Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Once again I am delighted that I get to write about Dungeons and Dragons and, in turn, my favorite class: The Barbarian.  I have written on many occasions about the glory of the Barbarian and why I consider him so much more awesome than the fighter, but it dawned on me this morning that the awesomeness of the Barbarian can only be realized IF we choose to make USE of his awesomeness.  And that statement may SEEM obvious, but I’ve run into enough people that are unable to appreciate this reality that it seems necessary for me to write on this point.  The primary boon of the Barbarian is his ability to enter into a berserker style rage, wherein, upon entering this state, he gains a bonus to strength and constitution (his ability to withstand damage), an extra attack per round, and an immunity to a variety of magical effects aimed at targeting his mind.  He gains extra hit points and can fight BEYOND the point where most folks would be incapacitated: he is simply fueled by pure rage and adrenaline.  But, of course, nothing comes for free: AFTER the rage, the Barbarian enters a state of fatigue: heavily exhausted by the effort of being so enraged, they suffer a PENALTY to their strength and constitution and are, quite simply, knackered.  Knowing this though, the decision to USE the Barbarian’s rage in combat is still an obvious decision, for if one were to NOT do so, they no longer HAVE a Barbarian: they simply have a mediocre fighter.

The world's strongest man acting as the world's okayest fighter


Barbarians and fighters both occupy the “warrior” sphere of DnD: guys who are good at swinging swords and taking damage, not so good at casting spells or picking locks.  Where the two differ is that the fighter knows a lot of cool little tricks when it comes to fighting (parrying, kicking sand into an opponent’s eye, hitting 2 enemies with one blow, etc), while the Barbarian is a rage-monster that smashes stuff.  The Barbarian is The Hulk, the Fighter is Black Panther (yeah yeah, he’d be a monk: just stick with me here).  Knowing that, we have to appreciate the specific unique quality the Barbarian brings to the table to justify his existence within the game.  If the Barbarian did NOT rage, he would simply NOT be a Barbarian: he would be merely a fighter with no tricks!  And a fighter with no tricks is not useful at all: they are mediocre at best.  So why would one CHOOSE to be a mediocre fighter?


Out of fear of the consequences inherent in using the rage: the exhaustion.  Those players that are too concerned about EVER being in a less than ideal state will refuse to rage for they fear the after-effects of being fatigued and weakened.  They will, under no circumstances, ever allow themselves this opportunity of vulnerability in the game, because it means a moment of weakness…but, in turn, it ALSO means that they will NEVER experience a moment of greatness. They’ll never actually get to experience the fun inherent in PLAYING the barbarian class, because they’re too concerned about negatives to be able to appreciate positives.  Instead, these players resign themselves to a very lukewarm experience: they play a mediocre fighter in the form of a rageless barbarian.

For when bland rice cakes aren't bland enough


Where are you, you rageless barbarians?  You are the ones that refuse to engage in a decades, if not CENTURIES long tradition of bulking and cutting.  And yes, I dislike those terms because they tend to suggest that eating dictates training vs the other way around, but it gives us at least a common understanding for dialogue here.  You rageless barbarians REFUSE to put on any fat in the pursuit of gaining muscle, and you refuse to experience any hunger in the pursuit of getting lean, and, in turn, engage in the rageless barbarism of “maingaining”, or “leanbulking”, or “gaintaining”, or “long slow bulks” or whatever buzzphrase is trending on social media these days, because it immediately appeals TO you rageless barbarians that want to believe you have secretly found the way to min/max physical transformation.  Because you REFUSE to experience any negatives in your pursuit of transformation, you will also not experience any POSITIVES.  Think of all of those that have achieved physical greatness before you: they ALL engaged in these rages.  They all had dedicated periods of gaining, of “softening up”, of bulking, of dedicating themselves 100% to the pursuit of gaining mass at the expense of other qualities, AND, when the time came, they went full tilt in the other direction, shedding the fluff and revealing the greatness achieved.  From Bruce Randall to J M Blakely to Ronnie Coleman to Arnold to Dave Drapper to John McCallum: the history and heritage is all there.  What do we call those that spend years eating the same, weighing the same, and looking the same?  They are wheel spinners: they are merely a mediocre fighter, NOT a barbarian.  Reframe it right there: you aren’t bulking and cutting: you’re raging and fatiguing! 


We see you rageless barbarians in the training arena!  Those of you that REFUSE to ever see your max numbers take a slight dip in the pursuit of achieving other physical goals.  Those of you that REFUSE to ever engage in a short conditioning/GPP block, where your lifts suffer in the short term but your ability to train harder for longer improves.  Those of you that REFUSE to cycle out your favorite pet lifts to try to bring up weak points.  Those of you that REFUSE to accept that training is phasic: that there is a time for hypertrophy, max strength, and conditioning/GPP.  Those of you that give a program 2 weeks to “work” before jumping back to what wasn’t working in the first place!  You refuse to use your rage ability for fear of the short term consequences, but in doing so you never get to actually achieve the very thing you were designed to do!  You’re the only one at the table NOT having any fun, because you aren’t actually playing your character: you’re playing a weaker version of someone ELSE’s character.

