Thursday, February 27, 2014

Off to Columbus and the Arnold

As the title reads, I'm off to Columbus and the Arnold classic this weekend.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Training - Lower body

Hack Squats -

1 Legged Leg Press -
1 plate per side x 20
2 plates per side x 20

Chest Supported Rows -

Notes - Well on my last bench workout I strained my right pec pretty good.  So much so that I have not been able to get my hand back far enough without severe pain to squat.  There's no tendon damage and this is the first time I've ever really stained my pec to this degree (little nicks here and there).  I knew I was feeling off that day and should have just ran with BBM I but bench has been going so well I got greedy with the 405 for 3 sets of 5.

Since I couldn't do regular squats I opted for hacks.  I've always sucked hard at hacks and I think that's due to my poor quad strength/development.  Well these pumped my quads up something terrific so I think I will include more of them in the rotation because I felt they did a great job of isolating the quads.  Pretty sure I could have done 6 plates per side for 5-8 but no need in getting crazy right out of the gate.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The cost of happiness

The simple fact of existing in this world means you will be, at times, subjected to loss.  There's very few things that you will ever be able to fully hold on to forever.  Mainly because forever doesn't exist, and life itself is very finite.  But even so, nothing remains the same.

Unfortunately, during our time here, life will eventually strip you of everything you hold most dear to you, and remind you every so often of just how cruel "existing" itself can be.

We will feel deceived, and foolish, and wronged in ways that we feel is incomprehensible.  

We ask how it is that the person we loved so much, could speak to us with words that even our worst enemies would feel is harsh.  How could they use the pieces we gave them that we felt were so fragile, that made us feel vulnerable, and create a jagged sword with it, and slice us apart with it?  How could they ask us to open up who we are to them, and tear our walls down so that they could be close to us, only to use that proximity to run that jagged blade up our spine?  

But they will.  The people we love the most, will hurt us the most.  For no other reason than they have the ability to do so.  

The people that were once our "safe place" will at times, become something entirely different.  They will emotionally enslave us and become our tormentors, dragging us across a bed of nails all the while telling us it's entirely our fault.   

And unfortunately, you too will play the role of tormentor at times as well.  Intermittently donning the masks of both tragedy or comedy.  Playing both the roles of both puppeteer, and puppet.  You will be both victim, and assailant.

We so readily identify when we are the victim, or the puppet.  Those moments are incredibly apparent to us.  The times when we are lied to, betrayed, scorned, rejected, dismissed, or cast aside.  Or even worse...that our needs or feelings be looked upon with apathy or indifference.  

"How could they just not care at all?"  

There will also be things that are completely out of our control altogether.  

We will wonder how it is that our child, or mother, or father, or husband, or wife, or significant other could be stricken with cancer, or some other terminal disease.  We will ask how "fair" is it that they could be taken from us, when we love them more than the oxygen we breathe, and are every reason we even continue to want existence.  

How "fair" is it that some asshole ran a red light and now we have to sit and watch a loved one cling to life in a hospital bed?  How fair is it that we have to watch them suffer so tremendously for a wrong they didn't commit?  

All of these moments engrave that very old cliche that "life isn't fair" deeply into us.  And we will come to understand that no matter how "good" we are we will suffer.  We will come to know loss, despair, and grief.

It is completely inevitable.  

What is also inevitable, is that life always gives something in exchange for whatever it took from you.  No matter what anyone tells you, there is no such thing as a "no win" situation.  But there's also no such thing as a "no lose" situation either.  When something is taken from you, something will remain in its place.  It's not always apparent to us at first, but it's there.  It often just takes time for the fog to be lifted, and for our eyes to be opened to it.  It's what creates the "what I know now..." in us.  Even if those moments of loss only create the awareness of loss, then that alone creates experience and association.  Wisdom is invaluable, and for most of us, the cost of attaining wisdom can be very high.  

Loss serves many purposes outside of bestowing wisdom upon us.  It's a reminder to us that we grieve because we loved what something was.  That at one time, we held something uniquely special to us.  Loss reminds us of our own mortality, and the mortality of the people and things we love.  Loss is often what gives us appreciation.

A few years ago, I lost the best dog I ever had.  My bullmastiff, Dozer.  He was with me for 11 years, and the love I had for him was greater than that of any dog I had ever owned.  I had driven hours and hours to a farm to pick him up.  I brought him home and he and my daughter, who was only 2 at the time, bonded immediately.  As a pup he followed her everywhere, and they played together constantly.  When he matured into a stout and powerful stud, he played the role of protector and guardian.  If I wrestled or roughoused with her, he'd immediately let me know that he did not approve.  If the gate to the fence was left open in the backyard, he would not leave the yard.  He would stand watch.  Making sure that no one dare enter the yard, and that his playmate was safe.

A man from the gas company learned this lesson the hard way when he opened said gate, and Dozer charged him full throttle.  I'm fairly certain he pissed himself trying to get back out of the yard.

Dozer hated when we left him to go on vacation.  He hated the kennel.  He let me know this by tearing up his favorite blanket and bed while he was "imprisoned" there (I'm sure that's the word he would have used if he had been able to talk).

So the next time, we left him at home, with the dog door open and let the neighbors check on him.

When I returned home, he woke me in the night by getting right in my face while I was sleeping.  He never came into the bedroom, so I knew something was up.  He strolled casually back into the living room where he then sat right beside the elephant sized turd he put on the floor for me.  Again, his protest for being left alone for too long.

After that, he always came on vacation with me.

Dozer was the strongest and most vibrant dog I had ever owned.  He was 135 pounds of lean muscle, and when he ran it was almost majestic looking.  He was so handsome that if I took him anywhere, anyone that saw him immediately had to come pet him, and marvel at what a specimen he was.

Dozer died from cancer.  It whittled him down to just a mere shell of what he was practically overnight.  When we gave him his last bath before the trip to the vet, he was so weak we had to help him out of the tub.  The same dog that would jump into my passenger seat, and slobber incessantly in my face, now had to be lifted into the car and placed gently in it, and he collapsed on the seat.

Life took away what he was.  And it took away something I loved so deeply.

