Saturday, January 28, 2017


I’ve written before about how people screw up bulking by doing it backwards.  Basically, you shouldn’t forcefeed yourself to try to gain more muscle; you should increase your training volume to the point that you NEED to eat more food to recover, which in turn creates more muscle.  However, inevitably, when I bring up this point, the question is asked of HOW to increase volume.  Sadly, most folks settle on the most obvious and easiest answer; just do more sets and reps.  This is uncreative and ineffective thinking.  It’s the most basic way to address the issue and, as we’ve observed time and again, taking the easiest path in training inevitably results in the least amount of progress.  Just slapping some more sets and reps onto your training is going to have minimal impact; the 2 less obvious yet more effective means of upping volume are through adding assistance work and conditioning.

Image result for overhead pistol squat on kettlebell
No, not all at once

So why do we use these 2 things to increase volume?  Because thinking reasonably, if your core program structure has been working up until this point, simply adding to it for the sake of more volume is nonsensical.  The core structure’s job is to get us stronger, whereas the increased volume’s function is to get us bigger (along with improve work capacity and stuff, but you get where I’m going).  Altering the core structure is most likely going to alter the results it generates, and that’s unnecessary if one is simply engaging in a higher volume training phase for the sake of accumulation.  Of course, if your core structure ISN’T working, feel free to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Onto the methods, regarding assistance work, I must once again reiterate that we’re not adding reps and sets to pre-existing assistance work; we are adding assistance work PROPER.  If you normally bench and then incline bench for assistance work, now you’re going to bench, do incline bench, and do DIPS for assistance work.  If you’ve been neglecting isolation work, now is the time to throw it in.  You get where I’m going with this.  The benefits to this approach are many.  As already stated, we leave a working program in its place, so we continue to progress from the system.  Additionally, we now start training additional angles and weak areas that were previously neglected, which is another avenue to get stronger.  Yes, conventional wisdom tells us “don’t just add thing into a program”, but keep in mind we aren’t mindlessly adding into the program; we are intentionally accumulating a greater amount of volume and mindfully eating enough to recover.

Image result for Lee priest bulk
Also no

There are many ways to sneak in additional work without having to endure 3 hour long training sessions.  Of course, the best thing you can do to prevent that situation is to not be a fat slob with a 120 bpm resting heart rate and a bloodtype of ragu, but I also understand that even the fittest of us only have so much time to train.  This is where work between sets becomes invaluable.  In between all of your benching, do some band pull aparts, chins or rows.  Do your ab work between warm-ups on squats.  Work sub-maximally, so that you don’t interfere with your recovery between sets, and you’ll amass a substantial amount of volume without affecting your strength.  Giant sets are another fantastic way to accumulate a lot of volume in a short amount of time.  Chain together 3 movements, rolling from one to the other to the other.  Make logical selections that compliment each other, like going from bench to chins to band pull aparts.  Or feel free to go full on bodybuilder mode and roll from close grip bench to skull crushers to tricep kickbacks.  In either case, you rest for 90 seconds, start the whole thing over, and generate a huge amount of volume.

Another thing to keep in mind regarding creativity; not all work needs to occur during the workout proper.  Extra volume is extra volume.  An effective way to get in more volume with minimal impact to your key lifts is to get in the extra work OUTSIDE of the workout.  Hit your workout in the morning, and then later in the day throw in 100 band pull aparts, or a max set of chins and dips, or some GHRs, or some ab work, etc etc, you get the point.  Run a training phase where you do this everyday and you end up accumulating a ton of volume over the span of a month, with minimal negative effect on your lifting.  Make sure you ease yourself into this type of training.  If you go from 0 to 100 chins a day, you will blow out your elbows by day 12.

