I took exactly 1 class of psychology in my undergrad (which would be, of course, psych 101) and learned enough to know that the human mind is fascinating and I am well out of my depth trying to discuss it, so anyone who actually knows anything about the subject: forgive my cultural appropriatism here, but I’m going to talk about the Rorschach test. For those unfamiliar, this test, also known as the “ink-blot” test, involved showing the patient a series of ink blots, asking them the first thing that came to their mind upon seeing them, and using their responses as a method of psychological evaluation. I’m not going to pretend to understand the nuances of such a process, but if I show one person an ink-blot and that person says “ice cream” and the second person says “arson”, I’m watching that second person a little closer. But even without the requisite education in psychology, we can learn from this test, primarily in the sense that YOUR first response when presented with an idea can be quite informing of how YOU perceive the world.
Check it out: philosophy, psychology AND chaos all in one shot...and a corndog!
Case in point? Hard training. Boom: what did you think? It’s so amazing how, when I say “hard training”, trainees either stare blankly at me, or ask if I mean “train 6 days a week” or “take every set to failure”. Right away, your initial response is telling ME that you don’t know how to train hard. Because, right away, you’re trying to make “hard training” a mechanical process rather than a human one. You’re trying to set up the parameters OF the training the CREATE hard training, and that’s an artificial construct that simply will not gel with the humanity element at play when we discuss training. Hard training is training wherein you pour every fiber of your being INTO the training. “Every set to failure” doesn’t mean that, because I’ve seen how some of you cats “fail” a lift: you had at LEAST 6 more reps in you if you were actually willing to push through the pain. To say nothing of how, whenever someone says they take “every set to failure”, I know I’ve found a liar. You mean to tell me that, on 3 sets of squats, for every set, you let the bar crash into the pins, unload all the plates, rack the bar, re-load all the plates, and then do that again for the next set? No: stop. And train 6 days a week? How do I know you’re not training hard? You can do it SIX DAYS A WEEK. By the end of Super Squats, I was good for ONE hard workout that week. But I get people REAL mad when I say this, so let’s move on to nutrition to further alienate my readers.
Ah yes, nutrition. Did your mind immediately jump to supplements? Did you think protein powder, weightgainer and creatine? Notice how these are SUPPLEMENTS? They’re supposed to augment what is missing from your diet. What FOOD are you eating? When you read “food”, did you think “Uber Eats?” McDonalds? Did you think frozen dinners? Did you think of 1500 calorie shakes? Did you think of ANYTHING that requires actual cooking? Have you thought of a single vegetable yet? It baffles me how much time and energy we invest in trying to get trainees to eat like a human. Cooking doesn’t need to be a 4 hour affair: it can be done quickly, efficiently and effectively, especially with all the modern amenities available these days. And with the impact of inflation as of the time I’m writing this, there’s no way you can tell me that eating out is cheaper than making something at home. Nor is it faster. And this is the stuff you are putting IN YOUR BODY to achieve physical transformation. Why WOULDN’T you pick stuff that is the closest to real, human food as possible? Why would you want to transform off of something with an ingredient list that reads like a chemistry paper?
Oh f**k me: just make a grilled cheese sandwich
And that’s just “food”. Now what if I say “eating”? Right away, the calorie and macro calculators come out. You go about this whole process backwards. You decide you’re going to eat a certain amount of stuff and that THIS is going to transform you. The body transforms from demands placed upon it: that’s TRAINING. That’s the HARD training we just talked about. The body doesn’t transform from fuel: the fuel FUELS the transformation. It doesn’t matter if I put premium fuel or canola oil in my truck, nor does it matter if I put in 1 gallon or 50 if I never TURN IT ON. It’s the same with eating: the eating is there to FUEL the transformation process: not vector it. When I think “eating”, I think “to recover”. I just did my write-up of Super Squats and I wrote about how there was literally not a moment of the day I wasn’t eating, because I was CONSTANTLY recovering from the training. As of this moment, I’m in a deload. I’m focusing on running and bodyweight work. I am going hours between meals, and the meals themselves are sparse. My recovery demand is low. Yes: I will lose fat as a result of this. No: this is not a fat loss phase of training. The training is light because it is necessary to have a lighter training phase after such an INTENSE phase of training. Oh my goodness, periodization once again. Let training drive the bus here and you’ll be good: do it backwards and…well…you go backwards.
You can keep going on these tests. When you hear “strength”, do you think total on the big 3? Or do you think “ability to impose will”? Or heck, do you hear strength and think “size”? When you hear hypertrophy, do you think “bodybuilding”, or do you think “accumulation?” When you hear “strongman training”, do you think anything, or do you come back with “for WHAT competition?” You don’t need to be a psychologist to be able to appreciate what these tests reveal to ourselves. We may end up learning more than we thought we knew.