A few days after he passed, I was getting ready for bed and going through my usual routine of walking through the house, checking all of the windows and doors to make sure they were locked.  After my final check of the front door, I turned to kneel down and hug my buddy goodnight, as I had for the past 11 years.

Lost in "routine", I forgot that he was no longer there.  And my legs gave way beneath me, and I fell to the floor, and sobbed for hours.

We will never understand how sweet something actually is, without understanding what bitter tastes like.  We cannot truly appreciate the comfort of the light, without knowing the cold depths of the pitch black.  And it is up to us to inhale as much of those sweet moments as we can, because they are not forever.  It is up to us to bask as long as we can in the warmth of that light, because eventually the darkness will return.

It is also up to us to remind ourselves, that when the bitter is so sour that it contorts our face, and makes us wrench, that eventually the sweet will return as well.  It's up to us to remain steadfast in the darkness, and not let it misshape us into something grotesque and ugly when the light finds its way back to us.

Life will unstich us.  It will empty us of resolve and deplete us of our strength.  It will also give us the chance to be restored and resurrected into something new afterwards.  Something stronger, something wiser.  But we have to allow ourselves to embrace the understanding that we can't grow, or get better without loss.  And we have to come to the understanding that we can't allow loss to rob us of those opportunities to become something stronger.  Loss can make you weak if you allow it.  It can make you jaded and bitter if that is what you choose.  But ultimately, you get the choice to decide the mold and shape of who you will be once the pain of loss has been lifted.  

Choose wisely.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Some technical errors that maybe holding your bench and deadlift back

Since I opened up the floor the online coaching, I have found that programming is generally the easiest part of helping people get stronger.  It's not difficult to understand that side of training when you understand how to manipulate volume and intensity, and adjust those things based on what feedback I get each week from the lifters videos.

What I find, more often than not, is that the novice and intermediate level trainee usually suffers from similar flaws in the technique of their lifts.

Today I will go over a few errors I commonly see both when I do seminars, and from videos I get from my trainees that need to be corrected.

Deadlift error - Hips too low / Shoulders behind the bar

This one is very common.  A lot of guys really bend deep in the hips, thinking they are more or less doing to squat the weight off the floor.  They essentially try to mimic that motion, and don't realize that it's actually putting them in a poorly leveraged position.

Here is a trainee I have that demonstrates what I am talking about.

In this picture, the lifters hips are too low, which inevitably brings his shoulders back and behind the bar.

This is a very poor position to be in from a leverage standpoint, to start the pull.  When said lifter tries to start the pull from this position the bar doesn't actually start to move off the floor until this happens.......

Notice that his hips rise, and bring his shoulders over the bar.  This is the proper position the lifter needs to be in in order to get leverage over the bar, and apply enough force into the bar to break inertia.

To offer up a positive here, his shin angle in relation to the bar is good in both positions.  That is, he's not "over crowding" the bar.  Here is an example of that....

Notice that his shoulders and hips aren't in a bad position, however his knees are VERY far forward over the bar.  What happens in this case is that the lifter has gotten the bar too close to him at the start of the movement, and when the knees shift this far forward, then the lifter ends up having to apply force off the ball of the foot, rather than from the heel, and the hips are less involved in helping to break inertia.  What will generally happen next is that the hips will rise high very fast, but they will still be behind the lifter and not moving forward to aid in the lockout.   It turns into more of a stiff legged deadlift because knee extension and hip extension are not working in unison.

As you can see here, the hips are locked back and not moving forward.  This is how a stiff legged deadlift more or less looks.  Which is great....if you're doing stiff legged deadlifts.  Now what happens is that the lifter has to try and finish the pull more or less with just the low back, and the hips and glutes have a harder time coming forward to help the lockout.

Here is an example of a more advanced guy I am training.  Notice his shin position is up and down, his shoulders are over the bar, and his hips are in perfect position to start the lift.

His upperback is slightly rounded, which is fine because his low back is still being held neutral.  This is a solid and correct position to begin the pull in.

Bench Press - Poor elbow and forearm angle

The one error I see fairly common in benching is that they don't get proper bar path in relation to elbow and forearm angle.  When this happens they essentially turn the bench press into a somewhat modified tricep extension.

Here is an example of this....

The red line is the angle he is pressing in.  The green line represents the angle he SHOULD be pressing in.

Here again is the more advanced lifter I am working with.

Good arch, solid setup on the bench, and proper elbow angle in relation to the bar.

Conclusion - 

Lots of guys have no clue when it comes to programming.  I'm talking advanced guys as well.  Every week I see guys doing max singles with very little rep work, and then watch them wonder why they miss weights in the gym, at the meet, and don't understand why progress is so hit and miss.

With most novice guys I see lots of technical flaws that tend to hold their lifts back.  It can take a while to get out all of the kinks, but even the most brilliant of programming won't be near as effective until these things get ironed out.

Many times guys search up and down for perfect routines or program and then wonder why they get stuck over and over again at the same weights and rarely break PR's.  Poor technique will always be a limiting factor when it comes to weight on the bar.  So it's essentially that you do your due diligence in regards to sharpening your form and technique if you want to get better.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Training - Bench and stuff

Bodyweight - 273

Close Grips -


Bench Grip Lat Pulldowns - 5x20
Front Raises - 25 pound plate x 100

Notes - Felt shitty has hell today.  Still, the 405 for 3 sets of 5 was a volume PR.  However on the last rep of the last set I felt something sort of twinge in my pec.  Don't think it's serious at all and I should I stuck with the sets of 3 but it felt stupid light today even with me feeling very off.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Underrated and overrated concepts in strength training - Part 2 - The underrated

Principles -

Truth is, it's probably a bit unfair for me to list this because training principles are something only guys that have paid their dues have a keen sense of, and an association with.

It takes a long time to really figure out the key elements that are optimal for you.  By that I mean, all the various moving parts in regards to creating a solid training ideology that really resonates with you, and helps you improve on a consistent basis.

I know a lot of very good lifters that don't adhere to the principles I believe in.  Likewise, I know many great lifters that believe completely in all the principles I adhere to.

The key here is that these guys eventually settled on the components that helped them the most, and then made changes as they saw fit.  Some of those changes stayed, and some were tossed out.  This is part of the process of getting better.

