Friday, April 30, 2010

CNS "burnout"?

I found this piece from Justin Harris and I wanted to put it up because I found it interesting. While I often have to use terms with "CNS" in it because so many believe in this theory (created and perpetuated by bro-science) in relation to training, I have never really believed in the whole "CNS burnout" theory in relation to lifting weights. As Justin notes here, you'll hear this term thrown all over the place on message boards but there isn't any peer reviewed material backing up this bro-science. If anyone can post any up feel free to do so. I personally think it was started by the LSCN master himself. Now you have all of these minions running around spouting it off like it's a scientifically proven theory. I think a lot of it started after Mike Mentzer and his HIT theories resurfaced about a decade and a half ago. People started chanting about how training to failure all the time would result in adrenal burn out, with literally no evidence behind this.

Since then DoggCrapp has had people training to failure over and over again on multiple exercises in a session, 20 rep squats, and high rep deadlifts. All in a week, and what happened? People ate a lot and grew like crazy. Even from a bro-science standpoint, if CNS burnout and adrenal fatigue were true, that's the one program that would have proven it. Yet people just got big and strong on it.

From Harris -

"I won't get too involved with the CNS training and strength sports, but I don't get too excited about that concept either.

Adrenal fatigue is thrown around quite frequently these days and I don't really know why. There is no medically recognized disease of adrenal fatigue. If you look into the term adrenal fatigue you'll find many articles posted on bodybuilding and powerlifting forums, but you'll find no scientific or peer reviewed articles on the subject.
If you search for peer reviewed journals on adrenal insufficiency, you'll find addison's disease, a disease which is caused when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormone "cortisol."
This is the exact opposite of what people write about when mentioning adrenal fatigue. They talk about excessive cortisol production from various forms of stress. Adrenal insufficiency is exactly the opposite of this.

The central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system are quite different systems. The system that is most readily affected by training and forms of physical stress is the somatic branch of the peripheral nervous system.

The PNS connects the "body" to the CNS and is exposed to injury and toxins in ways the CNS isn't. The CNS is hidden away in the brain and spine and protected by the blood-brain barrier.

Specialized strength training is important and has come a long way, but I believe there can be too much specialization. Specialization to the point of limiting progress and variance in physical stimulus isn't progress.

I've always trained to get bigger muscles by using heavier and heavier weights. I don't know whether that is bodybuilding training or powerlifting training.
I know that my training didn't really change a whole lot between training for football, training for bodybuilding, and training for powerlifting and I did well in each of them. Perhaps I could have done better with more specialized training, but I have too much fun at the gym to stress about those things.

I'm not here to get in a debate about the CNS. There are people who've had success with all forms of training. I am never one to discourage anyone from doing something that has brought themselves and their clients success. My feelings on the subject stem from what I understand about psychopharmacology and how it is affected from physical stimulus."


Thursday, April 29, 2010


Pipes and Cannonballs - a few sets

Cardio - 30 minutes on treadmill YUCK

weight is now 238 pounds. I dropped almost all carbs the last few days so I'm sure it's just glycogen loss. I felt flat tonight and looked flatter. 14 more days of this then Vegas.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


28Apr10 - Pressing stuff

bodyweight - 240

Incline Press -
135 x 15
185 x 10

225 x 20
225 x 10
185 x 15

Laterals - side front and rear 20 pounders x 20 reps

Notes - Elbow is really hurting tonight. Wasn't feeling great so just got some reps in and called it a night. Just two more weeks and then a long deload (vacation in Vegas). Will ice it some more tonight and some more ibuprofen. Getting old(er) sucks.

Random thoughts about training, life, crap, and stuff

War Stories -

"I used to be as big as you are."

"I was as strong as you at one point."

"My cousin, he benches 600."

"My son, he's in high school, he's about your size."

I could go on and on all day with these.  20+ years I've been lifting weights and there isn't a week that goes by that I don't hear one of these.  In the gym it's even worse.  At a previous gym there was this old guy who used to watch me like a hawk.  It was quite disturbing actually.  He watched me constantly.  Like a security guard watches skate boarders at the local Target.  Anyway I was having a pretty good session one night and hit 275x5 on the seated overhead press and after I racked the weight he ran over to me and got into my face and screamed at me...


"Uh, ok good for him."

I walked off after that but he continued to stare at me.  Sometimes I would catch him out of the corner of my eye walking in my direction and I would bolt the other way.

Anyway, everyone USED to be big or USED to be strong.  I don't know if there is anything worse than a guy that used to lift weights but tries to tell you what you do or don't know.  Go take up a knitting class asshole and have a glass of shut the hell up juice if you don't have the sack to stay under the iron.

Pardon the mild rant. Anyway, every guy that lifts long enough and builds an appreciable amount of muscle will get some of these.

Yeah yeah, great most muscular "used to lift weights" fat guy. I bet you specialized on bench too.

Take your child to work day -

I finally remembered this this year and brought my two oldest.  It was a lot of fun actually and I'm grateful we were able to spend that time together.

Cruising on lifts -

I have been in cruising mode for a while in lifting and I am enjoying it.  I have only really learned this ability in the last few years and wish I had the attitude for it years ago.  I am generally balls to the walls intensity year round but the fact is, you really can't do that without incurring injuries or setbacks at some point.  It's better to maintain your foundation level of strength and then push the envelope a few times a year than constantly be a race car in the red with training intensity.  You won't last long like that and progress will be inconsistent.  Know when to back off.  And I don't mean for a workout, I mean for a few weeks at a time.  You aren't going to get weaker and when you do decide to push it the body will respond.  Plus I love conditioning this time of year.  The weather is great and I can get back to feeling good again.

Be smart and understand recovery over the long haul as well. Two or three months of cruising is nothing in a lifetime of lifting.

Hollywood sucks

There are literally like 200 remakes in the works.  Why can't Hollwood develop new stories?  Does every writer in the world have writers block?  Crap, make a movie about that!  How every writer in the world is stricken with some sort of alien disease and has lost all of their imagination.  And for the love of God can someone stop Michael Bay from making another movie of ANY kind?  Wow this guy is full of the suck.

Someone stop giving this guy money and old movie scripts please.

Peri-workout nutrition - does it really matter?

Anyone who has spent a modicum of time researching nutrition stuff has heard that you need to eat X so many minutes before training, then X so many minutes before training (that's not a repeat, it's two different times BEFORE training), then you gotta have BCAA during training, then you gotta eat X right after training then eat X another 90 minutes later blah blah blah.

Look I've done that before, I don't notice any difference.  I will say that I have figured out that a small bowl of oatmeal and a protein shake in water about 60-90 minutes before I train does help me.  I have a decent amount of energy with this.  During workout I've done everything from BCAA to gatorade, to whatever.  I keep pretty good training logs and I don't ever remember noticing that I benefited THAT greatly from one to the other.  Post workout I just make sure I have something to eat within an hour.  Mainly because well, I'm hungry.  Dudes have been getting big and lean for decades without peri workout nutrition.  Does it give you an edge?  Maybe.  How much?  5%?  10%?  No one can say.  I always hear about scientific studies regarding this but from my own anecdotal standpoint I've never seen a big difference.  If anything I always felt better by using food before and after lifting.  I still play around with this from time to time but I think it's the most overrated thing in all of training nutrition personally.

My Modern Warfare/Xbox 360 Family

I've been playing online with a couple of guys (chicken and bonebust) for I don't know how many years now. Anyway, outside of them we have a group of guys we have been playing with for a long time. I made a joke the other night this one kid we've been playing with has bass in his voice now. So we've been playing online together so long we went through puberty with this kid. I don't know why I find that funny but I do. Another friend that bones and I play with all the time is called KillingKnight. He lives in Cali and is a pot head. Sometimes when we're playing and you can see what he's doing, then suddenly his character isn't even moving. Generally when that happens it means he's smoked so much he's just passed out. Literally, at that moment.

Xbox live is also a strange place, where everyone thinks that Bonedust and I are black guys and they call us the N word, and where kids curse like sailors. Where are the parents at?

It's also where "we'll see bro" was born and now myself, my work friends, and my family say it all the time. All credit for that is to Bonebust. The story behind that is we were playing against this kid one night that kept running his mouth about how great he was. We lost 1 match against this kid and his team and after that he would not shut up talking smack. So eventually Bones just started saying "we'll see bro" to everything he said to us. Kinda like this....

"I'm gonna beat you guys down again."

"We'll see bro"

"You guys suck. I own all you guys."

"We'll see bro"

"Next match I'm gonna do it again."

"We'll see bro"

"Your team is garbage."

"We'll see bro"

"Why do you keep saying that?"

"We'll see bro"

"That's stupid."