Everyone at the table WISHES you'd just come back and play right


Learn the lessons from the Barbarian’s cycle of rage: the fatigue and exhaustion is not a penalty but a NECESSITY.  It’s exhausting for us to be BEYOND our best, and that’s exactly what a barbarian is when he rages.  He taps into that hidden, dark, lurking potential, in the “in case of emergency, break glass” portion of his being and unleashes his full glory upon the battlefield.  And after he’s done with that, he takes a breather and gets himself right before he does it again.  That’s all this is.  When we are gaining, we are training and eating SO hard so that we can grow into something BEYOND ourselves…and that IS exhausting.  So we take a breather, recompose ourselves, and resume.  It’s WHY achieving greatness is a phasic pursuit, rather than a linear one.  It’s why Dan John has “park bench-bus bench”.  It’s not a penalty: its balance!  The gamemasters HAD to come up with some way to make a barbarian “fair” compared to the others, and they did so by giving him a cooldown.  Life has done the same to you: it would be unfair for you to simply achieve awesomeness in a straight line.  Chase after it, cool down a bit, and get after it again.  Because a rageless barbarian is simply a mediocre fighter, but a barbarian that rages is ALWAYS a better choice than the fighter.


But, if nothing else, I think we can all agree that wizards are nerds.




Friday, April 12, 2024


I’m more than certain I’ve written about this already, but that tends to happen when you write once a week for nearly 12 years on the very limited subject of physical transformation.  BUT, the fact I’m wanting to still write about it means it definitely has some staying power.  In fact, I just remembered the post, titled “Dare to Be Stupid”, taken from the Weird Al song of the same name, but allow me to once again sing the praises of stupidity, so long as the stupidity we engage in is INTENTIONAL stupidity.  Yes, stupidity can be a downfall when it happens to us accidentally, but when we CHOOSE stupidity, when we use our powerful monkey brains to analyze a situation, come up with a solution, determine that this solution is incredibly stupid and then WILLINGLY choose to still pursue this path?  THAT, dear reader, is empowerment.  We are no longer a victim of our own stupidity but, instead, a PATRON of it.  We are blessed with the gift of this stupidity. We humans have been granted the capability to determine good and bad decisions AND the free will to intentionally pick the stupid choice among the two.  …so why would we?

If only it was this easy

Allow me to let George Carlin shed some light on the subject of stupidity.  He gifted us many amazing quotes, and it is this one in particular that I find relevant to this discussion.  “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”  George definitely had a talent in illuminating us to new ways to view the world, and as a misanthrope I could not help but cherish this quote.  But aside from the sheer comedic genius of it, let’s consider what this really means to us: “common sense” is of little worth to this seeking UNCOMMON outcomes.  The party-line, the agreed upon consensus, the status quo, the established norms, etc etc: all of these things are irrelevant if one is seeking to be DIFFERENT from average.  And someone seeking a goal of physical transformation absolutely seeks to be different from average.  Ideally, that difference is BETTER than average, putting one at the top of that bell curve of humanity, but if nothing else one is still seeking a break from the norms.  And much like George Carlin talked about regarding stupidity, extend it further: think about how physically unimpressive the average person is, and realize half of them are less impressive than that!”

Which is WHY it should be of no concern to us if we are considered stupid for the actions we take.  So many live in fear of the judgement of others, but are we really to be so concerned of the thoughts and opinions of these average people?  Or of the half of them that are LESS than the already unimpressive average?  Are we to lend any degree of weight to their opinions of us and what we do?  Nietzsche has expressed the idea that, in order for us to be offended or insulted, we must first consider the offender to be our equal, and, in turn, we empower those who insult us.  So, already, we have established the protection from judgement for acting on our stupidity: there is no need to be concerned with the opinions of those that would consider us stupid.  If we abide by what the average person considers to be well thought out and intelligent action, we doom ourselves to their fate.

This is why Skynet kills us

But going beyond that, why would we do something that WE consider stupid?  Because being smart is how we got to where we are…and now we seek to be somewhere else!  I’m willing to entertain the notion that there ARE good ideas out there, that there ARE intelligent individuals out there in the sphere of physical transformation, that there IS an established road and path to success…but we must ALSO appreciate the reality that, often times, we get stuck.  Things work until they don’t.  “Everything works…for 6 weeks”, per Dan John.  When we’ve exhausted our intelligent approaches, what avenue remains?  Stupidity!  Because the smart path has STOPPED working, so now comes time to do something stupid.

And again, the empowerment is in the CHOICE to be stupid.  We are engaging in this stupidity willingly, because we are wanting to explore uncharted avenues that MAY prove to be illuminating because they’ve been hidden under the cloak of stupidity.  We previously wrote off these ideas, saying “I’m not going to do that: that’s stupid”…and now we find ourselves starving, opened up the pantry, and all that remains is stupid.  All of my great breakthroughs have been going off the reservation to do stupid things: drinking a gallon of milk a day while following Super Squats, my initial foray into Deep Water, my first exposure to Pavel in “Beyond Bodybuilding” and abbreviated training with Stuart McRobert, all the stupid things from Westside Barbell, my current indulgence in DoggCrapp training, my attempts at being an athlete on low carb and carnivore eating contrasted with my Dave Tate inspired “Body by Fast Food” living: all of these things were SO stupid compared to the conventional norms and approaches out there, and ALL of them were game changers.  And, of course, in all instances, I initially thought they were stupid ideas…and, in turn, they took hold in my brain.

