Sunday, April 23, 2017

EMPIRE CLASSIC STRONGMAN 2017 WRITE-UP

So first, the video


10th competition is over and done with.  I met 2 out of my 3 goals; I placed, and I didn’t get injured.  I wanted to qualify for nationals out of this comp, but it wasn’t in the cards.  I had 1 big error that cost me first in one event, but ultimately I wasn’t ready for what this show would bring.  Part of that burns me, but at big part of it excites me; it’s good to know I’m not even close to done in this sport yet.  I still have a lot to learn.

TRAINING

Training for the event went pretty poorly.  I got a bad glute injury on my left side right around the time the show was announced that was never healed until about the day of the show.  I ended up not deadlifting for 3 weeks before the show, and even prior to that my deadlift workouts were pretty poor.  However, none of the competition movements seemed to hurt the glute, so there’s that.  I also ended up buying myself a 12.75” Circus Dumbbell to get in some real practice, which was a pretty smart move all things considered.  I was losing weight coming into this show, mainly because I seem to perform better whenever I do that.  Ended up weighing in at 198.0 with a few meals in me in jeans and a t-shirt the day before the show.

EVENT 1: FRAME DEADLIFT FOR REPS 450LBS

Usual strongman last minute changes here.  We were going to be told go, and at that point we could set up our straps, vs getting set and then going.  I realize nationals is moving in that direction, but honestly I think it’s just a dumb ploy to get us to all go out and buy figure 8 straps.  I switched to my Why Our Way straps since they were easier to throw on quickly compared to the Ironmind ones.  Also, we now had a down AND up command, whereas before it was just going to be a down command.

I managed 20 reps in 60 seconds, losing the 21st rep because my left strap slipped.  This was good enough to tie for second place. First was 21 reps.  I will say that, ultimately, I lost first because I wasn’t strong enough.  That said, I also was moving slow because I could not hear the “up” command over the sound of the plates clanging, and I lost a lot of time staring at the judge waiting for an up command he already gave me.  I think an up command is a legit idea when you’re lifting a weight that people are only gonna hit 5-10 reps with, but on rep fest weights, it’s really going to boil down to who got the faster command to decide who wins.  This is the second time I’ve been burned this way, so lesson learned; I’m gonna ask for a hand signal from the judge for an up command and for him to yell and say the command multiple times. 

EVENT 2: PRESS MEDLEY (180LB KEG, 200LB LOG, 231LB AXLE, 125LB CIRCUS DUMBBELL FOR REPS)

Probably the event I trained the most for, specifically the dumbbell.  I haven’t hit a circus dumbbell of any variety since Dec 2015, so I was way out of practice. I managed to hit the competition weight for a sloppy double the week before the show.  Last time I clean and pressed a keg was ALSO Dec of 2015, so I brought that back into the rotation quickly.

The keg killed about half the competition, but someone managed 3 reps on the dumbbell before me, so I had a number to beat.  I got out and 1 motioned the keg, hit the log without  much trouble (a 12” steel log is a lot easier than the 14” mutant I built at home), and then lost the continental on the axle.  Looking at the video, I caught it too low the first time.  It was a quick correction, but I was a little unstable at the top.  I imagine it was the train wheels throwing me off.

The dumbbell in the contest was a lot like the one I had at home, which is to say crazy.  I was having a difficult time finding a stable position.  I know I need to figure out my rack on the CDB, but with only 6 weeks to build up STRENGTH on the movement, technique had to take a backside.  I was using a technique where I’d spin the bell on my shoulder and press it while it was moving through space once it hit a balanced point.  It sounds crazier than it is.  It worked for one rep, but that was it.  Someone else managed 1 rep as well.  If they were using split times, I took second here.  If not, I tied for second.

EVENT 3: 250LB STONE OF STEEL OVER 52” BAR

This was a first for me.  To prep for the stone of steel, I used a stone simulator with a combination of bumper plates and metal.  I figured the slippery bumper plates would get me used to the surface, and the uneven weight distribution would get me ready for the weight of the SOS.