"We'll see bro"

"Yeah, we'll see. We'll see who sucks."

"We'll see bro"

This went on through multiple matches and eventually everyone was laughing hysterically at this kid and he left. So lesson learned, you can be just as annoying as young smart-ass kids online if you really put your mind to it.

HAH HAH! Love you Timmy! No homo.

No psyche -

How often do you have to "psyche" before a set? I've been thinking more about this lately and how much stress it puts on you. If you're training 3-4 times a week and doing say 4-5 movements per session and you have to psyche for every working set, you're getting psyched up a hell of a lot of times that week. I think this is something a lot of guys overlook, but I am beginning to think it plays a bigger factor than we realize.

If you used weights that were at the top of your "casual max" each week, you leave a lot of room for ramping up over months and weeks, and I think you'd get less mentally burnt as often. I think this could be a very easy telltale key in proper programming as well. If you're into the third week of your training cycle and you're already having to get psyched to prepare for that lift, maybe rethink your programming right then and there. Just a thought. I may expound on this idea later.

Save these for just a few weeks in a training cycle.

Tats -

I am tat free, however have thought more about getting one for months now. For my own personal reasons, not to "look cool". I haven't settled on it yet. The wife hates em, so that's even more reason to get a full sleeve done and come home with it. HAH!

I wonder if this guy also changed his name to Skelator?

Conditioning for winter -
Winter ended here only a couple of months ago. The winters here can be bad. I don't mind the cold, but the snow and ice ruin my outside conditioning. I hate machines. I like to do a lot of sprinting and hill running. Sometimes I do this in the snow anyway but after a while it's just a pain in the ass. I have seriously been considering getting a prowler but was wondering how it would work in the snow. I live on a side street so they don't always get around to salting our roads that quickly in the winter.

We'll see bro....

Seems like an awful lot to pay to have something to push around in the winter for conditioning.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Developing your raw squat - Pt. 3

This is the final installment in this series (I swear!).  This part is going to touch on common muscular weaknesses I had and see in other squatters, how I fixed them, and some routines that helped boost my squat.  Keep in mind that unless your squat mechanics are in shape you will not get the full benefit of these.
Once you get these things fixed, you can pretty much just squat using various degrees of volume and intensity (load %) to drive the squat.  Yes it's a strange concept I know but you can actually get a bigger squat by just squatting.  However early on it is helpful to isolate some areas in terms of flexibility and strengthening in order to correct MECHANICAL issues so that you can squat properly.

Weaknesses in the raw squat -

I think the most common problem I see, and the one that plagued me the longest was that stupid knee cave you get when the weight gets heavy coming out of the hole. 
First off, let me say this is BAD with a capital B (I capped the A and D as well).  This can eventually wreck your knees if not corrected and second, it looks shitty.  I think they should red light squats a meets with excessive knee cave.  If hitching a deadlift is out I don't see why excessive knee cave couldn't be out.  It looks atrocious and is bad for the lifter doing it.  My simple rant.  Anyway...........

Remedying my knee cave took two things.  Stretching my hip flexors to allow better function of the glute medius in my squatting, and then strengthening the glute medius itself.  You could have the strongest glute medius in the world but if you are short (tight) in the hip flexors they won't be able to function properly in a deep squat. 

1.  Use the hip flexor stretch I talked about in part 1 at the beginning as part of the general warm up, in between sets of squats, then at the end of squatting.
2.  Do 1 legged squats with one foot on a bench behind you.  If you want to make these harder grab dumbbells or elevate the front foot to allow for a deeper squat.  The 1 legged squat does two things at once.  Strengthens the glute medius AND stretches the hip flexor of the non working leg (the one on the bench). 
3.  Use the adductor machine (where you bring your legs in against resistance) to ensure balance of the antagonist muscle groups. 
4.  Perform a glute and hamstring dominant exercise to keep your posterior up to speed with the dominant quads.  Use a rotation of deadlifts, stiff legs, and hypers. 
5.  Use pause squats so that you can build more strength coming out of the hole using proper hip drive.
6.  Use a squat routine based on low starting percentages and high volume building to a new max over 12 weeks.  

The following routine will help you with that awful knee cave problem.  It will not go away overnight.  This is why you should plan on about 12 weeks of solid squatting to improve your strength and flexibility.    

Squats - Hip flexor strength before you start, between sets, and after you are done with the workout.

Week 1 - 8 sets to 68% @ 8 reps
week 2 - 8 sets to 70% @ 8 reps
week 3 - 8 sets to 75% @ 8 reps
week 4 - 7 sets to 80% @ 5 reps
week 5 - 6 sets to 82% @ 5 reps
week 6 - 4 sets to 85% @ 5 reps
week 7 - 5 sets to 82% @ 5 reps
week 8 - 5 sets to 85% @ 5 reps
week 9 - 6 sets to 92% @ 3 reps
week 10 - 6 sets to 95% @ 3 reps
week 11 - 6 sets to 100% @ 2 reps
week 12 - test new max

The squatting routine is to be used once a week.  As far as the sets listed go, they INCLUDE warm ups.  So week one reads 8 sets of 68% that means the 8th set should be at 68% of your estimated 1RM.  

How you structure your warm ups up to that 8th set is up to you, however I suggest fairly equal jumps.  That means if you are going to squat 315x8 for the last set, something like 135, 185, 205, 225, 245, 274, 295, then 315.  If you are a really weak guy and your max is like 185 just do a lot of sets at small increments.  The volume is part of the key here.  Use the early parts of the program when the volume is high to continue to drill your form.  

Now let me add, you don't have to do the prescribed number of reps for all sets.  Just for the last set.  However I highly recommend keep the reps close to that, especially early in the program.  Something between 5-8 reps for all of the warm up sets is ideal.  

And DO NOT OVERESTIMATE YOUR MAX.  For the love of God do not overestimate your max.  
Pause Squats - reduce the weight from your last set by 15-20% and do 3x5.  Hold in the bottom for 3 seconds.  Keep this in for the whole 12 weeks.

1-Legged Squats - 2x20 for each leg no weight.  Add reps here every week.  Drop them after week 8.

Adductor Machine - 2x10 to failure both sets.  Drop them after week 8.
Hypers/Stiff Legs/Deadlifts (rotate these exercises) - 2x15-20 for hypers/2x8 for stiff legs/2x5 for deadlifts.  Keep these in for the whole 12 weeks.  

This routine is not easy so be mindful of your intensity and load early on in it.  If you go balls out the first few weeks you will likely get burnt.  The whole point of this is to improve your squat weakness and then focus the last 3 weeks on pushing bigger weights.  If you are smart about this the weights you have plugged in will feel easy.  And then on week 12 you'll be happy as you set a new PR.  If were stupid and plugged in a max that is too hight you could get stapled or even revert back to that nasty knee cave.  Be smart in your programming.  

Help I'm in a good morning and I can't get up! -

I touched on this in terms of bar placement, but some guys get folded over even in a proper squat once the weight gets heavy.  The midsection feels weak, the abdominals give way, and then the next thing you know you're in a good morning.  

Obviously taking some serious time out to work on the abs, obliques, and erectors is needed here.  But you need to include some glute work in there as well.  If you are doing full squats the glutes become more prominently into play.  And the faster you can get out of the hole, the less you'll be likely to get bent over like Ed Norton in American History X.

Run the same squat routine as above, but afterwards do the following to help with this problem.  

Ab Roller - 
weeks 1-4 - 30 total reps
weeks 5-8 - 50 total reps
weeks 9-12 - 75 total reps 

If your gym doesn't have one of these laying around just use a barbell with some plates on each side.  This makes things more difficult as well. 

1-Legged Hyperextensions -
weeks 1-4 - 5 sets of 3 per leg
weeks 5-8 - 5 sets of 5 per leg
weeks 9-12 - 4 sets of 8 per leg

If these are too easy with bodyweight only, only an appropriate plate that makes it harder.
Db Side Bends - 2 sets of 12 using as heavy a dumbbell as you can use.

  The over-warm up -This method is meant more for advanced guys who know their real limits and have their mechanics in order.  The only exercise in it is the squat. 

A few reasons it works is because it's designed to work with you on how you feel on every particular day.  Having an off day?  You can still have a good squat workout.  Having an awesome day?  Try to set a rep PR.
Basically this is how you will use this approach.
After your general warm up, throw a plate on the bar and start your warm ups.  As you warm up, you want to get an idea of what top warm-up single you would like to hit for the day.  However the single isn't the focal point really, it's the down set after that.  The single should be nothing more than your last warm up.  After that you should decide on a weight and a number of reps you would like to hit for that day.  For example...
Squat - 135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 5, 405 x 3, 500 x 1, 535 x 1, down set - 500 x 9 (was shooting for 10). 