Once he's in your head, there's no getting him out

We have to understand and appreciate our biases whenever we observe new information.  We always view them through a lens that’s been clouded by our previous experiences and “knowledge” accumulated over time.  In turn, we can become our own echo chamber: we can just keep consuming the things we find agreeable and discarding the things we find disagreeable.  This is fantastic for preventing cognitive dissonance, but it is VERY poor approach for creating the kind of growth that will make us different from average.  Instead, we must employ our cognitive powers to be able to recognize and deduce that something is “stupid” by our own criteria AND be willing to CHOOSE stupidity in the instance where intellect has failed us.  When we hear some influencer out there spout an idea that runs completely counter to everything else we’ve ever experienced, we should absolutely consider it stupid AND absolutely consider it as well.  It should be stored away for the day when being smart is no longer working out for us.  As my Grandfather used to say: “If you’re so dang smart, how come you’re not rich?”  If being smart has only gotten us THIS far, it may be time to employ some intentional stupidity.  


Thursday, April 4, 2024


For my readers out there that aren’t parents, allow me to expose you to a pitfall modern parents will experience that did not exist when I was growing up: you can accidentally let your kid watch 8 hours of television.  Its true!  One minute, it’s Saturday morning and your kid is watching cartoons, and suddenly you turn around and it’s Saturday night and your kid…is STILL watching cartoons.  How?!  Because television is STREAMING these days: it’s on demand!  What does that mean?  It means your kid can pick a show and bingewatch it, just like any degenerate adult can do.  As opposed to?  As opposed to when so many other of us grew up, when there were Saturday MORNING cartoons that ran for about 2 hours (WITH commercial interruptions) and then it transitioned onto terrible infomercials for the Chuck Norris TotalGym and the Flowbee (look that up).  Sure, you COULD sit there for the rest of your Saturday and watch that awful programming…but why would you?  At that point, the cartoons were over and you moved on to something ELSE on Saturday: playing some sports outside, reading comic books, playing video games, arts, crafts, just plain ANYTHING else.  But now?  Now, the cartoons NEVER end, and if you let your attention slip, when your kid asks “can I watch some cartoons” and you say “sure”, you created a Saturday television zombie.  Why do I even bring any of this up?  Well, for one: it’s legit something to watch out for as a parent (don’t be fooled: EVERY parent is just winging it, there is no book, and just like lifting, it’s often good to learn from the bros that have “been there/done that”), but additionally, this streaming on demand access can absolutely negatively impact your training and nutrition.

Granted, THIS particular show definitely helped me find some training intensity (RIP Akira Toriyama)


I started this by going back to the past, so allow me to continue that approach in discussing what physical transformation USED to be like: the information was controlled.  And not controlled in the sense that there was some sort of conspiratorial elite mastergroup out there that was hoarding all the knowledge on lifting and nutrition and parsing it how they saw fit: the FLOW of the information was controlled.  Much like old television, information was released episodically, typically in the form of a monthly muscle-magazine (Muscle and Fitness, Flex and Powerlifting USA if you wanna talk the 90s, Hardgainer for the 80s, and Strength and Healthy for the golden era, and I’ll give a shout to Mark Bell’s “Power” magazine, which was pretty awesome when it was out) and a select few books (EVERY lifter owns a copy of Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, and you had Fred Hatfield’s “Power: A Scientific Approach” and Bill Pearl’s “Getting Stronger”, or perhaps something from the HIT crowd).  In both cases, you, the consumer, had to WAIT until the next installment of information was released.  You’d read every article in your magazine, tear out the routines and bring them to the gym, go to the grocery store to buy the food for the diet du jour, and THAT was what you had to work with for that month.  You poured over Arnold or Fred or Art Jones’ book and THAT was all the information you had until the next book got released.  There was a DELAY between chunks of information…which meant you had time to digest it all (whether you chose to use that time or not was entirely up to you).



Now?  Information is streaming: it’s ON DEMAND.  At any point you can plug in to nearly LIMITLESS information on the realm of physical transformation: irrespective of if any of it is of value.  On that last bit: at least these magazines and books had editors, I say FULLY aware that I’ve written a blog rife with typos and grammatical errors for well over a decade now, because I’m part of the problem (but at least you have to wait a week between my posts!)  And you can absolutely literally bingewatch lifting media if you so choose: you can lose 8 hours on youtube sifting through various channels and talking heads and still not even SCRATCH the surface of all available content.  And that’s just LIFTING: if we wanna discuss nutrition, that world is SO diverse and rife with varying opinions that it’s effectively endless.  No one human will ever consume all of the media that is out there: we simply don’t live that long, and in the process of ATTEMPTING to consume it, MORE will come out.  It’s a truly Sisyphusian task.


At least rolling a big rock up a hill will get you pretty jacked...


And what’s the consequence of all this?  Aside from the fact that you can lose a whole day to what is effectively brain poison, we’ve once again lost the opportunity to actually think, digest and marinade on the information we’ve received.  Much like economics, when you increase the supply, you decrease the VALUE of the supply.  We’ve created information inflation, and now we the consumers don’t actually take the time to appreciate anything of value: we just immediately move on to the next bit of information.  “Everything contradicts everything else” cries to babe in the woods of physical transformation, who finds themselves swamped with information from a variety of sources, not able to understand or appreciate how the words of a 1000lb squatter turned coach or the words of an elite track athlete that has COACHED elite athletes SHOULD hold more weight than some dude on TikTok with a set of abs.  No different than how you can equally choose to watch “Casino” or “The Human Centipede” on your streaming service: it’s on you, the consumer, to make wise choices.



But this binge watching also points to another interesting bit of duality: we have an attention span willing to sit down for 8 hours and consume media, yet too short to actually see anything through!  In an era where information and entertainment was released episodically, we HAD to be patient.  “Stay tuned!” we were told, as the commercial breaks interrupted our programming, and “tune in next time!” as the show concluded and we had to wait a whole WEEK before the next episode.  To say nothing of waiting for next month’s muscle mag to come out, or YEARS for the new book to come out.  We waited because we HAD to.  Which is to say, we weren’t necessarily BETTER at waiting, we didn’t necessarily have a longer attention span: we simply had no other choice.  But the IMPACT of not having that choice was profound, as we were forced to engage in de facto periodization: we changed in accordance to the rate that information was received.