I owe the
topic title to u/CommonKings over on reddit, who is an absolute psychopath
regrading all matters of training and is absolutely on my kickball team for
Ragnarok (dude ran a version of Deep Water where he STARTED at 2 minutes rest
and went down from there, f--k me).Predictably, I was slumming it on the internet and came across a
(hopefully) young trainee that was wanting to know if they could make use of
Milk Duds (a confection of chocolate coated caramel, wherein 3 of the first 4
ingredients are simply different ways to say sugar [corn syrup, sugar, and
dextrose] and the “milk” finally shows up as skim milk on ingredient 5) as a
means of achieving their goal of physical transformation.They assured us all that they would, of
course, be following a diet that hit ALL the necessary macro AND micro
nutrients: the Milk Duds were simply going to be utilized as a “necessary evil”
in order to achieve their caloric goal of the day to promote muscular
growth.What a dandy idea: candy for
gains!To which I asked the eponymous
topic title: “do you want the kind of body that was built by Milk Duds?”
At least go with the Peanut M&M... for the protein
I’m gonna go
full Aristotle here folks: your body is a reflection of your habits.There is no greater truth teller than your
physical appearance.Now, I’m not going
to go full Greek here to present the idea that beautiful people are more
virtuous than ugly people, because we can only get so jacked but no one can fix
our face, but as far as what our BODY presents: it’s telling ALL of our
secrets.There is no hiding behind a
screen or an alias or some e-stats: our body presents to the world a sum of our
habits.And that’s the thing: it’s
HABITS.It’s the things we’re ALWAYS
doing that the body shares with the world.If you absolutely crushed your last workout, and the 24 workouts prior
to that were phoned in, your body is going to display those 24 workouts, not
your last one.And expand that out to
the micro level: if the ONLY physical greatness you achieve daily is a 1-2 hour
workout, and you spend the next 22 hours being a slob, what do you imagine your
body will present?
This is such
common sense thing that NO ONE wants to acknowledge because it’s “unfair”, but
your body doesn’t care about fair: it shares your secrets with the world.This is “being that which does”.A body that constants experience toil,
suffering, and overcoming is going to outwardly reflect a being that suffers,
toils and overcomes…and those beings are physically awesome.A body that constantly experiences leisure,
comfort, and pleasure is going to reflect a being of leisure, comfort and
pleasure.From there, it’s a question of
ratios: the greater the time spent overcoming, the more the body reflects an
overcomer.And, for those of us pursuing
physical transformation, we seek to be an overcomer.
The body, seen here, overcoming
by Milk Duds” is not the body of an overcomer.It is the body of a schemer.Of a
trickster.Of someone who relies on
guile vs brutality to resolve a difficulty.I am sure your cranium will enlarge to accommodate your big brain that
came up with this foolproof plan to almost quite literally “have your cake and
eat it”, but your body will reflect that OF a cake-eater vs an overcomer.Just from a very basic common sense
perspective I ask you the question “do you want the kind of body that was built
by Milk Duds?”I ask this question and
it upsets you because you don’t WANT the answer to be “no”, but we already know
that, by asking for the permission to do it in the first place, we KNEW it
wasn’t right: we just hoped we were wrong about BEING wrong.
Tate lived off of Oreos and Little Debbies when he was in his prime!”And what did Dave eat ON THE WAY to those
confectionary treats?Have you, gentle
reader, gained up to 275lbs of bodyweight on chicken, rice and broccoli before
you finally hit a gastrointestinal wall that necessitated having to overcome
THROUGH comfort?Can you imagine the
sort of twisted Faustian deal wherein one must actually force the intake of the
very foods people consider “treats” because they are so nutritionally dense
that they can finally bridge the gap necessary to create FURTHER growth in the
pursuit of physical transformation?To
have to totally warp your own reality such that the very thing that people use
to experience transient dopamine-releasing joy through simulation of simple
pleasure centers is instead utilized as a tool to create even further
discomfort, agony and toil in the pursuit of physical transformation?The cenobites couldn’t devise such
insanity…and, meanwhile, Dave would be the first to tell you that he looked
physically awful during that time as well, because the body will STILL tell all
of our secrets: we’re eating more candy than we’re not eating.Yeah, we may be squatting 900lbs and benching
600…but we are still candy eaters.
Shirtless, not to show off physique, but because you're ALWAYS sweating when you're this big
tyranny and cruelty of the body can absolutely be played against itself,
because it is nothing but transparent in its evil.We know EXACTLY what the body is going to do:
it’s going to share our secrets with the world.In turn, all WE need to do is control the secrets.If we do not create gossip, if we live on the
straight and narrow, if we exist AS overcomers, the body will have no choice
but to share THAT secret.Do you realize
how empowering it is to have so predictable of an enemy?To know, before the battle starts, EXACTLY
what they are going to do?This is
playing rock-paper-scissors with Bart Simpson: I can lament the fact that I can
never play scissors, OR I can celebrate the fact that victory is assured
because my opponent ALWAYS chooses rock and I merely need to pick paper.
All we need
to do to succeed is have boring secrets to share.When we are consistently overcoming, in the
realm of training and nutrition, we will have a body built by overcoming.When are consistently eating Milk Duds, we
will have a body build by Milk Duds.Which one do you want?
get giddy when I get to write a nerd post like this, because I can’t hide my
roots, nor should I.Though I don’t play
these days (aside from an occasional game with my kid when they’ll tolerate
me), I played a LOT of Magic the Gathering in the late 90s, and those of you
who have no knowledge of that game are going to hate this post.When I first started playing, I didn’t have
any cards of my own, so I had to borrow from my older brother.In turn, I had no idea what was IN the deck
of cards I was playing with: it was just whatever my brother had slapped
together and gave to me.This made games
pretty exciting, because each time I drew a card I legit had no idea what it
COULD possibly be.I was discovering my
brother’s library of cards AS I played.
important to this story.While playing
against a neighborhood friend, I was putting on a typical underwhelming
performance employing a variety of the low level/inexpensive cards my brother
let me use.I quit playing Magic in 7th
grade because I figured out it was basically a game of “whoever spends the most
money on cards wins”, and it was like a heroin habit draining whatever funds I
had to “get my fix”.I share that with
you so that you understand how underpowered this deck was when the majority of
the cards in I were worth about 30 cents.But then, on one draw, I saw it: the Yawgmoth Demon.
