Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Planes, Pains, and Automobiles and other weirdness - Tucson week Part 2

Day 4 -

Day 4 involved a few private training sessions.

Of them, the most interesting session came with a guy I was helping out with his bench.  He needed only a minor correction on bar path to fix virtually all of his technical issues.  That is, he was bringing the bar down too high on his chest, which meant his wrist and elbow alignment were all wrong, and he was basically doing a tricep extension to push the weight up.

After we fixed the issue, I had him do some warm ups, then work up to 185 for an easy double.  His best bench was 220, and with the way the 185 moved for the double, I thought he'd be very close to that on this day.

So we moved up to 205, and he went to press it.  As it hit the transition part of the bench where the usual sticking point is, the rep died and I grabbed it.

I knew it was there.  The issue wasn't strength.  It was his poor mindset in regards to his approach to the bar.

I've written quite a bit about the mental approach to training.  More often than not, people can do more than they think they are capable of, but they haven't trained their mind in a way to take full advantage of what they are physically capable of.

As the saying goes, the mind will give out long before the body does.  And this was indeed a case of that.

I could see when he pressed the bar and it started to "grind" that his will to win over the bar wasn't strong enough.  I've seen this many times.  It's usually something you see a lot of in novice lifters.  They are very unsure of their strength, and sort of "believe" that they can't press/squat/pull something because it's hard, or difficult.  That animalistic side of the lifter hasn't been harnessed yet.  These lifters haven't tapped into the primal side of themselves, and don't know how to "get up" for a lift.

This doesn't mean that you have to scream and yell and carry on before a lift.  My own personal belief is that is counter productive.  I do know that some guys "go there" and get in that place before a lift, but I never found that it worked for me.  I personally found that to a drain on my energy.  When I watched a lot of the greats before a lift, many of them (not all, yes) were very calm on the outside, but you could see the intense concentration they had before a lift.  It was evident.  And that is the place I like to find myself in before a tough lift.

I told this client, Adam, to walk away for 5 minutes and come back to hit this when he was ready.

As he sat down on the bench I told him to take several deep breaths, and to clear his mind.  Then I told him to reach down and find something he could draw from.  Something that made him angry, or inspired, or pull some emotion from down deep.  And then to channel that emotion into the bar.

He laid down on the bench, prepared himself, then blasted up the 205 like an empty bar.

It was an important lesson to learn for him.  And it's an important lesson to learn for all lifters to learn if they want to conquer many of the roadblocks they will face along their journey.

The mental aspect of training is such a huge part of failing or finding victory.  If you don't learn how to find that strong place inside of you that you can draw from before a big lift, then you're neglecting to harness a very important piece of the lifting puzzle.  Without that ability you will be very passive with the bar, and constantly question your own ability to clear obstacles that you're going to face.

Until a lifter has this particular moment, getting better will evade them longer than has to be required.  This isn't zen bullshit.  It's a serious part of getting better, and developing your "lifting game".  Without it, you'll constantly perform well below what you're truly capable of.

That evening I went over this aspect of training with the group.  The mental part of embracing the battle with the iron.  Some people develop this more naturally than others.  And some people struggle with it.  For those that struggle with it, you need find a way to have an undying belief in yourself that what you're trying to overcome isn't impossible.  It is not beyond your capabilities unless you believe it is.  And a lack of self belief will always drown out any voice inside of you that is trying to tell you that you indeed are capable.

Day 5 -

That morning Danny and I did some shoulder work.  Of course this meant some press behind the neck.  I worked up to a triple with 315 then did some sets of 5 at 275 and then sets of 8 at 225.  Danny hadn't done these in a long time, and was slightly worried about his shoulder mobility, but he did fine and worked up to quite a few sets of 5 with 135, and remarked at how pumped his shoulders felt from it.

After that we did trap bar shrugs for 8 sets of 8 using the "Meadows method" of holding the contraction for 3 seconds at the top.  These two movements actually ended up taking more than an hour to do, and we called it a day after that.

I believe this was the day that I was eating at the hotel that my waitress struck up a conversation with me, and I found out that she has a sculpture going into the Smithsonian.  She had been sculpting since she was really young, and had quite the knack for it to say the least.  She pulled out her phone and showed me her work, and it was unbelievably impressive.  And that's putting it mildly.

That evening the team did front squats and romanian deadlifts, or stiff legged deadlifts.  Afterwards they did lunges, which were so awful I couldn't help but laugh.  It's funny that most people don't think about movements like a lunge needing to be done a certain way, but it does.  A lot of people don't step far enough forward, and don't open the hips up enough.  I helped correct this the best that I could but I enjoyed watched the comedy far too much at times I think.

Day 6 -

Day 6 was another few private sessions, and then afterwards I hung around and watched Danny's Olympic lifting team train.

I really like watching Oly lifting, but I don't do it because I suck at it, and for what I am training for I don't feel the need for it.

The best part of watching them train was watching a miss by one of the lifters.  She hit the bottom of a clean, and the bar got too far forward on her and she missed it.  The bar popped out, and she fell to the floor then toppled over the bar.  I have no idea why but the first thing that popped in my head was the scene from Godzilla where he falls down and takes a building with him, and I couldn't stop laughing.

Maybe he was just Oly lifting?
That evening Danny arranged a going-away sort of dinner for me, and we met at Texas Road House.  Because Danny had driven me around all week, and paid for my meals, and generally just took great care of me, I wrote him an ode to let him know how much his support had meant to me that week.

At dinner that night I read it, gave him a card, and thanked him for all he had done for me that week and let him know how much I appreciated it.

Now sometimes life has funny ways of putting you in certain places at certain times.

I had gone back and forth on whether or not I would read what I wrote to Danny, or just give it to him as part of the card.  I opted to read it instead, as I thought it would be nice for others to hear my appreciation for the person he is.

In this write up, I went into the fact that I had many struggles that week, and despite my best efforts wasn't handling it as well as I could have been, and that some people close to me had bore the brunt of my frustrations.  I brought this up because if not for Danny's support that week, my trip would have been much more difficult than it had to be.

After dinner we stood around the entrance of Texas Road House and I said goodbye to everyone and thanked them for coming.  A girlfriend of one of the guys that attended that week came up to me and told me how much what I wrote meant to her.  That she was struggling that week with a lot of things in her life, and that my words meant a lot to her, and that she felt she needed to hear them.

And that made me feel like I made the right choice to read the note at dinner, and something I touched on in my post about finding out my mother has Alzheimer's.  That our own struggles, or opening up about them, can often give strength to others who are struggling in some way, shape, or form.  Sometimes just not feeling so alone in them can make you feel a bit stronger.

Day 7 -

Day 7 was an "off" day for me.  In the past I usually traveled the day after "work" was over, but traveling drains the shit out of me, and sitting on airplane seating makes my hips and legs ache for days.  So I figured I'd throw in a day of rest between finishing up, and leaving.  So I basically sat by the pool all day, ate, and just relaxed.

In part 3, I'm going to cover the most interesting part of this whole ordeal.  My travels home.


  1. Thanks, Paul.

    Any cues for the lunge or is it generally just a case of not striding forward enough?

    Mike B

    1. not a big enough step, not opening the hips enough, not landing with the foot properly....lots of things.