Principles are really what guys that focus on "routines" need.  They focus on "routines" because they don't have the depth of experience needed yet, to build those routines.

One theory I have about the best guys out there is this; outside of genetics they have an uncanny ability to quickly theorize something and apply appropriately, or discard it.  This doesn't mean they never try something new out.  It just means they figure out very quickly what works for them, how to apply it, how to manipulate it, and how to wade through bullshit better than most.  They figure these things out faster than most, and have an innate ability to be far more introspective about how what is and what isn't working for their body.

Dorian Yates figured out very quickly that his body liked low volume work and training to failure, or past it.  Arnold figured out that his body responded to high volume work.  Both guys figured out that dbol worked really well, and used it appropriately.

A big part of these guys becoming champions, in my opinion, is that they knew what worked for them quickly, and rode that horse.  That could partly be because those guys responded better to training than most guys in general, or it could be that they found optimal paths for getting better far more quickly than a lot of guys do.

Developing a training ideology can be difficult.  Especially for novice guys, and especially because the internet offers so much information that lifters can get very confused about what exactly optimal means.  Well, it means doing what gets you from point A to point B as quickly as possible.  That is putting it in very simple terms, but at the heart of it all, that's what it is.

Recovery/sleep -

It's become very much a fad lately to spout off about how there is no such thing as overtraining and to call people pussies or lazy that believe overtraining is real.  I'm not sure why this hypermacho bullshit gets perpetuated but it isn't based in anything other than an ideology of "I'm tougher than you because I train more!"

Think about how stupid that is for a minute and then continue reading.

When Stan Efferding broke the 2300 total mark he said he trained twice a week.

To borrow a couple of quotes from this article that I loved so much....

It’s never the training routine that’s limiting growth, it’s always the recovery phase, eating and sleeping. The vast majority of people who want to get bigger and stronger already train hard enough to grow, they just don’t eat and sleep enough to grow.

I started lifting two hours a day, six days a week, doing endless sets and reps of every exercise in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. I struggled to put on five pounds a year until I finally came across an experienced lifter who told me I was wasting my time with all that lifting and told me to go home and eat. By cutting my training back to an hour three days a week and hiking my calories up to over 5,000 a day, I was able to put on 20 pounds in less than a year!

Lift heavy weights three times a week for an hour. Eat lots of food and sleep as much as you can.

When I squatted 905 lbs raw in training, I was only squatting every OTHER week. Twice a month! I deadlifted on the alternate weeks and benched once a week. You heard correctly, I trained twice a week when I hit my 2,303 pound raw total and set the all-time world record

Might know what the fuck he's talking about

As Stan got larger and stronger, the need for recovery increased greatly.  I've read many times from people that the mantra of "overtraining isn't real" is to spurn people on to train harder because they aren't training hard enough.  I'm not sure of that.  I've known plenty of guys that trained their asses off with little in the way of gains to show for it.  Why?  Because they trained far too often, and for far too long.  

One theory I have is that some guys are training stimulus sensitive.  That is, training will illicit a stronger growth response in them and they get really big and strong easily AS LONG as recovery is adhered to.  This of course will vary from individual to individual, however I personally think most guys will get as big and as strong as they can ever get training three times a week, sleeping a lot, and eating a lot of quality food.  

The main component here in my opinion, is sleep.  It's such an overlooked facet of training and recovery.  And while I'm aware that plenty of studies show that performance doesn't seem to be hurt by a lack of sleep, recovery is.  

Guys will often tell me in regards to sleep, "well I only get 5 or 6 hours a night and I've made gains."  

Maybe you have.  But I can just about promise you that you'd be further along if you were getting 8 to 9.  I don't need to find scientific data to support this.  Babies grow at an exponential rate.  They spend their day eating and sleep.  They aren't flailing around all day trying to "grow".  And you don't grow in the gym.  

When you go to the gym, you're creating the stimulus for growth.  But that growth cannot take place until recovery has happened.  And recovery is dictated by rest and food.  

Make a conscious effort to get in bed an hour earlier than you have been, and see if your training doesn't improve and if you don't get "moar gainz".

If you have trouble sleeping, try "Calm" at night.  It works very well for helping you relax, and that's a big deal for many of us with insomnia.  I have also found that liquid Melatonin works much better than the tablet version, and that small doses work better for inducing sleep (like 1-3mg) rather than larger doses.

Getting a massage once a month is also a great idea, and I don't mean deep tissue work either where afterwards you feel like someone beat you with a 2x4.  I mean 60-90 minutes of a relaxing massage.  I generally fall asleep on these which kinda sucks because you don't feel the god damn massage when your ass is asleep!

Food -

At first food may seem obvious, however if that were the case then the supplement industry wouldn't be a billion dollar a year market.  

The reason that protein shakes and supplements have become such a "big picture" in training is for no other reason than the fact that it was driven by the magazines for decades as a way to make money to stay in business.  In the 90's the supplement industry was full of advertisements essentially promising you the body of your dreams in mere months, if you took their magical pixie dust.  

And it worked.  Believe you me it spawned off mega companies in spite of the fact that the claims were like nothing a hardcore tren user had ever seen.  

Supplements like Cell-tech eventually became a punch line for this very reason.  It seems comical now to think about ads where they said some guy lost 33 pounds of fat and gained 22 pounds of muscle in 4 months but those kinds of claims were very common back in the day.  

The Cybergenics poster boy was this guy named Franco Santoriello, and one of their two page ads was photos of him throughout his "transformation" while being on Cybergenics.  Basically implying that his evolution from not so jacked greaseball Italian, to very jacked and nationally competitive bodybuilder greaseball Italian.  

They never bothered to mention that he never actually took the Cybergenics stack, and that his real stack obviously consisted of highly aromatizing compounds, hence that nice gyno he was sporting.  I suppose being honest wouldn't actually be good for bidness.  

However dishonesty it seems, does pay off in the supplement industry.

Supplements like "Hot Stuff" flew off the shelves faster than frozen pizzas at Wal-Mart right before an impending snow storm.


GNC literally couldn't keep this shit on the shelf.  My aunt was a GNC store manager and she told me every time they were due for an order to arrive people would literally be lined up outside the store waiting for them to open so they could buy it all up.