Trust me: this was 90s cool
If you have
NO background in this game, that photo means nothing.If you have a background in this game, it
probably ALSO means nothing, because these days that card is vastly overpowered
by so much modern stuff.But for little
late 90s me, playing against my friend, at that moment in time, it was the most
powerful thing I’d ever seen in the game.
bottom right hand corner, you see the numbers “6/6”.For a quick lesson in MtG: the first number
is power, the second is toughness, the latter like “hit points” in a
traditional RPG. Basically, when this demon hits another creature, it does 6 HP
worth of damage, and it can also take 6 points of damage.Up until this point, the strongest creature I
had encountered in my deck was 2/2.
unfathomably strong.I could not wrap my
brain around it.How could this even
exist?!That flying and first strike
thing was cool too, but I was locked into the 6/6.
If you read
the rest of the card, you’ll see something else: you have to sacrifice an
artifact each turn, or else the Demon becomes “tapped”, which means it’s unable
to fight AND it does 2 damage to you.How
very Faustian: an actual deal with a demon.You have a contract that you have to abide by to get it to play right.
Pretty much like this
thing.I had NO artifacts at that time.
other thing: since it was my brother’s random deck, I had no idea if I’d EVER
have an artifact.
other other thing: I did not care IN THE SLIGHTEST.I played the Yawgmoth Demon right away.
This before this was this...and same outcome
And over the
course of the game, it killed me.I
never drew a single artifact, and each turn, it kept dealing 2 damage to me
until I died.
And as soon
as I could scrap together enough cash, I went out and bought 4 of those cards:
the max you could have in any deck.
LOVE how late 90s me thought that day, at that moment, for that game.THAT was the mentality I needed for SO much
of my life.I saw an opportunity for
strength and I leap after it FIRST thing without question with NO plan whatsoever
for failure.There was no strategy, no
trepidation, no hemming and hawing, no “wait and see”: I could NOT play that
card fast enough.I was gonna get strong
now and figure out the rest later.
it’d be easy to say that me losing that game that day was proof of how POOR a
mentality that is, how it has no self-preservation behind it, how the outcome
is being gradually killed by your own strength, etc etc, but we exist BEYOND
just one game.There was a follow-on: I
went out and bought 4 more of those demons.But even moreso: I also made sure I had a deck with some goddamn
artifacts in it so I could USE those demons.I LEARNED from the failure.And
the lesson wasn’t “this card sucks, I’ll never play it again”.It was “This card is AWESOME: how can I make
And the big
part of THAT is being able to not take defeat and failure so personally.Failure is THE time to learn, so long as we
drop our ego, admit our mistakes, and grow from it.It’s totally fine to admit when you’ve been
stupid.In fact, “I’m stupid” is the
common operating picture I try to approach ALL problem solving from.Whenever I come up with a “brilliant idea”, I
go back to the baseline of “I’m stupid” and then go “If I’m stupid and I came
up with this, and no one ELSE has come up with it, and everyone else is smarter
than me, why is this a BAD idea even though I think it’s a good one?”In turn, if I take a program that has worked
for everyone else and it doesn’t work for me, I immediately go back to “I’m
stupid” and try to figure out what I’ve done wrong before I go “I’m perfect, it
must be the program that’s wrong”.
Yup: here we are
THAT is the
real “failure plan”.It’s not “what do I
do when I fail”, but “what do I do to LEARN from the failure?”The people that want to know how to fail a
squat absolutely blow my mind: trust me, when the time comes to fail, your body
will figure it out.The people that want
to know how to respond to failure in a program BEFORE it happens blow my
mind.What do you do if you don’t get
all 20 reps of Super Squats?I don’t
know the answer, because we don’t know WHY you didn’t get all 20 reps UNTIL the
moment happens.The way forward from
failure due to a pre-mature rack of the bar is going to be different from one
that happened from true failure, vs one that happened because the bar slipped
off the bar, vs one that happened because we blacked out at the top of the rep,
etc etc.We can’t prematurely plan for
failure: we have to EXPERIENCE the failure first such that we can actually
learn from the process.And we don’t
get to experience failure UNLESS we take risks.And sometimes, risks pay off and we actually get the reward, so how cool
is that?But other times, the pay off of
the risks IS the failure, and that’s cool too, so long as we learn from that
failure.Everything is a learning
opportunity: we just have to allow ourselves TO learn.
a thousand games since that day.I even
won a few of them.I’ve gotten more
powerful cards.But, to this day, the
Yawgmoth Demon STILL gives me chills.It’s still what I think of whenever I think “strength”.I still channel its spirit.Because along with being a big strong scary
demon, it’s a testament to the mentality of getting strong now and figuring out
the rest later.
