What can you do
Dare to be stupid

Take some wooden nickles
Look for Mr. Goodbar
Get your mojo working now
I'll show you how
You can dare to be stupid

You can turn the other cheek
You can just give up the ship
You can eat a bunch of sushi and forget to leave a tip
Dare to be stupid

Come on and dare to be stupid
It's so easy to do
Dare to be stupid
We're all waiting for you

Let's go
It's time to make a mountain out of a molehill
So can I have a volunteer
There's no more time for crying over spilled milk
Now it's time for crying in your beer
Settle down, raise a family, join the PTA
Buy some sensible shoes and a Chevyrolet
And party 'till you're broke and they drive you away
It's OK, you can dare to be stupid

It's like spitting on a fish
It's like barking up a tree
It's like I said you gotta buy one if you wanna get one free

Dare to be stupid (yes)
Why don't you dare to be stupid
It's so easy to do
Dare to be stupid
We're all waiting for you
Dare to be stupid

Burn your candle at both ends
Look a gift horse in the mouth
Mashed potatoes can be your friends
You can be a coffee achiever
You can sit around the house and watch Leave It To Beaver
The future's up to you
So what you gonna do

Dare to be stupid
Dare to be stupid
What did I say
Dare to be stupid
Tell me, what did I say
Dare to be stupid
It's alright
Dare to be stupid
We can be stupid all night
Dare to be stupid
Come on, join the crowd
Dare to be stupid
Shout it out loud
Dare to be stupid
I can't hear you
Dare to be stupid
OK, I can hear you now
Dare to be stupid
Let's go, Dare to be stupid
Dare to be stupid
Dare to be stupid
Dare to be stupid
Dare to be stupid
Dare to be stupid
Dare to be stupid
Dare to be stupid