Thursday, March 22, 2012

Winning with anecdotal evidence and common sense

If there is anything that drives me crazy about the net, it's the obsession over theories and microscopic nuances that matter so little in training, you'd never notice it if you could get you could just let go.

My knowledge base of training and dieting over the last 2 decades has been built mainly through trial and error, along with reading a lot of magazines, books, and watching videos.  When the internets first exploded I found lifting boards much like a lot of guys.  Everyone exchanged ideas and discussed theories and all the usual shit.  But I was surprised at how much shit I read from guys concerning how you HAD to do things.

I was once told, after telling guys that they didn't have to squat and deadlift to get big, that I was flat out wrong and I would be getting a phone call so I could get my shit straightened out.  

No joke.  

There were other things too that I've written about before.  I thought speed bench was the dumbest fucking thing I ever heard of.  I argued with people to the hilt about this.  Was told I was a moron, and didn't know shit about training.  Or was asked "how much do you bench?!!?!"  

Since then, the majority of geared guys have now dropped speed bench in favor of "the repetition method".  You know, where you just do some reps.  Why the fuck did it need a god damn fancy name?    

I had this same argument with guys about box squats.  It made no sense.  How was a lift that unloaded the entire lower body supposed to help a raw squat, which loads the bottom portion the hardest?  Two very opposite things.  Again, I was told I was stupid and obviously knew nothing about training theories and methodologies.  

Now guys that have made the switch from geared lifting to raw lifting have all confessed that the box squat is pretty much worthless for raw guys.     

No way?!?!  

Jeez, I'm soooo dreamy.  

This isn't a "look how smart Paul is" post.  Just a shout out to using anecdotal and common sense, to make good training decisions.  

Anecdotal and common sense training methods trump "scientific" bullshit to me.  

If you want someone to tell you some supplements, go read up on scientific training methods.  I've found that those two things often go hand in hand.  As soon as you start reading a "scientific training" article, before you know it, that article is telling you that you won't ever gain another ounce of muscle due to this new finding unless you buy their fucking supplement.  

Just to add to this, kind of randomly, a guy recently wrote about me that I replace "scientific knowledge with profanity".  

Fuck yeah I do.  

Cursing is manly and makes me look like a caveman.  Cavemen weren't scientists, thus they had nothing to sell.  And you can't trust a salesman, therefore you can indeed trust me.  

Now with that out of the way, let's cut through some bullshit for the day shall we?  I'll address some of the common arguments I read about, and some more shit I catch shit for, but won't budge on because well, I have a pretty awesome bullshit detector.  

  • Steady state vs HIIT - Guess what, they both work.  Who knew?  I believe from my experience that it's all in how you use them that makes them effective.  Bodybuilders have been doing steady state in the morning for decades to get ripped.  Guys have also used interval training to get ripped as well.  My thought about this is, if you're trying to get in bad ass shape, do interval work, but treat it like lifting.  In other words, make sure you're properly fueled.  Don't do it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.  I think that's a fine recipe for burning through muscle.  If that's your only option, have something before you do it.  Just keep it light.  The best method is to do steady state, which has TONS of benefits, 3-4 times a week and an interval session 1-2 times a week.  Unless your goal is to get into bad ass conditioning shape.  Then do 3 interval sessions a week and 2 steady state.  Point of all of this is, they both work.  Just pick the one you like and roll with it.
  • Low reps build strength, medium and high reps build mass - I really can't believe still discuss this. 1 rep max strength is built best through reps of 1-6, mass with reps of basically about 8-20.  I laugh when I hear guys talking about all the mass they built from triples and shit, where "bodybuilding didn't work for me."  Maybe if you actually learned how to work hard enough it would "work"?  

  • Peri-workout nutrition is overrated - Another sham by supplement companies.  You need all this shit to take before, during, and after your workout.  Here let me tell you that I've done every method of that and nothing beats food.  Last year I settled in on my cottage cheese and rye bread 2 hours before training, and that was the best thing I ever found for making sure my blood sugar and energy levels stayed good throughout the workout.  Lately all I've been doing is a cup of coffee for a kick.  After I train, I eat food.  Nothing has ever worked as good for me as just plain ol food after a workout.  The only caveat I will add to this is, I can tell a difference when I drink a good BCAA during my workout.  Other than that, I don't think shit matters.  I laugh when I hear guys talk about "make sure to use an isolate after your workout to ensure recovery."  Go get fisted GNC boy.  Figure out if you train better a little bit fasted (some do), or if you need a slight amount of food a couple of hours before you train.  Afterwards, just have a good meal with clean food.  Don't ask about fucking macro nutrient ratios on that meal either.  The point is, just eat.  It works.

