Friday, December 23, 2016

THIS IS IT


Alright, I try not to push my goals on others.  I try to let others live their lives and do what they do.  I try to “live and let live”, and I do my thing while you do yours, but oh my god you people are starting to get on my nerves.  I can’t post a youtube video without someone telling me that I’m going to hurt myself, or say some nonsense about “snap city”, or talk about how I’m using bad form or that I’m lifting wrong of any level of ridiculous nonsense.  I’m not pushing my goals on you, but here you are dictating how I should train?  Well allow me a bit of a rebuttal; it’s my turn to do some of my own judging.

Image result for Atlas stones
I am not without sin, but I've still come to throw some pretty big stones

You know what I don’t understand?  Why do you lift weights in the first place?  What are you hoping to accomplish?  If safety is your number 1 priority, why would you voluntarily engage in behavior that contains some sort of risk?  I don’t get it.  Wouldn’t it be far safer to just stay inside and eat some ice cream?  Wouldn’t it be safer if you cracked a book?  I can’t understand your logic here. 

Furthermore, riddle me this; why is it you get more upset when I tell you that you won’t get big or strong than it upsets me when you tell me I’m going to get hurt?  It’s weird how, when I fail to meet your goals, it is of no consequence to me, but when you fail to meet my goals, it is damaging.  The cognitive dissonance you experience when you encounter someone unconcerned with safety or longevity results in borderline cerebral hemorrhaging, but when I observe someone unwilling to do what it takes to get bigger and stronger, I consider it the norm.

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
Of course, there are always the people that are both unsafe AND ineffective

Where I DO experience this dissonance is when I encounter one of you double-speakers that talk about how you want to do whatever it takes to get bigger and stronger and then freak out over the prospect of injury.  I’ve made my peace here; why won’t you?  Why are you living under this delusion of safety?  Can you even honestly believe it, or are you just hoping that if you say it enough you WILL start to believe it?  Have you drank the koolaid for real, or am I just missing the joke here?

And god, while I am ranting and wondering; just what the Hell is your end game here?  Know why I push myself to the point of breaking?  Because I know this is a young man’s game.  I know that my strength is only going to increase for so long before it decreases.  I know that, if I don’t push now, I’ll never reach my potential.  …what the hell are you training for?  To be the world’s strongest 90 year old?  Why is longevity so important to you?  Don’t get me wrong; Jack LaLanne was awesome, but who really wants to be him? 

Image result for hugh hefner
I feel like more people want to grow up to be like him. I mean; he gets to wear pajamas ALL day

Who really wants to be that guy that doesn’t know when to get out of the game?  Who really wants to be that guy desperately hanging onto the last visages of their youth?  Are you REALLY striving your absolute hardest to be the 80 year old dude at the gym?  Yeah, everyone respects that dude, and props to him for showing up, but goddamn it, why not be a monster in your 30s and 40s?  Who sets out with the end goal to be a really cool octogenarian?  Who will actually spend their prime years NOT living their fullest so that they can save it all up for the end?

It is HARD to watch an athlete who doesn’t know when to hang it up.  To watch them no longer meet their old performances, to see them decline, to see them not be able to hang anymore.  Some folks are like Mark Felix, and can energizer bunny this, but other folks are like Brett Favre, and needed to get out years ago.  Is it really your hope to fade away?

Image result for brett favre meme 
In fairness, this is one of the least hurtful memes about him

I’ll tell you the truth; I want to burn out.  I want to erupt.  No, I’m not talking about suicide, I’m talking about pushing myself so hard that I finally break…and then it’s over.  You see this as a calling, I see it as a curse.  You’re training for your health, I’m training for my hubris.  I can’t WAIT for this to be all over.  I can’t wait to finally be at the point where nothing works anymore; where I have no chance of possibly getting any bigger or stronger, not matter what I do.  I can’t wait to finally be done, because then I can finally move on.  I can stop worrying about getting as big and as strong as possible, and start doing other things.  I can read more, I can learn more, I can have more leisure.