I was mostly right.  I was the first guy in my weight class to even lap the damn thing, but just couldn’t nail the extension.  For the most part, I just didn’t have the confidence in losing the stone to the extension over the bar.  Looking at the video, I was much closer than I felt, but it was a helluva fight, and eventually the stone threw me on my ass.  I ended up performing a backwards summersault to escape the stone’s path and then put my arms up triumphantly proclaiming that I stuck the landing.  Gotta have some humor in this, and honestly this event broke me out of a funk during this contest and got me to start having some fun.  This was the second time I’ve ever zero’d an event, and the first time as a result of lacking strength, which was a motivator more than anything else.  That said, being the first to lap the stone and doing it without wide receiver gloves, a grip shirt, tape, and all the other weird voodoo that was being used made me feel pretty badass. …although I did steal someone’s tacky towel.

EVENT 4: POWER STAIRS (250LBS, 300LBS, 350LBS, 3 14” STEPS EACH)

I prepped for this event using a Hungarian core blaster loading to a 20” plyobox.  It worked well enough.

Time to beat was 27 seconds and some change, and I managed 23 before getting beaten by a 20 second and 16 second placing.  My biggest mistake was being short, so next time I’ll pick better parents.  Otherwise, I needed to pick a little higher on the 350s to get some better clearance, but this went about as good as it could.

EVENT 5: CRUCIFIC HAMMER HOLD (14LB HAMMERS)

Initially, this event was only going to be for the top 2 competitors in each weight class, but they opened it up to everyone at the end.  It was worth double points, to create some drama.  I actually DID train for this one, and I felt like it was a smart idea.  I took 2 5lb loading pins and placed a 10lb weight on each of them with some locking collars to hold them in place.  I then held the pin about 2-3” below the plate.  I heard that the hammer held likes to tip, and it really stresses the wrist, so this did a good job of training that.

Time to beat was 1:50+.  That was an outlier, as up until that point 1:20 was a good time.  That said, there’s no real way to say this without sounding cocky, but I don’t think there are a lot of people out there with a pain tolerance greater than mine.  It’s about the one thing I bring to the table, after all the stupid stuff I regularly submit myself to.  I set up the hammers, and went through my ritual of listening to the chorus of “Ruiner” in my head (“you didn’t hurt me, nothing can hurt me, you didn’t hurt me, nothing can stop me now”).  Just kept listening to that until I couldn’t anymore, and when I was done, over 2 minutes had passed.  I took first in the event, and had the second highest time in the contest, beaten only by 1 of the heavyweights (we all held the same weighted hammers).  Sadly, even with the double points, it wasn’t enough to bridge the gap and take second.  I imagine that zero in the third event sealed my fate, but at least I didn’t lose my 3rd place finish.

MOVING FORWARD

For the immediate future, I’m going to lose a little more weight.  I have a physical fitness test coming up this month, and I plan to run the crossfit “Murph” workout on 25 May as part of  work function, so being lighter will pay off.  I’m also going to get my run into better shape.  My conditioning needs to improve as well, as I took a lot of time off after this show.  On top of that, the CDB is going to make regular rotations into my training so I can better practice my skill on it, and I might be eyeing a stone of steel since they seem to be appearing in more and more shows.  I’m still not done yet.


I don’t have any other show on the horizon at the moment, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled.  Until then, my off season is going to have a lot of volume and conditioning and I’ll grow as much as I can.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

PSA: DON’T USE SUICIDE GRIP

                                                  

After witnessing far too many slipped benches and hazardous practices in the land of the internet, as a guy with a blog and some readers, I feel it is my obligation to stop the madness and spread the message; DON’T use a suicide grip.  The suicide grip is an insanely dangerous practice, used only by reckless trainees with no concern for the safety of themselves or society in general.  Anyone telling you to use a suicide grip is NOT your friend, and those advocating such a grip are dangerous lunatics.  In all instances, never use a suicide grip; use a thumbless girp.

Image result for Trollface problem 
I hate myself so much for using this photo

Wait, what’s that; those are the same thing?  No no dear reader; you are mistaken.  You see, a tumbles grip is simply an instance where, instead of having the thumbs around the bar on the opposite side of the rest of the fingers, the thumb is on the same side of the fingers.  A trainee using a thumbless grip still has a secure grip on the bar, because they understand how to squeeze a bar with their fingers and correctly align their wrists.  A trainee using a thumbless grip is using this grip because it’s the most effective way for that particular person to train; the goal is to use it to get bigger and stronger.