  • High carb or High fat - This is another one that annoys me.  Bodybuilders used mostly low carb methods in the 70's to get lean, with higher fat ratios.  In the 80's, they switched to higher carb, low fat diets.  Guess what?  They both worked!  Oh the humanity!  Dorian Yates literally did calorie counting on a high carb diet to get lean as hell.  Don't think so?  In his Blood and Guts book he talked about how he would just drop his calories in the 4K range or so, and hold there, do more cardio and he'd lean up into contest shape.  Yes I'm aware that Dorian MAY have used a fat burning aid, but the point still stands.  If you don't like low carb diets, a higher carb/low fat diet will work for getting lean.  I don't give a god damn what any diet guru or anyone else says.  Guys have done it plenty of times.

  • High Intensity or High Volume - Again, both work.  In fact, I think you need both if you want to really have complete development.  But you can't go overboard on either.  If you are going to do some SHIT (super high intensity training) then you have to limit your volume.  If you're training high volume intensity must be more limited, unless you're just sticking to singles.  One way to combine these is to limit your volume on the big mass building lifts, along with some high intensity, and then go high volume on the small stuff.  This is exactly how the new big-15 mass building program is built.  I can't wait to start running it after this meet.  

  • Weak Point Training - This one is still my fave.  I still read countless of guys out there arguing this point.  If they are arguing it's generally because....
    • They don't know what I am talking about when I talk about weak point training being bullshit.  
    • They are stupid
The whole theory of weak point training comes from geared powerlifting.  The term "weak point training" generally refers to the strength curve from gear.  For each guy, gear works a little differently.  So guys have to things to figure out where the "weak point" in the movement is for them, based on that transition.  

Raw guys do not have "weak points" in this regard.  Before some message board guru pops in to put me "in my place", let me beat you to the punch.  You're wrong.  

When I talk about weak point training, I talk about it in terms of the movement.  For a raw guy, when he misses a lift 99% of the time he's going to miss it at the same spot.  This is not a "weak point".  This just means he's not strong enough to make the lift yet.  This is why I say "get stronger."  A more "scientific" way of putting this is, the lifter didn't generate enough force from the bottom portion of the lift, to move it through the transitional phase.  That's a fact.  This is why things like pause squats and pause bench are such great helpers for the lifts.  They build strength in the bottom position of the movement.  This again, is not weak point training.  I'm using the lift, to build the lift.  Adding in a pause does not change the lift.

Weak point training is not doing face pulls and rows and db benches and all sorts of shit like that.  That's just god damn training.  I've heard raw guys say "my lockout was weak so I did board presses."  This shit makes me laugh.  I've never seen a raw guy miss a bench at lockout ONE TIME in my life.  If you say you have, it only means you don't know what lockout is.  It's the last few inches of the press.  Raw guys don't miss there.  They miss at midpoint.  Once the bar clears midpoint, it's pretty much a 100% deal they will make the lift.

Lots of guys from the 70's and 80's never did anything besides the actual competition lifts.  Squat, dead, and bench.  And got brutally strong.  Let me break this news to you.  You're no special snowflake.  If your goal is to get as strong on the possible on the big 3, do the big three.  Sure, there is nothing wrong with throwing some shit in after.  I do it too.  But mainly for other reasons.  I keep rep work in because I want to get bigger, but other than that, I don't venture outside of the big 3 much anymore for when I am prepping for a meet.  Squat, pause squat, bench, incline, some curls (for my elbows), block deads, regular deads, stiff legged deadlifts.  

I don't need text books or scientific studies to prove to me what works.  In fact, often times those things end up running counter to what real life shows us over and over again.  Strength is not built in a test tube.  It's built under callouses and a loaded bar.  

50 comments:

  1. I am with you the fact more than one way will work for you most of the time. Gotta love the guys who swear only doing it this one way is the only way it would work period!

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  2. Yet another breath of fresh air. Man, this is right on the money. Thanks for all the work you put into this blog.

