Sunday, March 26, 2017


First off, shout out to Will Ruth for pitching this idea to me.  He’s a longtime reader and the moderator over at r/strongman on reddit, along with a fellow strongman competitor, coach, and decent dude in general.

Preamature optimization is a term from the computer science world that essentially refers to those folks who go out of their way to try to maximize the performance of their rig without going through the necessary processes to build up the baseline of their hardware.  Remembering that I’m a political science major, and that this sort of stuff is well outside my wheelhouse, I’ll use a personal example of a time where my brother would try to install the latest and greatest graphics card into a hand me down PC that was still running DOS to try to play newer computer games.  You’re trying to maximize the performance on a system that really doesn’t have much room to grow.  Readers of my blog clearly know where I’m going with this, but obviously this isn’t just an issue in the world of computer science; we see this in lifting all the time.  Rather than focusing on improving their potential, people focus on maximizing their CURRENT potential.

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"Increase my killing power eh?"

It’s easy to get inundated with premature optimization when you’re new to lifting.  If you consume any sort of media, you’re bound to run into instances of articles and interview touting the next big great thing that’s going to completely revolutionize the training world.  New specialty bars, slingshots and various knock offs, the latest and greatest in wraps, straps and gear, new techniques, etc etc.  I’m not here to say that these things DON’T work, because they absolutely do.  I’m a huge fan of new tools, techniques, ideas, concepts, paradigm shifts, etc.  But here’s the thing; the folks raving about these advances have built up their potential to such a degree that tapping into that extra untapped 5% results in a MASSIVE net gain.  It’s the difference between first and second place, world records and missed attempts, etc etc.  For someone who is MISSING this potential, the gains are minimal at best.

Let’s use some simple math here (once again, because my education makes me fear math[sub-sub thought here, I realize I have already greatly offended many nerds by saying “math” instead of “maths”]).  Let’s say we take a trainee that has the strength potential to squat 1000lbs, but for some reason, they’re missing that little extra something that will optimize their performance.  If they’re hanging around at 900lbs (90% of their true potential), and they utilize something that gets them closer to 95% of their potential, they just added 50lbs to their squat.  However, say we take a kid capable of a 200lb squat, who can only manage 180lbs.  If they take the same route of optimization, they get a whopping 10lbs out of their squat.  Woo!  Meanwhile, consider the effects of adding 5lb to the POTENTIAL of either lifter.  In the case the 1000lb squatter, we’ve added half a percent to their potential, while that 5lb jump is a 2.5% increase in how much they can squat ONCE optimized.  The effects of increasing the base are FAR more dramatic among the weaker lifter than the stronger. 

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The last time you were debating percentages like this was when you were drinking a gallon of milk a day

So you have to ask yourself; what was it these guys with the potential to squat 1000lbs were doing in the first place?  They were BUILDING their potential, not maximizing it.  They weren’t calculating band tension, running Prilepin’s chart to figure out the peak combination of intensity with volume, foam rolling for 3 hours to ensure that their glutes were firing at least at 78% maximal efficiency; they were simply grinding away and busting their asses.  They were hammering the basics hard, for days, weeks, months and YEARS on end.  It wasn’t about riding a constant wave of highs and maximized performance; it was about slogging it out in the trenches, through a bunch of decent to ok workouts that eventually accumulated into something impressive through sheer collective effort and time.  And during this process, sure, a lack of specialized attention and optimization may have made it such that, at THAT time, they weren’t performing at their max, but that just meant there was even MORE to discover ONCE that trigger got pulled.

Fundamentally, this is why I spend so much time harping on building your MINIMUMS, not your maximums.  Increasing your potential in the early stages of your training has a significantly larger effect on how strong you TRULY are compared to fixating on trying to maximize what limited potential you have.  Pre-workouts, psyche ups, nose tork, optimum positioning, meal timing, optimized nutrition, perfect mobility, etc etc, all these things are great once you’ve built up a large, wide base to refine and can turn yourself into something lethal, but when you’re still working with mush, all you get is slightly better mush.  If you spend all of your time and energy trying to ensure you’re always lifting your maximal amount of weights because YOU are maximized, you’re missing out on the opportunity to improve your base potential.  Training UNoptimized improves your performance optimized, but it’s not necessarily true the other way around.

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But let's not get too crazy

Before you try to squeeze out as much performance as possible out of your rig, try to get the best possible rig to squeeze out of.  Don’t put a turbocharged engine on a pinto.    

