Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chaos and Bang

Get ready for the mother fucking Apocalypse.

You know shit is going to hit the fan when a mouthy east coast asshole trapped in the south, meets up with a mouthy southern asshole trapped in the midwest to discuss training and all things stupid on the internet.

In what is the first installment of many to come, Jamie Lewis and myself talked for a long fucking time about "What Constitutes Strong" on many levels.  You may agree or disagree.  Doesn't matter to us really.  It's our roundtable god dammit.  Jamie and I give contrasting views on this and talk about repping strength, relative strength, and elite raw totals.

East Coast Asshole

Southern Asshole

Paul:  So you wanted to talk about what truly constitutes strong, so I'll let you go first.

Jamie:  When I was reading your blog, I thought it was interesting.  I'm not sure what you were using your basis.  Was it just opinion?  What were you using?

Paul:  Well it kind of developed over a series of e-mails between me and Wendler.  The main thing we talked about was to be in strong and be in shape.  Don't just be a big fat guy that's got one rep max limit strength.  So some of the things that when we would put that together with the reason why they look like they are, is one , because it's based on elite level repping strength, and the other thing was to put certain limits in
there to where you couldn't slant things to too much for one or the other.  Like the big fat guy isn't going to do chins with 100 pounds around his waist for 10.  And on the flipside, some of those little guys that can do chins all fucking day long, well they aren't going to be able to squat and pull 500 for 20.

Jamie:  Right.

Paul:  So it was kind of designed around basically elite level repping strength, and the other thing is that what would a guy look like that could do all those things.  A guy that could squat 500 for 20, deadlift 500 for 20, do dips with 200 pounds, chins with 100 pounds, overhead press 315 strict easily, curl 185 for reps, you know I mean, what would a guy that could do all of those things look like?

Jamie:  Gotcha.

Paul:  So that's how that all got developed.

Jamie:  That's interesting.  The thing that I didn't think you took into account, that was odd, was the difference between absolute strength and relative strength.  Which I think speaks to the fact that we are looking at it from two different sides of 200 pounds.  I mean, now I am over 200 pounds, generally I've always been under 200 pounds.  I think the bigger guys always go for absolute strength, and the smaller guys go for relative strength, and there's really not a lot of crossover there.  I mean, you'd have to be very elite from a little guys standpoint to get into strength in an absolute sense.  So which do you think is more important?

Paul:  You mean like the difference between like a 400 pound guy squatting Mike 900 and like a 185 guy squatting 600?

Jamie:  Exactly.

Paul:  Well you know this as well as I do, there are two sides to that argument that you always read on the net about, and the number one is is that 900 pounds is still 900 pounds, but you know then people say that you this smaller guy has got a better coefficient.  I guess that's not something I care about.  To me strong is strong, my thinking about the whole thing.  If a guy can squat 900 he's strong, but if a guy can squat 600 at 195, he's strong too.  You know what I mean?

Jamie:  Yeah.

Paul:  But I do think probably for your smaller guys, your 198 guys, 181 guys, I don't know Jamie I see a lot of fucking strong gusy at that weight now.

Jamie:  Yeah, you know I'd rather see Lamar Gant pull 700 pounds, or whatever it was he pulled 680 whatever, I'd much rather see that than see fucking fat ass Jeff Lewis wheezing his fat ass onto a platform and uh, barely even be able to get into position to fucking squat.  Then easing down with 1000 pounds and somehow magically making it move.  But why do I care?  I don't know the fuck the guy weighs, what
does he weigh like 460 pounds, and he's disgusting to look at.  I think it's more impressive that he's not dead than it is that he squats a 1000 pounds.   He has fucking cellulite on his face.

Paul:  Yeah and you know thing about it is that this kind of ties back into...

Jamie:  Yeah, the whole thing of what you were saying....

Paul:  Yeah it's the same thing.  You know Jim said this and wrote this over and over again that when he squatted 1000 pounds, the only fucking thing he was good for, was waddling up to a monolift and squatting 1000 pounds.  That he couldn't walk down the street for five minutes without having to stop.  When you get to that point, my personal opinion is your strength is fucking uselsss.  It's not worth, it is not worth a god damn thing.  As soon as a guy becomes oxygen deprived how strong is he really?

