Saturday, May 20, 2017

STOP SKIMMING



I realize this post I’m about to write is going to sound someone self-serving as a blog writer, but it’s honestly something to just boggles my mind.  First of all, I tend to be one of the biggest advocates of just getting in the weightroom and slinging iron, and I tend to decry those that spend all of their time reading about training rather than ACTUALLY training.  That said, for the love of god, if you’re going to READ about training, quit skimming the damn material and actually READ IT.  Word for word; every word, without question.  The fact I even have to say this is mind blowing.  Why are there so many people skimming the material?!

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Apparently this was the original kindle prototype

Here’s the thing; if you’re reading about training, I imagine your intent is to take what you learn from your reading and apply it to your training for your own benefit.  It’s not an unreasonable assumption at least.  If this is true, wouldn’t you want to have the clearest understanding of the material you are reading to make sure that you are implementing the information in the most correct manner possible?  Why would you want to just go running off, half-cocked, unaware and poorly informed?  Especially on an endeavor you intend to spend years, if not DECADES pursuing?  Wouldn’t you want to make sure you were fully informed before you invested so much time and energy?

It would be like skimming a Spanish textbook before selling all your worldly goods and moving to Mexico City.  Wouldn’t you rather have fluency?  Before heading out to live into the woods for 4 years, wouldn’t you want to read every single word of your survival manual?  Wouldn’t you want to have it memorized, just in case you needed to go off memory?  In any other situation where your success and survival is incumbent upon the knowledge you’ve acquired, you would dutifully take the time to read every word, memorize every nuance, and master every corner of the material, but for lifting people can’t even be bothered to read all 400 words in a 400 word article?  What is this madness?


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Let's be honest; it's not like these folks are going to be writing at a super challenging level

Don’t believe that this is some sort of hyperbole; that I’m off here tilting at windmills.  I’ve witnessed this firsthand on numerous occasions, to the point that it aggravated me enough to need to write this.  I’m a big fan of linking the Jim Wendler “Building the Monolith” workout whenever someone is looking for something challenging to build strength and size, primarily because it’s a great training protocol, but also because it’s an effective reading test.  If someone tells me it’s only a 3 day a week program, I know they skimmed, because it lays out 6 days a week of training.  If someone tells me the diet is 4000 calories, I know they skimmed, because Jim only mandates a dozen eggs and 1.5lbs of ground beef.  If someone asks if cardio is ok, I know they skimmed, because that’s all included in the program.  Basically, I know how dedicated that person is based on how dutifully they bothered to read the article.  If they can’t take the time to read 500 words, I don’t have the time to help them.

And that’s the thing; it’s not a huge undertaking to read that article.  I’ve read thousands of pages over the span of my training, primarily because I’m a lifting nerd and I used to find reading about this stuff super fascinating before it all started sounding the same.  But it took reading those thousands of pages to get there.  Meanwhile, you can read only 275 pages of 5/3/1 Forever and know EVERYTHING you need to know about how to program for the rest of your life…and people STILL won’t do it.  And these are people who PAID $40 for the book…plus shipping.  Why would you spend so much money on a book you DON’T read?  What is this insanity?

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SuperTraining, 5/3/1, Westside Book of Methods, correct me if I'm being incorrect

I just have to wonder; what are these people DOING with all this extra time they save by skimming?  Because, from my observations, they aren’t spending that extra time training.  Or eating.  Or cooking.  Or sleeping.  Or recovering.  Or doing ANYTHING that is actually furthering themselves to their alleged goal.  And don’t get me wrong; I get that we all have differing priorities, and not everyone is as obsessed with training as I am.  But that’s the thing; why are these folks reading about training at ALL in the first place if they’re not going to dedicate the necessary time and effort to read WELL?  I have other hobbies that are just time wasters for me, but as a result I don’t put any effort into researching them; I just go and do them.  And honestly even THAT approach is going to better someone more than using HALF a plan to get there.  When you have a full plan, you are on a set path for success.  When you have no plan, your victory is inconsequential, as you’re just here to have fun.  But what the hell do you get with part of a good plan?  Especially if it’s not even the RIGHT part of that plan?

And WHEN you read, TRY to get into the headspace of the author before you start.  I find many trainees will have the conclusion to an article in their head before they even start, and the bias in turn colors the information they receive.  The 5x5 crowd will find a way for Louie Simmons to justify Stronglifts, the HIT Jedis will explain how “SuperTraining” confirms everything Arthur Jones ever wrote, etc etc.  It does you no good to approach the text in the hopes that it CONFIRMS what you know; hope that what you read turns everything you knew on its head.  How awesome would it be if it turned out you were wrong this whole time and that success was now readily available for you?  You finally FOUND it!

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No.  That said, if you've been skimming my blog this whole time, you might be led to believe otherwise


Set aside the time to give the author their due.  They worked hard to write all those words; the least you can do is read them all.  And for those of you that skimmed this post, if nothing else, I applaud your sense of irony.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

THE EXPERIENCE OF AN OAF





One of my absolute favorite articles of all time was Dave Tate’s “27 Reasons to be Big” (which, if you’ve not read it, you can find here https://www.t-nation.com/training/27-reasons-to-be-big), and I’m going to try to poorly emulate it myself regarding life as an oaf.