Saturday, March 18, 2017


Had an idea presented to me for a good bit of satire that I thought would be entertaining.  The internet is never short on opinions, and strongman has earned the ire of many a keyboard warrior.  Despite having never actually trained for, competed in, or, in many cases, WATCHED a strongman competition, many people feel it is their place to dictate how strongman should proceed and what is and is not acceptable.  Why not take the time to figure out how a strongman competition would role were it designed by the internet at large?
Without further ado…

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Already I'm not too sure if this is satire
All events will be judged by 1 judged.  This 1 judge will be outfitted with a powerlifting red/white light rig.  Lights will be determined after the judge has the chance to watch a youtube video of the lifter completing the event, ensuring he has an opportunity to slow down, stop, and reverse the video footage, verifying to the upmost accurate detail if a lift “gets whites” or not.  The lights are crucial to the process, as the internet is a big fan of informing strongman on if their lift would have gotten a red or a white light.

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This is what you all look like to me
Performed with dumbbells.  At the start of the event, lifters will approach a fully loaded dumbbell rack and select whatever weight they feel is appropriate.  From there, they will walk for 8 minutes time around a quarter mile track.  Chalk is expressly forbidden, as this is one of the greatest grip exercises in the world.  After the 8 minutes are up, the competitors will rest 3 minutes before performing 2 more rounds in a similar style.  Upon completion of the final round, the competitor will leave the dumbbells wherever they are currently at.  This isn’t to allow the judges to mark distance; it’s because, really, who puts away dumbbells when they are done?
Winner will be determined by whoever has the biggest forearm pump.  Forearms will be measured before and after the event, using centimeters, because it is a bigger number.

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Leg drive results in an immediate disqualification.  Remember; this is an overhead press, not a push press…which is also a way to press over your head…what was I saying?  Athletes will press a barbell with fat gripz on it, because that’s pretty much what an axle is.  The bar will be pressed out of the rack using hexagon plates because the gym doesn’t allow cleans.  No elbow sleeves, wrist straps, belt, or heeled shoes may be worn, as it’s cheating.  Athletes will press for a max weight of 5 reps (the strength range).

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When you can't maintain form with an empty bar and are forced to deload even further
It goes without saying that suits aren’t allowed.  Straps are also disqualified.  So is mixed grip and chalk.  Only hook grip is allowed.  In instances where the competitor does not have the right leverages for conventional deadlift, they will be given the choice to instead perform sumo, trap bar, Romanian deadlift, or just skip the deadlift entirely and stick with front squats and good mornings.  ZERO HITCHING ALLOWED.  Also, no grunting, shaking, or physical displays of exertion.  Lower back rounding will result in a lifetime ban from the federation.  All reps will be pulled from a deadstop.  In order to ensure the deadest stop possible, lifters will take 27 seconds between reps.
Competitors will perform a max set of 5 reps.  If at any point the lifter experiences any physical sensation in their lower back, the event will be terminated, the lifter will be given credit for 3 extra reps, and they will be taken immediately to the medical tent, where they will be shot like a racehorse with a broken leg.  Let’s face it; their lifting career is pretty much over with.

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No, I didn't make this the event; it gets worse
Powerlifting and strongman are the same sport, right?  Pretty much anyway.  Only the loosest of knee sleeves is allowed for supportive equipment, and even then wearing them will result in 100lbs taken off your squat weight.  Lifters will set each foot on an independent platform and attempt to squat as far beyond ass to grass as possible.  This will be a last man standing event, with that platform increasing an inch in height each round.  The person that squats the deepest wins the event.
An unloaded bar will be the standard weight used for this event.  Weight on the bar doesn’t matter as much as depth.
I’m going to make a quick rule change; I will allow squat suits, but only multiply and canvas suits.  Mainly because I would be amazed if I ever saw anyone wearing one of those squat to any sort of depth without rupturing an eyeball.

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Textbook technique
Jesus; that thing looks scary.  Let’s just do more dumbbell farmers walks instead.

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Bet you can't wait to take one of these babies home
At the end of the competition, everyone, irrespective of performance, will be given a first place trophy and invite to nationals.  At the same time, everyone will be informed that none of their lifts counted, they all somehow cheated in one way or another, and that they’re well on their way to getting injured.  Everyone will be given a gift certificate to a chiropractor and a pre-workout supplement made from 100% crystal meth.  The person who posted the most hashtags in their Instagram profile for that day will win a sponsorship for 5% off fluorescent pink leggings with coupon code IAMSOIRONIC.
Ok, so maybe I can be a bit of a prick sometimes.