But I can’t get there UNTIL I reach my potential, and I can’t reach my potential unless I push so hard that I break.  You’re playing it safe, and you’re just prolonging the process.  Hell, maybe you’ll always be getting stronger, since your approach is so safe that it’s ineffective.  Maybe that’s why you do what you do, and maybe it upsets you that I’m trying to get to the end so much faster than you.  But that’s the difference between you and I; this isn’t a lifelong pursuit.  There is a clearly defined goal here; get as big and as strong as possible.  Once I do that, it’s finally over, and I can move on, but as long as there is a chance that I can eek out just a little bit more, I’m going to push myself in a stupid direction to get it.  I’ll round my back, blow out my knee, tear apart my shoulders, and destroy my body in the pursuit of making it as strong as possible. 

And once it starts to decline, I can tell myself “this is it.”


  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

EVIL ON TAP

I’ve written in the past on the topic of psyching up, and in doing so I’ve expressed the necessity of saving it for competition.  To summarize, if you psyche yourself up all the time in training, you’ll burn out quickly, as you’ll constantly be training at higher percentages than you could normally, which overtaxes the body.  Getting psyched up is also exhausting, both physically and emotionally, which will also tax ones recovery.  And getting psyched up through an entire 8 hour+ competition is going to make it so that you have nothing left by the final event, which is going to result in performance degrade.  However, if none of these arguments convince you, consider this; if you psyche yourself up all the time, you actually weaken the effect of the psyche up.  Constant exposure dilutes the evil in you; you want it to be pure and concentrated.

Image result for pure concentrated evil
Oh god, here come the "whiskey and deadlifts" memes

I genuinely hold a negative view regarding human nature in general, but it’s fundamentally based on the idea of the absence of true altruism in humans rather than in being fundamentally evil.  Ultimately, I don’t think most humans are evil: simply self-interested.  They will do what is in their best interest, and sometimes that results in evil, but rarely is there a human that is evil purely for the sake of evil.  Even those we consider fundamentally evil, in many cases, when analyzed objectively, demonstrate motives that are far more aligned in self-interest than purely for the sake of evilness.  The movie villain is just that; a trope, not reality.  I bring this up because, when it comes to psyching ourselves up, we must BECOME evil, and in doing so we are exhausting a finite resource; our CAPACITY for evil.

Machiavelli spoke about the necessity to be able to do evil when fortune demands it, and in our case, we are called upon to be evil in that moment before we attempt a big lift.  At least, those that have ever really and truly psyched themselves up understand what I’m talking about.  It’s not about blasting heavy metal into earbuds until you develop tinnitus, it’s not about slapping yourself in the face and swearing, it’s not about hyperventilating; it’s about finding that dark place inside of you.  It’s about digging way down deep into your psyche, into total blackness, where hate, rage, wrath and primordial evil malinger and fester; a place you’re ashamed to admit that you have but you know where to find when you need it.  We dig deep into this well to find hidden strength, and when we do the world goes black, we get tunnel vision, language n longer functions and, in most cases, we enter a fugue so strong that we don’t even realize the lift is over until we’re walking off the platform.  But really, unless you’re psychotic, just how many times do you think you can REALLY do this in your life?

Image result for borderlands psycho
And if you ARE psychotic, your answer still doesn't matter, because you probably won't live long

How many times do you think you can REALLY hate a barbell?  How many times do you think you can honestly will a deadlift to lockout?  Or legitimately believe that there is a car on top of a child and the only way to move it is to squat it off?  Eventually, your well of evil is going to run dry.  Eventually, you’ll dig deep and come up empty.  All that hate you built up getting stuck in traffic, all the rage from being crapped on by your boss, all those evil feelings…you used them all up.  You go to find evil, and you come back with absurdity.  This is ridiculous; we’re getting angry at a barbell?  There are far more significant things going on in the world, and we’re trying to get spun up about a deadlift?  And at that point, you’ve lost it.  You’ve lost your ability to get psyched up, because you lost your ability to be evil.

