Monday, March 14, 2011

What is your "bang"?

"Do you compete?"


"In what?"

"Well a few things.  I compete in powerlifting."

"So you're a powerlifter."

"Not exactly.  I also train in fighting down with the Krav guys."

"So you're an MMA fighter?"


"But you train in MMA?"

"Yeah but that's not my main focus.  In fact I'm not training for fighting right now."

"Oh what are you training for?"

"Well, right now I need to get leaner so I'm doing a lot of conditioning, dieting a bit."

"Do you have some sort of competition coming up?"

"Just my usual."

"What's that?"

"Try to get better."


This was a recent conversation I had with this young man who stopped me as I was walking out of the gym.

I've known this for a while but I don't "love" anything but training anymore.  I like to powerlift and get stronger, but I'm not a powerlifter.  I don't live and breathe it.  I'm just as excited about getting stronger on chins and incline press as I am anything else.

I'm not a bodybuilder.  I don't want to diet for 14-16 weeks and get up on stage and smother salad dressing all over myself and flex.  I admire the grueling ass shit those guys have to do, but it's just not for me at all.  But I still want to look a bit like a bodybuilder to be honest.  I think there is a bit of a hidden bodybuilder in every guy that steps into a gym for a long enough time.

I am not training fighting right now because it beats me to shit and my elbow won't hold up at the moment.  I also want to total 1800 raw when I do a meet again, and personally if that happens I don't know if I will ever do another powerlifting meet.  I love to train in that fashion but it's not my "love".  For a long time martial arts was my love, but I'm not sure if it is anymore either.

Football was out years ago.  The last practice I had for an Arena team I woke up the next morning and could barely move my neck and instead of relishing that pain like I used to, it was a nuisance.  I knew I was done with that right then.

So what is your "bang"?  When I say bang I mean what is it that you are training for?  What drives you?

The fact is, most of us are generic men in that regard.  What I mean is, our goals are vague and generic and it all reality it looks like this.....

I want to look badass
Feel badass
Lift some badass weights

That's about it.

Those are generic goals, but in our own mind we know what they mean.  You can't explain to the next guy what you mean exactly when you say you want to look badass.  But generally speaking we mean we want to be in shape, be lean, look good nekkid, have our clothes fit good.

You can't always explain what you mean in words what it means to feel badass.  But it's probably something like be able to do a shit ton of hills and not feel winded, do an hours worth of 60 yard sprints and feel great when you're done, go trail hiking or canoeing or whatever for the whole day and kick ass doing it.

Lifting some badass weights is more tangible.  You can say "I want to squat, bench, deadlift, press X amount" and there it is.

Our "bang" is fairly generic but specific as well.  We aren't always training for something, but yet we are.  Sometimes we get off track in the vision of it, but we can get it back too if we find something more specific to latch onto.

There is nothing wrong with this.  Sure, it's always great to compete and put it on the line but you have to keep that into perspective as well.  I've trained my ass off for months for meets and pulled out last minute because of an injury or because of other issues.  If I can't show up and perform well I would rather not.  I've done it before and it felt like the biggest waste of time ever, and all I ended up to show for it was a badly blown out adductor.  Never again.  Fuck that.  Wasn't worth it.

The only bad part about being the generic man is, you can sometimes toil around in supreme mediocrity for a long time, and lose sight of how to get out of it.  I've done this too.  I kept on training, but had no real goal other than showing up.  Then I realized that years had gone by, and I hadn't progressed in anything.  I mean anything.  Wasn't any bigger, or leaner, or in better shape, or stronger.  Nothing.  No progress made in years.

What the hell?

When you wake up to these moments of clarity it can be a very sobering and depressing experience.  It's during those times that you might sometimes hear the phrase "are you still working out?"

God damn I hate that one.

It's phrased many different ways too.

"Did you stop working out?"

"Did you used to workout a lot?"

"You look skinny."

"You used to be real big and shit."

"Oh you workout?"

Now sometimes when you are in the midst of transition from fat guy to being in shape you can get these.  I don't sweat that.  It's all part of the game.  It's when you know nothing has changed and you get it.  That means somehow you have gone backwards and that's a shitty feeling.  When other people actually notice that you haven't gotten better.  You kick less ass than ever.  Is there a worse feeling than this?  I mean besides taking a javelin to the taint.  I think not.

Sometimes it's good to get ridiculed to snap you out of a funk.

And then you gotta turn shit on.  You have to define some of the generic man goals.  Get your waistline down to X size, get your bodyfat tested and then decide on what you will go for.

This just isn't about goal setting but getting your shit back together.  The guys who don't compete but still want to be awesome for awesomesake still need to train at times like a competition is on the line.

Write down (realistic) goals -
Write down (realistic) timeframes -
Study on the best way to accomplish written down (realistic goals -
Kick fucking ass -

This is it in a nutshell.  Training for the sake of training is fine if your goal is maintenance only.  If you have some real goals, what the fuck are you waiting for?


  1. shit paul, this one's a real gem! "generic man"?! fuck!!

  2. Really great article Paul!

    How is the book coming along?