When demand attempts to meet supply...and yes, this is SUPER old school television


You see this play out perfectly in John McCallum’s “The Complete Keys to Progress”.  John was fully aware that his articles were released monthly, in accordance with the rate that “Strength and Health” was published, so he would WRITE programs to be followed for a month, tell the trainee to stick with the program, and in the next month he would release the next phase.  When you read the book, the sections end telling the reader something to the effect of “Focus on this for now, and next month we’ll move on to the next phase”.  And after 3-6 months, an entire training block would be accomplished.  He had a similar approach with nutrition too: slowly adjusting and phasing things over time.  The irony of all this being that my only exposure to John’s work was a book that had compiled all the articles into one spot, which I, in turn, absolutely bingeread, further demonstrating the very problem we have with wanting to consume everything all at once rather than taking the time to digest it and appreciate it. …which is, in fact, where we are today.



There is a complete absence of patience as it relates to periodization BECAUSE we exist in a state where “the next phase” is already there for us.  Trainees of the heyday understood the value of phasic training and nutritional approaches: there were off seasons and in seasons, various times to emphasize certain qualities depending on the specific demands we had.  Now?  Trainees want to be good at everything all the time, and getting them to stay with one program for a week is already a significant ask, and they’ll be 2 weeks into a half-hearted cut before they decide they got too small and need to add size OR they’ll watch a slight degree of blur happen to their abs on a bulk and decide it’s time to pull all the carbs out and try to get shredded.  And let’s talk about THAT for a second now, shall we?


It's not as though you actually get a vote on the matter


Another interesting byproduct we see from information being available instantly on demand is that WE are, in turn, available instantly and on demand.  What do I mean?  Once again, in the past era, lifters, even famous ones, like top level bodybuilders, were NOT visible 100% of the time.  Not every single training session was documented, people weren’t taking photos of their meals and sharing them with the world, there was not a daily selfie update: we’d have month long stretches where we would not see or hear from these folks.  During THESE times, these trainees tended to make the MOST growth: it was the off season, where they could focus on bringing up weaknesses and letting their physiques soften up a little while they focused on growing some size.  What does that sound like to a modern trainee?  That sounds like a period of time where you AREN’T setting a PR every time you step in the gym (doing something you’re WEAK at?  Why would you ever do that?!) and it sounds like NOT looking your absolute best for your adoring fanbase.  How horrifying!  If I can’t always be at my most absolute best while everyone is watching me ALL the time, why bother? 



Because sometimes, in order to make a giant leap forward, we need to take a few steps back for a running start.  If you’re already AT your peak, you can’t “peak more”: really, all you can do is just get slowly and gradually worse.  But if we take a strategic pause to come down from our best, rest, recover, soften up and shore up some weak points, we’ll have recovered and grown enough that we can easily blast forward and surpass our previous best.  We just needed to “stay tuned” for a moment there.  We needed to be patient enough to wait for “the next episode” of our own lives.  If we try to bingewatch our lives, we end up going nowhere, but when we take an episode, pause, wait, reflect, contemplate, and grow, we get SO much more out of the experience. 


Because even the greats knew to let their abs go away every once in a while


Don’t hit that “next episode” button on your physical transformation: stay tuned and take it one episode at a time.  You’ll enjoy the show more, and being on the couch for so long isn’t good for you.     


Friday, March 29, 2024


This is going to be one of those moments where art imitates life, because I’m writing this with the 30 minutes I have available to me on a Friday to finish my self-imposed 1000 words a week rule for this blog, and I intend to discuss the value of deadlines as it relates to physical transformation.  So often I see a young trainee ask the question of “how long should I bulk” or “how long should I cut” or a question of WHEN to do these things, and the answer I see given are reflective of just how inexperienced so many folks out there are, despite having the loudest opinion.  “You want to bulk for as long as you possible can!” “You want a long slow bulk” “Bulk until you hate yourself, cut until you hate everyone else”, and all sorts of other pithy witicissms that offer no assistance whatsoever.  You want some real honest to goodness deadlines?  Bulk for 6 weeks.  Why?  Because that’s how long Super Squats, Building the Monolith, Deep Water Beginner/Intermediate and Mass Made Simple run.  You wanna know how long to cut?  Let’s call it 28 days. Why?  That’s how long the Velocity Diet runs.  Or we can say 2 weeks of cutting and 4 weeks of bulking if you want to run Feast, Famine and Ferocity.  What’s the big takeaway with this?  These protocols HAVE fixed timelines and deadlines.  Why?  Because physical transformation requires a NON-SUSTAINABLE effort! 

Meanwhile, this dude needed super serum 


How do we accomplish physical transformation?  We have to create a catalyst for change.  We have to introduce to our bodies some sort of stimulus that is SO shocking that our body decides that adaptation is necessary.  Our bodies LIKE homeostasis: they like NOT changing.  That is their preferred way to exist.  Change is laborious: it requires effort and resources, and our bodies are lazy: they don’t WANT to engage in labor.  So we have to somehow convince our bodies that the cost of homeostasis actually OUTWEIGHS the cost of adaptation.  That it will require MORE labor and effort to remain the same than it will need to expend in the act of changing.  We have to convince our body that, in the long run, it will be FAR less strenuous for it to expend some energy building muscle so that the loads we challenge it with feel lighter vs constantly having to struggle against the loads with the same 98lb weakling body.  And our course: our brain is SUCH a liar to our body.  We KNOW that we’ll never stop challenging it to grow, but we convince the body that, hey, just this one time, if it does us a solid and builds some muscle or sheds some fat or changes in SOME way, we’ll make it worth it’s while.  We have to give the body “an offer it can’t refuse” and try to somehow convince it to appreciate the value of long term investing.  We all know how well THAT goes.