A suicide grip, on the other hand, is a grip where failure is an inevitability.  As the name implies, it’s a grip that will kill the trainee.  A trainee engaging in such practices knows that they’re not going to succeed and that their efforts are going to kill them; it’s an approach of a defeatist.

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Pyramids were built by defeatist who originally set out to build giant squares

Alright, so I’ve probably belabored my point enough for you to get where I’m going with this; anyone calling a thumbless grip “suicide grip” is most likely small and weak.  I’ve literally never seen anyone big or strong refer to a thumbless grip this way, unless it was to be ironic.  Consequently, all the ridiculous fears associated with a thumbless grip ALSO tend to be associated with people who are small and weak. 

A thumb simply isn’t going to be strong enough to stop a bar loaded with heavy weight from rolling out of your hands once it’s been set in motion.  Literally ever singly slipped bench I’ve ever seen has been WITH a full grip, and in every instance, it proceeds exactly the same; the trainee is grinding a rep, the wrists inevitably tip upward as the trainee is trying to “push” their hands up, the bar starts it’s roll forward, and then the world ends.  If your thumb can stop a rolling 300+ bar, why aren’t you currently setting the world record on the rolling thunder?  What sort of weird dichotomy is this that a trainee has such a massively strong thumb that it will stop any manner of rolling barbell yet all 4 remaining fingers are so weak that they have zero chance to do the same?  Is this the byproduct of a life spent playing video games?  Massively overdeveloped thumbs and underdeveloped fingers?

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This explains the holes drilled into my palms too

Anyone choosing to use a “suicide grip” is a defeatist; plain and simple.  It’s someone approaching training with the notion that they’re inevitably going to screw up and fail.  These are the same people that waste brain cells and energy trying to figure out the most perfect way to bail on a squat, while the dumb meatheads just let the bar fall forward or backwards and get the hell out of the way.  These are the people that, before their first workout, wonder what to do when they reach a stall, versus the ironheads that figure they’ll just sling metal until they’re big and strong.  So many people are so preoccupied about what to do when they fail that they don’t spend any energy wondering what the hell they’re going to do to succeed.

Let me steal a phrase from CT Fletcher for a bit here; don’t use a suicide grip, use a HOMICIDE grip.  Kill the weights!  …ok, that was too cheesy for me.  Also, I know CT Fletcher is against a thumbless grip, so it’s already become kind of confusing.  But seriously, approach training with the notion that you’re going to SUCCEED, not fail.  Your focus on lifting needs to be geared toward doing what it takes to drive adaptation and change; not concerned about how to maintain maximal safety with every single movement you accomplish.  I ensure you, with every thumbless bench I perform, I am never even thinking about the state of my thumbs, worrying if the bar is going to roll out of my hands, concerned about what happens if I miss a rep, etc etc.  I HAVE failed a bench on several occasions, and everytime it happened, I somehow found a way to escape relatively unharmed.  And since I am so preoccupied with success, I tend to fail so RARELY that it would have been absolutely pointless to spend any time developing a gameplan for these situations.

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Granted, if I failed in this situation, I'd kind of hope the barbell would just kill me and end my shame

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Those incredibly preoccupied with failing inevitably end up failing, because THAT is what they are focused on.  Those concerned with success will ultimately succeed.  This is why so many successful trainees get away with “breaking the rules” and training in manners the internet deems unsafe; they are so driven by success that they do the things necessary to create success.  They brace themselves, set their bodies, and execute the movement with enough tension, drive and ferocity that success is the only avenue available.  Those preoccupied with failure are too busy shivering on the bench to ever get set tight, and consequently, they end up dropping a bench.

Don’t use suicide grip; use a thumbless grip.  And if you can, try to wiggle your middle finger free to flip off the people who have a problem with it.             


Sunday, April 9, 2017

PRAY FOR WEAKNESS: A REFUTATION OF STOICISM



One of my dedicated readers remarked that, in my writing, I tend to walk a fine line between stoicism and nihilism.  With my previous work being an affirmation of nihilism, allow me to use this as a refutation of stoicism, in hopes of further tipping the balance.  Stoicism can be a noble philosophy, this is true.  It’s premised around the notion that the universe it outside of our control, but what we CAN control is our reaction to the things outside of our control.  In turn, stoicism tends to breed a mentality of quiet reservation and a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity.  And this reaction is guaranteed to keep you weaker.