Image result for weightlifting elbow injury
Although some folks can do it in 1 rep

Finally, the most overlooked and neglected avenue available to trainees looking to increase volume is conditioning.  My regular readers have already seen me lament the lack of conditioning in most programming, but to summarize; no one likes to do conditioning because it makes you feel like you are dying.  HOWEVER, consider this; conditioning IS a form of accumulating volume.  It may not seem obvious, but when you are pushing the prowler and your lungs are trying to escape through your esophagus, you are accumulating volume in your entire posterior chain.  When you run a 15 minute conditioning circuit of kettlebell swings, dips and chins, those are tons of reps of those movements that are added to the volume you have performed.  EMOM drills, tabata, medleys, etc etc, it’s all extra volume.  And, of course, not only do you get to add more volume to your training, but you get the myriad of benefits associated with improved conditioning.  You’d honestly be a sucker NOT to do more of it.

There are creative and intelligent ways to add volume to your training, and the people that figure those ways out are going to have advantages over those that always pick the easiest way.  Good luck, and feel free to ask any questions.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017


This request came in a while back from my old old old stomping grounds on Gamefaqs, from a member named Barackaveli.  It took me a long time to get to because it was a pretty difficult topic to address.  Most of my regular readers have probably picked up the strong, almost Rand-ian individualesque vibe that exudes from my writing, and how little stock I put into seeking the aid of others.  It’s true that, as someone that primarily trains alone, I vastly understate the value of others when it comes to reaching your goals.  However, it is worth observing just HOW collectivism could benefit us in lifting, and what we can do to positively contribute to the process.

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
Like maybe we could all come together as a community to stop this
I have lamented the reality of forums on many occasions.  I truthfully do so because, when I see a forum, I see so much wasted potential.  The internet is an incredibly powerful resource, connecting people from the world over instantly on a widely accessible medium.  Gone are the days where you can NOT know something.  Literally all things are there, ready for you to discover them, with the only limitation being time and energy.  You would think with such a powerful tool, there would be no room for ignorance on any topic, yet what we witness is that the internet has become an ignorance MULTIPLIER, not a reducer.  There is FAR more stupidity being perpetuated, and in turn things have become far more damaging.

Why is this?  One can make an argument that it is the absence OF collectivism that results in such a toxic environment.  Few, if any people, are participating online with the goal of making the experience of others better.  Instead, the individualist streak mandates that one uses the internet for their own ends, which primarily ends up being for the sake of entertainment, and specifically, at the EXPENSE of others.  If a topic comes up on a forum, most folks feel a need to contribute, regardless of their credentials.  They simply NEED to populate the discussion with their own thoughts on the matter, because they are USING the forum rather than contributing to it.  Given that, in any situation, the uneducated will always be the majority with the educated being the minority, this creates a terrible noise to sound ratio, and results in pollution of poor information and, ultimately, the spread of ignorance.

Image result for Lifting memes
Most often perpetuated with terrible memes

Then, let us explore further with the notion that, due to either screennames, handles or, in the case of many social media sites, our own actual names being associated with what we write, an issue of “reputation” exists.  Once one has put down their own ignorant thought, any counter to said thought is perceived as an attack on their character, and any admission of ignorance or being wrong is a slight on that person’s reputation.  Once again, we are witnessing prizing the individual over the community.  People will choose to ruin a sound topic by engaging in a multiday long flame war with insults, barbs, slights and snarky comments taking up thousands and thousands of post with no beneficial end in sight.  Rather than engaging on the forum in the hopes of making the place better, these people engage in the hopes of making their own personal experience better.
And boy am I just as guilty of this.  I spent many years on forums solely for my own entertainment, and I trolled and I flamed and I did everything that a poor citizen of the net did, and I made communities worse with my presence.  And these days I do my best to not do this.  And it’s tough.  It’s tough to see a perfect opportunity for a “that’s what she said joke” where I KNOW I’ll get so many internet thumbs up, and just let it pass by, because such a comment does nothing for the community.  It’s tough to have someone attack my very character because they disagree with how I lift weights, and to amicably and peacefully disagree with them or just quit responding.  It’s tough to let someone ignorantly get the last word on a topic when I know that they’re wrong.  But it’s not MY internet.  It’s not MY community.  It’s not MINE.  We’re all in this.