This is why we must limit how often we try to get psyched up; in doing so, we make the effect far more potent.  If you save up your evil until you really need to dig deep, it will be there, and it will be abundant, and the effect will be immense.  If you’re psyching up for a set of band pull aparts, you’ll be running on fumes when the big game shows up.  In addition, the one who is sparing their psyche up will reach their evil faster, as it is much closer to the surface.  Those who are constantly going back to the well will take longer and longer to draw out the evil.  This is why those folks that are always getting psyched up in training have rituals that take FOREVER.  They have to hit their favorite song, clap their hands the right amount of times, walk around the bar in a circle, etc etc, because they’re trying their hardest to generate that evil inside of them.  What if warm-ups get screwed up, and suddenly they’re on deck?  What if they start their ritual too early, and a snag happens that makes the event run late, and suddenly the peak too early?  They disadvantage themselves by getting psyched up too often, because it’s not practice; it’s depletion.

Image result for WoW Gold Farming
This isn't WoW.  You aren't practicing mining gold; you're strip-mining 

I legitimately find myself on the opposite end of the problem.  I psyche myself up so rarely that, while recovering from surgery and unable to really lift anything heavy, I found evil spilling out of me.  I found myself exploding in rages with little provocation, escalating situations needlessly, erupting in minor traffic inconveniences, because my well was full.  Additionally, when I choose to tap into the evil for a competition, my performance is significantly enhanced, by I am monumentally emotionally exhausted at the end of my effort.  I rapidly transition from calm to enraged, enter a frenzied state, perform, and then, despite being physically fine, I find myself exhausted and spent.  But, ultimately, I would far prefer this be TOO effective and be exhausted than be fine after the fact because I failed to really achieve anything when I dug deep.

You probably aren’t evil.  You’re probably a nice person.  So quit trying to be evil so frequently, and save it for when you REALLY need it.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

CONTINENTAL CRASH COURSE

As I’ve written in the past, I am not athletic in the slightest.  I am oafishly strong, and when it comes to standing still and moving heavy stuff short distances, I am well within my element, but as soon as speed, timing, coordination, precision, etc all come into place, I am a fish out of water.  This became abundantly clear to me in my 8th strongman competition, when I needed to press a 245lb axle for reps, a weight I had easily pressed out of the rack in training many times, and ended up zeroing the event because I simply couldn’t get the axle onto my chest.  I had a 650lb+ deadlift, and yet couldn’t move 245lbs fast enough off the floor.  Please watch for your viewing pleasure.


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This is what it looks like when you drown on land

This, of course, was a crushing blow to my pride, and I resolved that, immediately after that show, I was going to master the continental and never let this happen again.  …and then I blew out my ACL and meniscus on the third event.  Turned out it would be another 9 months before I could even ATTEMPT a continental again.  And then, to make matters even more interesting, I found myself signed up for a show that had a max weight axle press as the first event.  I now had 3 months to try to teach myself how to continental enough weight to be able to match how much I could press, at least if I had any hopes of not embarrassing myself come competition day.


The frequent readers of my blog know the outcome, but for those of you just tuning in; I ended up hitting a 270lb press and was able to continental 300lbs double overhand. 

video


For the first time ever, I was able to continental MORE than I could press.  With that, I will share what I did in the 3 months leading up to the contest, so that those who are in a similar position can attempt to do the same.  But first…


WHY THE CONTINENTAL?

 Image result for weightlifter hit by barbell
I mean, it just seems so unsafe compared to traditional weightlifting technique

Most folks who see a continental for the first time all have the same initial question: why?  And usually the follow-up is; “isn’t that dangerous?”  To answer the latter: yes.  The continental isn’t a “safe” movement at all, and with a mixed grip especially it carries a risk of bicep tears among other issues.  However, the reason strongman competitors use it is because it’s the only practical option to get an axle from the floor to the chest.