Notice the last single was not a lot more than the down set that was used for reps.  The last warm up single should not be a great deal over the weight you plan on hitting for reps.  In this example is somewhere around the 7% range.  I would suggest something in the 7-10% for your last warm up single over your repping weight.  This approach is somewhat instinctive and some guys can get carried away with the last single.  Remember it is not about the single here it is about the rep set.  The last single helps prime you to move the repping weight more easily.  So don't get carried away with the single.  If you grind the single because it's too close to a true max, you will be too taxed to really get after the reps on the down set.   

Conclusion -
These are some things I have used to help fix and increase my squat.  Now that my mechanics are in order I generally just squat or pause squat to improve my squat, especially come meet prep time.  When I am not training for a competition I will relax a bit and play with some machines and not squat too heavy usually unless I've had an extended layoff and need to build some foundation level strength back.  So if your squat has been suffering, or you're not a natural squatter make sure you spend plenty of time working on your technique and mechanics and figure out the mental and physical cues that work best for you.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Conditioning - 10 hill sprints at maximum speed.  Minimal rest between runs.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


24Apr10 - Deadlifts

Weight - 240

stiff legs - 135 x 20, 225 x 10

deads from floor -

315 x 5
405 x 3
455 x 1
500 x 1

550 x 1
585 x 1
615 x 1

500 x 8

surgs - 405 x 20

Abs and Calves

Notes - Was not feeling the greatest today as I had a little bit to drink last night and I was DEFINITELY feeling it today. Sluggish and tired to say the least, but it was time to test the dead from the floor after several weeks from mid-shin. The 615 was fairly difficult but I am probably good for 630-640 on a good day. If I had felt better I would have pushed it but that's when bad shit happens so I just shut it down from there.  Same for the 500x8.  As you can see the reps were easy but as soon as I felt rep speed slow just a bit I shut it right down.  I never grind my deadlifts.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Last night - Conditioning work

Did 40 yards sprints for 1 hour.  Ran most of em at about 90% speed.  60 seconds in between.  Felt awesome.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Developing your raw squat - Pt. 2

In the first part of this article we talked about some cues, setup issues, descent, body angle, etc. In this part, what you have to do is put this into action. You need to find your own sweet spots and I will outline a program to try and help you achieve that.

Finding your sweet spots -

Without a doubt this is the single most important part of raw squatting. So this part is strictly dedicated to that. No program out there is going to pay the dividends you want until you can get under the bar and not have to think about what you need to do.

You know the feeling I'm talking about right?

You look up some super-secret Russian/Bulgarian/Lithuanian/Puerto Rican squat program that is going to put a thousand pounds on your squat in 17 days. You plan out all the percentages then write out how you're finally going to make that big squat you've been dreaming of.

Then squat day comes and you get under the bar and you're back at square one.

You go to start squatting but shit doesn't feel right, and you're having to think about everything all over again. The first set sucks, the second set feels better, the third set feels awkward, the fourth set sucks, the fifth set feels great.

"What the hell is going on?" you say to yourself. "Why can't I make all the sets feel solid?"

Seem familiar? Yeah me too. I hated those days.

Finding your physical and mental cues are more important than anything else you do. Squatting has to be like second nature. Let me repeat that no program out there is going to fix your weak ass squat with sets and reps and "strengthening your weak points" crap. You have to fix your squat mechanics FIRST.

First off you need to put your ego aside for a while. If you want to eventually squat bigger weights you have to figure out your own squatting style. Physiologically the example/drawing from part 1 is spot on. However getting your body into that position is the tough part. Let's talk about some problems related to that.

Flexibility -

This is generally problem numero uno, especially for really novice guys/gals. Generally they have trouble hitting depth because they have tight achilles, hamstrings, adductors, and hip flexors. As part of a general warm up that includes lunges, I still stretch these areas. You don't have to turn into Jean Claude Van Damme flexibility wise, but becoming more flexible will help your squatting immensely. Here is the warm up I recommend and practice myself to keep these areas in shape.

Walking - 5-10 minutes to get warm and get some blood flowing.

Lunges - As many as I need to feel my hips, ankles, and groin loosen up.

Hip Flexor Stretch - Go down into a lunge and put the back knee on the floor. Keep the torso erect and tall. If your left leg is forward lift your right hand over your head and turn your body to the left a bit. Like you are going to point to something up and behind you. Hold for 10 and switch legs. Obviously when your right leg goes forward you lift your right hand over your head.

Hamstring stretch - There are 1 million hamstring stretches. I simply prop my leg up on something and hold for 10-15 and repeat a few times.

Adductor stretch - Sit down and put the bottom of your feet together. Now grab your ankles and pull them into you. Lean forward just a bit until you feel the stretch in the groin. This will also stretch your vastus medialis a bit as well. Extra bonus.

Calf/Achilles Stretch - 1 leg at a time. Just step up onto a step and stretch it out for 15-20. Repeat a few times.

This shouldn't take more than 15 minutes and you'll be much better off for it. A general warm up is something I over looked for a lot of years and lost out on the benefits of it for sure. Don't neglect this area. Add in foam rolling of the IT band if you want as well. Generally I foam roll before AND after I lift and then on days I do sprints, sled pulls, or hill runs. It doesn't hurt to do these things everyday.

Sweet spot detection (and I'm not talking about women here) and the path of the bar -

The three basic areas of finding your squat are bar placement, foot placement, and hip extension. The rest is fine tuning. The three most common combinations I see of these three factors that work are as follows...

Low bar/close stance/small sit back
Low bar/close stance/big sit back

High bar/close stance/small sit back

Low bar/wide stance/big sit back
Low bar/wide stance/small sit back

Now these terms are slightly relative. Wide stance or close stance will mean something different for each person. A big sit back or a small sit back will mean something different to everyone. All that matters is what it means to you and the path it makes the bar take.

There is no high bar/big sit back, because well, that should be obvious. If you think about leverages you should know that a a big sit back causes more forward lean with the bar up high. More forward lean with a high bar placement means the bar moves away from the being over the top your feet and quads and now your lever becomes what? The hips and low back rather than the hips, quads, and hamstrings with the low back being kept flat.

Ever hear a guy say "why does my squat turn into a good morning when it gets heavy?"

That's why. Check the drawing again and my pics. Do you see how the bar lines up hitting the middle part of the feet just over the quads? This is your center line of power. This is where you are strongest whether you prefer high bar or low bar. When the bar stays in this path you are strongest. When the bar gets forward or behind this path you lose leverage on the bar.

There are a couple of cues that tell you when the bar is out of your power path.

Bar gets/stays behind the path - This happens to people who break with their knees first in an effort to maintain a completely upright stance. You've seen these guys at the gym. They bend their knees first, stay straight up and down, then squat down about 4 inches. Obviously, they are not strong. If you do squat low enough but sometimes feel like you are going to fall backwards, or even do stammer back every once in a while, it's behind it the power path.

Possible Fix=You need a little more lean and sit back with your glutes.

Bar gets too far in front of the path - This is generally the guy who squats high bar and sits back too far to initiate the squat. He loses his arch and his hips shoot up to fast out of the hole. Then he ends up doing a good morning out of the bottom. If you do use a low bar placement, but you feel the weight shift to the front of your feet, the bar is traveling in front of your power path.

Possible Fix=Try a lower bar position OR try dropping more straight down than you have been.

Most guys struggling with squats have felt both of these at some point. These are not weaknesses in muscle groups, these are technique/mechanical issues that need to be remedied.

Obviously you want to avoid both of these problems. The key is to have the bar in the center of the body/foot when you are at the bottom of the squat to allow the hip and knee joints to work together. You can see that the hip angle and torso angle can be different based on bar placement, but the bar is still over the quads and middle of the feet. This puts the "weight in your heels" and allows you to drive with the hips and quads from the hole. This is your power spot. When you align everything up right the bar should move in that line, and you will know it, because you will feel very strong from this position. Tall, short, man, woman it doesn't matter. This is the spot where most everyone is going to be strongest from because it's where everyone will have the greatest leverage from. Hip extension and torso angle can be different but the bar still has to be center line of the body.

Actually lifting weights -

My recommendation for getting everything right is to squat twice a week for 5 weeks. Day 1 you will do 10 sets of 3 with a static weight. This means you will do a few warm up sets, then stay with a set weight for all 10 sets. This weight will be LIGHT! My recommendation is to use 60% of your max for these sets. This is either your most recent max, or what you think you could realistically hit. By realistically hit I mean don't add 20 pounds to your mile high squat that you did last week for a ball busting single. Use 50% of that.