Later, when word got out that Hot Stuff possibly contained an oral steroid called Methyltestosterone, an inexpensive form of orally absorbable testosterone that works very well at increasing strength, Hot Stuff pulled their product from the shelves and a few months later released it again as a "new and improved formula" that wasn't improved at all.

At that point it didn't matter.  They had made their money and the damage was done.

I personally have no idea if companies still try this shit, as I haven't thumbed through a bodybuilding magazine in a very long time.  It wouldn't surprise me however, and "hype" does sell.

The issue is, it takes away from a bigger priority.  Which is, your diet shouldn't be made up of a bunch of pills and powders.  It should be made up primarily of quality foods like whole eggs, chicken, red meat, potatoes, rice, nut butters, healthy oils, and THEN supplemented (which is why of course they are called...supplements) with things like protein powder.

However we live in a "now" world, and people in general are lazy.  So it's easier to shake up some powder in a shaker and chug that down than cook.  I get the fact that life is busy.  However if you are really serious about making substantial gains in muscular bodyweight then taking a few hours out each week to cook up some eggs, rice, and chicken to store in a few containers really shouldn't be that big of a deal.  Cook a steak a couple of nights a week, load up once a week with a big cheat meal, and then throw in a few shakes as needed throughout the day.

A very solid rule of thumb is that you should never have more shakes in a day than you have food meals.  So if you have 4 shakes you better have had 4 or more food meals.

Paused and bottom position work -

I'm always befuddled when I see guys who are all about trying to develop strength doing things like touch and go deadlifts, or touch and go bench.

From all the anecdotal evidence I've seen, strapped up-touch n go deadlifts do very little, if anything at all, for really developing your maximal pull.  If you don't think so, do a set of deadlifts that way, then do dead stop deadlifts and see if there isn't a significant drop off.  There will be.

Furthermore, I've seen far too many guys that can do reps with damn near their maximum meet pull in this fashion (using straps and doing touch and go reps).

Now initially, one might think that being able to do reps with damn near their maximal pull would in fact, increase their max pull.  However the problem is, when most guys use straps they pull double overhand.  This allows them to get "longer" in the pull, and the mechanics of the lift changes.  Not only that, but the main limiting factor in the deadlift, hand strength, is removed.  Second, the subsequent reps have the lifter in a completely different position than the one he is in when he starts the pull from a deadstop.  In case you didn't know this, specificity reigns in lifting.

So then guys that train their pull are forced to pull without straps, from a deadstop, there is little carryover.  If you want to develop your pull, your reps should be done dead stop each time so that the lift is mimicked on every rep.

From a hypertrophy standpoint, I can see how touch and go reps or touch n go bench presses have merit.  There's more time under tension, and yes, more reps can be done.  However from a strength building standpoint they offer little in the way of developing a lift to its maximum potential.

Make sure that your training cycle still includes plenty of paused benches, pause squats, and that you still do your deadlift reps deadstop.  This is the best way to develop the lift and the bottom position strength that is required to take the lift to a new level.

But outside of the main lifts, pretty much all big lifts can be done with a paused variation.  I really like paused db bench press, and even things like dips and overhead press can be done with paused reps.  Yes, training like this will bruise the ego, however are you training to be a Youtube champion or training to actually get stronger?  Figure that part out first.

Patience - 

Lastly, be patient.

Every week I see shit from guys where they write "current max is 660.  Gotta do 710 in 6 weeks."

Really?  You're going to add 50 pounds to your lift in 6 weeks?  Why not concentrate on 670?

The biggest reason this happens, in my opinion, is that guys are constantly trying to measure up to someone else.  It's a nonstop dick measuring contest.

Are you going to keep training after those 6 weeks?  Yes??!?!?

Well then how about you set your sights on something realistic in the next 6 weeks instead of something that might take another two or even three years to accomplish?

I could write all day about this topic however, I won't.  If you're not smart enough to understand that that it's important not to let your dreams and goals get in the way of reality then either you'll fail a lot, or eventually you'll get "it".  "It" being that smart goal setting and planning will win out in the long run, while the other guy is still contemplating how to take his bench from 315 to 405 in the next 8 weeks.

Conclusion - 

It appears I may be beating you over the head with some very common ideas that get written about a lot.

Well, there's a reason for that.

Every gym out there is full of guys that train 5-6 days a week for hours at a time, living off of protein shakes and staying up all hours of the night playing xbox or jacking off to porn and then wonder why it is progress is either nonexistent or incredibly slow.

Train hard, but not too often or for too long.

Eat a lot of quality food.  Stop debating what "quality" is.  We have enough dipshits in the world.  Don't add to the quota.

Train to get stronger.  This means doing paused work, and not letting your ego get in the way.

Be patient.  Training is really a never ending process.  If you don't hit the numbers you want to in a given time frame, just stay with it.

All of the above make up principles.  And with a set of principles you can and will have a plan.  And Hannible always loved it when a plan came together.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Incline press PR

bodyweight - 270

Incline Press -


455x1 PR

365 x 4 sets of 5

Tit Machine - 5 sets of 8 @ the stack

Notes - Keep doubting my methods.  Hate on.

In all seriousness, my incline work for a while now has been this...

405x1 (last over warm up) then 315 x 5 sets of 8.  That's it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Seminar in Tucson, Arizona in April

I will be doing a 2 day seminar in Tucson, Arizona this April.

Early sign up can be found at the following link.

Also if you're traveling in from out of town, check out Evolutions link for hotels in the area.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Training - Fronts and deficit stiff legs

Bodyweight - 270

Front squats -

225 x 8 sets of 5  VMO is still "iffy"
315x5  no pain.  will still be cautious.

Deficit stiff leg deadlifts -



Notes - The triple wasn't very hard.  Will go for 4 next week.  When I can do this for 6 a few sessions in a row I will move on to 605.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Underrated and overrated concepts in strength training - Part 1 - The overrated

I fully expect this post to be met with critical outrage and disdain.  Most of the stuff that I write usually is, so I expect this to be no different.  So be it.