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If Bruce Banner was a stoic, no one would care about him

Nietzsche critiqued stoicism as “life-denying” philosophy; it worked against our basic nature, and engaging in it would result in the decline of humanity, not the evolution of it.  Why is this?  Why would the mastery of our emotions result in negative growth rather than positive?  Because our emotions provide us the necessary fuel to serve as a catalyst for growth.  Our emotions call us to action, and that action is what creates progress.

Discontent is what spurs us to act and seek self-improvement.  When we fail in our endeavors, we feel the disappointment, self-loathing and rage that forces us to train harder, longer and better.  When we do not meet the expectations we set for ourselves, we grow furious and we correct ourselves.  When, after following a perfect training cycle and the stars line up and everything went as well as possible and we STILL only take second place, we grow livid, go to a dark place in the corner of our mind and become something greater than we are.

Image result for second place meme

The stoics of this world are simply good losers, which is to say, bad winners.  They are satisfied with a job well done, knowing that they tried their hardest and that is all they can do.  And they never take first place.  They get beat by the narcissist, whose self-absorption holds no one else’s joy above their own.  They get beat by the misanthrope, whose outright hatred of humanity inspires him to grow to something “beyond.”  They get beat by the ascetic, who understands that life is pain and pursues hardship to become better, NOT to ignore it.  They get beat by ANYONE who has embraced any sort of philosophy that allows for disappointment, fear and rage to exist.



Stoicism becomes the philosophy of cowards; they don’t want to experience these “negative” emotions, so they decide that they’re simply not going to react in the presence of appropriate stimuli.  These are the people that refuse to engage in any activity which may result in feeling these emotions.  They will not train hard, because that might cause an injury, which would cause pain and regret.  They will not compete, because that might result in losing, which would cause disappointment and doubt.  They recant the trite mantra of “God, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”, because they have no hope of finding this strength inside of themselves.


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You could pick a worse god


This is why I tell you: pray for weakness.  Pray for defeat.  Pray to be crushed, beaten, destroyed, humiliated and ruined.  Pray that whatever deity you pray to will give you an opportunity to feel the emotions necessary to call you to greatness.  The people praying for strength are readily admitting their weakness; the people praying for weakness are simply seeking more adversity to overcome.  It is through overcoming that we grow, adapt, and get stronger.  This was Nietzsche’s Will to Power; the will to continue seeking out greater and greater challenges to assert out power over.

Success makes us soft; failure is what drives us to overcome.  When we succeed, we find ourselves lost. Where do we go from here?  What’s the next way forward?  But when we fail?  We know exactly how and where we have failed and what we must do to overcome.  I have said before; nothing is more anabolic than second place.  Standing on the podium and basking in the glory with a gold medal gives you a sigh of relief, while standing there with silver just provides you a voracious appetite.  To be so close and still fail results in harder training and better results, because we allow ourselves to feel the regret of failure and let it drive us to do what it takes to succeed.  We don’t embrace stoicism and accept our defeat with quiet dignity; we throw a righteous tantrum, burn every bridge, salt the earth and leave nothing but destruction in our wake.


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No joke; if you never got to watch the year that Mariusz went Super Saiyan, you missed out

Pray that you have the opportunity to experience such weakness.  Pray that you aren’t so dead on the inside that you can’t even bring yourself to be upset at your failures.  Pray that, when you experience defeat, it drives you to achieve an even greater victory.  Don’t deny your life providing instincts; embrace them!  Embrace the red hot fiery passion to be something GREATER in the face of something less.  Don’t let stoicism convince you that being ok with failure is as noble as victory; know that the feelings associated with failure are necessary to achieve the glory of victory.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

ABSURDITY AND NIHILISM IN TRAINING


(Author’s note: this one kind of got away from me as I was writing it.  Real heavy on the philosophy, not so much on the lifting).
I’ve already addressed the topic of utilizing nihilism in competition to your advantage, but today we’re going to extrapolate even further and discuss how absurdity and nihilism apply when TRAINING for the very competition where we exercise nihilism.  As much as absurdity and nihilism tend to carry a negative connotation in everyday vernacular, the reality is that it is how we utilize these concepts that dictates their effects.  Absurdity and nihilism are not inherently negative and, if understood and used properly, will actually be incredibly liberating for your training and allow you to reach levels that were previously unobtainable.