Jamie:  Yeah.

Paul:  If a guy has to fight two guys off and throws four punches and is exhausted how strong is he at that point?

Jamie:  You make a good point there.

Paul:  If a guy can bench press 600 pounds but he can't raise his arms, what the fuck good does it do?

Jamie:  That's why with me it comes back to, the relative strength again because once a guy gets much over 300 pounds he's not good for much.  I mean look at Marius Pudzianowski, the guy is strong as all fucking hell, but he got tapped out by Ricco Rodriguez of all people.  He just laid on him and he couldn't breathe and he was like "I'm done."  He did take two fights in two weeks but still, there's no way in hell Marius pudzianowski should lose a fight like that.

Still too big for MMA

Paul:  You know that's the funny thing about MMA is that they have kind of proven over time now that the bigger you get, even if you're lean like Mario is or, like say Brock Lesnar was a 265 pounds is too much mass to carry around for the for your body to oxygenate.  Once you get that big it doesn't really there's no such thing really being shape even if you're lean, from an MMA perspective.  You can't fight, five five-minute rounds at 270 pounds lean.  Your body just cannot oxygenate that much mass.  That's why you see the heavy weight guys now like JDS when they're like 238 to 240 pounds at 6' 3".

Jamie:  Coleman did make it in UFC when UFC had unlimited rounds.  That one fight with what's his name when he got knocked out because he was just too exhausted to raise his hands.  That was the only time he really failed, and at that point just about anyone would be exhausted.

Paul:  And it's interesting that you bring up Mario's because he's a freak in every sense in the way, in terms of strength and conditioning even with the conditioning aspect right.

Jamie:  Yeah he swims like 3 hours a day or something.

Paul:  Right, I heard he can run like 10 7-minute miles or some shit.  But once he gets in a situation like that fighting is totally different, and like I said you can't power that much mass and your strength becomes fairly uselss, especially strength without technique.  You can get a little guy that's got great technique that can often beat a bigger guy doesn't know how to properly use his leverage.  Now saying within reason, like you can stick a 245 pound guy on a buck-45 pound and there are things the buck-45 guy can't overcome.  So yeah I think from what we have talked about, I would personally prefer to see a guy that's 220 or 242 or less, 198 when anyone whatever, in shape like you did recently at 181 which was awesome, congrats by the way...

Jamie:  Thanks man.

Paul:  Especially you and I are both raw zealots, you probably get the same shit I get at meets like "you don't have a belt?  you don't have knee wraps?"   I've not put a belt on in, 15 years or something.  So back on topic, I prefer to see guys that stay in shape and get strong over guys that just gain massive amounts of weight to move a single. But I come from an athletic background and not like a pure powerlifting background so I think that changes how you view things.

Jamie:  So that takes me back to my initial point, I'm not sure how you came up with the numbers, I mean I know through your conversation with Wendler.  I guess I would have gone with more of a.....bodyweight you know, bodyweight percentage than just static numbers.  I mean 200 pound dips, that's impressive yes.  But I can do you know, with 3 plates I don't know how many reps I can do, I get bored after 12.  And I'm not a particularly good bencher.  But in high school the only thing I did was weighted dips and weighted calf raises.  So I'm just a damn good dipper.  So for me I know Jim thinks 200x10 is ridiculous but that's average to me.  But 315x20 on the bench I think is, just retarded.  I think the most I ever did was 315x9 and it was, magical and bizarre and I think I got up and left the gym after that because I thought something bad was going to happen.

Paul:  I think I've done 315x16 or 17 on close grip bench, I can't remember and I done that several times.  So what I noticed was that most of the guys I know that were 500 benchers could always hit 315 for about 20 to 22 reps.  So I tossed that up to Jim and whupped out with the "squatting and deadlifting 500 for 20, that's elite level repping strength and I kind of thought that was ridiculous.   You know 500x20 to pull and squat is pretty fucking bananas.