I am very aware that it's possible that some of the things I think are overrated or underrated in regards to strength training may fly in the face of many people and their opinions.  As you can imagine, zero shits will be taken or given.

With that said, I'm going to outline some practices I see in strength training that I think are overrated or underrated and give my reasons why I believe so.

When I say "overrated" this DOES NOT mean they have zero merit.  It's my opinion that these things are not critical factors in bettering yourself as a strength athlete.


Mobility work -

"Mobility" has been a big buzz word in the strength community for quite some time now.  Anytime I read or hear about some guy needing to fix something in training without fail I will eventually read that he can't do something because of his lack of mobility.

Perhaps.  And perhaps not.

For example, I read where lots of guys complain that they can't do press behind the neck because it hurts their vagina....errr, I mean shoulders.  Is this because the press behind the neck is bad for your shoulders?  Probably not.  It's probably due to the fact that you've not maintained a decent level of flexibility in order to perform this movement without pain.  In other words, it's not the movement that is the issue, it was your avoidance of doing these kinds of movements that eventually made it so that you couldn't perform them without pain or aggravation.

"But Paul, you're contradicting yourself now!"

Hang the fuck on.  Give me a minute.

So what happens next is, instead of just starting light and doing the movement, guys and gals spend an inordinate amount of time working on "mobility" so they can do a movement.

When the better question to ask is, why aren't you just doing the movement?

"Because I have pain when I do!  You're not listening!"

I heard you the first time.  So I will ask again in a different way...

"Why aren't you just doing the movement?"

It reminds me of when I used to write that weak point training was bullshit, and people would get mad and shout from the rooftops that weak point training did indeed have merit, and that "just getting stronger" was NOT the proper answer.  Well, when I look at the best guys in the world I generally see them just "trying to get stronger" and not fucking around all day trying to figure out weak points.  I've gotten significantly stronger in the last 18-24 months without ever worrying about a single weak point.  You know, using the movements.

Don't think Fred Hatfield was doing "mobility" back in the day

Likewise, if you're having trouble with pain in certain movements or ranges of motion, you should ask yourself a couple of questions before you immediately think you need to fix it via a bunch of mobility work.

1.  Do I have an injury that is causing me to be immobile?
2.  Am I just not strong enough to maintain a position?

If you have an injury that won't allow you to perform a particular movement, rehab it.  That may mean mobility work to get range of motion back for plain ol everyday life.

If you are just not strong enough to maintain a position, then you simply need to get stronger.

You see, I've worked with a lot of athletes that thought mobility was the answer.  Nevermind that some had all the flexibility in the world, and some were even what would fit into the realm of hypermobility.  I'm talking people that could bend their arms into a pretzel behind their back and stick their foot sideways into their taint.

Yet, they couldn't hold specific positions without strain or struggle.

In these cases, it wasn't a lack of mobility.  It was simple not being strong enough to stabilize in a certain positions.

I did yoga a few times, and my flexibility was fine.  It was holding some of those god damn positions that I found hard.  In other words, I wasn't strong enough in certain positions to hold them for very long.

When I was in the infancy stages of my training life, I couldn't squat deep without turning the movement into a back alley abortion.

Did I stretch my hamstrings?  No.

Did I stretch my quads and hip flexors and do all kinds of mobility work?  No.

Shit, at that time, I was in martial arts multiple times a week and could do the full splits and place my palms flat on the floor.  But you know what I couldn't do?  A good looking squat.

So you know what I did?  I put a couple of 2.5 pound plates under my heels and squatted like that, until I was "mobile" enough to squat without them.  Presto.

I used the MOVEMENT to get mobile for the movement.  I know, it's a fucking alien concept to use the actual movement you suck at to improve on it, but I swear to Jesus on a cracker it does work.

I'm not saying that mobility work has zero merit.  I just think at this point there are too many people that think mobility is some kind of big key ingredient in getting stronger, and that's just not the case.      

Partials movements -

When I was doing doggcrapp training one of the staple movements in my dawgshit arsenal was the rack pull.  Especially the "above the knee" version.  In this version, you pull the bar about as far as a guys dick that is suffering from micro-penis.  Which is, not very far (long?).

I got pretty good at these.  Even doing a triple with 765 on them.  I'd wedge my legs under the bar, and sort of do a hand and thigh lift to get that thing up (that's what she said!).  I was very impressed with myself.  That is until I went back to pulling from the floor (where I am still unimpressive to myself or anyone else).

You want to know how much carryover this had on my deadlift from the floor?

None.  Zero.  Zip.  Nothing.  Nada.

You know how many people that I know that pull big from the floor that credit partial deadlifts as their key to really improving their deadlift?

Same.  None.

Looks cool.  Isn't.  

There are quite a few reasons why partial movements don't work in terms of carrying over to the full range version.

Generally, when you do a partial deadlift or squat your body just isn't in the same position as it is at that same point when you do the full range version.

For example, there was no way I could/would wedge my legs under the bar like I was doing in the rack pull, when I did a deadlift from the floor.  I'm positive the rest of my levers were not in the same position either.  Rack pulls will generally get you a sweet rack pull.  But they won't do much for your regular pull, especially if the ROM is too damn short.

"But what about block pulls, Paul?  Didn't you use those for a while?"

Yes, I did.  With pretty good success too.  However the difference there is, I was generally in the same position I was in with my regular pull.  And second, I found block pulls to be harder in some ways than regular pulls.  They felt more "dead" to me.  Let me also add that when I did block pulls, it was off of a 4" block, which was about mid-shin (not even as high as the below the knee version).  So while it was a "partial" movement, it was very minor in distinction.

Doing a partial movement with eleventy billion pounds isn't going to translate very well to the full range version of that movement because the weak link is always going to be from the bottom.  And guess what?  You're not training that.  So you may get very good at short movements and move a ton of weight in a short ROM, but the limiting factor with the full range version is always going to be how strong/weak you are in the most disadvantaged part of the movement.

And while I've never been a big proponent of Westside methods for raw guys, I do think that Louie was right when he said (if he said this), that any movement that let's you move more than 10% of your max in the full range version isn't going to carryover.  Without using science or witchcraft to prove said statement, I think that's a good barometer to use when determining if a partial movement can carryover to the full ROM version.  So if you're deadlifting 650 but are rack pulling 900, it's not working.