Image result for nine inch nails we're in this together
Anyone that has watched my lifting videos knows I have a NIN obession

YOU can exercise collectivism and make lifting better by being the change you want to see.  And this goes beyond forum etiquette; that is the mere tip of the proverbial iceberg.  More time needs to be spent appreciating the other disciplines than dividing ourselves between them.  Crossfit, bodybuilding, strongman, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, highland games, etc etc, it’s all a bunch of folks that like to lift things.  There is so much to learn from each discipline rather than to cloister off into our corners and bicker and moan.  Of course, I say all this, but I know that the real competitors get this; it’s the wannabes online that are causing the strife, trying to hitch their wagons onto some discipline and distain all others.  Let this be your rallying cry to knock that crap off so that you can make the community better.
And don’t think that this WON’T benefit you the individual.  When your community is prosperous, you prosper as well.  You benefit from the more free exchange of GOOD information, when only those with qualified opinions contribute, and those that need to learn listen.  You benefit when you don’t have to read through 4,000 posts of insults and hate to find the 12 posts actually related to the topic at hand.  You benefit when powerlifters share squat techniques with strongman, and the strongman share conditioning strategies with Olympic lifters.  You benefit when not everyone is jockeying for the best one-liner 100% of the time.

Image result for whose line is it anyway cast
Even these folks knew when to take turns
You don’t even need to lift with a group to benefit from some collectivism.  Try to be a positive source of information and inspiration, and let all that insignificant stuff slide.
And if you still need to vent, just make a blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


-It’s cliché, but I am digging “reverse dieting” as a superior paradigm to “bulking”, as long as training employees the same approach with volume and conditioning.

-I haven’t used a barbell, outside of car deadlift simulators, since Oct of 2015.  If I had to do it all over again, I’d have bought the Ironmind Apollon’s axle first and never got the Texas Power Bar.  Anything the TPB can do, the Axle does better.

-That said, the Texas Deadlift Bar is still legit…but I also haven’t used it since Oct of 2015.

-I have no idea what my 1 rep maxes are.  Why do so many people care about their own?

-I wish my strict press carried over better to my push press.  In truth, I need to learn how to be athletic.  At least, if I want to win.

 Image result for glenn ross strongman
Well...maybe not

-I can’t push press while facing the power rack.  I have to press facing away from it.  Weird psychological hurdle, I know, but acknowledging it is half the battle.  I could spend months fixing the issue, or seconds turning and facing the way that works.

-Why train in the morning?  Because you look awesome with a pump when you aren’t bloating with a full day’s worth of food.

-The internet is starting to embrace 5/3/1…which makes me wonder if it’s a bad program. Of course, seeing how badly people butcher the program gives me hope.

-Whenever someone complains about “swole shaming”, “fit shaming”, etc, I assume these people bring it upon themselves by being attention seeking martyrs.  If you just live your life and mind your business, people tend to leave you alone.  If you want to be acknowledged, go win something.

 Image result for 3st place
No, this doesn't count

-I love all my toys, but sometimes I find myself craving an opportunity that forces me back to basics.  Limitations breed creativity.  Reference: training while injured.

-For mobility work, I have a reverse hyper against a wall and I have to duck under the front handles to put dumbbells on the feet to weigh it down.  Talk about functional!

-Let’s come together as a community and ensure that, when we see someone doing “farmer’s walks” with dumbbells, we call it “stealing dumbbells”.  Don’t get me wrong; more people need to do conditioning, but that doesn’t count.  Your grip shouldn’t limit your conditioning.

-Putting Ironmind bars in my New York Barbell’s power rack makes me giggle.

-When someone brings up drugs in a discussion on strength, I imagine that person isn’t very strong.

-When I see people complain about the cost of a gallon of milk a day or the diet in “Building the Monolith”, I just wonder how these people eat.  This is a diet for ONE person; how do you think people feeding families manage?  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs folks.  Get your finances in order, THEN lift.  Also, how much are they spending on Starbucks, pre-workouts, video games, etc?

 Image result for starbucks coffee
Full disclosure: I've never had Starbucks before, but I'm fairly certain you could buy a week's worth of ground beef for the cost of this

-Let’s all appreciate the humor that, there is one camp arguing that natural trainees need to train more frequently than drug users to create more protein synthesis while there is ANOTHER group saying natural lifters need to train LESS frequently because they can’t recover as quickly as drug users.  Let’s also appreciate how both methods work, and for both natural and assisted lifters.  Those on drugs simply get better results faster; it’s not magic.