The point here is, the weight should be fairly light, however you need just enough to gauge speed and how it felt on the descent, in the hole, and on ascent. You're going to be writing all of this down so the last thing you need to worry about is the weight on the bar. Second, if you go too heavy once the fatigue starts setting in you will resort to all of your bad habits that made you read this article in the first place. So be smart and use 60% of your max.

You will use each iteration of the different styles for 2 sets -

Low bar/close stance/small sit back - 2 sets
Low bar/close stance/big sit back - 2sets

High bar/close stance/small sit back - 2sets

Low bar/wide stance/big sit back - 2sets
Low bar/wide stance/small sit back - 2sets

Change the order up each week. I don't care how you arrange this.

Let me also make a note about what "close stance" means. That is going to be individual however what I am talking about is as close as you can get comfortably and still down down in between your legs in the hole.

The second squat day of the week (3-4 days later) you will do 5 sets of 5 using one of the styles listed above. You will use a different one for each week (5 weeks right?) and make note of the weights you hit for each and grade the speed and comfort of those as well (see below).

Now let's define what a "top" weight means here. This should not be some all out set of 5. This should be a weight you could probably hit 8 0r 9 reps with if you knuckled down. So be conservative here. Pick a weight you don't need to psyche up for. Be smart about this for the love of God.

General warm up -
bar x 20
5 sets of 5 to a "top" set

The 1-5 scale

That's the program. However percentages and sets are not the most important part. It's what you write down on the 10x3 and 5x5 days that matters most. What I recommend you do is use a 1-5 overall scale. 1 being suck-ass and 5 being awesome for speed and comfort.

Speed is centered around how fast you come out of the hole, and comfort centers around how setting up and the descent feels. Also take into account how easily each one allows you to hit depth and the angle of your torso. If you are more upright with one, make a note, if you have a lot of lean, make a note of that. If close means you have to move your feet out just a little, do so and make a note of it.

For example...

Low bar/close stance/small sit back - 2 sets - speed=4 bar moved pretty fast, comfort=5 setup felt natural and descent felt good. Was pretty upright.

Low bar/wide stance/small sit back - 2sets - speed=2 bar moved slow out of the hole, comfort=2, felt awkward from setup to descent. Had a ton of lean and had trouble hitting depth.

Don't worry about losing strength in your squat as you go through this portion of the program. If anything your squat will probably go up a hell of a lot doing this. Lots of great squat programs center around using small percentages for high volume and frequency. Not only that, you will hit almost every angle of squatting over the course of the six weeks so all of the little supporting muscles will improve and so will your flexibility. All of these things are required for bigger squatting. The most important part is finding your proper squatting groove so when it's time to add big weights you feel confident in your ability.

Arrival at level 5 -

If you take good notes over the 5 weeks you should realize pretty soon what cues work best for you. It should be apparent by how you grade your speed and comfort levels what works best, and the week of top 5's should tell you a lot as well. If it still isn't clear, look at the things you graded out as best and drop the things you graded out the lowest. This isn't science, this is trial and error. You have to find the things that work best for you. A level 5 reading should be something like so...

"Bar speed was fantastic, felt strong out of the hole and descent felt natural. Was able to drive through the floor with my heels and drive my hips upward."

More helpful hints -

Understand your strengths and body types-
Are you a great leg presser with big quads and short legs and a long torso? You're probably going to do great with closer stance squats and staying upright more easily (think high bar with a small sit back). Are you a guy with longer thinner legs and great at deadlifting? You might do better by getting a little wider then and using a bigger sit back with more body lean. Understanding what you are good at lower body wise outside of squatting will also tell you a little bit about what you should be doing squat wise.

Small plate under the heels - Some say don't do this. I don't have a problem with it at first. Why? Because some people can't hit depth without it in the beginning because of tight achilles. After you start squatting and become more flexible more you will eventually be able to remove it and hit depth without it no problem. I know because I used this exact technique. This works especially well for guys who like a closer stance. Just be cognitive of the fact that it may throw you off a bit in terms of bar path. If you find this putting you on "your toes" too much with the weight, reduce the height of heel lift.

Pressing on the hips - If you can get someone to press down on your hips as you start to ascend, this will increase the rate at which you figure out your squat 10 fold in my opinion. However it does look kinda gay. If you don't care, more power to you. Have your training partner or whoever put their hands on your hips and press apply resistance as you come out of the hole. If you do care that it looks kinda gay, find a chic who is ok with pressing down on your ass (preferably a hot one in the gym you don't know well, because this scores man points and looks good to your peers). Basically this will help set the physical cue as to what getting hip facilitation will feel like.

If you are a high bar/no-sit-back kind of guy you probably don't unhinge enough for them to find something to push down on. AHA! CLUES! In other words, you're not able to fully use your hips to come out of the hole. When you unhinge properly someone should be able to put their hands on the top of your ass and you should drive their hands upwards. If you can maintain arch and body angle and do this, you are golden.

Video - I highly recommend video taping your squats (especially if you can get that chic to push down on your butt!). The reason why should be obvious. If you don't know what you are looking for start with your notes for the set you are watching. If you graded that set out high, look at that set and watch what your hip and knee does in relation to a set you graded out low. Pause the squat at the bottom to see the relation of body angle and hip and knee angle to the path of the bar. Check the diagram from Part I. Do your levers look like they are in a strong position? Is the bar center line? Learn the right questions to ask and you'll find the right answers.

Getting rid of your belt - Best thing I ever did. I've read all sorts of sillyness about how you can't squat X amount without a belt because it's dangerous. Every low back injury I ever had was with a belt on. Ken Leistner told me to get rid of my belt and start over and I've never had a lower back injury since. That was over 10 years ago and my pathetic lifts have never been higher. Learn how to tighten your midsection and what that should feel like instead of pushing out against a belt. Learn how to keep your arch rather than getting lazy with the belt. Make the middle of your body stronger and then even if you don a belt for meets or set singles, you'll lift a hell of a lot more than you did before. In other words, make training as difficult as possible and then the meet stuff isn't so hard anymore.

Mind your shoes - I squat in adidas sambas. They feel ok. I actually would be a little better off with an adidas lifting shoe because I do need a little more heel. I know that chuck taylors have become popular to squat in but in you are a close stance guy you would probably be better off in something with a bit of a heel. For guys who feel more natural in a wider stance, they may work a little better. But that aside, try not to change your shoes from workout to workout. Changing your shoe will in fact change the flexion in the ankle, and thus changes the squat. It might not seem like much but there is a big difference. Don't believe me? Squat in 1 kind of shoe twice a week for a month then change the shoe. See if you don't get sore again. So be mindful of your footwear.

Notes - The more notes you take the better. What sucks? What feels awesome? What feels "meh"? If you are having a bad day, note that. That will tell you a lot too because on a bad day, a bad setup becomes even more pronounced to you. You will feel even weaker in that position, and it will suck more ass than usual. This is GOOD, not bad. Finding out what not to do will help you immensely. Pay just as much attention to the bad as the good.


In the final part (yes it's a freakin 3 parter!) I will go over fixing the most common weaknesses I see in raw squatters (I had these of course), how I fixed them, and some routines I have used to boost my squat.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Movie Review of the Week - How to Train your Dragon in 3D

Obviously this is a kids movie. And seeing how I have 3 wonderful kids, I found myself at a Sunday afternoon showing of How to train your dragon in 3D.

I have not seen a 3D movie in the theaters since I was little kid. Gone are the paper 3D glasses with the red on one side and blue on the other. Now you get nice plastic glasses that don't make you feel like a bank robber from space.

As we bought our tickets it was apparent that everyone had the same idea that day that I did, and every line was full of kids.

"Great" I thought. "There will be kids running up and down the aisle screaming, and crying, and snot flying all over the damn place. Fantastic."

We bought our tickets and headed through the gate. Apparently the woman who took our ticket stubs was either new or just didn't like the looks of our good looking family and told us the movie was in theater 11 on the left. Well, to the left houses theaters 1-10. Theater 11 was on the right, as we found out after we walked down the corridor............that was on the left.

As we entered I saw the theater was packed. Full of snot nosed punks and punketts that I was sure would ruin my Sunday afternoon. I am big on quiet in a movie theater, so any hope I had of actually enjoying this movie was sucked right out of me.

After 97 minutes of previews of kids movies I will never see the movie started. I will tell you, 3D has improved significantly since I was a kid. The 3D scenes looked awesome. Not only can they make it look like things are coming out of the screen at you, they can make it look like things are going into the screen. One point in the movie where ash was falling you could see all of the kids in the audience reaching up as if they could grab the ash. Pretty cool.