My last contest made me realize the unique circumstance I find myself in after hearing all the advice of the coaches and announcers regarding improving my performance.  I realize I’ve been hearing the same advice constantly, and everytime I think I’m making strides to fix my oafishness, it turns out I’m still at square one.

For those unversed in my vernacular, an “oaf” is one whose only attribute they bring to the table is brute strength.  I have no speed, my technique is awful, and my coordination is such that being drunk would probably be an improvement.  I still somehow manage to compete in strength sports, relying on the brute strength to compensate for all of the other weak areas, which tends to put me in unique situations regarding performance.



So  without further ado, here is what you can look forward to experiencing if you too are an oaf.


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1: Every time I get told “use your legs!” during a press event, the only thing I can think is “I thought I WAS using my legs”

2: I love how often I get asked “doesn’t that hurt?” when someone watches a video of me squatting.  …or deadlifting. …or pressing.

3: Somehow, I’ve managed to have an ugly continental.  The continental is already an ugly movement, which makes my achievement rather significant in that regard.

4: When I watch someone perform a snatch, I assume that there must be magic involved somewhere.

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I assume this is part of the ritual you must perform before the snatch

5: I have almost hyperventilated from laughing so hard when friends ask me if I’ve ever considered trying out for Ninja Warrior.

6: Generally, whenever I have to force something (opening a jar, building furniture, opening a stuck door, etc), I tend to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.  In most cases, it turns out I’m doing something wrong.  This is after having “built” many pieces of ikea furniture into configurations the manufacturer never could have possibly fathomed.

7: It’s easy to say that dynamic effort work is pointless when you deadlift 135lbs at the exact same speed as your 600lb deadlift.

8: I am the only person I know who can jump in slow motion.

9: When going through physical therapy for my ruptured ACL, I had better balance with my reconstructed knee than my “healthy” knee, because physical therapy forced me to spend time actually improving my balance on the healing side.

10: I have a distinct advantage when it comes to odd object pressing because I am so untechnical in my execution that EVERY object I press is like pressing an odd object.

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However, it's still poor form to tell your SO that they feel JUST like a barbell

11: When I skip rope, a “double under” is when I can skip the rope twice before it hits my feet and I have to start over.

12: Every time I have ever dropped a set of farmer’s handles in a contest, it’s because the implement clipped the back of my heel due to my clumsy stride and jacked up moving mechanics.

13: It’s amazing how many more calories you burn from cardio when you’re so inefficient with basic human movements.  All these people with solid running mechanics are really missing out.

14: I’ve developed such a strong lower back due to having the inability to get into a decent position for any sort of lift.  Why solve the problem when you can just get strong enough to completely bypass it?

15: My technique looks the same under fatigue as it does when I am completely fresh. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.

16: The best part about blowing out my knee was having an excuse for my terrible leg drive.  It absolutely doesn’t affect it at all, but I can always fall back on it now.

17: The last time I executed a triple extension was when I was filing taxes.

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I was originally going to go with this joke, but it was too phallic

18: When I squat, I get to leverage my immobility like some sort of natural squat suit.  Who needs to pay Metal $300 for a fluorescent orange polyester nightmare when your hip flexors and hamstrings are so tight that you need to take 3 reps to tie your shoes?  Ok, that last part is a lie; the only shoes I wear are flip flops or tactical boots.  The latter isn’t because I’m some pseudo-law enforcement type; I like the zippers on the side, because it means less laces to deal with.

19: I have tragically broken 4 ice cream scoops, because I didn’t realize you needed to let ice cream soften before you try to scoop it out.  To solve this, I didn’t learn patience; my in-laws bought me a titanium ice cream scoop.  Finesse is overrated.

20: I am a perpetual disappointment for every intramural sports team ever.  I have to constantly advise people that big/strong doesn’t equal “athletic”.  Even then, they have to truly witness my ineptness at basic human movements before they realize just how incapable I really am.  I’ve actually developed a strategy when playing any sort of team sport where I always try as hard as possible to get open and available to receive a play.  HOWEVER, I express to my team that it is IMPERATIVE they never actually give me the ball in any circumstance.  As long as the other team doesn’t watch me try to score, they’ll consider me a viable threat and try to cover me with one, maybe even TWO people.  However, once I’m in possession and try to score a point in any manner (baseketball, soccer, football, etc), they’ll see me whiff in a way only an oaf could possibly whiff, the charade will be over, and they’ll no longer waste any energy on me.  It’s a purely psychological play.

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I related tot his kid a ton

21: On the above, I will say I have developed a solid strategy in basketball and soccer of simply walking in front of a fast moving player, coming to a dead stop and having them bounce off of me.  In most cases, people attribute this more to clumsiness than malice.  Gotta use whatever “advantages” we have.