The axle is different from a barbell.  Most people key in on the wider diameter, which is true, but there are 2 other significant factors at play here.  An axle has zero flex, which becomes very apparent when you compare it to a whippy weightlifting barbell, and makes cleaning it significantly more difficult.  The most significant factor though is that an axle doesn’t have rotating collars, and when the weight is clamped on tight (or, in the case of some competitions, welded to the axle) there is limited opportunity to get any spin out of the axle on the second pull of the clean.  Whereas a barbell will allow you to get your wrists back and your elbows high, attempting to do the same with an axle will just result in the weight getting ripped out of your hands.  You can observe this here, with accomplished weightlifter Misha Koklayev





Keep in mind; if an Olympic caliber weightlifter can’t clean a heavy axle, you probably have no chance.  Any weight you CAN clean is simply not that heavy, and it means you’re limiting yourself from REALLY putting up some heavy poundage if you only press what you can clean.


As a note; the thick diameter of the axle typically results in needing to pull with a mixed grip and then flip your hand through out the pull, as seen here





However, in my instance, I’ve got long fingers, a strongish grip, and I’m still not pressing monster weights, so you’ll see me using doubleoverhand throughout my demonstration.


THE TRAINING


Onto HOW I went about bridging the gap and building my continental.  As I’ve written about in the past; proficiency is best gained through frequency.  The more often you train something, the faster you get better at it.  Many mistake this for rapid strength gains, but what we’re observing is the ability to better recruit the strength that is already available.  If you are already strong and simply uncoordinated, this will work for you.  If that’s NOT the case, you may need to spend more time hitting the iron.


In the first month and a half, I’d train the continental 3x a week in the following manner.


-On my press day, I would do all of my warm-ups and my top workset out of the rack.  After that, I would put the axle on the floor and continental it up for any/all backoff sets.  I mainly did this because I trained first thing in the morning, and didn’t want to piss off my neighbors by making a lot of noise.  If you’re so inclined, you could continental all of your warm-ups.  If you were as bad at the start as I was, you most likely CAN’T continental the weight you will use on your topset (yet), and that’s ok.  This is just practice.


-On my squat day, after my squat workout, I would work up to a max single or triple on continentals.  Yes, this means you will train the continental in a fatigued state, and therefore not be able to move as much weight as if you were fresh.  This is by design.  If you can get good at the continental when you are fatigued, you’ll be even better when you’re fresh.  Additionally, you don’t want to detract from your strength work by exhausting yourself with lightweight technique work.  Just work up to 1 topset here.




-On a third day, independent of any lifting, I’d perform a triple of continentals, every minute on the minute (EMOM) for 10 minutes.  It looked like this.





I started off incredibly light at first, at 156lbs.  This was a weight I could easily power clean, but the point was to learn the technique, so I focused on making sure I was only using the continental.  In full disclosure, I completely lifted this idea from Brian Shaw in an issue of “Power” when he described how to improve log cleans, and I had used it for that purpose in the past, so I figured “why not?”


I initially started with a thumbless grip for this workout until I reached about 196lbs.  After that, I switched to full grip.  I think it’s a good idea to use that approach, as it did develop a fair amount of grip strength, but your mileage may vary.


Since I have a unique assortment of bumper plates, I tried to make as small an adjustment as possible on this workout without using any metal plates.  It ended up going 156, 173, 186 and 193.


For the next month and a half, the training went in this direction.


-Still the same approach on press day.  I only used the continental on the back off set, but that had grown heavier as the months progressed.


-I had now eliminated the max continental from the squat day, primarily because weights were getting heavier and it was beating me down to keep training it so frequently.


-The EMOM workout transition to doubles for the first 2 weeks (ended up at 206lbs).  After that, I would simply work up to a max single on continentals for the next 4 weeks.  I was no longer in a fatigued state here, so weight was really getting pushed, and I was learning how to get better at moving heavier weights.


It’s a simple approach, but it paid off well.  The EMOM workouts drilled technique and improved my conditioning, the training under fatigued forced me to perfect my technique so I couldn’t just muscle up the weight, the heavier fresh work got me used to lifting heavier weights, and the frequency gave me the ability to cram in a lot of practice in a short period of time.  I went from a continental of essentially zero to 300lbs, with some room in the tank for maybe a little more.


Hopefully that helps, and feel free to leave a question or a comment if you have something to say.