"But what if the only reason he's pulling 650 is because of the 900 pound rack pulls?

Well what if your aunt had balls?  Then she'd be your uncle.

But your best bet is to stay away from partials and just do the god damn full range lift.

Foam rolling -

My conclusion about foam rolling, and why people think it's so great has eventually boiled down to this.

"God damn, that foam/PVC/Iron Maiden torture device really hurts when I use it.  It must be working!"

Maybe it's more than that, I don't know.  But I did foam rolling religiously for a long time.  I'm not sure what it fixed.  My conclusion is that it fixed, well, nothing.

Yes it hurt my IT bands when I rolled on it.  That didn't help me squat better, or pull better though.  It didn't help fix my IT band pain.  It didn't do much of anything in the way of making me a better strength athlete really.  Looking back there's nothing I can pinpoint that I can say it really did to make me "better".

I read or hear of guys now that spend like half an hour rolling around on some foam or pipe before they can even squat.  Without sounding like a dick (anytime you say that, you're about to sound like a dick by the way) all that makes me want to say to them is, "Just fucking quit.  Do paint by numbers or something".

Maybe rolling around on some pipe or piece of foam does make you feel better.  Just like it makes your Pug or Basset Hound feel better about himself when he rolls around in some other dogs pile of shit.  But does that make him a better dog?  He can't say, so we don't know.

Rolling in shit fixed his touight IT bhands

What I do know is, I don't foam roll anymore and I don't miss it.  I'm stronger now than I've ever been, and never do it.  So perhaps foam rolling isn't quite as important as it gets built up to be.  I'm not sure, but I don't think that Kaz or Coan or any real strength legends rolled around on shit to get better.  If they did, they kept it a secret.  If it was kept a secret, it's probably because they didn't want people to see them putting a semi phallic shaped item all over their body while grimacing like they were about to blow their load.

Bands -

Decades ago, guys relied on barbell rows and heavy pushdowns to build all the supportive muscles that did work in the big lifts.  Eventually, bands were created to add "accommodating resistance" to the barbell, and not long after that, guys stopped doing heavy barbell rows and cable pushdowns.  They just grabbed a band, and did some pull aparts and "band pushdowns".

Gross (and yes I've done these and I was disgusted with myself).

If anyone thinks that "resistance is resistance" when it comes to bands, then let's do some heavy ass barbell rows and then do some "band rows" and see if there is any comparison.  There's not.

I personally think that doing all of these supportive movements with bands happened simply because of convenience.   Not necessity.

It's a lot easier to grab a band and do some pullaparts than it is to load up a barbell and do bent rows.  It's easier to do some band pushdowns where you don't even have to brace your abs to do them, than to do some actual heavy tricep pushdowns.

The issue there should be staring you in the face.  Convenience is generally the enemy of progress, and improvement.  Loading up a barbell or bracing against a stack of weights is not very convenient.  Even when you're just sticking a pin in a hole (because THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!).

Even worse, was the inclusion of "reverse band" movements by raw guys.

Say what?

So you're going to make the part of the movement that you should be working hardest on, EASIER?

"But it let's me lift more weight.  And that overloads my CNS!"

Please throw yourself down the nearest well if that was your thought.

You can get as strong as you will ever possibly be without ever doing a "banded" anything.  I literally no reason to ever do a reverse band anything.

Training "routines" -

I enjoy writing routines.  My own, other peoples (at times).  Like art in a museum or some famous landmark, I don't even mind looking at one now and then.

The issue is, most guys think there is magic in a "routine".  Like "if I do shoulders on this day, then arms on that day, and legs on the other day....shit, I'll be swole as a muh fucka."

Routines are just that.  Routines.  There is no routine out there that will bestow an inordinate level of muscle on you simply because the "split" is magical.  There's not.

I know because I used to fret over my "routines" like a mother over her sick infant when I was younger.  I believed that if I could just find that perfect, once in a lifetime routine that I could stick to for 17 years, that I too would look like Dorian Yates.

But it never happened.  I never found that magical routine that had been coated with muscle pixie dust.  The "perfect" routine that balanced sets and reps and days off and days on.  Eventually, I realized that the magic lied in the consistency of training, and repeated effort.  Things like not squatting the day after heavy deadlifts seemed to work themselves out on their own.  That is, I knew I couldn't squat with a low back that was more trashed than Keith Richards in the 1970's.  So my "routine" worked itself out for me.

I see this same issue with a lot of guys that believed as I once did.  I even have guys send me their routines and ask me "what do you think?"

day 1 - chest
day 2 - legs
day 3 - arms

What do I think?  I think you've not arrived yet.  I think you have yet to figure out that these things are of little relevance without a bigger picture in regards to training.  I think that you have to figure out, just as I did, that some experimentation will eventually give you enough experience to know what your own routine should look like to meet your goals.  I think that you probably don't know yet that following some other guys routine will not net you the muscle or strength he is currently in possession of.  That how he is training now, if he's advanced, is not how he was training 3, 5, 10 years ago.  There have been changes made as he has needed them.  And if you hang in there, you'll realize this, and learn how to make your own changes to fit your own needs.

Next week, some underrated concepts (in my opinion) for strength training.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Training - Bench with a PR

Bodyweight - 270

Paused benches -


405 x 6 PR

405 x 3,3,3,3

Lat Pulldowns - 4 x 6
Pushdowns - 4 x 10

Notes - Closing in on 500.....

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's going wrong in your meet training cycle

Every week I see videos of guys getting ready to compete.  And every week I ask myself, "what the fuck is that guy doing?" when I see his videos.

More than that, I routinely see these guys miss weights at their competitions that they hit in training.  Well, let me clarify.  Weights they BARELY hit in training.  

Then I see guys doing strapped up touch and go deadlifts.  This does nothing to build your max pull.  I don't care who does it and what they pull, I've seen it enough times now to know it's nothing more than an exercise in ego fulfillment.

Then I see all the touch and go benches, claiming "benched 500 in training" when they did so fresh, and without a pause.  Then I have to listen to faux outrage because they weren't even close to that come meet time.  Well no shit, Sherlock.  You had to bench after several heavy squats, and actually pause your lift.  You may have benched 500 in training without a pause but that doesn't really mean anything now.  