22: A lot of people remark on how much time and effort I spend on conditioning, and how solid my conditioning base is.  They don’t realize that this is NECESSARY when you are an oaf, because you waste a LOT of energy muscling through movements that any other normal human would use technique on.  It’s like, sure, I COULD get into a solid position and roll the keg up my body using my legs and back in one fluid motion to press it overhead, or I could just rip it right off the floor and manhandle it overhead, which is “easier”, but far more exhausting.  Once again, why solve the real problem when we can just ignore it and train harder instead.

Monday, May 8, 2017

DON’T LEAVE A REP IN THE TANK


The advice “leave a rep in the tank” is one of those pieces of advice that is absolutely 100% true and will totally ruin a new lifter.  Following this advice kept me from achieving my goals for a long time, and it’s not because the advice is bad; it was because I was unable to effectively utilize it.  This was because I did not have a fundamental understanding of what my limits REALLY were.  I did not understand how many reps I actually had in me in the first place to be able to understand just how many reps would leave “one in the tank”.  Exploring this idea and the ramifications of the misunderstanding is helpful if one wishes to know how to effectively employ this advice, along with when to ignore it.

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Like here, you should leave ALL reps in the tank

Keep in mind; when receiving this advice, it tends to come from accomplished lifters.  That is, of course, barring the instances when it is parroted by unsuccessful lifters who just want to mimic the greats rather than experience things for themselves and draw their own conclusions, but this is another topic.  Accomplished lifters have been through the trenches, tested their limits, reached failure on many occasions, and know what their threshold is.  Consequently, they also know the consequences of surpassing this threshold on a regular basis, as it tends to result in overreaching, overtraining, stagnation, regression and injury.  The body has limits, the body CAN be pushed beyond said limits, but when it does so, the body fights back by crashing hard.  This is where “leave a rep in the tank” comes into play, because you want to avoid constantly overreaching in your training.  Remember, we are training, not testing.

This is all well and good when you’ve taken the time to LEARN your limits, but when you’re a new trainee, you have no real understanding of what you are capable of.  A trainee that spend their formative adolescent years playing World of Warcraft and eating Cheetos has no idea what their body is REALLY capable of, and they’ve encountered so little pain and hardship during their time on earth that they are unable to properly interpret the signals of exertion that their bodies sent.  When left to their own devices, these trainees convince themselves that they are approaching the threshold of failure MUCH earlier than they truly are, for they are interpreting the sheer presence of discomfort and exertion as signs of impending failure.  In truth, where these trainees believe failure resides is simply where training STARTS.

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If you ever saw this video, you know the guy had like 2 more reps in him

With this understanding, having this trainee “leave a rep in the tank” sets them up for total failure, as said trainee is going to stop their set short of the point where the actual work BEGINS.  They’ll feel the sensation of exertion begin to loom and decide THAT is the point to cease training.  They’ll take their 3-5 minutes of rest and then perform another no-effort set, continuing this way through the rest of their workout.  After several months of “training” in this manner, they’ll reflect on their lack of progress, blame it on genetics, and go back to the destructive lifestyle they once lived.

Knowing your limits require constant exposure TO said limits, and for most people, this requires an external driver to arrive there.  Most of us who played sports remember our coaches pushing us well beyond what we once thought were our limits, and it was there that we discovered where our true threshold resided.  We’d tap into our inner reserves and resources and TRULY push ourselves to our limits, and get to know that feeling of total exhaustion and fatigue that accompanies such action.  This wasn’t a place we’d ever want to push ourselves to willingly, but when forced to exist there, we got to learn about it, and it reset our baseline.  Some of us became psychotic enough to push ourselves here without a coach or cheerleader, and through constant exposure in training, we learned the consequences of doing it too much, which is what led to “leaving a rep in the tank”, but once again, we had to KNOW these limits first.

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If you had a coach like this, you most likely grew up awesome

The other benefit of this constant exposure is gaining a knowledge and appreciation of just what your body is capable of surviving.  I am constantly baffled at the inane “snap city” comments people make whenever they witness ANYONE exerting just the bare minimal amount of effort necessary to actually progress in training.  Any sort of minor deviation in form makes someone cringe, people complain that their back hurts just from watching the video (which, honestly, if you can’t watch a video without experiencing back pain, it sounds like you have a super weak back and should avoid giving ANY advice on training, but I digress), etc etc, the peanut gallery erupts.  This is indicative of people once again NOT existing at the edge of their limits in training and not understanding exactly what they are capable of.  These people by DEFAULT are always leaving a few reps in the tank when they THINK they are pushing to the max; telling them that, on top of this they should TRY to leave a rep in the tank results in people accomplishing, at best, half a set.

I’ve of course experienced this phenomenon with people watching my own training videos.  This one is a classic

I’ve had people tell me they thought I was done on the 5th rep, and then for SURE on the 6th rep.  These same people would have stopped at rep 4 if they were leaving a rep in the tank, barely getting through half the set and leaving a LOT on the table in terms of growth and progress.  The last thing they need to worry about is overtraining; they are spending too much time UNDERtraining.

Leaving a rep in the tank is a GOOD idea, once you understand the size of your tank.  Until you’ve actually reached your limits a few times, spend more time in your training trying to get there and less time trying to avoid it.