But going back to the stimulus: imagine the kind of RIDICULOUS stimulus that would be necessary to convince the body to change.  The body is a master of homeostasis, and you see fit to challenge it.  You better be bringing your A-game.  And anyone who has ever BROUGHT their A-game to anything KNOWS that it’s called A-game for a reason: we can’t ALWAYS perform that way.  We can’t ALWAYS have the best game of our life, the best practice, the best anything: otherwise, it wouldn’t BE the best: it’d be average.  It’s why fighters spend weeks at a fight camp trying to get into top shape before a fight, it’s why any athlete anywhere has an off season and an in-season, it’s why “peaking” is a thing in powerlifting: we simply cannot perform at our best all the time.  That’s not how a human works. 

This is how I feel the majority of the time I read anything online


So knowing THAT, the idea that we can spend a PROLONGED period of time in a state of physical transformation becomes positively ludicrous.  The notion of a “long slow bulk” is quickly realized to be understood as the same “long slow bulk” that the majority of humanity has been undergoing: physically spinning one’s wheels while gradually getting fatter.  Telling the body to make muscle requires some HARD, strenuous training, and the idea that you’re going to maintain that uninterrupted for long durations is simply a sign that you’ve never actually undergone any of this hard training.  You’ve been trying to do “just enough” for so long that you’ve missed out on the “enough” part.  Those that talk about how you WANT to stretch out the bulking process for as long as possible sound like absolute lunatics for those that have been in the trenches getting results, for THOSE people know that you want the gaining phase to be OVER as quickly as possible.


Which is WHY these periods of physical transformation HAVE definitive deadlines associated with them: we need to know just how long we’re going to put in this skullspltting effort SO that we have an end in sight and a plan to move forward.  If you’re on team permabulk, you’re going to have a LOT of workouts where you just phone it in, knowing that “this is a long gaining phase”, and that, as along as a good amount of effort is applied on some of the workouts, things will probably be ok right?  Whereas when you’re on workout 15 of 18 in Super Squats, you tell yourself “only 60 more reps of squats to go and I’ll be DONE gaining”, and you pour your very SOUL into all 60 squats.  When you’re on day 10 of the 14 day protein sparing modified fast of Jamie Lewis’ famine protocol, you tell yourself that, in 4 days, you can feast again, and it gives you the tenacity to endure.  By having a light at the end from the start, you know that you’re going to have to sprint through this challenge so that you can force the body to change, and that AFTER this sprint can come the cooldown lap, where you allow yourself to get back into some sort of order and reconfigure yourself before your next grand stupid adventure at change.

Been in this situation many times


This is basic periodization spelled out for you.  It’s WHY periodization is a thing: we cannot always be forcing the body to undertake the same change over and over again.  Somehow, every lifter KNOWS that the Milo of Croton story is a myth, and then they rapidly forget it when they think they’re going to go on a 3 year bulk.  Carve out a specific chunk of time to transform in a specific direction, pour every fiber of your being into that chunk of time, then pivot the goal and go tilt at that windmill.  And hell: allow yourself some moments where the goal IS to just maintain.  Sometimes, we need to take a few steps back so that we can get a running start at giant leap forward.  But understand and appreciate WHY we employ these deadlines.  When we know we’ve only got 6 weeks, we’re going to make it count, and when we LIMIT ourselves to only 6 weeks, we CAN make it count.

Thursday, March 21, 2024


I’m not even going to try to keep this to keep this to 1000-ish words, because I came up with this last week when I was on a cruise and had no ability to vomit it out on paper, so it’s just been marinating in my head and growing bigger and bigger as it goes.  But it also means I’m excited to get this all down.


Once again, I get to write about Dungeons and Dragons, because I had a really interesting revelation recently.  I’ve written before about how “conditioning is magic”, and it’s an interesting thing for me to say when I am very much AGAINST magic when it comes to the world of Dungeons and Dragons.  Ultimately, magic is just too complicated for me, and I don’t have fun playing magic users for that very reason.  Instead, I am always drawn to the Barbarian, because they are a VERY simple class to play: they simply hit harder and are tougher than the other classes, to include the Fighter class, at least at the most basic level (more on that later).  So why would I go on to say that conditioning is magic, if I hold magic in such low esteem?  And why, in turn, would I equate barbarism with magic in a similar way?  Because as we just observed: the Barbarian is a class you can choose INSTEAD of a magic using class…which indicates to us, the player, that what magic is for the magic user, barbarism is for the barbarian.  Barbarism IS the barbarian’s magic.

"I cast 'sleep spell'."


Let’s talk about those magic users, because there’s a lot to learn there.  I’ve written extensively about them in my “Dungeons and Diets” series, but for a recap: there’s ultimately 2 different kinds of magic: arcane (black) magic and divine (white) magic.  The prototypical arcane spellcaster is the wizard.  The wizard gains their spellcasting ability through EXTENSIVE study of dusty tomes and ancient scrolls and all other books arcana.  The amount of time vested in cultivating this knowledge and skillset is reflected in the AGE of a wizard: they start the game older than anyone else, because all the other classes acquire their basic skills much quicker.  One of those classes are the users of divine magic: the clerics.


