Friday, December 26, 2014

The squat glute myth

It seems like when people talk about building glutes you can't get past finishing the word "glutes" before someone immediately interjects "squats" as the answer.

Apparently, if you want to develop your glutes, squatting is the alpha and the omega of developing the glutes.  I mean it has to be.  I've read it on the internet more than a million times.

And yet, I personally know, have trained, and talked to lots of people who did squats religiously that did not develop big glutes from it.

"Blasphemy!  There's a whole "yeah, she squats" page that shows all these great asses from worshipping in the squat rack."

Ok first off, a lot of those asses that I've seen are on women that don't look like they train at all.  And second, it's actually a myth that squats are the be-all end-all of glute developers.  If they were, then everyone who squatted properly, would develop an incredible ass.  Yet as noted, I've known lots of people who are great squatters, or squat a lot, and don't have incredible glute development.

There are a few factors here to consider about squatting and getting no ass.

1.  Maybe you don't have enough "ass" to have an ass

Everyone can build their musculature into "more" of what they have.  However there will be a limitation on how big certain musculature can grow, based on the number of fibers that the area is comprised of.  If you look at bodybuilders across the board this should become apparent.

It should be evident that Arnold, regardless of how he trained, was going to have a massive chest.  And what was Arnold's favorite chest exercise?  The bench press of course.  He loved it.  He said it built a big, massive chest.  Yet there are lots of bird chested bench pressing mother fuckers out there.  So why can't they lay down on a bench, and press the bar like Arnie did, and get some big ass chesticles?

Everyone has a unique make up of muscle composition in their body.  I probably have a greater than average number of fibers in my delts and calves than the average joe.  As I do very little work for them, and they grow quite easily and stand out fairly well compared to my other bodyparts.  On the flipside, my chest is not very big despite years of bench pressing (and doing so correctly).  My delts always jumped in and took up a big part in benching.  It's also the reason why overhead pressing came easy to me.

So the reason why not everyone can lie down on a bench and build a huge chest (or one of the reasons) is because they may just not have enough fibers in their pecs to build a massive chest.

From a purely anecdotal perspective, I have noticed that taller people tend to have less glute development, even in lifters, than short women or manlets.

So the bad news is, if you are having trouble building a big set of glutes you may just fall on the end of the spectrum with people who don't have a lot of ass muscle to build in the first place.  So you can probably hang up ever having an ass like Eva Andressa.

The good news is, as usual, you can still improve on what you have through proper training, and put some junk in the trunk.

2.  You may not have learned how to fire your glutes yet

I've read that if you squat, that no matter what, your glutes are going to fire.  To a degree, this is true.  The glutes are indeed going to be engaged, however the degree to which they are engaged is largely dependant on your ability to actually "feel them".

I believe there is a massive advantage to getting to a place where you actually develop that "mind muscle" connection, and can actually make the muscle do the work, rather than move the weight through space.

Moving weight through space is exactly what it implies.  Your concentration is more on getting the weight from point A, to point B.  Making a muscle do the work is more about feeling it stretch and then contract against the resistance, and the weight being used is mostly secondary.

Dave Tate made a beautiful note of this when he wrote about his evolution in training and talked about the time he spent in bodybuilding.  Mainly, that he didn't have an adequate mind to muscle connection to actually build certain parts of his body.

From Dave....

Whenever I pissed and moaned about seeing my poundages plummet, Rick would remind me that the muscle doesn't know if it's pushing or pulling 400 pounds or 40 pounds; all it knew was if it was getting trained or not.

At first I had a real hard time with this, but after a while it was cool to see how I could absolutely destroy my chest with 70-pound dumbbells when before I was blasting away with the 150s. And I started to grow, big time.

Suddenly, I had biceps, triceps, hamstrings, and calves. My chest started to get shape and I could finally feel my lats working during chin-ups, pulldowns, and rows.

I do believe that from a top to bottom standpoint, that overload and progression are going to be the two biggest factors in building more OVERALL mass.  However when we are talking about isolating an area to develop, you have to be able to consciously make that area fire during certain movements.  

Gillian, for example, can out squat a lot of men.  She squatted 400 in competition at 148.  Glute development?  Severely lacking.  

You may need to spend time just learning what it feels like to get your glutes to fire when performing certain movements.  A very simple way to start this, is to actually just contract your glutes for sets of 10 at various times throughout the day, and hold the contractions for 3 seconds each.  

3.  You are relying on the squat too much

The great majority of people who have great glute development don't "just squat".  They do lunges, step ups, good mornings, deadlift variations, ass machines, and use other machines not meant to be ass machines and turn them into ass machines.  