And speaking of kids, either I was lucky or this movie did a great job of holding all of their attention. I never heard a peep the entire time. No crying, fits, flying snot or anything.

The movie was really fun, the 3D was GREAT, and overall I had a great time with my family.

I highly recommend taking your kids to see this. And even if you don't have kids and haven't done a 3D flick in a while, check it out. The movie is a lot of fun.

72 thumbs up


21Apr10 - Bench

weight -243

Close Grip Bench -

135 x 15
225 x 8
225 x 5
315 x 3

335 x 1
365 x 1
390 x 1

315 x 12

Incline - 225x10

Strive Row - 3 sets at each different resistance setting
Tit Machine - 2 sets
Side laterals and curls

Notes - Still cruising and taking it easy. Joints aren't feeling the best and energy is super low. Cardio is still around 8 times a week, most of it hard interval work, hills, or sled.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Developing your raw squat - Pt. I

Let me preface this article by saying I am not a great squatter. I would consider myself a decent raw squatter. I do all my squats no belt and no wraps, so what you see is what you get. I've done 605 on numerous occasions, tripled 585, done 500x8 and 455x10+ many times. All rock bottom, at around 245-250 pounds. I hope to put my best squatting together for a meet this year in August and hit 650 no belt, no wraps. When I hit a 700 no belt no wraps squat I will quit powerlifting and the interwebs. Maybe.....

So if you are squatting 700+ raw or were one of those 500 pound 15 year old squatters, this article may not be for you. Or you still may find something useful, who knows. I really intend it for guys who are struggling to find their way squatting and hope they can learn something from the mistakes I made, and things I learned.

Let me reiterate that my suggestions are just that. Everyone has to find their squat "sweet spots". My hope is that this will help you do that. My opinions are my own, they are not going to be gospel for everyone. Take what is useful and discard the rest.

The beginning -

Anyway, I was not a naturally good squatter, so this isn't an article by some guy that was squatting 400 at 15 years old the first time he walked into the gym. Hell, for the first many many years of lifting I didn't train legs a lot, and when I finally got into a real gym I did a lot of bodybuilding style workouts and leg pressed a lot.

When I first started squatting, it flat out did not feel right. I would hurt my back a lot going too heavy and had no real "feel" for what I was supposed to be doing. I knew I was supposed to be squatting because well, everyone says so (and with good cause). But I hated it. I wasn't good at it and when you're at a small gym in a small town with no competitive lifters to help you, everything goes by trial and error.

In the beginning I squatted with the bar high on my traps and would allow my knees to travel forward to start the movement, trying to keep my torso very erect. When the weight got heavy I would inevitably end up with my upper body doing the St. Louis arch, all bent over and low back taking a beating. Did this convince me that I was squatting all wrong? Oh heavens no, I kept doing it! Because I'm smart! (your sarcasm meter should be in the red there) Actually I just didn't have any help and was very frustrated. So I suffered through one low back strain after another. My squat poundage did not move and I was finding no benefit to this whole squat thing.

Eventually I smartened up. I knew if I was ever going to squat worth a damn, I needed to figure all of this out. Bar placement, foot placement, hip extension, hand placement, everything.

This took a lot of years of experimenting. And because I am patient when it comes to lifting, I will run something to give it a fair chance. Far too many lifters spin their wheels because if they haven't added 30 pounds to a lift after 3 workouts they scrap whatever they are doing. Finding what works for you can take time so be patient.

Without boring you with every iteration of squatting I did, this is what I finally settled on...

Bar placement -
I found that the bar sitting right on top of my rear delts felt best. This is a low bar placement. It also put me in my strongest position leverage wise. You will need to play with this to see where you feel strongest. Remember, if you have been squatting high bar forever, low bar placement might not feel normal at first. This is because bar placement will ultimately determine back angle, i.e. how much lean you have in your squat. The higher the bar is the more upright you tend to be. The lower the bar gets the more lean you will naturally have in your squat. This is normal. There is no right or wrong here, only what puts you in the most comfortable and strongest position.

Courtesy of Strength Strength

Also let me say that the con (sort of) to low bar placement is that your shoulders need to be fairly flexible for this bar placement. This is not an unhealthy position for your shoulders, in fact your shoulder health NEEDS to be good to work with this bar placement. If you can't get the bar back that far on your shoulders, work on shoulder flexibility with shoulder dislocates every day. I have permanent AC joint separation in my left shoulder and squatting like this gives me no problems. Doesn't mean it wont for you however. So be cognitive of your shoulder health if you switch to this style of bar placement.

This is a low bar placement. It sits right on top of my rear delts.

Foot placement -

This one didn't take quite so long. I knew pretty quickly I could not squat wide. I had guys try to tell me to get my feet out wider and "spread the floor" and all of that bullshit. If you're wearing double ply or canvas and squatting out of a monolift in a Jean Claude Van Damme full splits stance, maybe that works great. If you are a raw squatter walking your squat out from a rack this doesn't work as well. All it did was make my hips hurt like crazy. I found just at shoulder width with a very slight outward pointing of the toes is about perfect for me. Once you get your bar placement down, play with foot placement. When you hit your "sweet spot" you'll know it. The weight will move fast and feel lightest.

Hand placement -

If you go high bar this isn't as big a deal. Your traps (if you have any HAH!) "hold" the bar in place. You just need to grab onto the bar and stay tight. If you go low bar, hand placement will also be determined on how flexible your shoulders are (see how this comes full circle?). In the beginning I would get REALLY tight and try to squeeze my hands in as close as possible. However this would naturally tilt my elbows up a little more than I found ideal, and believe it or not elbow angle plays a bigger role than you think.

If your elbows are tilted up and back too high, you're going to get more bent over than ideal and lose ideal back angle. Now I go wider with my hand placement and just concentrate on squeezing everything together back there together with shoulder blades. I try to make sure my elbows do not rise too high in relation to the angle of my torso.

Have someone video tape you from the side on some heavy squats and notice what your elbows do. If they shoot up on the ascent, play with your hand placement and shoulder blade retraction to get them to stay down and aligned with the torso.

Notice the angle of my elbows.  They are inline with the angle of my torso.

Head/Eyes -

A lot of guys tell you to look up don't they? I have no idea why. Trying to "drive the bar back" and worrying about where the torso is going was big waste of energy and time for me. The squat is a hip/quad/hamstring/glute movement. The idea is to move it with those muscles, not driving your upperbody back to get it up. This never made any sense to me. To keep the cervical spine neutral you should be looking at a point on the floor about 6-7 feet in front of you. NOT up. What you want to worry about is strong hip drive out of the bottom, not where your torso is going. Now this doesn't mean you can get sloppy with your torso and arch. Your upperbody should stay tight and rigid and your arch maintained, but the weight should be moved with the lower body. Driving the bar backwards may work for some guys, but I found this to be one of the biggest wastes of time ever. Driving hard through the heels and facilitating hip drive boosted my squat more than worrying driving back into the bar.

Again, play with both. See which cue helps you drive harder out of the hole. For some guys driving the bar backwards may be a better cue, or it may not. Experiment to find which one is best for you.

Descent -

This is, in my opinion, the real key to squatting bigger, and the most complicated for guys who aren't natural squatters. You have three different joints involved in squatting, two that perform extension (hip and knee) and one that performs flexion (ankle). Making this all work can at first be complicated. Once you get some cues down for yourself, it will feel natural and your squat will really begin to move.

Before you even begin the descent you should have taken a deep breath and held. I put 20 pounds on a guys squat one night simply because he was not taking in a big breath to stabilize his midsection for the squat. So make sure you pay attention your breathing on each rep. I usually take in a single big breath for 2-3 reps.

The next part is to think about "sitting back". The degree of sit back will be determined by you. The "sit back sit back sit back" mantra that is preached in geared circles did not work for me. There are a few reasons why. First off, in raw squatting the quads are vitally important. I know this seems like an obvious statement to some, however some geared lifting circles have likened training quads to training biceps for the powerlifter (you should be training biceps too as they help stabilize the elbow and shoulder joint when you bench).

Raw squatters need superior quad strength to squat big. The quads share the majority of the load and work in conjunction with the hips and hamstrings. When you perform an exaggerated sit back in a raw squat the knees do not travel forward very far, or at all, (keeping the shins more perpendicular, straight up and down) and the quads are not engaged as much, and your levers get all F'd up (to be scientific about it). You lose power and leverage. If you look at the example above you will see the knee travels in front of the toes. Regardless of what you have been told this is not bad. The knees do need to track in the same path as the feet/toes however to REALLY engage the quads they will in fact need to travel slightly over the toes. The length which they travel will obviously be different for everyone. Someone with short femurs it won't be very much, and someone with longer femurs it would obviously be more. But the overall angle of hip to knee should be similar.