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Gotta admit; pretty absurd
Let’s start with the basics; training IS absurd.  This is a point many don’t want to realize, but it is absolute, 100%, undeniable truth.  The sheer act of training to get bigger and stronger is completely absurd.  In training to get bigger and stronger, we are ignoring the reality that, one day, we will die and all that we worked for will mean nothing, and all this time invested in this activity will be worthless.  Those that train are investing in a body that will one day fail, break down, grow weak, decrepit, crippled and fundamentally worthless.  Ultimately, training is a waste of time.
However, simply because something is absurd does NOT mean that it is not worth pursuing.  Extending even further, LIFE is absurd.  We are the only species fully aware of the reality that, one day, we will die, and this puts us in such a unique situation.  Every action we take, we take knowing that, ultimately it will be meaningless.  When we EMBRACE this, we liberate ourselves.  The only way we harm ourselves in the presence of absurdity is through denial; attempting to convince ourselves that what we do matters and our actions are important, and therefore it is our moral imperative to perform the most significant actions to have the greatest contributions.  Instead, when we recognize the absurd for what it is and then choose to still go forth, THAT is true bravery.  Clinging onto meaning is cowardice; the brave walk into the abyss knowing that it holds no promise.


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You can try this at home


We exercise our mastery over the absurd IN our training.  We train being at peace with the absurd, knowing that everything we do is meaningless, so why not have our ONE thing and make it the one thing we do well in a meaningless world?  We make our OWN meaning.  And in doing so, there is no need to worry about the end game of it all.  Train for NOW.  Train for immediacy.  Train so that you get the results you want, not so that you can keep training in your twilight years and eventually train on the day that you die. 
This is where nihilism and the absurd liberate you, because the people still clinging on to meaning in a meaningless world refuse to take the risks necessary in order to succeed.  When you still have hope that you’re going to be spry and energetic in your 90s, you don’t want to risk pushing too hard on a last set of squats and potentially blowing out a knee.  You don’t want to risk rupturing a disk on a set of deadlifts that was maybe a little too heavy.  You don’t want to put it all on the line in a contest and leave it out all there on the field, because what if you get hurt?  But when you’ve made your peace?  You do these things knowing that there are no “risks”.  Life has a 100% mortality rate, and ultimately nothing that you do, for good OR for ill, has any real consequence.  If you blow out your knee, it won’t matter in 500 years, because you won’t even be a memory.  That pain, agony and regret will be long gone.  BUT, in your one moment of greatness, in your one point in the present, where the stars lined up and everything worked out and you finally achieved one of your absurd goals, you will HAVE that moment AT that moment.


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Only weak people find themselves asking "why"


We reverse the power of the absurd and nihilism; turn it on its head to OUR advantage.  There are no consequences to our actions; only rewards for the brave.  If we get hurt, sick, injured, it’s all immaterial, for one day we will pass on.  But if we achieved greatness in pursuit of OUR meaning; the meaning we decided to pursue in an absurd world?  THAT is victory, and we bask in it.  Because we are all inevitably heading to the same end, it becomes a question of simply who will spend their time pursuing their meaning while they embrace the absurd vs who will hide from the absurd through denial and refuse to even entertain the notion of finding their own meaning.  Will you choose your own meaning and pursue it as hard as you can, or will you only pay lip service to your meaning, in the hopes that you will somehow “save yourself” for the end?
Take the risks no one else is willing to take, because you understand that they AREN’T risk.  Train too hard, too long, too often.  Train with the goal of getting as big and strong as possible, NOT with the goal of being as safe as possible.  Throw caution to the wind, be ridiculous, get hurt, get rebuilt, and do it all over again.  Have YOUR goals, and pursue them irrespective of if anyone else likes them or agrees with them or supports them.  Choose YOUR meaning, knowing it is an absurd thing, and when anyone feels the need to point it out, AGREE with them, and then train anyway.  You need no other reason other than the fact that it is YOUR meaning.