I also do not get, for the life of me, guys doing rep sets with knee wraps.  Even if they compete with knee wraps.  Why are you doing a set of 8, 10, or more on squats with knee wraps on?  Those sets can and do build strength, but they fall more into the realm of hypertrophy training than pure top end strength work.  If a guy has busted up knees, I get it.  But outside of that, I'm not sure why a guy would wrap his knees for sets of 8+.  

I also see tons of high squats by raw guys now.  It used to be, the bitching in raw circles was that "geared guys squat higher than a giraffe's nuts."  Well, I see a LOT of that from raw guys now.  The heavier it gets, the higher they cut it.  They still claim the lift too.  Which is not dissimilar to how they approach their bench training.  They did it, or something similar to it really, and so it must count.  

Then I always read then writing the same thing in regards to their shitty training.    

"I'll clean it up come meet time."  

To me that's like months and months of purposeful premature ejaculation during jerk sessions then saying you'll bang the next lay for hours on end because you'll just "fix that problem come sex times."  

No, you won't.  And even if you do, it's in spite of what you did.  Not because of it.  The odds are, you'll just repeat the behavior you've been performing.  

Most of these things are rooted in the lifters ability to lie to himself.  The inability to be honest about training.    
If you think it's high, be honest and say it's high.  If that's the case, don't expect it to get passed come meet time.  

If you aren't pausing your heaviest bench sets, then don't expect to bench that in a meet with a pause after heavy squats.  

If you are bouncing your deadlifts off the floor for reps using straps, don't expect that weight x reps to equal anything in the ball park of what you're really capable of for a max pull.  I've seen all sorts of big deadlifters pull big weights for lots of reps like this, but then when they have to pull a max at the meet it's not anywhere NEAR what you'd think if you based it off of training like that.  

On the flipside, I'm not saying there's no place in training for these methods.  Doing touch and go bench for maximum reps clearly has merit in terms of building hypertrophy in the pressing muscles.  And doing strapped up touch-n-go pulls can serve the same function.  However these methods should be cut out of training all together once the peaking cycle is put into place.  

I see zero reason to squat high.  None.  So I can't see any reason to do that.

So what are some things you can clean up in regards to your meet cycle that can set you up for more success come meet day?

  • Ditch the straps.  
    • Unless you have pain in your arm you're just going to deal with on meet day, get rid of them.  Spare me the "but so n so uses em and...."  Listen, that needs to stop for most guys.  Just because something works for one guy, doesn't mean the majority of lifters should be doing it.  Far too many people use exceptions these days than the rule.  And the rule is, train like you have to compete.
  • Don't do touch and go anything
    • Once you get into the meet prep phase of your training cycle, you should really be focused on developing bottom position strength.  That means pause your benches, and don't do touch and go deadlifts.  That means pausing ALL of your bench reps.  For deadlifts, reset on every rep.  
  • Don't live on singles
    • I often see guys doing singles weeks and weeks out from a meet.  This should be the time you're building strength and not demonstrating it.  When you're 5,6,8,9 weeks out from a meet you should be doing plenty of sets of 5's.  Possibly even 8's if you're 8+ weeks out.  Once you get closer to show time, reps should drop as the intensity rises.  Singles should still be done this far out, but only as part of the "over warm up" in order to facilitate better performance on the strength sets.  
  • Squat to depth
    • I've read some real bullshit on the net like "if you got three white lights you went too deep."  Jesus fucking christ where does this mentality come from?  It's better to squat deep enough so that depth is never an issue, than to think about cutting it a little high trying to squeeze in a couple of pounds.  I see guys now squat high all training cycle, claiming they will clean it up come meet time, then aren't able to, and either bomb out or barely get in a squat.  Squat fucking deep.  That means the top crease of the thigh is below the knee.  Anyone that is "feeling for depth" is fooling themselves and generally squatting high.  Lose the ego.  
  • Don't count on grinders in training for the meet
    • If you ground out a hard fucking single while performing a lift fresh, especially in the bench or deadlift, then it's probably a good idea not to count on that lift being there come meet day.  By the time you take that third bench and third pull, you're usually pretty spent.  Lots of guys bench and pull on separate days and don't realize or take into account that by the third bench and third pull, you're pretty spent.  If you barely made the lift in training then it's likely your third attempt will be something a bit less than that.  
  • Make training harder than meet day (if you can)
    • Lots of guys want optimal conditions in training in order to prepare for the meet.  Then when optimal conditions aren't met on meet day, they have trouble adjusting.  Some guys won't pull on a power bar, or won't squat without a squat bar.  They don't want to bench on a non-competition bench.  For guys that train in gyms with all of this stuff, that's great.  But I see lots of guys that don't have these options and complain about it.  Listen, just get fucking stronger.  Regardless of the bar you use or the bench you're on, you're still lifting weights.  If it's not under optimal conditions then that's ok.  Lots of guys do meet prep right in their home without special bars and special benches or monolifts and do just fine.  Second, pull after you squat.  You want to be fatigued when you pull.  It's going to give you a better idea of what you'll be good for come meet day.  If you don't want to do that, then another idea is to do all of your back work before you deadlift.  
  • Don't program too heavy 
    • If you are missing reps and grinding shit early in the training cycle then something went very wrong in your planning.  The last two weeks or so should be heavy.  You will have some grinders in there.  But 5-8 weeks out you should be blasting through shit like you're the Juggernaut (bitch).  There's something to be said for crushing weights every week, and building confidence in the lifts.  This can't be done if you get overzealous in your training and decide you're going to squat 80 more pounds than you did in your last meet, 3 months ago.  Be smart and conservative about these things.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lost causes

No quote rings with more validity than "you can only help someone who wants to help themselves."

It took me quite a few years to actually grok the meaning of this.  To truly know what it means.  People can read something and believe they can understand the words they read, however it's not until you have a personal association with something that it truly reshapes you, and causes a paradigm shift in your life.  

When I was a very young man this lesson was taught to me by someone I loved suffering from drug addiction.  No matter how many times I pulled this person out of a crack house, or helped them get through all of the problems associated with those demons, nothing I did changed her.  