    Steve

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  3. Great article. Really wish I'd have started reading your blog much earlier in my training.

    Reading your article, I've got two questions:

    Have you seen better results focusing on strength/hypertrophy separately or at the same time? Or is it just completely individual?

    Is there a base amount of strength you'd recommend before someone started adding hypertrophy work?

    I have a feeling I might be over-thinking this, but it'd be nice to hear what you think.

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    1. Getting stronger on higher reps still gets you stronger in terms of your 1 rep max, it's just not as pronounced when you do it in a lower rep range.

      Guys should always be doing hypertrophy work from day 1. It's just the training should be geared differently.

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  4. arnold
    If people realised that there aint nuthin new under the sun then how would all the supplement/fitness craze guys shift their product.I've treid kettlebells,suspension trainers clubbells kickboxing judo kung fu bodyweight strands and machines.NONE of them got me as big or strong as squats,trap-bar deads, shrugs,bench chins and dips.
    The advice I would give to anyone starting out is to check out how marvin eder,grimek,reeves or park trained.HEAVY basic movements.
    P>S The incline advice is going well pr'd on my press at 205lbs last week-thanks paul.

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  5. People lack common sense Paul, in training, in business, in their marriage etc... finding people that can observe, analyse and draw conclusions on their own is a rarity nowdays. Keep it up man.

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  6. Why is Speed benching dumb but speed pulls are not dumb?

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    1. Apples and oranges, and should be obvious.

      Why not do speed curls?

      Why don't people do speed overhead press?

      Why don't people do speed everything?

      It's because speed deadlifts allow you to still train the mechanics of the deadlift, and keep the motor patterns primed without causing a ton of systemic overload, as big heavy deadlifts do. Deadlifts are a totally different animal.

      The reason why people dropped speed bench is because it was useless. If you want to press, just press heavy and that's the best way to get strong with pressing. But you can't pull heavy as hell week in and out, but if you stop just stop pulling all together the motor firing for that movement lessens.

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    2. F=MA Paul. I think it makes sense to do 'speed everything'.

      Since I can't go heavy all the time though, I drop the intensity as a percent of my 1RM to about 80% and work with that for a while; all these lighter lifts are done with maximum force, e.g. push, curl, throw the weight like you want it to break the ceiling. Then, I'm back to max effort work, trying to break PRs.

      Works great for me, what issues do you have with this sort of training?

      Def. not trying to pick a fight with you btw, I really am interested in learning if there's a better way to up my lifts.

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    3. You're misunderstanding F=MA. If you move the equation around a bit, it ends up as F/M=A. This demonstrates that the higher the mass of an object is, the slower the acceleration will be. In muscles, this is relevant because at low velocities, muscles have a enough time to create a lot of myosin-actin cross bridges, leading to more force production. The faster the velocity of contraction, however, the less myosin-actin binding there is time for, and the less force is produced. Speed training does not carry over well to maximal strength training, which SCIENCE SHOWS.

      Also, this article is almost 100% retarded.

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    4. At least it's just my article that's 100% retarded.......

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  7. Hey Paul, What do you think of training lockouts to get used to the heavy weights?

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    1. Not my thing, but Jamie likes em and it works for him. But he also does stuff like jump squats. Don't leave out the full range movement.

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  8. Great article! I think along these lines I'm getting so caught up in forcing my knees out during the lowering of the squat I'm just messing the whole thing up! My abductors or adductors are killing me! Isn't that more of a geared thing also? Like get the bar on your back, squat down to parallel and go. The heavy set it's like I try to think technique so much that I don't sit back into it and drive like hell.

    My question is have you ever squated and felt like your legs weren't under you enough. Like too wide? I'm not talking about knock kneeing it to kill your knees but applying a wee bit more quad than hip.

    Any thoughts?

    Sam

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  9. So you're telling me that the 10lb tub of Blow Up Exlosion Mass Gain 2000 XL Nitro I just bought from GNC won't help me get unstuck on reverse bosu ball preacher curls? I call bullshit. You don't me and my body. Seriously though, good stuff as always.

    Me and the fam watched Puss in Boots. Insanely funny movie, especially the "ooooh" cat.

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    1. I love Blow Up Explosion Mass Gain 2000 XL!!!

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  10. I never understood the whole steady state v HIIT, you must have seen the now infamous pictures or a marathon runner (looking like a concentration camp escapee) against a sprinter and of course silly tag lines that always accompany these pics.