Monday, March 13, 2017


First, my apologies for the late blog post.  Had a busy weekend, but it actually works in your favor, as this idea struck me during my morning workout today.

The phrase “it’s not a bug; it’s a feature” is a common punchline in the tech world.  It’s about using marketing to solve technological problems; reshifting the perspective of the buyer rather than “fixing” the problem.  Basically, you’re telling the consumer that they don’t know what they really want, and those things that they perceive to be malfunctions are actually the product performing exactly as designed.  Though this is usually a hail Mary from a tech company to keep their customers happy, this mentality is pretty crucial for training, because many people need to shift their perspectives to understand that those things they believe to be “bugs” about training truly are the features.  This is what you WANTED; didn’t you know?

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Ok, THIS is probably what you really wanted

We witness trainees’ first encounter with “bugs” all the time when it comes to training, and many times, they are trying to “fix” them.  “I really want to do more conditioning, but whenever I try it, I feel like I’m going to throw up.”  Yup.  Congrats.  That means it’s WORKING.  “The last time I tried lifting, I was sore for DAYS.”  Yup.  That’s how lifting works.  “I tried working out in the morning, but I was tired.”  Yup.  That’s how being a human works.  “I did squats, but now my legs are big.”  Jesus Christ, are you serious?  That’s not a bug; it’s a feature!  Your training is working!  The process is occurring!  This is the avenue of change.

Most regrettably, we have been conditioned to believe that discomfort is a sign that something is wrong, and it requires immediate addressing in order to “fix” this.  This was once a helpful instinct to teach us not to touch fire and not eat a pineapple whole, but has become somewhat less helpful in a society where discomfort is no longer the norm.  Our forefathers and ancestors existed in miserable conditions as a matter of habit, and grew to understand this as the norm, such that they could tolerate it, grow stronger from it, get better and move on.  For them, this was not a bug, but a feature of life.  But for us now?  If discomfort CAN be avoided, surely it should be, no?

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I mean, it worked for this guy

It’s amazing how eye opening this paradigm shift can be for the uninitiated.  I had a friend approach me on the topic of weight loss, as they’re starting their journey on that.  They’ve had success so far with counting calories and losing weight, but he asked me “What is it that you eat that keeps you from feeling hungry all the time?”  I looked blankly at him for a moment before I conveyed that I am ALWAYS hungry.  Being hungry is a state of being for me.  It’s how I know I’m still alive.  This blew his mind, because he was under the impression he must have been doing something wrong if he felt hungry while losing weight.  The idea that being hungry was part of the weight loss process was a new idea, and upon sharing it, it made his process so much easier.  Weeks later, and pounds lighter, he thanked me for essentially giving him permission to feel hungry while losing weight.

We have people trying to sell us the opposite!  Every weight loss product is about “effortless, painless weight loss”.  “Eat whatever you want and STILL lose the weight.”  Why is that such an effective marketing technique?  Because it goes against reality!  In reality, weight loss requires suffering, it requires effort, it requires turmoil, it requires NOT being stuffed 100% of the time and actually feeling the slightest twinges of hunger.  It’s not a bug; it’s a feature of weight loss.  It’s imperative for these companies to convince you otherwise so that they can sell you a “fix” for the bug they created.  It’s akin to those late night infomercials selling you a product that will speed up your computer by installing MORE malware when all you really needed to do in the first place was stop going to those websites that are full of malware.

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I won't judge you for your fetish

And this perspective shift isn’t just limited to understanding reality for what it is; it can also help you cope with injury.  Injuries are notorious for being classified as “bugs” by the general populace, and surely something to avoid.  But what if it was a feature?  When I ruptured my ACL, it wasn’t a bug; it was a feature that allowed me to focus on my pressing, grip and neck work.  It was a feature that forced me to re-evaluate my approach to training and come up with a better way forward.  It was a feature that gave me an opportunity to overcome and get stronger in many ways.  I re-marketed my bug to myself as a feature, and came out better on the other side.

Don’t assume that simply because you meet some form of resistance or misery that you have encountered a bug in your training and programming.  Consult your inner marketing team and see if this may in fact be a feature.  Figure out how to spin it and sell it, and come out better on the other side compared to those people who just sit and patiently wait for the next software update that will SURELY get rid of all those pesky bugs.