Whereas wizards gain their magical ability though extensive study and research, clerics receive their spellcasting ability by gaining the favor of their god/deity.  They dedicate themselves not in study, but in worship and prayer, and for their loyalty and faith, they are gifted the ability to employ divine spellcasting.  Whereas the arcane spellcaster is granted arcane magic for their efforts (fundamentally destructive magic), the divine spellcaster is granted “white magic”: healing and blessings they can impart upon the party.  And, of course, you true nerds out there are already upset with me because I’ve summed this up to the point that it’s not really accurate, but for the sake of telling this story allow me to rush just a little bit.

I can feel the nerd rage through my monitor


Both of these spellcasters have magic as their ability.  So what is the barbarian’s “magic”?  Barbarism!  The barbarian does NOT engage in extensive study, so much so to the point that barbarians are the YOUNGEST characters in the game when they play.  They have also NOT been granted any sort of unique ability from the gods, which Conan the Cimmerian author Rob E. Howard perfectly captured when he wrote “What use to call on [Crom]?  Little he cares if men live or die.  Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune!  He is grim and loveless, but at birth he breathes power to strive and slay into a man’s soul.  What else shall men ask of the gods.”  How about some divine spells?!  But no, that quote is actually perfect for discussing the barbarian’s magic of barbarism, for it is that very power that defines what sets the barbarian apart.


The majority of the barbarian’s advantages are PASSIVE rather than active.  Whereas a spellcaster has to cast a spell, the barbarian simply has to BE a barbarian.  They naturally move faster than other classes, they naturally roll more hit points per level than other classes, which is combined with a natural ability to absorb damage, making them tougher, they naturally are able to sense traps, avoid ambushes/backstabs, etc.  Their only real “active” ability is the ability to enter into a rage, and even then, once the rage IS active, the bonuses it grants are passive: the barbarian’s strength and constitution (stamina/hit points) increase and they gain immunities to mind altering magic.  All this does is simply make them better at what the gods granted them: the power to strive and slay.  And rest assured: they are QUITE talented at striving and slaying.

It's really a pretty awesome thing to be good at


But…here’s “the thing”.  The character classes are SUPPOSED to be balanced.   If there was simply one flat out superior character class, EVERYONE would just pick that one and the game wouldn’t be very fun due to a lack of diversity.  It means that, when the game designers were designing these character classes, THEY decided that a barbarian’s barbarism was EQUAL to a spellcaster’s magic.  From that, we determine that barbarism IS, quite literally, magic.  A spellcaster has magic and a barbarian has barbarism, and these equal each other to make these balanced across the playing field.  It would be UNFAIR for the barbarian to have magic…just like it would be unfair for a spellcaster to have barbarism.


But here is the OTHER thing: BECAUSE the creators of Dungeons and Dragons present the classes to the player in alphabetical order in the “Player’s Handbook”, that means that a player’s FIRST exposure to ANY character class ends up becoming The Barbarian.  They come before the Bard, before the Fighter, before the Cleric, before the Wizard, etc.  The Barbarian becomes the baseline for which the other classes are compared AGAINST.  It means that a player is first exposed to the idea that a character is given the power to stride and slay, and from there, in the absence of this power, magic is given as a form of COMPENSATION.  “We’re so sorry that your wizard is NOT a barbarian: here is some magic to make up for it.”

The magic won't help with the teasing though


What does ANY of this have to do with physical transformation?  Honestly, the creators of Dungeons and Dragons gifted us with an OUTSTANDING allegory and metaphor to be able to understand this process.  Between the wizards, clerics and barbarian, we have all the facets of physical transformation covered: knowledge, gifts, and barbarism, or, to put more succinctly: effort.  For that, ultimately, is what barbarism is: simply trying HARDER than the other classes to achieve what Crom has breathed into us: the spirit to strive and slay.  A barbarian will swing the club harder, will run faster, will withstand more abuse, and will just simply fight harder than the other classes.  “That’s my business.  That’s what I do.”, to quote Nicky Santoro in Casino.  And with THIS understanding, let’s analyze exactly what we can learn from this metaphor.


Well let’s keep exploring this metaphor.  If the Barbarian is effort, what is the Wizard?  The Wizard is knowledge: the Wizard’s power comes through extensive study and practice.  What do we OBSERVE with the wizard?  At low levels: they die.  They’re ALWAYS dying.  They have TONS of knowledge and lots of POTENTIAL…but it hasn’t been realized yet.  They can only be SO powerful with that knowledge: what they NEED, now, is experience.  And in DnD, it’s quite amazing how literal that demand is, because you acquire “experience points” through killing monsters and completing quests, and through that accumulation of experience you eventually level up, grow more powerful, and realize more of your potential.  All that knowledge can FINALLY be applied, ONCE we have enough experience to do so.

Bruce Banner might be one of the smartest beings in the universe...but the Hulk knows how to be big and strong better

What of the cleric?  The cleric is, quite literally, blessed: they personify genetics.  Some of us WILL be blessed by the gods in our pursuit of physical transformation.  Some of us will respond rapidly and well to training and nutrition, and some of us will have much greater potential than others as a result of these blessings.  …and some of us won’t.  Some of us may simply be doomed from the start.  No blessings whatsoever.  Clerics will ALWAYS be in the party, because we always need them, and either we are them or we aren’t.  What do we take from this?  If you ARE blessed, then be blessed: be the cleric of your party and maximize that potential to the greatest extend possible.  Go fill the role that the gods have granted you: that of the blessed.  But you know who DOESN’T get a divine blessing?  Who DOESN’T get spellcasting abilities from the gods?  Who is only given the will to stride and slay?  The Barbarian.