Now the actual sitting back part is going to be different for everyone to get into position. So play with how much you sit back and get a feel for what feels best for you. I use a small sit-back.

After the sit back, you should actually drop straight down, keeping the low back arched hard. Now explaining the next part is fairly difficult. Some say you need to push your knees out, just enough to allow yourself to sit down between your legs. This is true, but this cue did not work for me. Ed Coan said you needed to spread the groin after the sit back. This cue did not work for me. For me it was to let the hips "unhinge" (my sit back) and to keep the weight over my heels. This put everything into place and the squat felt more like a leg press and I could press properly from my heels. Either way, you need find your mental and physical cues that help you drive best with your hips and legs out of the hole.

Let me also address that a high bar squatter and lower bar squatter will have very different looking descents. A high bar guy might really just drop straight down with very little unhinging of the hips. A low bar guy will unhinge more, with that slight sit back I talked about above. So remember that bar placement will effect your descent as well, then of course the angle of your torso.

My back is flat and my head looking down just ahead of me to keep my spine neutral. From this position I will drive with my hips from the hole.

My mental and physical cues work like so -

- Grab the bar right out around the rings or right outside of them
- Hips under the bar in the rack
- Pull bar into my rear delts and squeeze shoulder blades together
- Unrack bar and take two steps (right foot back first then left foot)
- Check toe angle
- Find spot on floor about 6 feet in front of me
- Take in deep breath and hold, making sure midsection is tight and back is arched
- Unhinge and descent (I have a pretty good forward lean in my squat)
- Make sure weight stays on heels
- Put hams on calves
- Drive hard out of the hole with hips making sure to maintain arch

It seems like it might be a lot of thinking but it's second nature to me now. Play with each of the things mentioned to find your sweet spot. You might find a bit of each one as you try new things, so make a written note of them. Soon you will be able to put it all together and your squat will feel natural to you.

In part II I will talk about correcting weakness issues (back caving over, knees caving in) and setting up a squat cycle to help start setting some PR's.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

5 rep rating for strength

I had some people asking about this after the "What constitutes strong" post.

Thanks to Steve Shafley for digging this up for me. Let me say right off, these are not my standards any more, however these don't look too bad either. I would never count deadlifts with straps now. I would not put seated press on par with standing press obviously.

You could also shoot for goals based around both the rep 5 ranges listed here and the sets of 10-20 Jim and I talked about. It would not be hard to set up a program based around hitting both. Second, being a 5 star lifter in each of the categories here would lend a pretty good hand to hitting to 10 and 20 rep goals we laid out for elite repping standards. For example, if you could hit 405x5 on bench you can probably hit 315x17-20 or be very close. If you could raw squat 600x5 then 500x20 would be pretty likely.

It would not be hard to set up a program based around hitting both standards and one would lend very well to the other.


Squatting x 5 (raw, belt only):
275 - 315: 1 star
365 - 385: 2 stars
405 - 455: 3 stars
495 - 545: 4 stars
585 +: 5 stars

Benching x 5 (raw):
205 - 225: 1 star
245 - 275: 2 stars
305 - 325: 3 stars
365 - 385: 4 stars
405 +: 5 stars

Dipping x 5 (bodyweight NOT included):
40 - 50: 1 star
60 - 80: 2 stars
100 - 135: 3 stars
150 - 180: 4 stars
200+: 5 stars

Deadlift X 5 (straps are ok, no suit, belt is ok):
275 - 315: 1 star
365 - 405: 2 stars
455 - 495: 3 stars
545 - 585: 4 stars
600+: 5 stars

SLDL x 5 (straps are ok, no belt):
245 - 275: 1 star
290 - 315: 2 stars
365 - 385: 3 stars
405 - 455: 4 stars
495+: 5 stars

Military/PBN x 5(seated or standing, no push presses):
165 - 185: 1 star
205 - 215: 2 stars
225 - 245: 3 stars
255 - 275: 4 stars
285+: 5 stars

Barbell Curls x 5 (strict, no cheating on any rep)
95 - 115: 1 star
135 - 155: 2 stars
165 - 175: 3 stars
185 - 195: 4 stars
205+: 5 stars

Saturday, April 17, 2010


17Apr10 - Squats

Weight - 250 egads those cheat days have not been good to me!

Pause Squats - no belt no wraps, 3 second pause rock bottom

135 x 15
225 x 5
315 x 5

395 x 5 sets of 3 Easy

Leg ext
Leg Curl
Calf Raises

Cardio today was this - Dog ran out of the gate in the backyard. Ran down the street as I gave chase. Ran around cars dodging me then back up the street into the frickin highway! Stopped traffic over 4 lanes and could have caused a bad accident. People got out of their cars to assist to no avail. Chased dog back home into back yard. 40 minutes of non-stop running. Dog will be finding new home. This is twice now. I hope some Vietnamese family comes to pick him up.

Meal Planning for Weight Loss

I will open this by making a very obvious statement about weight loss. The most important part of weight loss is not exercise, but diet. I know, shocking revalation right? But seriously, how many people do you know who say "I work out all the time, but I just can't lose any weight"? I see people every day in the gym, week after week running thier butts off on treadmills only to look exactly the same year after year. It's simple really. They have not changed thier eating habits. Not to mention, exercise in general, makes you hungrier so you want to eat more than usual. It's a cruel trick but that's how the body works. It doesn't want to change, and it believes it needs that fat in case you run out of Sabertooth to eat.

"I'm so busy with work and the kids, and the housework, and life in gereral. How on Earth will I ever find the time to eat healthy?"
One solution is meal planning.  It takes a little bit of time and effort but makes dieting so much easier and convienient for those with hectic lives.  Not only that but it will benefit your budget and your time management as well.

Here is what I like to do...I sit down on the weekend and plan out all my evening meals for the week. This website is very helpful for meal planning.... Paul and I eat the same food for breakfast pretty much every day. Lunch is usually leftovers. So then I will make a grocery list based on my meal plan and I'm off to the store. I also, like to buy my meats and frozen veggies in bulk to cut down on cost and trips to the grocery store. I never have to run to the store in between (ok, every now and then I do forget something) and I ONLY buy what is on my list. So I save time and money.

I make Paul bring in everything. Isn't that what a big guy is for?

Also, something I love to do in the spring and summer is to light up my grill and make enough chicken breasts for the whole week of lunches. Yes, a whole week of lunches cooked and packed in one day. It really makes it easy to be on time in the mornings and at lunch time, and you never have to eat out, so you save money there. Going out to eat can be done in a healthy manner, but some people are too tempted (myself included) to eat something they love once they are in that setting. If this is you, then this way will help you to avoid temptation as often.

You should also plan your snacks to keep you from eating stuff like an afternoon snickers bar or an office donut in the morning. Protien bars, mixed nuts, fruit, and shakes are great for snacks and are totally portable. Be careful about nuts while dieting...they are very calorie dense and you can easily find yourself overeating with them. So make sure it's just a small handful.

Another key element most people ignore is water consumption. You should also plan how you will drink enough water for the day. If you are at home all day, like me, you can take a gallon jug and put it in your fridge and make sure you drink ALL of it throughout the day. If you are at work get yourself a really BIG cup with a straw (I dont really know why you will drink more through a straw, but you will) and keep up with how many ounces you have drank. You will be surprised at how little water you drink when you dont make an effort to keep up with the amount.
Another one of my favorite websites is it is great for keeping track of what you have eaten for the day and how many calories you have consumed. You can even text to find out nutrition facts on a food while you are out. Weight loss is really just all about calories in vs. calories out. You have to use more calories each day than you eat (take in). So just make sure you are eating under your maintenance level of calories by around 500, and presto weight loss happens. That's it. This seems like a very simple concept but most people have no idea how much they are really eating until they start logging thier foods for the whole day.

100 calorie swiss miss bars are perfect for any diet

Dont be a "fly-by-the seat of my pants dieter". Plan out your meals and figure out your calories every day for great weight loss results. It is worth the extra effort and time it will take.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random thoughts about training, life, crap, and stuff -

Dumbbells -
If you're going to do a dumbbell movement, for the love of God at least do it FULL RANGE. And by full range I mean FULL RANGE. Don't even cut it an inch short. Almost every guy I see do db bench press or seated db press (especially this one) does some half ass range of motion. The whole point of dumbbells is to work a greater range of motion. One rule to stick with is be able to hit a minimum of 10 reps with whatever dumbbell weight you choose. Too many guys go too heavy with dumbbells then cut the range short because they couldn't leave their ego at the door.

