Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My chronological journey

I've been asked to outline this quite a bit.  I really have no idea why, other than just general interest.  I've kinda gone over it before but here is a more detailed outline of my lifting from a chronological standpoint.  It's possible after 23 years of lifting now I could be off on some numbers, but I will do my best.  I'm not going to try and cover everything, just the things that stand out.  I also no longer count lifts that wouldn't meet my present day standards.  For example, I "benched" over 400 in my early 20's.....with my ass 3 feet off the bench and the spotter doing an upright row.  A lift I would never do or count now.

Summer 89 - 14 years old - 110 pounds? 
Started training with my martial arts instructor.  Couldn't bench the bar or do a single squat with the empty hack machine.  I do remember leg pressing a plate or two on each side for a few reps, feeling like Mr. Big Shit about it.  I was WEAK.  And when I say weak, I mean there were small women in the gym that were warming up with my maxes.

Summer 90 - 15 years old - 130 pounds
I believe I spent that summer at Ft. Riley with my sister and her husband.  I hit a 135 bench for the first time. I don't remember anything else.  I don't think we trained legs.  HAH!

Winter 90-91 - 15/16 years old - 150 - 165 pounds
I remember hitting 185 on bench, being able to do 20+ chins, and t-bar rows with a few plates.  I squatted.  Once.  155 pounds for 8 reps.  I know this because that set was burned into my brain about how pathetic a squatter that I was, and I never wanted to attempt a squat again.

92 - 17 years old - 175 pounds
My family moved to Louisiana around this time and I was able to join a gym.  Once I did, I actually started training legs regularly.  Leg pressing of course.  Fuck that squat rack.  I curled in it too.

I'm just kidding.  I did start squatting, but I was turrible at it.  Nevertheless, I was told I needed to squat, so I did.  I think 315 was my general weight to be used for some shitty sets that probably were not even to parallel.

I do remember doing some rack deadlifts with 500 pounds I think.  However it was all of that above the knee garbage that's more worthless than Calista Flockhart bulking advice.  I also remember hitting 275 and 315 in the bench during this time.  After I hit 315 I remember hitting 275 for sets of 8 pretty regularly.

93 - 18 years old - 210 pounds
I spend the summer that I was 17 eating like a mule and training 6 days a week.  By winter of 93 I was around 210-215.  I can remember doing 315x8 on bench, and overhead pressing 225 for reps easily.  I also remember doing seated db press with the 100's for reps without much problem.  I vaguely remember taking a run at a 315 incline but just missing it.

I do remember squatting 405 at this time, however I'm sure it was high.  I remember sinking 315 for a set of 15 (?) or so during that same workout.  I remember this workout very clearly because it was at 5-something in the morning with my buddy David Guzzardo.  Dave squatted 425+ or so that morning for reps at around 170-some odd pounds.  He was a solid squatter.

I was also a big Dorian Yates fan, so I did remember doing curl grip barbell rows (which are still a great movement) for reps with 275.

Early 20's - 
I remember dieting to get lean a few times and realizing as I dieted down, that I was WAAAAYYY smaller than I thought I was (sound familiar guys?).  You also must remember that all of my early years were spent doing bodybuilding, and not really training for strength.  I did lots of leg pressing, lat pulldowns, and the such.  Even the years I played football I still did mostly bodybuilding style training.  That's what I knew.

I remember leg pressing 10 plates per side for some pretty high reps, but then sometimes still struggling with 315 on the squat (technique) which goes to show you that leg pressing some partial reps doesn't really have anything to do with real strength.  I think the leg press is a valuable tool, if used properly, but 99% of guys use it as an ego lift.

I remember I was squatting 405 for reps at my first duty station in the Air Force.  I hit a double with 500 in 1999.  I also pulled high 500's during that time, but with straps on a very +10% kinda day.  As you can see, my deadlift has always been a pathetic whore.

In my 20's, if you wanted me to be honest with you, I feel as though I toiled about making little progress during this time.  Not entirely my fault.  I got married, joined the military, had kids, moved 97 times, so forth and so on.  It wasn't exactly the ideal environment for making progress, but I still never missed workouts and always had some kind of plan.  It often was short circuited because of other factors, however.

05 - 07 - DC Years 
It was during my DoggCrapp years that things started to really come together for me.  Not in terms of just lifting, but in terms of philosophy and using all of the years of my previous training to forge the foundation of what I believed worked.  Plus, my life had finally settled down quite a bit and I was able to really get consistent with my training and all of the ideas I beliefs I had about productive training.

All of the things I had read or heard before, all of the lessons I had learned, started to click.  Leaving a rep in the tank, my back off sets, understanding the ebb and flow of good days, bad days, and "everydays".  I hit a still remaining PR of 585x3 in the squat during this time, pulled over 600 for the first time.

