Sunday, June 18, 2017


Got a great question the other day that spawned my writing of this.  

“At what point did you personally no longer consider yourself a novice lifter?” and “Did that change in mindset alter anything else for you?” 

For me, there was a very exact moment when this transition occurred for me; when I pulled my first 600lb deadlift.  It happened in my garage, on a random day, a few months out from a powerlifting meet, when I just felt like seeing what I could do.  Up until this point, I was running a lot of ROM progression training and had pulled 585 in a meet this way, but once I finally hit that 6 it all opened up for me.  At that moment, I decided I must know at least a few things about lifting, and I had an idea of what worked and what didn’t.  When I ended up pulling it in a meet, it just furthered solidified things.

So what changed?  While I still considered myself a novice, I gave equal credence to just about any crackpot theory that was out there.  Since I was “a novice”, clearly I didn’t know crap, so anyone who managed to get published must SURELY know something.  If someone wrote something for beginners, I read it and did it, and if someone was a “coach”, surely their word held some weight, right?  This meant, reading all those things that went against everything I knew just meant I was too stupid to really KNOW how to train.  These people had credentials, and I was just a dumb novice. 

Image result for starting strength zach results
I mean, maybe one day I could get results like THIS!
And then I awoke.  I hit a 600lb deadlift with a method very few people were using, and it worked.  I deadlifted off the floor once every 2 months and pulled 600lbs at 181, despite the fact that every coach, guru, and forum member said that you HAD to deadlift at least once a week.  I did it with high reps, even though everyone SWORE you had to lift with low reps to get stronger.  I did it in a meet, having used straps the entire time, even though everyone told me that straps make your grip weak.  I did it while dropping 12lbs, even though everyone said you had to “lift big eat big.”  I did it pulling touch and go, even though everyone told me you had to pull deadstop or else it “wasn’t a deadlift.”  Basically, I did every single thing I could possibly do wrong and I finally succeeding after failing while doing everything right.

And that was the thing; I got to this point out of desperation.  I was dutifully reading all the right books from all the right authors and doing all the right things, and I was stuck.  Yeah, I got great initial progress, and then stalled and stalled hard.  And I reset and deloaded and form checked and overate and overslept and upped my rest periods and did all the prescribed fixes, only to spend a year eeking out another 5lbs at most, rife along the way with injuries, stalls, pain and frustration.  I had considered quitting lifting before I had even really started, just because I wasn’t going anywhere.  And so, I figured, if what works isn’t working, what do I have to lose doing what DOESN’T work?

Image result for Squatting on a bosu ball 
It ALMOST came down to this

And this is what got me to learn what ACTUALLY works; effort, consistency and time.  It’s what I’ve been harping on for a long time, because it’s what works.  What got me through a long stall and finally on the road was shutting off a lot of the noise that was out there, putting my head down, finding my own way and just gutting it out until it worked.  I had forsaken this to believe in a new god in the past, because I didn’t have enough strength of believe in my own convictions.  When I finally lost all hope and had to turn to myself for answers, I finally awoke.  I was FORCED to awaken, as the alternative was to die.

And let’s be real; before I awoke, I was using the advice of gurus to relieve myself of several burdens.  I could relieve myself of physical burdens this way; I could find someone that told me that training too hard, too frequently was going to be overtraining.  I could find someone that told me that trying to do conditioning on top of lifting was going to make me lose all my gains.  I could find someone that would tell me that I NEEDED to get fat to get strong.  Man, how interesting that the best way to get bigger and stronger was to train infrequently with little effort and eat like a pig.  What a sacrifice I made!  How deluded was I to really believe that training as hard as I could and eating as well as I could wouldn’t actually get me as strong as I could?  But that’s the SECOND burden these gurus relieved me of; the burden of thinking for myself.  I didn’t have to question the insanity of this rhetoric, because someone FAR above me had passed it to me from on high.  It took that hitting of rock bottom to FINALLY take on all these burdens and in turn, finally start progressing.

Image result for hercules and atlas 
In this photo, Hercules advises Atlas that, for the sake of linear progression, he needs to move on to Jupiter next
....that was lame, but my alternative punchline involved Uranus

And this is why, upon my awakening, I became violent in my nature.  I called out these gurus, asking what their qualifications were to talk on matters of getting bigger and stronger when THEY had never actually achieved getting bigger and stronger?  What was their experience?  What was their justification?  And in the majority of these instances, these people came back with nothing.  Nothing of merit at least.  Oh sure; they had studies, articles, anecdotes, etc etc…but no proof.  No results.  And I tuned them out.  And I hoped my questioning of them did the same.

The start of this blog was the start of that awakening; it was when I finally had achieved enough to have something worth saying.  I’ve said on many occasions as well that this blog is essentially my current self yelling at my old self for being so stupid.  You can still see the shift occurring, with me writing things today that even conflict with some of the things I said back in 2012; the awakening continues.  However, I at least know that I know what it takes to get to where I am, and I’m proud enough of that to be willing to share.  How many people are willing to say the same? 


  1. Hi!
    I normally read without commenting, but I enjoyed this article a lot.

    Hope everything is going well

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hey dude (it looks like both comments came from you, so I'm addressing the stuff in one comment)

      Rippetoe is fun to pick on, because he's so dogmatic and his followers are zealots, so riling them up is entertaining. He has certainly competed in powerlifting and he knew Bill Starr which is cool (and apparently Bill was cool with Rippetoe taking his stuff and remarketing it as his own). When I hear he's been coaching athletes for 40 years though, I always find it fascinating that I don't can't name a single athlete Rippetoe has ever trained. Someone mentioned a name once to me, and the dude was pretty strong, which is cool, but you figure 40 years of coaching would have more of an outcome, no?

      I take issue with the linear progression model in general though, not Rippetoe in particular. I've written about this a bit in the past if you're interesting in reading it

      Essentially, linear progression is an intensification block, and beginners need to start with accumulation, NOT intensification. This was how beginners trained for a LONG time before 2006. Dave Tate wrote a great piece on this here

      You also saw this with folks like Sheiko (an emphasis on "play" before starting training). Dan John talks to it to, and really a LOT of other coaches that coach various levels of trainees. Jumping straight to intensificaiton and maximizing skills on a select few lifts is really a pretty crazy way to train a beginner. Beginners need a BROAD base, not a narrow one. Specialization should occur later.

      We're actually observing the consequences of this in younger athletes in this generation. Over specialization at early stages resulting in things like repetitive motion injuries way before such things should occur, whereas in prior generations kids were multisport athletes with a wide variety of skills.

      Honestly, pretty much everything works, but there are a lot of people out there that want you to believe that ONLY their thing works.

  4. Great article. The paragraph about using others' advice to relieve the burden really hits home. I find myself trying to find something new when what I am currently doing gets "boring" or becomes too hard.

    Another hit the nail on the head post. Thanks dude.

    1. Thanks dude; always appreciate your feedback. It always feel safer retreating to the comfort of someone else's words. Being out there on your own is terrifying.