Dexter -

Damn this is a good show. I never watch TV (especially since The Shield ended) but I finally relented and started watching this series and I love it. My only problem is that sometimes after watching it for hours I find my inner voice speaking to me in Dexter's voice, just like on the show. I gotta watch that! If you haven't watched it, do yourself a favor and start. It's about a serial killer who kills criminals as his targets. It's awesome.

This is a good show.

Straps for Elbow Tendinitis? -

I still don't use straps for anything but shrugs but a while back a guy I know and respect told me he was dealing with elbow tendinitis in both elbows, much like I do. He said for a few months he started using straps on every single exercise he did, and it went away. Apparently his theory was that we grip everything really hard on every exercise and this keeps the tendinitis flared up once it sets it. I would like to give his theory a try but I have too much cave man in me to use straps for every exercise. If you have elbow tendinitis and you're smarter than me and have less cave man in you (more than likely) try it out and see if it helps.

The workplace bathroom -

I don't know what kind of craziness goes on in the ladies room, but in the mens baffroom at my work it's like a horror show. One janitor told a story of how one night he came in to clean and he saw someone taking a crap in the stall. He called out that he had to clean but no answer. After looking more closely, he saw that it wasn't a person but shoes with pants on top of them. He opened up the stall door to see something out of a Wes Craven movie. He said it looked like someone exploded in there. Shit covered the walls, the toilet, every-thang. I still laugh thinking about it. I still wonder how they got out of the building........

Oh and let me explain this to some of you dudes. If you gotta go, and someone is in a stall you don't sit down next to him. You put at least a stall between you and him, out of baffroom respect. If you have no choice because it's the only stall left, fine. Otherwise, you wait or go someplace else to avoid this situation.

You wouldn't take the middle stall if you walked into this restroom. Got it?

Press Behind the Neck, Upright Rows, Leg Extensions -

These exercises are not the devil. A few rules should be applied to each one to be performed safely and with effectiveness. With Presses behind the neck you need to start light and stay fairly light until your shoulders are flexible enough. "Enough" means, when the exercise feels good. Before someone screams about how bad they are for your shoulders I have done these safely for 20 years and that is after a twice separated shoulder from football. The fact is, light press behind the neck keeps your shoulders healthy. Everyone raves about how great a job the shoulder dislocate exercise does at keeping/making healthy shoulders. Well the PBN is simply the barbell version of that.

Ted Arcidi did the PBN, so it's safe and not of the devil.

Upright rows are perfectly safe too. Granted, just like any exercise, they have to be done correctly. Just keep the weight under control and the reps should be smooth. Unless you have elbow tendinitis and are trying out the theory above, using straps for upright rows is just plain retarded. Why do I see guys using so much weight on upright rows they need straps? This exercise should not be done so heavy that you need to heave it up. Pull it up under control and feel your traps and delts contract, then lower under control. Good exercise if done right;bad exercise done wrong <- this can be said about every movement you do. Leg Extensions don't wreck knees, especially if you just make a few adjustments. Make sure the lever sets your shins at straight up angle. Your feet should not be behind your knees to start the movement. Move slow to the top then slow on the negative. Remember what you're trying to accomplish here. This isn't supposed to be an Olympic lift so don't treat it like one. Be smart with the shit you're doing.

Jean Claude Van Damme. His name makes me laugh just saying it. So, nuff said.

How is this not funny?

Skull Crushers -

This exercise is the devil. I used to argue with "old guys" to the hilt about this. I did TONS of skull crushers for years and years. My elbows never bothered me...........until one day. Now I can't do them EVER. I honestly believe that years and years of skull crushers destroyed my elbows. Do close grip bench and dips for triceps. Even pushdowns are a better option.

Relationships -

Find a woman who will like you for who you are. Imma use the saying my momma told me after my girlfriend of three years left me for another guy...."honey if the relationship is right, you shouldn't have to work at it all the time." Truer words were never spoken. That girl and I, we fought every day and I was miserable but didn't realize it until I got over her. Then I was glad she left. A couple of years later I met my wife, who I have been with for 15 years now. She liked me for who I was, and that's not easy. Be with someone who likes you, and wants to be with you, and that you want to be with as well (obviously). If you fight all the time, shit isn't going to work. If someone cheats, let em go. If you're going to stay with them, don't bring it up. If you stay with someone who cheated and bring it up all the time, then you are lame and need to have a tall glass of shut-the-hell-up juice. So either leave em, or stay with them but don't bring it up ever again. There is no reason to do so if you decided to stick it out. And getting revenge never works and you just end up screwing yourself somehow. Trust me on this one. This stuff is as simple as lifting but we can't get it right most of the time either.

Squatting -

Quit squatting high. I can't take it. I'd rather watch someone do rock bottom smith machine squats with a 10 on each side than someone do 800 even an inch above parallel. Why? Because that inch is the breakover point in the squat. That's where you lose that leverage advantage and lots of guys avoid that extra inch like the plague. When I hear about guys "reaching for depth" or asking "did I hit depth?" I do a facepalm. Just plant your hamstrings on your calves and you won't have to ask these questions. Don't cut squats high, and stop trying to justify high squats on video when everyone can tell they are high. If you sunk it deep, everyone can tell. So leave no doubt. Thank you.

Second, if you're a raw squatter train your quads for a bigger squat. All of this "posterior chain" (man I hate that term) crap is just that for raw squatters. You don't believe me? Ask Scott Yard. In raw squatting, quads are king. Not hamstrings and glutes. Captain Kirk and Tom Platz and every other legendary "raw" squatter isn't known for their hams and glutes but their quads.

Raw squats build your quads. So build your quads for a bigger raw squat. This is simple.

Music -

I haven't heard anything new I like in so long it's depressing. I like everything too from Slayer to Sade. Look, there's a time for bleeding from the ears and metal and broken axes stuff like that, and there's a time to romance a woman. You can't romance a chic to Cannibal Corpse. If you think you can, you're probably on your way to prison. I played music for 2o+ years. If I hear something and I like it, I like it. I don't care about genre (outside of country which I detest). Any recommendations you may have feel free and I will listen to them and give an opinion.........

Bastardizing templates and routines -

Stop mixing shit together and calling it hybrid routines. This isn't like a Reece's commercial where the dude with some peanut butter bumps into the guy with a chocolate bar and they find out it's two great tastes that taste great together. If you're going to do a WSB template, you can't do doggcrapp with it, or mix 5/3/1 or anything else in and still use the name "westside" in it, because it's not that anymore. I don't even care if what you do works. Mixing principles just means it's something else. It's not a "hybrid" anything, it's just what you concocted. After I ran doggcrapp for a couple of years I decided to use some of the principles that worked well for me into my powerlifting stuff. I hated calling it "doggcrapp for powerlifting" though because Dante didn't write the program or "approve" the program. It was mine. I should have called it Paulscrapp for powerlifting but I wasn't clever enough at the time I suppose. Either way, if you mix two programs and it works, good for you. Everyone needs to be their own scientist. Just stop calling it hybrid routines. Make up your own name. Because once you change the principles of a template or program, you inevitably changed some of the key components that made it a program that had a name associated with it to begin with. Here is a solution. Just call it "you-first-name-bad-ass-routine". Done.

Stacking doggcrapp on top of westside on top of 5/3/1 isn't like this...


Anderson Silva needs to be fed to some heavyweights if he thinks he's that badass. I've heard both sides of it. That Anderson is a punk (which I believe, this is his third fight in a row with this crap) and that Dana White and UFC are to blame for not giving him what he wants. Fine, make him fight heavyweights like Carwin and Lesnar and Mir and Cain V. That will put an end to this crap.

Ask forgiveness before permission...............but only after consistency -

If you think something might work, try it. I have screwed over every training program and template out there at some point playing around with it. Generally I would do things to the letter. If it worked I would milk it. Once it stopped, I would play with it. Look be your own scientist. Just don't stray too far. What I mean by that is, I fully understand after all of these years there are some tried and true concepts about lifting that will not change. Do the basics, add weight or reps at every opportunity, and condition a few times a week. But I see guys asking questions like "would it be ok if I did a super set of this stuff after I do my squats?" My response is always the same. "Why would you do that?" You should be able to answer that question when you write out your routine. WHY are you doing this movement, why this many reps, why this much weight. Then you can experiment, and KNOW whether or not something works for you. After all of these years I have figured out that prepping my nervous system with over-warm ups is the bees knees for me. I get the best of both worlds, fast singles, and my reps feel easy.

A few weeks ago the wife and I were in the gym and we knew we had to go to Sam's that afternoon for our big grocery shopping for the month. That's usually a few hours of shopping, loading stuff up, unpacking it from the car, storing it, etc. It's fairly exhausting. She was supposed to do legs that day but told me "I don't want to feel beat down when we go to Sam's so I'm going to take it easy and do some leg extensions and leg curls and maybe some light leg presses." The next Saturday when she did legs she had an awesome squat workout. "I'm going to do that every week. One light leg workout and then go heavy. I think that really works!"