Folks, as of
my writing of this, I am one workout away from finishing my third run of Super
Squats.What makes this one unique is
that this run of Super Squats comes on the tail of a prior run, with a 6 week
break in between: an idea proposed by the very author of Super Squats, Randall
Strossen.I wrote in a previous blog
entry regarding Duality via Periodization on how I trained in between the two
runs of Super Squats, effectively trying to UNDO Super Squats and prep for
another run, and found that to be ultimately beneficial.What was also unique about this run compared
to the previous run is that I did NOT contract RSV at the start of it, nor did
I tear my hamstring in the 2nd week, so I got to have my revenge and really
give Super Squats the full “Mythical Strength” treatment.
There is that side of the equation too
I wanted to
document how this run went and what lessons I learned from it, because that’s
why we do these things.
HOW I SET UP THE TRAINING
You knew this was coming
I stuck with
my 2 different training day approach, alternated in an A-B-A, B-A-B style
approach.Day A was a superset of axle
clean once and strict press away with pull aparts, weighted dips w/axle rows,
squats with pull overs, axle SLDLs, and poundstone curls, day B was a superset
of incline DB bench and weighted chins, behind the neck press and pull aparts,
squats and pull overs, and then an unbroken circuit of single set work of kroc
rows into axle shrugs against bands into reverse hypers.Each day also included standing ab wheel,
glute ham raises, pushdowns, and some form of short conditioning work to end
the training day.
Around the 5
week mark, I started cutting stuff out of the training days.Biggest issue was my forearms/elbows from the
frequent squatting.They were in a significant
degree of pain, and started limiting movement.I removed weighted dips entirely, replacing them with a burnout set of
flat benching with 20lb DBs (worked up to a max of 160 unbroken reps), and I’d
play the Day A workout by ear on if I’d do the SLDLs or not.
Week 5 was
also unique in that it’s when I broke from the standard “Single set of 20, add
weight next time” approach to one where I rotated between reps and different
movements, once again in an attempt to spare my forearms.I adopted an approach that had me do my heavy
squat day on the first day of the week, then a lighter squat with 30+ reps for
the middle workout, and then a Safety Squat Bar squat for 20 rep workout on Friday.I’ll speak more to that later.
On the days
between Super Squats workouts, I’d do 30 minute fasted conditioning
workouts.I almost never did the same
one twice, and usually based it around what hurt the least to train and what
could promote recovery for workouts.On
weekends, I found myself doing the Grace WOD from Crossfit with an axle pretty
frequently, and would do some wild variations of it, like hitting it 3 times in
a row with some burpee chins and swings in between or doing one every 10
minutes.Pretty much just winging
it.I also practiced Tang Soo Do twice a
week and had various other stints of physical activity.
HOW IT WENT
About this good
If you care to watch the full run of the program, here is the playlist
With me starting at 335 for 23 reps, lighter weight allowing for higher reps as I broke into the program.
question, this was my most successful run of Super Squats, and one of my most
successful runs of any program in general.I hit some amazing lifts.I feel
the crowning achievement was 20x400lbs
Yes, I did
in fact manage 20x405 later in the program
And it had
quite a dramatic finish, but I absolutely dominated the set of 400 and felt the
rep quality was high, whereas 405 was barely there, and I know I went short on
the final rep just for the sake of getting the 20 in. Will I still count
it?F- -k yeah I will, but I also intend
to come back sometime and get it clean.
35x315, which was gnarly
And in an
attempt to top it, I did 33x315, then, after feeling sorry for myself for 20
seconds, got back up and got in 7 more reps for a total of 40
On top of
all that, my incline dumbbell benching went from 3x12x95 to 110lbs, Behind the
neck press from 3x10x120 to 145 and weighted dips capped out from 3x12x90 to 115
before I had to tap out from elbow pain.
rows and SLDLs also progressed incredibly well, but in that regard I entered
the program recovering from a torn lat/tricep which had it so that I couldn’t
do a single unweighted chin to start the program, and rows and SLDLs were
stupidly light.By the end of the program,
I could do 2x15x25lb weighted chins, axle rows with 230lbs and axle SLDLs with 301lbs.
Oh yeah, and
I didn’t weigh myself at the start of the program, but the day before the final
workout I stepped on the scale after my post-workout shower and saw 201.0.I still have ab veins.I’ve never been this heavy and lean before,
so that’s cool.
HOW IT WENT AWRY
Story of my life
mentioned a few times now: elbow pain became the variable.And I write “elbow”, but really, it’s more
like forearm flexor/extenders.It’s a byproduct
of the stupidly low bar style of squat I employ, and I know it’s playing with
fire whenever I do prolonged frequent squat workouts like this.I experienced a similar issue on a run of
Building the Monolith a while back.It’s
most likely why I tend to gravitate toward programs where I squat only once a
But I was
also stupid in my conditioning exercise selection at the start.I was doing a LOT of kettlebell cleans and
snatches, and those TOO tend to jack up my elbows pretty badly.Pairing them together on such an intense
training program was a recipe for disaster, and once I crossed the point of no return
on pain there was no course correction available aside from “drastic measures”.Pain was beginning to influence training
decisions, I was cutting movements out of the program or re-arranging things so
that I wouldn’t go into the squat with so much pain that it distracted me from
the set, and my conditioning became based around “what will hurt the least”.I had to stop my daily ABCs or TABEARTAs for
after failing my first attempt at 405lbs, I had to make a change.Now, that failure happened on an off-day as
it was, since it was the president’s day holiday, so I trained in the afternoon
rather than the morning, after a morning of “Top Golf” and different food than
I normally have, but it was also the first workout of the program where I approached
the bar with trepidation rather than an assurance that I was going to succeed,
and it was due to the sheer pain I’d endure in simply UNRACKING the bar.