    I find a combination of HIIT hill sprints and steady state to warm up, cool down has had the best effect for me personally. This is by personal trial and error.

    Good post my man.

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  11. I highly recommend including this article in its entirety in your book, Paul. This is one of your best, even though I disagree with certain points in it. Kudos.

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  12. You might get different results if you do your online researching here
    http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&q=powerlifting+training

    rather than here
    http://forum.bodybuilding.com/forumdisplay.php?f=70

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    1. I'd get a good look at a t-bone by sticking my head up a bulls ass but I'll take the butchers word for it.

      If you have to go to scientific text everytime you need an answer you'll never develop your own bullshit meter for what works and what doesn't.

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    2. Of course you're right, but in my experience (I wish I could reference a paper here...) people's views regarding sports science are mostly split into:

      1. People who believe literally any advice anyone has given them about anythuing over the internet. "So pull-overs are the best thing for abs?" ... "But guys, I heard that Bruce Lee did a lot of isometrics?" ... "Does jenkum really get you high?" They are always new to training and have not yet learnt to copy the type 2. people and make themselves feel clever and of the same cloth as their idols.

      2. People who again and again say "What do pencil-neck scientists know about strength-training?, just do what strong people say" ... "What do healthy surgeons know about having a hole in your heart? Take the advice of whoever's most ill" ... "What do pit-based mechanics know about making a car win a race?, just tell me what the driver thinks of it" ... "What do Butchers that deal it dead animals know about t-bones, show me someone who has stuck his head up a bull's ass".

      The kind of assholes you're talking about seem like a minority, although there are plenty who will claim that their way is the only way regardless of what any scientific paper says, probably because of "anecdotal evidence" or "common sense". Common sense and anecdotal evidence once meant that weight training will give you heart failure and any athelete who lifts more than 10 lb dumbells will become slow and musclebound. Also that anyone who lifts weights is necessarily stupid, as are blacks.

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    3. I think you missed what I was getting at with this whole thing........

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  13. Great article Paul. This probably isn't the place to post it, but i've been using your strong15 to prep for my first PL meet in april. I figured if i wanted to get strong in the big 3, i should, you know, do the big 3. Oddly enough, it seems to be working. I know. Mind=blown.

    anyways, keep up the good work and i look forward to the new book.

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    1. Good luck at the meet! Let me know how it goes.

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  14. 7 reps is where its at, the nucleus of both strength and mass. God created the world in 7 days, I will use 7 reps to create my body.

    Maurice

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  15. Jebus, man. I hear what you are saying but don't tar us scientists with the snake oil salesmens that claim science to support them. They are the same arseholes who claim magnets can re-bullshit your energies, and copper bracelets cure cancer of the brain or whatever. Sharks will always try and fool people into buying their shit, that isn't science. Science is dry and dull and talks about small probabilities and increased likelihoods. Fuck the snake oil, and fuck the bullshitters. Starting Strength is a great scientific text book with a reproducible method which gives you a predictable outcome (within a standard deviation of course).

    And swear and curse and blaspheme as much as you want.

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    1. Wow, speaking of tarring the reputation of scientists... ...Thanks Joe. Way to portray scientists in a positive light. (Btw, in regard to "standard deviation," http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk

      Paul, I completely agree with your take on the usefulness of science to training. I'm not anti-science, hell, I'm working towards a career as a scientist.
      Unfortunately at the moment, there just aren't many studies on exercise that anyone with scientific training would take seriously. When you look at most exercise studies that supposedly "prove" or "disprove" whatever theory, the number of participants tends to be in the teens or even single digits, and the duration tends to be no more than a couple months. (to say nothing of poor design and bias) It's not pro-science to base your training on shitty studies, that's just stupid. If we had giant long-term, well designed studies on everything related to weightlifting, I imagine we'd actually get some useful information that might be able to replace anecdotal evidence. But that would require massive funding that sports scientists just don't have. And probably shouldn't have. I'd rather have that money go toward cancer research or the space program and figure this shit out for myself.

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  16. I don't know, Paul. I generally disagree with most of your points here. Personally, I like speed bench, box squats, etc. I like the technique work and focus on exploding and speed (I generally am not very explosive). I also think there are plenty of raw lifter that still use the general westside template (a lot of guys on rawpl.com, Mike Hedlesky, me....but I haven't done anything that amazing).