If you watch any video made by the women competing at a high level in figure/fitness etc, that have great asses, they tend to do a myriad of movements for their glutes.  

This should be no surprise really.  A limited number of lifts are going to give you a limited amount of development.  The people who tell you that just squatting, bench pressing, and deadlifting will garner you a great deal of development are really speaking a half truth.  

Yes, you can get incredibly developed from just doing those three things.  However you will not maximize your overall development by being so limited in your movement selection.  If someone told you that they would give you a million dollars if you added an inch to your calves in one month do you think you'd just do one calf movement and think that's enough to maximize growth?  Probably not.  

So relying on the squat for completely glute development is probably not a good idea either.  

4.  You're not built for squatting as a glute developer 

This will irritate some people as I've read many times that everyone can squat to build leg and glute mass.  And for the most part, this is true.  

However it's not true for everyone.  If squatting was the single answer for lower body development, then professional bodybuilders would just squat, and shit would be taken care of.  However, even Tom Platz, who was more properly built for squatting than possibly any bodybuilder ever, did other movements outside of squats to further maximize his lower body development.  

Dorian Yates figured out a few years into his career, that he just didn't get the quad development from barbell squatting that he wanted.  So he switched to smith machine squats (yes I know, blasphemy to some), put his feet more forward, and was able to more effectively target his quads.  And guess what?  They grew.  

It's very possible that due to your own leverages, squatting may not be the best movement for you as a glute developer.  If you have been squatting religiously and efficiently (from a technique standpoint), and you know how to engage your glutes in other movements, then it's possible that your leverages may mean squatting isn't a great choice for you.  If you don't plan on competing in competitive powerlifting, then don't squat.  I know, this article is filled with blasphemy but sometimes the truth is hard to swallow.  

5.  You don't know how to squat correctly

I probably could have put this first.  

I see so many people that don't know how to squat correctly that I wonder how they ever squatted more than a plate.  

A very big misconception in lifting and physique development, is that if someone can lift X number of pounds, then they have to know what they are doing.  

This is a complete lie, and based on ignorance.  

I have two friends who both deadlifted 750.  Incorrectly.  

By incorrectly, I mean that they were absolutely in some of the worst possible leveraged positions to deadlift.  Both of them are capable of deadlifting 800 pounds if they fix their issues, and both have recognized that their technique was wrong, and are working on it.  

Just because someone is strong, or relatively strong, doesn't mean they know what the fuck they are doing.  It also doesn't mean "it works for them".  It may be working against them!  I read this all the time on the net and it's a pile of bullshit.  Lots of people are strong, but limit themselves by using poor technique.  So no, it doesn't "work for them" and just because they can move X amount of weight doesn't mean what they are doing is "correct."  

I see people teaching the squat incorrectly all the time, and they never get checked on this.  

"Arch hard, chest out."  

This makes me cringe.  So you want to purposely put yourself into a position that looks like lordosis, then load the top of your spine with a heavy weight, and squat it like that?

I hope not.  

If you don't fix your squat technique so that you distribute as much of the load as possible across the lower body, then it probably means you are doing something wrong.  

Do you break at the hips first, or knees first?  Because you should break at the hips and knees almost simultaneously.  

Do you get bent over?  This means you're not stabilizing correctly through your core.  

Do you have excessive "butt wink" (where your glutes tuck under you at the bottom)?  This relates to core stabilization as well.  

Are you cutting your squat high?  This means you are hip locking in the squat, and the glutes aren't getting carried through a full range of motion that the squat can provide.  If you watch someone that does know how to fire their glutes, and doesn't have excessive butt wink, and does do full squats, you will see that the glutes become VERY involved at the bottom of the squat.  This doesn't mean you have to put your ass on the floor, as the exaggeration goes.  It just means to do a FULL squat.  Not cut your ROM high (above parallel).  

Conclusion/High level overview:

  • Learn how to engage your glutes.
  • Don't rely on squats only for glute development
  • Do a myriad of movements for glutes
  • Learn how to squat properly 
  • Be open to the idea that squats may not be a great movement selection for you in regards to glute development
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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Intensity increasing techniques

There are literally countless numbers of ways to increase perceived intensity in a training session.

I distinguish the difference in "intensity" (percentage of 1 rep max on the bar) and "perceived intensity", which would be the amount of effort given via a certain method.  

For example, drop sets, rest/pause, giant sets, supersets, etc.  Those I call perceived intensity techniques (PIT).   They aren't measured in load, but rather how hard you are training (this also has nothing to do with rate of perceived exertion, RPE).  