So I took a
lesson learned from my previous run of Super Squats and decided to go for a set
of 30+ reps.That’s where the set of 35x315
happened, which was awesome, and I walked away feeling BETTER but not fully
healed.The next course of action was to
use the Safety Squat Bar and completely remove the elbows from the equation.That worked, and it was a challenging
workout, but much like I wrote previously: the SSB just doesn’t create the same
effect.When you breathe at the top of
the squat with the SSB, you can really rest.You aren’t being crushed, you’re in a peaceful state, you can regather
and recompose.With a bar on your back,
that time is murder.I can’t see running
a full cycle of Super Squats with a SSB being successful, but I can definitely
see benefits of rotating it in as part of the program.And in that regard…
LESSONS LEARNED AND FUTURE IDEAS
Don't listen to this heretic!
* Running a
cycle of Super Squats where I worked up to 30 reps prior to this one was
brilliant and totally unintended.It
legit made 20 reps feel mundane.I was so
used to the work STARTING at the 20 rep mark that I’d often not realize I was “done”
with my set until around rep 18 or 19.And they were STILL hard sets of 20, no question, but, mentally, there
was no battle whatsoever.I was
conditioned to not even think about those first 15 reps, since they were “halfway”
to the end and I didn’t want to get into my own head before that time.
nothing wrong with some short conditioning sessions between Super Squats
workouts to keep appetite high and recover from training, but movement
selection is crucial.Death by a
thousand cuts can happen, and once you’re on the wrong side of it, it’s too late
* I didn’t
write about nutrition, because mine is so stupidly nuanced and insane that it’s
cumbersome to do so, but I once again did not do the gallon of milk a day, and
I once again say that, if you CAN, you should.I was pretty much eating non-stop through the program.If I had to work late, my whole evening got
compromised and I would end up literally spending the time I got home to the
time I went to sleep eating (I say without hyperbole, I’d eat my last meal, go
upstairs, brush my teeth and go to bed.All the people worried about eating before bed messing with their sleep
can f- -k right off.)I had a lunchbox full
of food that I’d bring to work and eat something at least once an hour out of
it, to say nothing of the snacks I kept in my desk, to say nothing of the gigantic
breakfast I had BEFORE work.And after I
ate breakfast, I would do the dishes, have a snack, get my kid in the car, drop
them off at school and then eat my CAR SNACK on my way to work, where I’d eat
my “I got to work snack” as soon as I sat down.People: a gallon of milk a day is so much simpler.Also, I need to get sponsored by Nuts ‘n
More, because I was going through a container a week, easily.
* At one
point, squatting around 400lbs every other day for 20 reps just takes a toll on
the body that cannot be recovered from if one is not drinking a gallon of milk
a day (still gonna keep plugging that).Next
time I run Super Squats, I want to try an approach where I have 3 distinct approaches
to the squat.The first day of the week
will be a traditional 20 reps.The next
day will be a lighter weight for 30+ reps.The final day will be the Safety Squat Bar for 20 reps.This is the layout I used for the last 2
weeks of this run of Super Squats, and I think it has a TON of merit.Primarily, that heavy set is the first one of
the week, so I effectively have 6 days to recover from it before I have to do
it again.Yeah, the middle workout is
still a barbell squat workout, but the lighter weight is far less taxing on my
elbows, and the SSB is completely forgiving of it, so I get to spend a lot of
time healing/recovering.As far as
progression goes, I’m thinking 10lb jumps each week for the sets of 20, and
going up a rep or so a week for the high rep work.I’ve considered making the workout 1 and 2
weight the same at the start of the program and going from there as well:
hitting 20 reps with it on workout 1, 21 on workout 2, and then when workout 4
rolls around go up 10lbs, then going up 1 rep on workout 5.Lots of ways to succeed.There’s also the possibility of swapping out the
SSB day with a trap bar day too.
Strossen’s idea of “6 weeks of Super Squats, then 6 weeks of a 5x5 bulk and
power program, then 6 weeks of Super Squats” is right on the money.I really overlooked that gem the first time I
read the book, and even the second time, but after enough re-reads it really
clicked, and this was a fantastic experiment in that regard.You don’t need to run the exact 5x5 bulk and
power program, but take the lesson it’s presenting: do a program with 1 set of
a lot of reps, then do a program of a lot of sets of few reps.It was stupid simple periodization and it was
there all along.And keep reading the
rest of the book, where Randall talks about doing 2x15 or 3x10 or 1x30 and you
see all the ways you can keep making Super Squats “work”.That book, no joke, should be the first book
any serious trainee reads regarding training.It gives you a plan you can follow for life and imparts SO much
is a mouthful and definitely me flexing my big brain that I got from episodes
of Futurama and Clutch lyrics, but stick with me here.The “observer effect” is summarized as “the
disturbance of an observed system by the act of observation”.I know its poor form when defining a word to
include the word within the definition, but if you need me to sum that up: it
means that, when you look at something to try to obtain information from it,
the thing you’re looking at changes because it’s being looked at.We see this with humans all the time: tell
people you’re going to observe their nutritional habits and suddenly it’s all
salads and whole grains and no fast food, tell them you’re going to observe
their fitness habits and that’s the day “couch to 5k” starts.But, to the surprise of absolutely no one, I
am once again going to rally against science and say that, for you, gentle
reader, there IS no observer effect.