    I don't necessary think they are better than your style of training. I just think they both can be used effectively for the raw lifter.

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    1. You're free to disagree. Nothing wrong with that. But the majority of the best raw lifters do NOT lift that way. There is a reason that most of them have found such similar paths to great strength.

      Guys do have to find their own way. That's a part of lifting. But guys in the 70's and 80's got more brutally strong than most of the guys lifting today without bands and box squats and chains and speed work.

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    2. I agree that the majority of the best raw lifters do not lift that way, but its not like they all lift a different way. They all tend to train a little differently based on what works for them.

      I think we both agree that the effort put in is a lot more important than the specific program. Find a training method you can progress on and enjoy and you got it made. I mean, I have trained with the big iron gym guys (frankl, grandick, crazy multiply guys), and they couldn't train more different than the westside crew honestly, but they both obviously work.

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    3. Exactly.

      Obviously the last few articles have missed the mark somehow.

      The point of it all, is to not sweat every detail of something if you know it works.

      Guys will spend hours on message boards hashing out every scientific study on whether or not steady state cardio is better at fat burning than interval training, and vice versa. When lots of people have gotten lean on both. Just pick one and go to work.

      The point is not to obsess over every fine detail of training, pick the things that have stood the test of time, and get after it.

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  17. cliff note: the caveman from lift-run-bang invented SHIT.

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  18. WOW No great comment or critique here. Just, Thank you.

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  19. Awesome article.
    Matt

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  20. Lots of agreement Paul. People obsess over the wrong things.
    Knew a kid, 21yrs old training in my gym in NY. Motivated as hell, strong, but really hurt himself. Underfed b/c he spent his little money on Biotest shit but would refuse to eat the FREE food options at the casual restaurant he worked at! Here was a guy who could have done fine on burgers and fried b/c he worked out so damn much but wouldn't touch it b/c he had become obsessed with perfection. Burned himself out.
    I also say beware of people who argue on lifting who focus too much on "logic" and from that try to deduce the correct plan for everyone. I run into this from HIT focused folks, people who misuse the little science they read. "All things being equal..." is a classic. Yes, all things being equal a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle, but when in real life are all things equal? Never...

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    1. I wish I had worked at a restaurant during my bulking years. What a great idea.

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  21. I laughed my ass off at "go get fisted GNC boy". I haven't ever taken any supplements and think I am doing ok.

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  22. Oh the comment about steady state is a great one. I'm avid CrossFitter where if you're not doing intervals or not doing high intesity then you shouldn't even bother. But I do 2 steady states a week and dominate most people that are all out all the time, morons.

    I'm on the fence about "weak point" or sticking point training I have issues with driving out of the hole and when I do concentric only from pins I get better at it. But as you pointed out maybe I was just getting stronger in general from doing that work not necessarily just working my weak point.

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    1. Building strength from the bottom doesn't fall into the paradigm of what I consider "weak point training". It's just getting stronger. Your "weak point" in the movement will always exist. There isn't anything you can do to overcome it.

      People don't often understand what I mean when I say it, so they get their panties all in a bunch. When you try a max that you fail at, you're still going to fail at the same point in the ROM, for the most part, over and over again. This doesn't require a bunch of diagnosis about what's holding you back. Just work on things that make you stronger. ;-)

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  23. Paul I'm not trying to be a jack-ass but why do speed benches suck but speed deads dont suck.

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    1. I didn't say speed deads don't suck, just that they make more sense than speed benches. Who the fuck still does speed bench?

      Oh and I answered this above as well.

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  24. You mentioned "food" for post workout. Where do you get this "food".
    Does GNC have it? I don't think I've ever tried "food" before. Will I shrink if I don't use "food"? My 'roid dealer says "food" from Mexico is best for mass and "food" from Europe is probably fake. What do you think, Paul? Oh man, what's gonna happen if I don't get "food"?
    (hope you have a decent weekend in spite of the "stuff" going on with you right now)

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    1. I checked GNC for food too......they were out. But sold me some Ass Explosion 4000 for $69.

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  25. Very, very true Paul. When in doubt, squat, pull and lift heavy shit above your head. Then do some arm and ab work. It's pretty much what I'm doing now and it works way better than any of the more scientific shit I did.

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