The Barbarian is effort personified.  Effort is ALL the barbarian brings to the fight.  With that effort comes tenacity, toughness, brutality, endurance, etc, but all these are simply manifestations of a being that survives PURELY as a result of the effort they put out.  And, in turn, surviving is what the barbarian thrives at.  Whereas wizards die off by the score at the start of the adventure unless they have a meat shield to protect them, the barbarian IS that meat shield!  The barbarian is so tough as a result of his effort that not only can HE survive, but he can survive for OTHER PEOPLE.  Often, a party without a thief to check for traps will simply send the barbarian ahead so that they can soak up the damage from the trap and spare the party the harm.  They occupy the front lines of the battlefield and present such an enticing target for the enemy by wearing minimal armor and displaying reckless disregard for their own welfare that the rest of the party can rest easy in the background, preparing spells and distance weaponry while the Barbarian simply excels at what they excel at: trying harder than everyone else around them.  And as the game goes on, and the party gets more experienced, levels up, and unlocks their abilities, the barbarian DOESN’T change: they still just keep trying harder and putting in more effort than everyone else.  While the fighter learns more tricks, while the monk gains superpowers from ki, while the Paladin eventually becomes more blessed, while the Ranger is granted powers from nature, the Barbarian just continues swinging the club harder and absorbing damage better.


It sounds stupid until you realize it actually makes you a demi-god

What do we learn from this?  Effort is the CONSISTENT variable for physical transformation.  Effort ALWAYS works.  Is it always the ONLY answer?  No.  Much like how a barbarian can become “outclassed” by a high level wizard or cleric, there can certainly be a point where more knowledge is necessary to progress, or where we simply need to be better blessed if we wish to progress forward, but the absence of this effort will absolutely doom us: it needs to ALWAYS be there.  And “always being there” means from the START.  Much like how a level 1 barbarian will survive the journey to level 2 with greater ease than the low level wizard, the trainee who simply works hard diligently is going to progress with much greater ease than the trainee who tries to out-think the training from day 1.  The trainee that is able to COMBINE that effort with knowledge as they progress in experience will be able to progress even further, which, for you nerds out there, totally get how I just described “multi-classing” in DnD: start out as a barbarian, gain experience, level up and take levels in Wizard, creating some sort of terrifying hybrid that can MAXIMIZE that knowledge by combining it with effort: a barbarian that can cast some sort of “enhance strength” spell on themselves before raging and getting even STRONGER. 


And once again, recall how the barbarian is our FIRST exposure to characters in DnD: so too must effort be our FIRST experience in the realm of physical transformation.  We simply need to TRY something and try it hard and learn from that experience of effort.  When I engaged in my first bout of physical transformation at age 14, I had no knowledge, and I certainly had no blessings: I was a lifelong fat kid that decided I didn’t want to be anymore.  I cut my food portions to a third of what I was eating before and worked my way up to 200 push ups and 200 crunches a night, along with running daily, gradually working up to a casual 8 miles a day, EVERY day, alongside all sorts of other physical activity before I saved up enough money for a weight bench so I could bench and do preacher curls every day.  Was ANY of that well informed?  Hell no!  But the effort was there, and I lost 25lbs over the summer and completely transformed myself through sheer stupid barbaric effort.  Over time, I gained experience, developed knowledge, and found out WHAT my blessings were (I am effectively farm machinery granted sentience and build solely to deadlift), but NONE of that could have occurred without the effort having ALWAYS been there from the start.

Start 'em young!


And it’s because barbarism IS magic.  And unlike the arcane or divine arts, it’s magic that we are FULLY in control of.  In a world of fantasy, where magic is real, barbarism EQUALS actual motherf—king magic: just IMAGINE the significance of that in our “real world”, where magic is an illusion but effort is real?  You HAVE access to magic: go do something incredible with it.





Thursday, March 7, 2024


It seems like such a pivot for me to want to discuss context and nuance when SO much of my writing is about how the details don’t matter and how it’s just the big picture stuff that we need to focus on (to include one of my most recent writings), but herein is a shinning example of all that “duality” stuff I talk about, and hey: chaos is the plan.  This is honestly one of the fundamental issues when it comes to discussions of physical transformation: EVERYTHING is spoken in the context of SOMETHING, and without understanding that context, we cannot correctly apply the information that is being offered.  The further bit of comedy is this: the more experience you have, the more you understand the context to the point that you can correctly apply it in the absence of it being stated and, in turn, the less prone you are TO stating what the context is.  Contrast this with the junior trainee: they’re such the “babe in the woods” that they take everything at face value simply because they haven’t been exposed to ENOUGH different contexts to know when information does or does not apply.   Already this has become dizzying, so perhaps I can provide some examples.

Some of ya'll never pick up the clues here...


I recently wrote about Jim Wendler, and people being upset with how often he releases new material, but Jim is ultimately a slave TO context in that regard.  When Jim first released 5/3/1, he designed a program for HIMSELF: a former D-1 football player turned powerlifter with a 1000lb squat who weighed over 300lbs and wanted to become athletic again.  And when Jim tested the program, WHO was he surrounded by?  CHAMPION powerlifters and high level athletes, many who had been training for decades and reached the top of their respective sports.  I’m not even touching the topic of PED use here, because you can run a pharmacy full of PEDs and still not get the sheer physical benefits and qualities that come from a LIFE under the bar and on the field: that’s simply a different BREED of human compared to…who Jim works with NOW. 