Yes, this is exactly where I learned about this
What am I
getting at it?I’m ultimately rallying
against the overreliance of numbers and data and how often a trainee will try
to employ the “reality” of data to refute the reality of…reality.Examples?Sure.How often do we observe
(hah!) the individual that claims that they’re ONLY eating 800 calories a day
of lettuce and sadness and they STILL can’t lose weight!They’re doing EVERYTHING right, they have the
nutritional logs to prove it, multiple doctors have confirmed that they have no
disorders, so they must just be a broken human in some way, shape or form.But here’s the thing: none of that
matters.Reality is going to change just
because you assigned a number to it.The
facts are facts: you aren’t losing weight.Weight is lost by eating less food.It doesn’t matter how much you are or are not eating: less food needs to
holds true as well.I am frequently
spending time on forums and locations trying to help young trainees put on
muscular size, and each and every time I’m greeted with the same story.“I eat 9000 calories a day and I’m LOSING
weight!I have 14 big macs for breakfast
each day and wash it down with a gallon of chocolate milkshakes.I can’t get over 128lbs!”Once again: your state of reality does not
change simply because you’ve observed it and assigned a number to it.It does not matter what that number is, it
does not matter how that number relates to other numbers, your body will not
suddenly start growing now that you’ve PROVEN that you’re eating 9000 calories
a day.It appears, gentle reader, you
may need to consume 9000 and 1 calories a day in order to gain.
So, like, all this and a breathmint
And this is
just discussing food, because that’s a fun topic to discuss, but we see it all
the time with training too.Hell, we
really see the self-sabotage of it with training.Trainees will be making tremendous success
with a training method, breaking personal records, achieving goals, enjoying
the outcome, but they read/hear/see somewhere that what they’re doing ISN’T
optimal…so they change it.And disaster
follows.The system was working, it
wasn’t going to suddenly STOP working simply because information arrived saying
as such.The presence of other
successful methods of training does not invalidate success PREVIOUSLY
experienced with a successful method.
Oh boy does
5/3/1 get a LOT of that.This is a great
tangent to go off of.SO many folks
criticize Jim Wendler for having released multiple books on his training
method.“I got 5/3/1 Forever and I HATE
the leaders and anchors.Everything is
reps of 5 now.I miss the old way where
we went for rep PRs every workout.”You
mean you miss the old way from 2009 that WORKED?!If it worked in 2009, what’s to prevent it
from STILL working?Just because Jim has
evolved the system DOESN’T mean that the previous editions no longer work: it
simply means he found OTHER ways to make it work, and possibly even BETTER ways
to do so, and he’s sharing them with you…but you don’t HAVE to do them.You can use ANY of the successful
methods.Because they work.
"Why won't he make his simple system more complicated!"
from Super Squats.Book came out in the
80s.Worked then. It’s based off an approach to training written
about in the 60s and 70s: worked then.And it comes from pioneers that were lifting in the 30s and 40s: worked
then too.Are there “better” ways to
train now?Maybe so: but we DEFNIITELY
know that Super Squats worked, and, by extension, works.We KNOW that a gallon of milk a day
works.We can take ALL this valuable,
USABLE historical information and employ it to continue to succeed.AND, if we decide we want to deviate from
that and try ANOTHER method: that’s dandy too.Maybe IT will also work.
consequently, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing everything “right” if it’s NOT
WORKING.I’ve dealt with so many
trainees that share ridiculously complex spreadsheets with me detailing down to
the calf raise their precise amount of sets, reps, exercises, reps in reserve,
rest times, frequency, etc etc, PROOVING that they are training EXACTLY
right...and wondering why they’re not getting results.They’re not getting results because their
training ISN’T right: irrespective of how many times they prove that it
is.Reality is reality: you cannot
change it by observing and measuring it.If you are NOT getting results, what you are doing is NOT working.Do something different.What should it be?ANYTHING.Do ANYTHING other than what you’re doing.What you’re doing isn’t working.
to codify chaos.It’s such a human thing
to try to wrestle control away from the cosmos and claim mastery of our fate,
but the truth is that we’re all winging this as we go and are slaves to the
outcomes of our actions.At best, we can
try to vector the flow of reality in a favorable way, but this necessitates
having to bend TO reality when it bends us.When we follow ALL the rules and get none of the results, it’s not reality
that’s wrong: it’s the rules.Somehow,
someway, they do NOT apply to us, and it’s up to us to make our own rules and
employ them to achieve our own results.OTHER people will observe the outcomes, and them doing so won’t change
reality: we are awesome.