Jamie:  I've done 20 reps with 500 on rest/pause sets of deadlifts but I've never tried to bother with squats.

Paul:  I think my best squat beltless is 500x8, I don't think I've ever hit 10, but I may have.  I'm a decent chinner and I've done 100 for three of 265.

Jamie:  I've done 2 plates for 6 or 7.  But again for me, it comes back to the bodyweight thing.

Paul:  Yes I think that's where it kind of balances out like you said the dipping for 10 you could 200x10, and the pulling you may be close to it but in the squatting with would give you trouble, and you might need to gain 10 quality pounds, and that would put you up closer to 215 or 220 right?

Jamie:  Yeah, right.

(at this point Jamie and I ventured way off converstaion about weight gain and weight loss, which can/will be transcribed for another blog post)

Paul:  So now I will ask you then, I don't know if you have worked on these but if you have, what are your relative strength percentages?  Doesn't matter, 1 rep max, repping whatever.  What do you consider elite level strength?

Jamie:  I'd say double bodyweight bench, which I would have hit this past week but my shoulder is jacked up and I'm embarrassed I'm not hitting more than that, but anyway.  Double bodyweight bench, 1.5 times on strict press, 3 times bodyweight squat, 3 times bodyweight deadlift.  And then in terms of chins and dips, I haven't given it much thought but maybe for most people 1.5 bodyweight for reps.  It'd be sick to do double bodyweight for reps.  But from my perspective, but I take a very different view than most and why I don't consider myself a powerlifter, but I think if you are going to call yourself strong you need to be strong at everything.  If someone came to the gym and said "here's 6 random exercises, we're going to have a competition on these exercises" well you could just smash the shit out of everyone on those 6 exercises.  If you want to call yourself strong, you have to do that.  And those are my favorite kind of meets.  Ironsport does those and they are my favorite.  I love that shit. They will just make up some nonsense like "get a weight to your shoulder anyway you can and, put it over your head."  We just have random competitions.  That kind of shit is fun, and that gives you a far better test of real strength than just doing three lifts that you have practiced to the point of where, it has become more of a technique lift than just being really fucking strong.  Especially when you start throwing in gear on but we could have a whole different conversation about that.

Paul:  What you're really talking about too, is something I lean a lot more towards now, you said it earlier you don't really consider yourself a powerlifter and I don't either.  But I think that's another reason why we even though our training mythologies and philosophies are different, but our mentality about approaching training is really similar.  And I feel like, well if you're going to be strong, then strong is fucking strong.  It's probably another reason why you and I are both zealots about not wearing belts and knee wraps and shit like that because I have a term, what I call you're "walking around strength".  You should be fucking strong walking around all the time.  I do believe in meet peaking, but the truth is like if your walk into the gym and you're like "oh I pulled 700 at my last meet" but you can't walk into the gym and pull 585 on any given day there's something fucking wrong there.

Jamie:  I completely agree with that.  I also will take that step further and say walking around strength doesn't mean you need 45 minutes of warming up, prehab, rehab to pull a weight off the floor.  And I randomly used 515 as an example of this in the gym one day with a powerlifter that wasn't particualry strong.  Who had spent at least an hour fucking about warming up.  And he had only gotten to 415.  And I was like "slap another 100 pounds on that thing and let's do a rep."  And he was like "I'm not going to do a rep without warming up to that.  And I just grabbed a 45 and slapped one on each side and ripped it off the floor in my t-shirt and jeans and was like "there."  You don't need all this dicking about in the gym, it's retarded.  Just pull the god damn weight.  And if you can't pull 515 off the fucking floor you probably shouldn't be powerlifting anyway.  And the guy was like a 242 and I was 180.  

Strongman means being fucking strong at everything

Paul:  Well I know some guys that are mechically disadvantaged for a lift, but if you're if you're squatting you 700 and you can't pull 500 off the floor that's an issue.