It was during/after DC that I really started leaving behind anyone else's principles or methodologies and started going with what I knew and what worked for me.  My DC training split eventually evolved into what most guys see in the "solid rotational split".  I pared down the amount of movements I did, stayed in the percentages that "felt" solid (80-85%), and made a lot of progress.  I remember spending about 6 months during 05 where I squatted twice a week for high volume each time.  I'm talking 15+ WORKING sets of squats, because I was so tired of my squat sucking ass and/or it not being consistently good.

It's hard for me to define a lot of years after I had kids, because all of those years seem to run together.  Where when I was young, it was a lot simpler.  This more of less gives you an idea however, of what my lifting life has looked like.  I had many years where I made no progress, or even went backwards.  This was frustrating at times, but I am thankful for those years because when things are really in the shitter, and you pull yourself out of it there are a multitude of lessons to be learned, so long as you don't remain bitter about it.

There's a lot of shit I'm not covering here but it would take a book to cover 23+ years of my lifting life.

As a friend of mine wrote about me on a board, "Paul's lifting has been a long and consistent journey.  Slow and steady over time."

I think that about sums it up.


  1. Out of curiosity, what did you do for the Air Force?

    1. I was in computer operations. I did support work for the intel group.

  2. Paul,

    Thanks for doing this blog! I really appreciate all of your tips. ALso thanks for the timeline. It gives me such inspiration that your greatest successes were really late 20's/early 30's. I don't know why but I figured by 34 (currently) I'd be pretty much tapering down. Your blog has renewed my vigor for life and lifting! I tried out your tip to have your head slightly down on squat last night. It just seems to line up your spine almost perfect. And the tightness is there and great. Haven't adventured into higher weights but did some pause squats and it felt awesome. Just had kid #2 on Friday but with my basement gym and your awesome tips/programs I feel like I'm hitting on all cylinders!


    1. that's awesome. congrats on the new baby. I feel like I still haven't hit my best yet, so hang in there as well.

  3. Paul,

    This is definitely what I was looking for and is very helpful.

    I've become convinced that your teenage years are this magical opportunity to make gains that never comes again. It's obviously not a new idea. I lifted a little in high school, but didn't really take advantage of that period.

    Do you think it's true that, for someone who starts lifting after their teens, they are never going to be add big as they might have if they had started early and capitalized on teenage hormones?

    Not to say we should be fatalistic about it, but I think having a realistic expectation of how mass one can gain is smart. Someone who is 5'6" with 4" wrists is unlikely to squat 5 bills. In addition to height and wrist/ankle thickness, perhaps how late you started lifting should also be used to predict maximum muscular potential?

    Thanks again for the post. Good luck with meet prep. I'll echo Sam: my second is due any day now, but I feel good about my plan thanks to all your advice.

  4. Oh and friends don't let their friends make their kids run cross country. My parents meant well in their efforts to help me not be the pudgy kid, ut if only they had gotten me to wrestle or do short distance track or football ...

  5. I'm not really sure about all of that because obviously I lifted through all of my teenage years. I do think there is something to be said for building an early base that you get to take advantage of in your later years like I have. But at the same time I don't think that a guy should feel like he lost out completely if he didn't get started until his 30's, 40's, or even 50's.

    Champions are born, not made. So if you're going to be a champion lifter or bodybuilder or whatever, it will be evident pretty quickly.

  6. Paul,
    First off, fellow Chiefs fan here - Think Pioli will Draft Geno? :)

    Second, up until I found your blog and e-book I was stuck and didn't know really what to do as a raw lifter. I started lifting in my mid twenties and after 6 years of lifting I can't say that I'm that much better off. I bought into the westside type of training, messed with gear and never saw the results I wanted. I'm going to try your big-15 for the first time after my next meet and stoked to see how i respond as I've never done as much volume as you prescribe and always wondered why I couldn't add that i've been educated It makes sense and wish it was something I was doing sooner. can't wait for your 365 book!!

    1. I doubt Pioli would draft a QB that early. He doesn't have a history of it and seems against it. My hope is that he's just fired by seasons end.

      Best of luck at your meet!

  7. Nice post.

    Do you remember the body weights over the years during the 20's?
    I think you said you topped out in the 260's?

    1. I was 280 at one time. The weights I listed there are it.

  8. Paul- big fan, really enjoy your blog and perspective on lifting and life. A little off topic but do you have any advice for a 26 year with a college degree looking to enlist in the Air Force and try and get into officer training school?

    1. Well I hope you've lived the very straight and narrow. You can't have a blemish on your life. Second, if you enlist and your goal is to become an officer, then you need to have a laser like focus on making that happen. It will be an incredibly difficult journey, but as equally as rewarding. Best of luck.

  9. Hey paul

    Not trying to be too personal here, but

    -- you said you're on TRT now because of legit low test levels

    -- any idea what caused the low levels?

    -- where in the timeline did you go on TRT?


    1. No idea on why. I started HRT about 3 years ago.