I’ve written on this exact topic before, but I’m going to try to be a bit more prescriptive this time, primarily based on my current experience on my third run of Super Squats. A lot of people, upon hearing that I’m running the program again, have been shocked that I’m doing it “so soon”, but in truth I’m doing exactly what was laid out in the book (which is one of the reasons I encourage people to read the damn thing so much). Strossen talks about how Super Squats typically cannot be sustained for longer than 6 consecutive weeks, but, by rotating in a 5x5 bulk and power program for 6 weeks, one can get back to Super Squatting. 6 weeks on/6 weeks off/6 weeks on again. Hey, look at that: training blocks. Periodization. And this is why, along with reading books, I am big on RE-reading books. I read “Powerlifting Basics Texas Style” at least once a year and always pick up something from it when I do, and after a few re-reads of Super Squats, I REALLY read this section and suddenly realized the sheer brilliance of it. It was hiding there in plain sight for over 15 years (for me, even longer based on publication), but I finally learned a great trick on how to simplify periodization: with duality.
I’ve written on duality before, but for a quick sum of today, it refers to the concept of opposing forces existing HARMONIOUSLY vs in contention. This is very much an eastern thought process. Western thought tends to operate off the premise of maximizing virtues and minimizing vices. All chastity and no lust, all charity and no greed, all peace and no wrath, all love and no hate, etc. Duality, instead, supports the idea that we NEED these opposing forces to provide balance. The sin against duality is imbalance, whereas fire needs the water so that we are not consumed in flame, and restraint requires gluttony so we do not starve.
Many trainees, in turn, are western in their thought. They have no appreciation for periodization and, by extension, duality. If hypertrophy is the goal, they are ONLY going to train for hypertrophy. They will ONLY do the Push/Pull/Legs split 6x a week, they will ONLY use 3 exercises per muscle group for 8-12 reps, they will NOT doing any cardio or conditioning because it will interfere with recovery, they will NOT do any sort of jumps, throws or low rep work, etc etc. Maximize virtue, minimize vice…until we are greeted with imbalance and can no longer progress. The Tao had it figured out: we need duality. We need balance.
Some more than others
And Strossen makes this so stupidly simple that I completely missed it: the program he offers to counter Super Squats IS duality. What is Super Squats? A program built around 1 set of squats for 20 reps. The rest of it is also few sets and many reps. What is his proposed counter program? 5x5. What is 5x5? Many sets of few reps. We went from few sets of many reps to many sets of few reps…Christ, it’s so simple. It’s so obvious. It just makes so much sense. What do we do after Super Squats? We UNDO Super Squats! We do the opposite of what we did for the same duration of time: we achieve balance!
I didn’t follow the 5x5 plan laid out in the book during my 6 weeks between Super Squats, but I DID set out to achieve balance. I’m going to share my thought process, because, honestly, I’m proud of it.
Super Squats is the same movements for each workout for 6 weeks. So I set out to make sure my next 6 weeks featured rotating movements. I wanted to avoid adaptation. I picked 3 different squats, horizontal presses, deadlifts and presses to rotate between. Super Squats is 3x a week, so I trained 4x a week. I DID stay full body, which if I wanted to I could have gone more 5/3/1 style instead to keep up with being opposite, but with my fully body training I paired a squat with a press and a deadlift with a horizontal press. Where possible, I’d include a chin or row as well to round out the back work. Then, to REALLY make it different, whereas Super Squats had me doing traditional sets with rest between, I set up my workout to be a continuous 30 minute circuit, with a goal to complete as many rounds as possible. I would end up resting 40-50 seconds between rounds, but would end up doing something like squat-chin-press or deadlift-incline bench for 30 minutes. And where Super Squats had fixed reps, my reps waved, similar to 5/3/1. I rotated between triples, doubles, and eithers 5s or 8s.
I know that’s a lot of words, but to give it a summary: train 4x a week. Full body. 2 days will be a squat and press combo, 2 days will be a deadlift and horizontal press. 30 minute workouts, heavy weights, low reps, as many rounds as possible. I’d set an 8 minute timer afterwards and use it to do whatever assistance work I felt needed doing, and then typically tack on a conditioning session there. On the days of the week I didn’t do the lifting program, I’d do a 40 minute conditioning workout.
This absolutely primed me for another run of Super Squats AND helped me “undo” the previous run of Super Squats. In the previous run, I had to let my conditioning slide, and my top end strength wasn’t getting touched for 6 weeks. I got to now spend 6 weeks training very low reps with heavy weight AND bring my conditioning back up to snuff, so that, when I began my next run of Super Squats, the weights would feel light and my heart and lungs would be dialed in and ready for whatever I threw at them. Meanwhile, Super Squats also primed me for this program: my body had grown immensely, and with all this new muscle to play with, I was hitting some crazy weight PRs in training…so much so that I ended up tearing my tricep on the eccentric of some trap bar deadlifts of all things…oops. But if you get so strong that you’re tearing your muscles off the bone, I’d say that’s a sign of something too. And most of you are far less stupid than I am, which means you run a reduced risk of such an outcome.
So there it is: periodization via duality. Periodization doesn’t NEED to be complicated. In fact, making it the opposite is VERY effective: make it so stupidly simple it’s easy to overlook. What do I do after this current training phase? Do the opposite of what you just did! And after that? The opposite of that. Keep the balance, and in doing so continue growing in all directions.