    You asked me to keep you up to date with my patella-tendon-rupture.

    I have had my stitches removed (15 staples), got a new plaster cast.

    Got permission to train again, upperbody only, and to resume work, as long as I can sit down with my leg up.

    Wound from surgery looked good, no infections or anything.

    And now for the bad news:
    - Time in plaster cast: 4 weeks minimum
    - Time with a hinged cast, to get full ROM back: 6 weeks minimum
    - Time working with physiotherapist, to learn how to walk again, to get my strength back in my right leg: 3 months
    - Time spend walking with crutches: at least 4 months starting now.
    - Time before I can start doing any form of squats/deadlift/running: 6 months from now, at least.

    Good news: I am recovering much faster than anticipated, and no problems so far. Gotta build a homegym, so I can still pump my UB, and find a way to get to the gym, because I am dependant on public transport.

    It sucks, but when life gives you lemons..

    At least I can still train biceps.


    Mark From Holland

  3. Get your upperbody as gigantic as possible while the leg recovers Mark. Just rearrange the priorities. Good to hear no problems with the surgery. Rehab properly that way you're not paying for it later.

    Hoping to put the books up for sale tonight!

  4. Paul,

    Love this article. I may not be some elite level strength athlete (yet), but I still have the same thoughts tho. Why train? Why wake up 3am in the morning b4 class and train your ass off and even do some conditioning after class? People ask me why why why why.
    I dont have any real answers to that. And I think Why the fuck not?! Theres just something so appealing about being strong and getting stronger.
    Lifting and just dominating weights that would crush normal people. Conditioning and at the end being in shape enough to go on for hours. It feels like I became some sorta superhuman. Like I can conquer anything I want to.

    Just my thoughts :D

  5. My goals are seasonal. Around this time it's "get in good shape" season, which to me means I can push the Prowler like mad and not collapse. Fat loss and looking good naked just come along for the ride.

    Then in August or so, I'm usually in GFH mode, trying to put lbs on my frame and on the bar.

    Usually late January-March I slip into maintenance mode, until the first inkling of spring comes along and gives me that itch to get in shape again.

    This seems to work for me.

  6. Justin - I find this seems to be my cycle as well.

    KT - Right on!

  7. There are many words of wisdom in this post Paul. You've really articulated what so many of us feel. And given great advice.

  8. Thanks Paul,

    Rehab is going to take long, but it will be worth it.

    Just saw the link. I am very interested.

    I just have a few questions:

    1. I am from holland. I do not use paypal. I do not have a creditcard (not as common here in holland, we actually use banks). I do want yto buy your books. How can I pay you? Or should I just click at your google ads 300000 times?

    2. In regards to getting my upperbody as gigantic as possible.

    I have a dilemma:

    I am quite a big guy: 6'2", 230lbs. But 15-20 BF%. I am a bit of an endo. Gain fat easy, hard to drop BF.

    As you know my leg is in a cast, so now LB-work, no cardio, no conditioning, walking with my crutches does take effort, but for me it doesn't count as cardio or conditioning.

    I can only train upperbody, and I know I cannot serve two masters.

    Transport to the gym is a bit of a problem right now, with my crutches and cast, so home-training it is. Thankfully, I can pump like crazy with just a chin-bar, a adjustable DB set, and 300lbs of plates.

    In my opinion it's useless to focus on hypertrophy, and do high rep stuff, on a calorie deficit. You always gotta do some pump-stuff, but no kcal=no growth.

    Furthermore, trying to lose fat, without the use of cardio or conditioning, by using a kcal deficit is stupid, pointless and boring.

    In my situation it seems I have no other option then to pump and eat, but I am already close to 20% BF.. I have been at 30% BF, was disgusted with myself, and I really don't want to end up like that again. Pumping and low kcal is pointless.

    Am I fucked either way Paul?


    Mark From Holland

  9. Hey paul,

    I finally figured out how paypal works, so I have made the payment. Paypal tells me that it will take up to 6-10 businessdays to process. Guess that has something to do with me being in holland, and you being a yankee.

    Let me know when you have received it allright?

    So in my previous comment, skip the first question haha..


    Mark from Holland

  10. Wow. I hit this site every day and it keeps getting better. Unbelievable. Great stuff, Paul.

  11. Mark for some reason this got moved into spam, don't know why.

    You're right on the fact that you need to get leaner first. And yes you can do that even in your state. The pumping stuff does burn cals, so just lower your cals below maintenance and you will get leaner. It's that simple.

  12. I'm throwing seven different kinds of smoke!

    I think what most people lack is passion and commitment...about lifting, life, anything. Figure out what you want and go get it. Yes it would be great to have everything at once but it's not realistic. Yes it's great to "think" about things, but at some point it has to materialize into "doing" things.

    Prioritize, research, plan, stick to the fucking plan, for fuck's sake stick to the plan, evaluate, and adjust as necessary.

    It's all about balance though. There are a million parallels between the gym and what lies outside of it. Just as you can't bring up all the various aspects of fitness at the same time, neither can you in life.

    Sometimes it's the lifting that's the priority, sometimes it's the bang.