NOW Jim works with high school athletes, and consider the context of high school athletes NOW vs when Jim grew up.  In an era before the internet (which I know many of my readers can’t even FATHOM), kids spent MUCH more time being active, simply because there wasn’t anything ELSE to do.  I’ve brought it up several times, but I grew up as a “90s fat kid”, which, already, is another example of “context”, because when I say “fat kid” today, you think 300lbs at age 11, and, in turn, I looked like how most kids just plain look today when I was “the fat kid”, but just picture the majority of the kids in the movie “heavyweights” for…context.  And all this aside was to point out that, even AS the fat kid, I was enrolled in t-ball, soccer, ice hockey, swimming, Tae Kwon Do, football and wrestling, and in my downtime my friends and I rode bikes, rollerbladed, ran around playing war, would go on walks to the store to buy comic books/trading cards, played lazer tag/paintball, etc etc.  When I started lifting weights at age 14, I had SOME sort of athletic base to build upon.  Today, you can legit have a kid that has NEVER played a sport of any variety grow up to the reach the age of 18.  They’ll have spent their entire childhood in front of a screen eating processed junk.  Many of you simply cannot FATHOM the state of physical neglect one achieves through that sort of existence…but for Jim Wendler, THIS is the stock he has to train.

Yes, THESE were fat kids in the 90s


Those are two WILDLY different contexts for training populations…which is WHY Jim is constantly producing more material: the context changes.  5/3/1 worked in 2009: for the context it was written under.  If it didn’t work FOR YOU, it’s most likely because you did not fit that context: you needed Jim’s later work, which ALSO works.  All these things WORK: they just work WITHIN a context.  If we try to apply them outside of that context, it’s not a fault of the program: it’s the fault of our application. It’s like attempting to treat a fleshwound with sunblock: it’s not a failure on the part of the sunblock, it simply isn’t the right tool for THIS job.


The same holds true in the world of nutrition.  I absolutely LOVE the books “Super Squats” and “The Complete Keys to Progress”, and both of these books feature EXTENSIVE nutritional advice regarding how to add slabs of muscle onto your frame, which include drinking a gallon of milk a day AND partaking in the “get big drink”, which is comprised of “a full day’s worth of Bob Hoffman’s hi-proteen powder, 2 quarts of whole milk, 2 cups of dry skim milk, 2 raw eggs, 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, half a brick of chocolate ice cream, 1 small banana, 4 tablespoons of malted milk powder, and 6 tablespoons of corn syrup”.  And right away, those that are reading this TODAY think this is absolutely bonkers…but again: context.  When J.C. Hise was pioneering high rep breathing squats paired with copious volumes of milk and food, it was the 1930s, in America.  The Great Depression was transpiring, and there was no obesity epidemic.  We had the opposite issue: American males were TOO SKINNY.  When World War II rolled around, several men were denied entrance into the service because they could not meet the MINIMUM weight requirements, contrast with today, where most American males are too FAT to serve.  This was a result of the VERY strenuous lifestyle that many engaged in as Americans paired with a lack of access to adequate nutrition.  In THAT context, a gallon of milk a day along with a LOT of food was a genius move: milk was delivered to us by the milkman and was sure to grow a big strong man just like it grew a big strong bull.  And, in THAT regard, if you look at J.C. Hise, he certainly doesn’t look like what most modern-day gymbros would wish to emulate, but in the 1930s?  He was a goddamn Hercules! 

In the land of 98lb weaklings, the man with a 36" waist is a god


And, of course, the milk ITSELF back then was different as well.  It was RAW milk, straight from the dairy, often with the cream on top.  Herein, again, we observe the differing context of the advice.  Is this to say that a gallon of modern day milk WON’T result in weight gain?  No: it certainly will…it’s simply a question of if you, the modern day trainee, need to undertake that approach.  The same with the “Get Big Drink”: in an era where it seems that EVERYTHING has somehow managed to get high fructose corn syrup snuck into it, do you really need to add 6 tablespoons of corn syrup to anything you are ingesting?  Hell, do you even NEED a get big drink?  But did it work in the context it was written in?  Absolutely!


Which is the crux of all of this: whenever we read or hear anything in the realm of physical transformation, we must seek to UNDERSTAND the context that this statement is expressed in.  People want to ask questions in a vacuum because that’s easier to ask, but it’s HARDER to answer, and, in turn, the answer you get will be not applicable, because it will most likely exist outside of your context.  “Are squats a good exercise?”  Good for what purpose?  What kind of squats?  Hell, what does “good” mean here?  As in “won’t cause me injury” or as in “will get me jacked?”  “What’s the best assistance exercise?”  What are we trying to assist!?  “Can you gain muscle on keto?”  Are you a 300lb strongman athlete, or a 120lb high school wrestler?  Because we KEEP running into the theme that EVERYTHING works: it’s WHY there is so much material out there in the sphere of physical transformation.  It’s how Mark Rippetoe can have such a following despite never going above 5 reps: there’s a CONTEXT where that approach applies, and when those within that context apply that approach, they succeed.  The same is true of conjugate, sheiko, HIT, etc.  The same is true of keto, vegan, skiploading, Velocity Diet, etc.  It’s on US to think, analyze and understand when the context does and does not apply, and to understand that nothing applies universally all of the time…except that very statement.