This was something I came up with this morning as I was getting ready for my 7th of 18 Super Squat workouts for my third run. Anyone that has ever run this program knows that it beats the holy hell out of you AND that the only way to survive it is to eat. I’m not going to lie or be humble here: I looked at myself fin the mirror and thought to myself “Holy f**k I look jacked for being in my 3rd week of Super Squats”. And that statement was significant BECAUSE I had been eating my face off since starting this program, primarily because I’m not doing the gallon of milk a day, primarily because I’m 37 and have a kid and don’t need them seeing me living like that. BUT, even more profound, as my mind meandered even further, I got to thinking about the fact that I really can just eat completely unrestricted for this 6 week training block and realize some insane potential, and it’s due to insurance.
I relate too much to this
And no: I’m not talking about having health insurance that will be able to take care of me if I make some terrible mistake (although that IS worth having, be sure to write your blood type on your Chuck Taylors before your widomakers kiddos!). No, I’m talking about the insurance of knowing what I am truly capable of when I dedicate myself to it, and being able to fall back on exactly that when I need it.
Why can I eat as much as I need on Super Squats? Because I have the insurance of knowing that I know how to lose fat when I need to. I’ve lost fat SO many times that I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and I must point out that I’ve done that as someone that DOESN’T count calories or macros or track or log stuff. If you make use of all that stuff, you should REALLY have some insurance there. And each and every time I engage in fat loss, I come into it with the background of knowledge I had already accumulated which gives me an opportunity to learn even MORE about the process, so I get better and better at it, making it easier and easier. In turn, this allows me to have even greater insurance as I gain, because I know that I KNOW how to reverse any of the “damage” of the process. I can just focus on eating to recover and getting huge. Which absolutely boggles my mind when I see so many young trainees who DID lose a bunch of fat post online about how they don’t want to go “on a bulk” because they’re worried about “getting fat”. You’ve demonstrated that you KNOW how to get un-fat: you need to go prove to yourself that you can put on some muscle!
The fact you can make it into a video game is proof that the process is so fast and simple it can appeal to the shortest of attention spans
Going off a little bit more on a rant there, trainees have this other weird fear about how, if you get fat and then have to go on a fat loss phase, that’s time spent away from gaining. When someone presents that argument to me, I can tell without even looking at them that they’ve never put on a serious amount of muscle from training. Anyone who has ever undergone a TOUGH muscle gaining program knows that it’s entirely unsustainable over the long term. You will WANT that fat loss phase, because you NEED a break from gaining. And trying it back to insurance again, those fat loss phases of training are some of the best FOR experimenting and finding new things that work, because all you really need to worry about with your training during fat loss is training hard enough to keep muscle on your body. The pressure is really on when you gain, but when you lose? Just lose the RIGHT tissue and you’re fine.
Which ties into another fun bit of insurance: non-optimal training. For some reason, trainees have it in their heads that they MUST train in the absolute most optimal way possible…OR ELSE! …or else what? What is the consequence of sub-optimal training? Sub-optimal results? Oh my: how awful! What do they call the guy who graduated last in his medical school? “Doctor”. You can still get REALLY goddamn big and strong with sub-optimal training, and going full tilt INTO some sub-optimal training will teach you just that. You learn about the 3 principles of effort, consistency and time, and realize that, once you have those in place, the finer details are going to account for maybe a 1-2% variance in outcome. If it’s worth training in a way that just plain does not gel with you so that you can get that 1-2%, cool, but for anyone else: train sub-optimally for a while, observe that your results are “just fine”, and suddenly you give yourself a LOT of freedom to explore, play and LIVE.
The man on the right didn't even make the Olympic team and apparently never won against a big name. How sub-optimal! The man on the left is technically classified as jello.
And my absolute favorite: the fear of injury. What insurance do we have here? Many trainees go about this the wrong way: trying to create artificial insurance by “doing everything right”. They have PERFECT form, they have dialed in their fatigue management, they stretch AND foam roll AND do mobility AND are properly hydrated etc etc. Injuries STILL happen. Life is a full-contact sport: wear a helmet. No: the insurance from injuries is GETTING injured…and then recovering…and learning that we CAN heal and recover and come back better, faster and stronger than before. And just like fat loss and sub-optimal training, through injury we LEARN. I never would have discovered ROM progression if it weren’t for injury, or the value of good mornings, or the degree of body control I have to shift emphasis away from a wounded point. And through semi-frequent injury, we get GOOD at BEING injured: I know how to wrap a knee wrap around a torn muscle to fake connective tissue and get through a set of squats. I know the difference between “this is healing me” pain and “this is setting back my healing” pain. Just like fat loss: I get better and better, which heals me faster, which gives me MORE insurance against injury.
But again, the comedy of trainees: in attempting to avoid injury, they avoid pushing themselves hard enough to REALLY grow. Well why do they NOT want to get injured? Because an injury will prevent them from training hard enough to grow…hey wait a minute! In attempting to AVOID the injury, we already suffer the consequences OF the injury. What irony! Fear itself IS the injury. But when we can operate without it, with the insurance of knowing that nothing can TRULY stop us, we can achieve great things. And should we get injured, we know it will just be a matter of time and patience before we are back even better than before, and in the time between we can learn and grow.