She didn't want help.  At least not permanently.  So all of my efforts and all the energy I had put into trying to "fix her", was completely in vain.  I might as well have been trying to fill the Grand Canton with my own piss. 

It was that futile.  

I've learned that so many people do not want help.  They want "their" life.  THAT life.  

It's like trying to talk your mother out of smoking, because you love her so much, and don't want her dying of lung cancer or emphysema.  She hears you, but she doesn't listen.  She loves smoking more than she loves giving it up.  Addicts love their drugs more than they love giving them up.  Whether it be from using it as a coping mechanism, or to cover up the pain from a traumatic past, they feel they need those things to "survive".  

Some of us find weights.  The iron.  The sound of banging and clanging rings out like a sirens song and beckons us to come there.  A lot!  

We immerse ourselves in the lifestyle that is made up of gritty chalk, bleeding shins, and torn callouses.  Words that make up slogans and motto's only we lifters can identify with resonate with us like fine poetry.

Others find drugs or alcohol.  Some find crime.  Many times those two things are intertwined.  Like a vine that crawls up the side of an decomposing house, it envelopes it, becoming one with the rotting wood.  Just barely holding each other up, you can only watch and wonder how long until it all comes crashing down.

Just like that house, the abuse of these things and the poor choices that brought them to such a state are the cause for the eventual collapse of who they once were.

Yet there you are....trying to fill that space where they are left wanting.  Then unable to comprehend why it is that they can say no to an out stretched hand that represents freedom from the chains of addiction and the various afflictions robbing them of life.  An out stretched hand that exists to provide a metaphor that says "hey, it doesn't have to be this way."  

But it usually does have to be that way.  Because they want it to.  

There is just as much of a big empty left inside the person who owns that empty hand,  when the hand they are so desperately trying to connect with, won't reciprocate that gesture.   It's hard to pull your hand away, and look at it realizing that they didn't want it.  And it confuses us immensely.  So clearly we can see all the things this person is doing to tear away everything they were.  Everything they wanted to be in life, or achieve.  All the things they talked about before that time have nothing to do with all the things they talk about now.  Like wanting to get their next fix, or ruminate on ways they can come up with a few extra dollars for that next hit.  

But this situation isn't limited to drugs, or crime.  It also extends to people that find their life in a cycle of repetition in other ways.  Like lying, or cheating, or stealing.  In essence, not being the person they claim to be, or deep down inside know they aren't.  Maybe they can't be.  Not everyone can get clean.  Some people do drugs their entire life...however long that life may be.  And other people live a life addicted to another kind of drug.  The names of heroin, crack, and meth are replaced by names like liar, deceiver, and hypocrite.  

They get the same open hand reaching for them that the drug addicted soul gets.  It's there, just waiting for them latch on, and show that in some way that by doing so, they REALLY do want the change they talk about so much.  They want to change who they are.  They want to reshape the center of themselves and eventually be able to look in the mirror, and see a person in that reflection that let's them know, that the past is behind them.  That all of those things that they carried around like an overfilled bookbag, can now be let go of.  A new bag is to be obtained, with new books, and new words from those books, and that no matter what happens they will never have to deal with the poisonous version of their old self again.........


But often times, they don't reach.  In fact, they do so about as many times as the addict does.  They say all the right things, just like the addict, and they talk all the great talks, and they put on new shoes for all the great walks.  But their words eventually ring very hollow, and they never walk as far as their mouth planned out for them.  

They spurn your hand.  They ask for you to take it back.  That they don't need it.  They have other people that can support them, and that they will get through this.  After all, it's only a bend in the road, not the end of the road.  

And just like with the addict, you're left there with your hand out, feeling like an idiot because you made the effort, and they laughed at your sincerity.  They mock your help by "picking themselves up", not by their bootstraps, but by something else.  Something far more familiar.  Something they can understand, and not be too very uncomfortable with.  

Then once again, we are left standing there in a state of confusion, wondering why it is that your help, your knowledge, your insight, and your ability to help them move through these personal minefields gets laughed at like a sick punchline at a party were everyone has stayed too long, and had way too many drinks.  

At some point, you have to take the hand away.  That takes far more strength than it does to extend it. Because what you don't realize is, the person you keep extending it to, is nothing more than another version of the very thing you are fighting as well.

And that is, letting go.  

At some point, you have to be strong enough to let go.  You have to find the courage to walk away.  Yes, the COURAGE TO WALK AWAY.  Some people can do that rather easily, and some of us cannot.  Walking away to us feels like either we weren't good enough, or that our efforts had gone to waste.  Most of us want to feel like the "good" things we do truly matter.  And we get can only feel "good" about that, if those efforts are met with wanting.  Someone has to want what we are offering, and also want that for themselves.  

If they don't, then at some point we have to decide if it's worth chasing a dragon that desires nothing more than to not take our gifts of love, support, and guidance and fly on it's own.  Leaving us now standing knee deep in a swamp of confusion, rejection, and disappointment.  Our task eventually becomes not saving them, but being strong enough, vigilant enough, to muster up the courage to let them fly into whatever abyss it is they keep desiring so badly. 

It wasn't easy for me to let go.  I left my hand out for years.  And despite my steadfast heart and unwavering spirit to stay in the fight, I realized eventually...I had done all that I could for that person.  All that I can do for those people who don't desire it.  That want to keep repeating their shitty behavior, but also want to bemoan all that life has become for them.

You ARE the choices you make.  

Walking forward takes an enormous amount of resolve, but walking away is unparalleled in terms of strength when it comes to these situations.  Detaching and removing yourself from a sinking vessel can seem selfish at first.  Especially when someone you love is still on board.  But after it sails no more, and then disappears into the deep, black, waters of an unforgiving ocean, you'll be thankful that you finally summoned up the courage to cut away.  You get to focus on the things you have been neglecting.  You can now live a life that is rewarding in both happiness and yes, sadness at times.  But the ups and downs have more to do with your own choices, rather than someone else's.  

Knowing when to knock the dust off of your feet, and leave those places is going to be different for everyone.  But no one can grow and thrive while their feet are cemented into the sinking life of someone else.