Music to my ears. She finally stopped trying to be hand held by me and listened to something her body was telling her. And she benefited greatly from it. Instead of asking me if it would be ok to go easy that day, she just did it. Now I'm not saying to try out 14 new things or say that a training philosophy is shit because you have 1 bad workout. I'm saying the opposite. You need to be consistent with ONE THING long enough to know that when you make a small change whether or not it has a positive or negative effect on what you're doing. This is how you become successful at making things work FOR YOU.

The Karate Kid -

You know I'm going to see the new one. If you don't know why, search my blog..............

Dieting and Gaining weight solutions -

If you want an easy solution to gaining weight and dieting here it is. Diet first, and base your diet around 3 meals a day and 2 or 3 shakes. When it's time to gain weight don't change a thing except add in half a gallon of skim milk a day to start. Stay there until you aren't gaining any weight, then go to a full gallon a day. Lactose intolerant? I guess you could use soy but that seems gross. Try my article on gaining mass and the use of PBnJ. If you are allergic to peanut butter AND milk, suicide seems like a good option to me (yes this is a joke, I don't want to be sued like Ozzy and Judas Priest because some skinny kid realizes he'll never look like Branch Warren because he can't eat peanut butter and drink milk).

I don't want to end up like Rob because you were allergic to peanut butter and milk ok?

The NFL Draft -

I'll be watching. Even with my team winning the SB this year football, for some reason, has lost some of it's luster for me these days. I can't explain why or put my finger on it, I just care less about it and more about things that really matter in my life. This seems like a good thing. The more years I get away from having played, the less I care. I suppose that's it.

Deadlift and shoulders -

Your shoulders should be over in front of the bar when you start a deadlift. Not behind it. This was a big "cue" for me in fixing issues with my (crappy but not AS crappy) deadlift. Try this article if you need more (don't pay attention to the fact that crossfit is in the link this is a great article for deadlifters to read).

Comments are welcome...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What constitutes strong? Pt. Deux

So I kind of had an idea that the numbers I threw out there by Wendler and myself would create a stir.  I knew some people would call BS, and some would say it's ridiculous and unattainable and cry like a baby with a 7 hour old wet diaper.

In case reading comprehension was lost on some, the article was about ELITE LEVEL LIFTING ABILITY.

I'll state that again.





FAT OF THE LAND (anytime I can work in a Fight Club reference....)

This is what Princeton tells me elite means......


  • S: (n) eliteelite group (a group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual or social or weight lifting status)


  • S: (adj) electelite (selected as the best) "an elect circle of artists"; "elite colleges"

Guys from Princeton will never hit elite in anything to do with lifting weights. Yes that's a gross generalization.

Ok so I changed the first one a bit (I replaced economic, because no one at Princeton lifts weights we all know that.  Otherwise it'd be in there).

So now that we have established what elite means, ask yourself this...If you dedicated your life to a craft and was considered one of the very best in the world at it, how would it make you feel if casual partakers in your craft could emulate the exact work you had taken so long to perfect?  Heck, let's say they aren't even casual but your competitors, and they eventually equaled you with just "solid" effort?

It would be humiliating wouldn't it?  You would feel insignificant and your work meaningless.  Now you're not elite.  You're just one of many.  I think if you put your mind in the right scenario you can understand this.

So why on Earth would we list elite lifting rep standards as something that casual lifters or even "good" lifters could hit?  Then everyone could claim to posses the ability of what our narrow minded views of elite status is.

As the church lady would say "well isn't that special?" 

No, not really church lady.  Because we want to be elite.  Not "special".

Maybe I should have a Church Lady level of lifting ability.....

We know that not everyone can attain these.  DUH!  I'm not sure that I will ever attain any of them (ok, I have a good shot at a few).  But if I do, I'll be one jacked mofo with strength and conditioning from another planet.

Now, could we have made squats and deadlifts 405x20?

Sure.  But I've done that.  Jim's done that.  Jim and I didn't even debate these kinds of weights.  Jim said "500x20 squat/deadlift".

My initial reaction was "holy shit."

That's how I knew it was right.

When I told Jim "dips 200x10" he said "That's ridiculous."

I had my answer.

The truth is Jim and I didn't even talk about this in the context of the article I wrote.  We just talked about doing basics, adding weight and reps when you could and what could be achieved.  We threw Doc Ken's quote out there about being big and strong based around hitting some numbers on a limited number of lifts.  We talked about eating so much we felt like crap, and how being fat and out of shape felt like shit and how much we hated it.  We both agreed being strong and in shape was always best.  Or as Jim calls it "becoming awesome".

We both said our philosophies always lined up with that.  Eventually we settled on these numbers, without really even discussing it.  An unspoken lifters agreement in some ways, if you will.

Perspective -

"But 500x20?  That seems impossible"

If YOU are squatting 315x5-10 right now I'm sure it does.  But does squatting 315x20 seem impossible to you?  Probably not.  But to the guy who is just starting and squats 155 x 7, squatting 315x20 seems just as crazy.

I remember when I was just a few years into my lifting "career" and I used to watch this one guy come in the gym and lift.  He was solidly built and I remember watching him bench massive poundage and pull what seemed like a dump truck worth of weight off the floor for deadlifts.

What were the weights he was using?

345 on bench and 475 on deadlifts.  Those have been warm ups for me for years now.  Weights I can rep with the flu.  But to me at that time, those weights seemed unachievable.  Of course they did, I hadn't squatted 200 or benched 185 at that time.  This guy was like a living Superman to me and he had a 350 bench and 500 deadlift.  But being a novice living in a small town, that was my perspective at the time.  If you had asked me to sell my soul to the devil if I could JUST be as big and strong as that guy I'd probably have asked for a pen.

Then I'd be stuck in hell with a 350 bench and 500 squat.  Actually I think that's where powerlifters go when they die and they don't have the salvation of LSCN.  To a special place in hell where they max 350 on bench and 500 on squat.

Where was I?

In previous articles I talked about putting your head down and worrying about the next 5 pounds on the bar.  I know dipshits who have made claims like "I'll deadlift 500x15 in the next year" after doing 400x10 for the first time, and laughed at them because I knew they would fail.  I've said it over and over again, that's the surest way to fail.  Set unrealistic goals and you'll make unrealistic routines and diets and all sorts of crap, burn out, and fall well short.  I've never bought into the "shoot for the stars and at least you'll hit the moon" crap.  Make sure the space shuttle is working first.

Complaints -

"But your criteria doesn't take into account for small little guys!"

Gain some weight.  The small little guy working his ass off with high rep squats and deads (and PBnJ) a few times a month won't be a small little guy for long.

"Chin up and dip ability are heavily related to bodyweight!  They shouldn't be in there."

Fat guys with excuses say this.  Lose some weight fat guy.  Get stronger fat guy.

Notice all the fat Franco was covered in.

"Overhead Pressing 315 for 1 is easy in comparison to the others!"

Do it strict then, and show me.  Then show me 10 other guys who can strict overhead press 315 and do the 100x10 chin ups.  That's what I thought.  You see how this works?  Being in shape AND strong is tough.

"Curls with some body english..."

I said strict.

"I hate doing high reps on squats and deads."

Most do.  But 500x20 sounds fine.  Like if you rolled the good ratio with Megan Fox and Kate Beckinsale.  Probably isn't going to happen, but boy if it did it'd be worth talking about for a while...............................................

Where was I?

Making it work (somehow) -

Oh yeah, anyway.  I've put in enough time into this crap to have an understanding of the kind of effort and time that would go into hitting these numbers, even if I never hit any of them.  I have a pretty good idea about how I will go about approaching these goals and so does Jim.  It takes a combination of getting strong, staying strong, getting in shape, and staying in shape.  No bars hold (I know it's supposed to be "no holds barred" but no bars hold is funnier).  This kind of training keeps you "honest" in my opinion.  No calories splurges to boost lifts, no getting bloated, but no feeling like ass too.  Another thing I kicked around to Jim is just doing raw meets and not even running a peaking cycle.  Whatever strength you walk in with is what you have.  Your "walking around strength" if you will.

Will either of us hit any of these?  I haven't even hit 455x20 yet, so who knows?  But I have always loved the journey of lifting and find all of it very rewarding.  If I hit 500x20 tomorrow would I quit lifting?  Hell no.  I'd just say 550x20 is REALLY REALLY elite. 

550x20 is bullshit!

Then people would be crying all over again.