Jamie:  Well I don't understand some peoples motivation for competing, because if you're at 242, and you can't pull 500 very easily off the floor why are you in a competition.

Paul:  I'm a pretty shitty deadlifter and 500 is a speed pull for me too.  The deadlift has been the bane of my lifting existance.  I plan on pulling 700 in the next year, and now you're pulling out these fucking 3X bodyweight numbers so now I gotta pull 725 at 242 you fucking asshole.

Jamie:  (laughs) What do you think about that then?  If you were to give a relative strength number, where would you go with that?

Paul:  I think all the ones you said is pretty much what I have always thought from a relative standpoint as well.  3x pull, 3x bodyweight squat, that's elite strength.  I think a double bodyweight bench is elite, if you're a 200 pounder and you bench 400 you're strong I don't give a shit what anyone says.  For overhead work I feel a little different.  If you can stand, and clean 300 off the floor and press it overhead, I think that's strong.  I agree with you on the relative strength numbers but for some things I think that strong is strong.  If you can clean 315 off the floor, and strict press it overhead, that's strong.  I think the bodyweight thing plays a lot less of a factor in overhead stuff than in benching.

Jamie:  With the strict press.  I think the strict press....jerking is more of a violent push press.  I'll agree with you more when talking about a strict press, because you'll see some of these little Chinese gusy putting 600 pounds over their head.  To hold 600 over head in a lock when you're 148 pounds is just unbelievable.

Paul:  That comes back to the thing that I think, sometimes there is just strong period.  I think your Jeff Lewis example is like that extreme version were now we have, you get guys that are 350+ pounds, and you wrote about this and it was interesting.  You said anytime you're a really big giant guy like that, people expect you to be strong.  If you're 400 pounds you gotta pick something up, well why can't you pick that up?  You should be able to.

Jamie:  Yeah if you can't get your 400 pounds off the couch you damn well better be able to pick that up.  And if you get that fat, frankly you should just hide in your house.  You're an embarrassment.  No one gives a shit how strong you are.  No one wants to look at you.  I really think their trophy should be a bullet in the eyeball, but that's just me.  I'm not a nice guy.

Jamie has a huge man crush on Jeff Lewis

Paul:  Well we obviously have an obesity problem in America, and the one thing I don't get is, why doesn't that obesity issue apply to alot of these lifters too?  We have lifters that are just as obese as these people who don't lift at all.

Jamie:  And you know at least we're seeing a trend towards not doing that anymore.  I don't know why the fuck that started.  Because if you look at guys in the 60's and 70's they were not tanks waddling around.  Even in the early 80's Ernie Frantz was ripped, Ed Coan was ripped, and then something happened in the 90's and everyone said "we're just going to get fat."  And they stopped bathing and...I just can't even begin to understand that mentality.  They try to justify it as your leverages are better but there's no physics behind that whatsoever, and also your circulation is reduced, so even if it was biomechanically more effecient, you're reducing the efficiency of your entire system by making yourself fat.

Paul:  Well that's something we've both talked about in that there is a point of diminishing returns with weight gain.  And that's why I always tell people to get lean before they gain weight.  Because once the fat gain gets going it's like a runaway train and the fat just pours on.  But back on point, I think both of us, how we lean more is like strongman type stuff.

Jamie:  Exactly.

Paul:  If you're a strongman, you know, you better be strong as god damn on everything.  You can't just show up and be good at two fucking things and expect to win.  And it's a different kind of training and mindset.  And something we talked about earlier, with the relative strength is the conditioning thing.  Now, if you look at most of top strongmen they look like they're in pretty good shape, not all of em but most of em.

Jamie:  Yup, Poundstone, Haorld Haugen. Mariuz, even Phil Phister managed to get around the block and get a salad.

Paul:  And the guy from Texas whose name escapes me.......Travis Ortameyer.  He got in really good shape this past year because he figured out the conditioning aspect of it was something that was holding him back I believe.

Jamie:  Well the WSM competition has become like an endurance thing more than a strength thing, eveyrone is running all over the fucking place.

