Sunday, June 17, 2018


I’ve been writing 1000 words a week for about 5 and a half years now, and unfortunately, when you produce that much content, there is a tendency for things to get misunderstood or misinterpreted.  People will read what I write, but inevitably they’ll still discuss with me about how certain things make a beginner progress faster than others, so why shouldn’t they do that program instead of some other program.  Constantly I am inundated with questions and critiques about optimal progression rates, models and schemes, and it just blows my mind.  It seems I haven’t been clear in my writing, so allow me to absolve all ambiguity here; I don’t care about your progress. 

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But it WOULD be nice if you'd at least get through the door

This isn’t me being ugly and saying that I don’t care about you, although to be totally truthful I have no idea who you are and most likely DON’T care about you.   But in the more global “you” sense here, to include “me” in with the you, I simply don’t care how fast a trainee is progressing.  That has NEVER been what I have been about.  That is NOT what I write about.  Jesus, how could you even misunderstand me to think that I ever once cared about optimal progression?  The fastest possible gains?  The quickest path to success?  Folks, I’m a strongman competitor with no coach or crew, training out of a garage by myself first thing in the morning for an hour a day with terrible technique: I am the complete opposite of the embodiment of optimal.  I’ve never cared about your progression: I care about your discovery.

There’s no value in just looking up the optimal mix of volume and intensity, plugging it into a spreadsheet, and mechanically grinding out reps until you’ve “won.”  That’s not being human.  That’s not being strong.  That’s simply being a machine, programmed to run and function by outside sources, with no autonomy.  I want you to fail. I want you to make mistakes.  I want you to choose poorly.  I want you to go against the party-line!  Stop running your state approved beginners programs with the exact right amount of sets and reps, and go off the rails and do something dumb, different and dangerous so you can LEARN something.  Go be experienced, find out what does and doesn’t work, and figure out WHY it doesn’t work.  THAT is the value of training.

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This guys is about to learn a LOT

“But surely you agree a beginner should do a beginner program and an intermediate should do an intermediate program, right?”  What the Hell do those words even mean?  I thought beginners were mythical unicorns capable of the magical “beginners gains” that mean that, if they even LOOK at a weight, they get stronger, right?  So why do they need a specially crafted approach to training?  Why can’t they just get big and strong like everyone else that lifts weights?  Are you trying to tell me there are programs out there that intentionally SLOW DOWN your growth?  Who would design such a thing?  Surely no one is out there looking to put a governor on their growth.  Any program built around making someone bigger or stronger will work for someone seeking that goal, no matter what weird internet name they’ve decided to classify themselves with.

No one can reasonably explain to me WHY optimal training NEEDS to happen, especially for a non-competitive trainee or one who makes zero income based off their physical ability.  This is primarily because few want to admit that this stems from a childish mentality of “I WANT IT NOW!”  Guess what; you ain’t getting it now, even IF your training is optimal.  It’s STILL going to take a long time, and the difference between your optimal training and someone else’s non-optimal non-optimal training is going to be so microscopic that it’s not worth even analyzing. 

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Hate to break it to you, but trying to rush your journey never turns out well

Hey, why don’t I clumsily break out some math, as I am prone to doing from time-to-time.  Say we agree with the currently en vogue notion that the max amount of muscle mass a human can grow over a lifetime is about 40lbs.  I’m not talking about lean mass, but pure, solid real muscle.  Well let’s say you’re Johnny Optimal, and you’re able to eek out 5% better growth than everyone else with your super optimal approach to training.  Congrats!  You gained…2 extra pounds of muscle.  Wow, that seems insignificant, considering how visually striking the first 40lbs were.  10%? 4lbs.  Still pretty small.  You’d have to be training in some manner that netted 20% better growth to even be getting into the realm of something SOMEWHAT significant, and realistically, how likely do you figure doing 5 sets instead of 6 sets is going to play into getting that extra 20%?

You can play that same stupid game with weight lifted too.  Beginner is supposed to optimally put 5lbs on the bar each training session, 3 times a week for 12 weeks if they’re following the optimal training program?  Cool story.  So looking at 180lbs added to the bar, assuming everything goes right.  Say someone trains sub-optimally, and only gets 90% of that growth?  Well damn, that poor fool only added…162lbs to the bar.  Hah!  What a chump!  Dude left 18lbs on the platform.  Wait, who cares about 18lbs?  36lbs at 80%?  Still not even a real plate.  These differences are insignificant in terms of results on paper, but MEANWHILE, what results did the guy get who just ran a cookie cutter program and put no thought in it vs the guy who gambled, tried something weird, and saw what happened?

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But it's the BEST beginner program!

I do not CARE about your progress.  I’ve been lifting for 18 years, and I’ve done that with a torn labrum and a ruptured ACL and a bunch of other small nagging injuries.  You have SO much time to train, there’s no point in trying to rush to the end.  Hell, I don’t even like training and I’m still in no rush to reach the end; what the hell is up with all of you masochists out there they claim you LOVE training?  Don’t you want to do it for longer?  Why are you trying to get to the end so quickly?  Use this as an opportunity to grow, not just physically, but mentally as well.  Expand your mind and your horizons on what can and can’t work, and understand why and how people succeed with methods different than your own.  Don’t see it as a challenge to your paradigm; see it as an opportunity to get even better, expand your toolbox, and become well rounded and all encompassing.  You risk nothing by training non-optimally, and gain a lot.



  1. One thing I always see you post is that no one truly enjoys training. I assume that’s partially exaggerated for the blog and I know you say you enjoy the results, not the training.
    But do you really dislike training this much? I hate sets of 8 on squats as much as the next guy, but I truly get excited to do bench triples and block pulls and a ton of other shit. I’d assume training with strongman implements would be fun as shit.

    1. In my experience, it's like everything else in lifting. You find some movements you love for whatever reason and a bunch that you suffer through because you deem it necessary.

      There's a reason people talk about lifters under the yoke having a thousand yard stare. It's soul destroying and I'm yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys that piece of kit.

    2. Sage, if you took my writing to be that no one enjoys training, I apologize, because it means I poorly communicated my point. From what I've observed, some people actually do enjoy training, I just can't understand these people. My sense of "joy" is very much hedonistic, and training is the opposite of hedonism: it is toil. The only thing that compels me to engage in it is that it gets me bigger and stronger. I have no love for it, and would gladly do a million other things than train.

      Strongman implements tend to be the opposite of fun, since they're so awkward and heavy. It's a lot of pain and pressure. However, I find competing thrilling, and get joy from that, but even then, the joy isn't while the weight is being moved: the joy is from the competing against others and testing myself.

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  3. Jeez. Talk about me missing the point of this post the first few times I read it. It didn't really resonate until I had to go and basically mess around with a bunch of different things for swings and basic calisthenics. I appreciate the post a lot more now.

    People keep asking "can I do this every day?" for example, rather than trying it. But trying something, you really do discover why and how it works (or doesn't) a lot more than just asking the internet.

    It's also a lot more fun, too.