-I miss 2008 era Elitefts.

-I own so many jump ropes.  I buy them thinking I will use them.  Never happens.

-Muscle is not built from food alone.  Stimulus must be present.  The bulkers miss this.  If the only thing you change is food, you just get fat.

-Go get injured and learn something.

-Once I stopped considering certain things inherently bad (injuries, muscle imbalances, back rounding, inflexibility, etc) my training took off.  Somethings simply “are”, not necessarily good or bad.

-It’s weird how small guys wear clothes that are too tight while big guys wear clothes that are too big.

Image result for John Meadows
Wait: a tanktop OVER your t-shirt?  But how will people know that you are big?!

-Beginners need less plans.  Go out, have fun, push yourself, try a whole bunch of things.  Overspecializing early leads to stagnation.

-I think a lot of people want to read about lifting so they can find more excuses.  How else will they learn that their genetics, anterior pelvic tilt, low testosterone, high myostatin, etc etc are all holding them back?

-In case you missed it, Chris Duffin recently accomplished one of the most impressive deadlifting feats I’ve ever witnessed.  20x675 sumo, followed by 10x675 conventional.  I know it’s trendy to hate on the guy right now, but seriously, that’s gotta be in the top 5 deadlifts, and pulling with both stances is just nuts.

-I must have gone crazy, because I am front squatting, barbell (axle technically) rowing and pressing twice a week; all things I have sworn never to do again.  Maybe I’m operating under the premise that, if I do everything wrong, it will all work out.

-On the topic of front squatting, I picked up a cheap(ish) front squat harness off of amazon recently.  I might be using it wrong, but it’s not exactly like front squatting.  Clint Darden calls it “Viking squats”, and I can appreciate that.  The weight is a little further out in front of you compared to when the bar is resting on your clavicle, so it’s like combining the front squat and the safety squat bar.  Also makes it hell to breathe.  This, of course, means I’m a big fan of the movement, and I’m using it a lot more in my training.

Image result for viking berserker
Besides, vikings will never NOT be awesome

-You know what you can control?  How crazy you are.  People will be bigger, stronger, better, faster, and younger than you, but YOU have the power to be crazier than everyone else.  It’s not even a quality you need to develop; it’s a decision you need to make.  In many cases, crazy beats good.  However, in many cases, crazy also dies in a spectacular fashion, so be aware.

-My approach to training has pretty much boiled down to “why not?”  It’s gotten me pretty far.

-Once I started lifting weights less, I started getting much stronger.  Everyone wants to lift weights, no one wants to do bodyweight work or conditioning.

-Even I don't know what to think about the fact that I tell everyone that training method doesn't really matter but then wonder why people train so stupidly.

-Pavel Tsastouline's "Beyond Bodybuilding" was both the best and the worst thing to happen to my training.  Same with Westside Barbell.  I bet 5/3/1 will be the same too.

-Perception of time scales with age.  When you are 5, a year takes forever, because it's a 5th of your life.  When you are 80, a year is a blip.  It's the same with training.  New trainees want to change programs every 2 weeks, because it feels like they have been doing the same thing FOREVER.  I'll realize I have been training the same way for years every once in a while.

-People up in arms about amino spiking should eat more steak.

Image result for Gigantic steak
Hard to mess up the amminos on this

-Training isn't a competition.  Rarely is this understood by non-competitors.

-I have had people tell me that I am hardcore/they admire my training/etc, and all it does is puzzle me.  How are these people training?

-People that are smaller and weaker than me have a tendency to tell me how I should train so that I can avoid injury.  They seem to be under the impression that I haven't been injured yet.  They never realize that I have been injured multiple times, and I am STILL more successful than they are.

-It gets hard and harder for me to understand strength progress.  Everyone just wants to compare numbers against time and go "look; strength!" but that tells me nothing.  Was this a skill increase?  Did the person peak?  Was there any hypertrophy?  Etc etc.  I am at the point where numbers matter less; it's a question of how much effort was applied over how much time.