Paul:  Which is why a lot of guys say that the Strongman at the Arnold is a better indicator because there's not as much endurance based stuff.

Elite standards for RAW

Paul:  So talk to me about what you think about the classifications for being raw elite.  There are a few different ones, so which ones are you talking about?  The one I use are the old USPF standards.  I will have to look it up but I know for 242 it's 1890.

Jamie:  Which one is this?

Paul:  The old USPF standards.

Jamie:  I'm looking at the raw unity ones.  Those make sense to me.  The 100% raw are nonsense to me.

Paul:  So you think the 100% raw and AAU suck.

Jamie:  The raw unity ones make sense, the elite cut off is 1609 for 181.  So 1857 for 242 for you.

Paul:  Yeah and the ones I go by are even higher.  It's the old USPF standard.  181 is actually 1642 and 1890 for 242.

Jamie:  And that makes much more sense.  And I don't udnerstand how a guy can even train for the sport and classify himself as elite with the other ones.  But these make much more sense to me.

Paul:  For me, I know anything over 1800 at 242 and anything over 1900 at 275 is great.

Jamie:  Yeah.

Paul:  And for you, anything over 1600 at 181 is phenomenal.  So kind of a general ballpark, 1700 for 198, at 220 1750, 1800 for 242, and 1900 for 275.  2000+ for 308 and over.  And I think that most of these are going to fall in that ballpark of needing the relative strength percentages that we talked about before.

At this point Jamie and I talked about how Ed Coan was built like a mailbox, and how funny it is that people take pro-hormones but still claim to be natural.

More roundtable discussions will be coming......

Doesn't have shit to do with this discussion but so what?


  1. hey paul can I ask a quick programming question?
    if i am unable to bench with a barbell for a while, what kind of progression would you rcomend using dumbbell bench as the primary pressing exercise? (just focussed on getting bigger and stronger)

  2. Great stuff, couldn't stop reading. Can't wait for more.

  3. I like a little higher reps with db work. Just focus on something as simple as 8-10. When you can get 10 reps bump it the next week by 10 pounds.

  4. Awesome stuff Paul & Jamie. Amped for the upcoming parts

  5. When two assholes collide...awww shit!!! I couldn't resist! Nice stuff!

  6. It's cute how you think lifting weights means you can fight.

  7. I actually don't think that at all. In fact, I think the opposite. Not sure what you are getting at here.

  8. Jamie has already admitted he gets laid once a year... I wouldn't worry too much about what other people looking at.

  9. Will you post the audio for this at some point? I mean, i guess it's not necessary with the transcription, but some of us just like to listen instead of read. Either way, this is everything I hoped it would be! Rock the fuck on.

  10. Mike - Probably not. There were most def parts of the audio where Jamie laughed and said "we're not putting this into the transcription are we?"

    In the future we will try to be more cognitive of this if people want the audio as well.

  11. Hey Paul,

    Gotta ask...same elite standards for natural guys? I personally believe it should be. Elite is elite, regardless of drugs or not.


  12. I think the 100% raw standards are for lifetime drug free guys. I think those are pretty good actually for real lifetime drug free guys, but they could be tweaked a little bit. Either way, I think they are solid in that regard.

  13. @Parker, are you fucking insane or am I reading what you said incorrectly? Do you really think the elite standard should be the same for natural guys vs dudes pinning shit? What the fuck?


  14. Great stuff, Paul. Reading both your blog and Jamie's is a sort of revelation for me. Your discussion of totals made me think about the Crossfit Total, in which they replace the bench with the overhead press. For your intents and purposes, I think that concept may be a better way to assess "strong."

  15. Apparently in my haste to get out the door I misread what Parker wrote.

    No, I do not believe they should be the same AT ALL. There really is no comparison to a guy running a gram a week of test on top of 50-100mg of anadrol to a natural guy. Are there some natural freaks? Sure, of course. But for 99% of the guys out there, they are not. So the standards should be different for tested for non-tested elite totals.

  16. Thanks for doing this round table. It's interesting that you guys seem to disagree about just about every detail of training and nutrition, but you somehow still seem to be on the same page overall.
    On the issue of relative strength vs. absolute strength:
    We've also been debating that a lot recently at my gym. I've come to believe that we find relative strength to be so impressive because we assume that of two guys with the same strength, the lighter one will be faster, more agile, and better conditioned. This is probably true more often than not, but it doesn't have to be true. If, for example, a 150 ponder is an extremely strong powerlifter, but is clumsy and not particularly fast or athletic, I wouldn't see him as being any more impressive than a much heavier guy. And if a big strength athlete defies the odds and is very quick and agile, that's very impressive, even if his strength to weight ratio isn't as good as that of some smaller guys.

  17. I think this would probably be true. You take two sprinters, all things being equal, and make one stronger than the other and he will get faster.

    I had someone once tell me "be the strongest small person you can be." What they meant by that was, don't balloon yourself into a rotund fat ass to "be strong". Be as strong as possible while being lean.

  18. Great interview, can't wait for the rest. I would agree with others that I would like to hear the audio even though I liked reading it, hearing the chat gives you a fuller experience of what's being said I guess. B

  19. Next time I will get the audio up as well. Thanks guys.

  20. I know folks like to have audio and I hope ya will keep up with the transcribed for those of us lifters who are Hearing impaired or deaf like I am. Good roundtable Paul.

  21. interesting discussion that prompted me to go back and read the "what constitutes strong" header! actually, that's not really accurate is it? as it states those weights are what you think "would constitute really diesel elite-level lifting for reps"; so it's really "what constitutes ELITE LEVEL strong"! i think someone lifting less than those weights would still be considered strong in a lot of gyms!

  22. Obviously I think this discussion is not 1 dimensional. I think if a guy can rep 500x20 in the squat he's strong, and if he can squat 800 he's strong. There are just other factors that come into play as to what I believe someone should have besides strength, i.e. strength without a gas tank is useless.

  23. I like your values for what= strong more than the chap you discussed it with in this article. His bodyweight ratios are a bit off. The 2x bw bench is an excellent marker of elite strength, but there is no way in hell the majority of raw guys should squat and deadlift the same! If the squat is 3x the dl should be 3.5x bw!

    Also i find the 1.5xbw strict press very hard to believe, as very few people genuinely perform a strict press with the bar actually racked on their shoulders, little lean back and no movement at the knee.

  24. John Wayne: It's interesting to note that Jamie's raw squat has always been extremely close to his deadlift.

    As for the strict press, he got that number from Maxick, and at any rate there's a lot more than one definition of what a "strict press" is. To a lot of strongmen (and a lot of gym buffoons), a push press qualifies as "strict." Double lay back (Olympic style) presses are very often called strict. Even without a double lay back, a press with some lay back is almost always considered strict. Then, there are military presses which are obviously the strictest variation, and even then there are differing ideas throughout history as to what makes a military press truly strict, like heels together vs. apart, shoulder width grip vs. whatever grip the lifter feels like, starting the lift at the chest vs. somewhere else.

  25. I think everyone is worried too much about what other people justify as strong. I am a fan of Wendler's idea of making your own training manifesto with goals for yourself that you think are strong. One of the things I've learned is it's more important that it means something to me, and that I'm not doing it to impress anybody else. We each need to figure out what constitutes strong for ourselves when we look in the mirror. What do you think a strong guy can do? Then go work your ass off to do it.

  26. Well said Mike.

    Everyone is going to have an opinion on this. It's good for discussion sake, but no one has the market cornered on what "strong" REALLY is. Which is why I say many times here that there is a such thing as "strong is strong." Sounds arbitrary, but what it means is, you know strong when you see it.

  27. Best ending to an interview I have ever seen.

  28. Paul I notice you have 185 up there for curls... I don't know that seems a little low to me.

  29. Jamie: (screaming brutal) i hope one day that you burn in hell, very painfully for what you have wrote about jeff lewis. your fucking moralbitch! cant you take your own life, please.

    from a very angry , hateful and diabolical powerlifter in the shw.