A few PIT that I like to use from time to time.  

Elevator presses - 

This is a great way to finish training if you just did chest and shoulders.  

Set the bench upright, and start with seated db presses.  You are going to pick a weight you can do about 12 reps with here in the seated shoulder press.  

Do 5 reps in the seated shoulder press, put the weights down, and lower the bench so that it's now a high incline press.  

Pick the weights back up, and do 5 reps.  

Lower the bench so that it's now at a medium incline, around 45 degrees, and do another 5 reps.  

Lower the bench again so that it's flat, and grab the dumbbells.  This time doing as many reps as possible.  

Do two rounds of this.  For the second round, you will probably need to lower the weight a bit.

Reversing this technique (going from flat to overhead) doesn't work as well because obviously you're stronger in a horizontal plane than a vertical one.  This is why you start by pressing vertical, then adjust downwards.    

Add 2 technique - 

This is a cool technique to use to finish on smaller bodyparts, to get a lot of volume in, in a short span.  You can use it for any movement, of course, but I prefer it for movements like curls, upright rows, so forth and so on.  

The reason being is because the weight you pick for the Add 2 technique is going to be the same, from warm up to finish.  If you wanted to do this with a big movement like squats or bench, you'd just need to warm up to your working weight (you will see why).

For example, on upright rows, I pick 115 pounds.  

I do a set of 6.  Rest 1 minute.  I then do a set of 8 (adding 2 reps), and rest 1 minute.  I do a set of 10, and rest 1 minute.  Do a set of 12, and rest 1 minute, etc.  

Add 2 reps to every set until you're at or hit muscular failure.  Once you do, you go back down the rep range.  So you subtract 2 reps on each set.  So if you worked up to a set of 18 before you hit failure, the next set you'd shoot for 16.  Then 14, 12, 10, 8....etc.  

As noted, this could be done with big movements, but you would want to warm up first.  With smaller movements, you can just grab a weight that serves as both the warm up and the working weight.

Shoulder giant set - 

This will be going in a new mass building book I am working on.  

You will emphasize each head of the deltoid, and then finish with something that also involves a bit more of the traps along with the shoulders.  All of these are done in non-stop fashion. 

Front plate raises - 25 reps
Rear Delt Machine or Bent Laterals - 25 reps
Side Laterals - 25 reps
Upright Rows - 25 reps

If you're really a glutton for punishment you can do a second round of this for 200 total reps.  If you've already done an actual shoulder session you will definitely pay for it if that is your choice.

Add these techniques in at the end of sessions to help maximize growth.  These are all great ways to add a lot more volume to your training using as little time as possible.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gillian Ward - Goal setting myths and realities

As a fitness industry professional most people seek out my guidance, knowledge, and hands on coaching with the hope that I can provide the tools and motivation to help them make their goals a reality.  Essentially they are making an investment with a “wish” coming to fruition.  These goals run the gamut from lowering blood pressure and improving bone density, to losing 30lbs or squatting 500.

Most of the goals could be summed up by saying that people want to look better, feel better, and be more capable.

As a coach it is my responsibility to manage the expectations of my clients (if I want to keep them). The most critical aspect of this is to take an honest look at how realistic the goal is by examining limitations of the client, and the effort they are willing to put forth.

It is as simple as saying that you get out what you put in.

I remember a coach that I admire greatly, Mark Rippetoe, once saying something along the lines that people with great builds did not get that way by accident – a great amount of discomfort went into creating that form. People like that are “generally uncomfortable” a great deal of the time. You can interpret that as you wish but my interpretations is that those people have been willing to suffer when it comes to diet and training in a manner that most could not comprehend.

Women, and the myth of “bulk” - 

The most obvious misconception out there is that weight training; specifically heavy weight training makes women bulky.

99% of the time this is a fallacy; one cannot become bulky without a caloric surplus under any training conditions.  Additionally, women do not have the hormonal profile to gain large amounts of muscle mass easily.  Not wanting to get “bulky” is one of the biggest excuses in the book. I hear that statement as “I do not want to work hard”.

This brings me to the point of the article - examining goal setting so that we can be successful.

Goal setting steps - 

When I do interviews with clients, I ask them to write down their goals on any order. I ask for short term goals that I consider to be 3 months or less, mid-tem goals for the next year, and long term goals which are things they desire to accomplish or dream of in this lifetime.  I have them focus more attention on the short term but the long-term stuff allows me to have insight into what drives them and where they place value. I tell them that the goals can be anything they want – aesthetic, performance, weight loss, etc.

Next I make them work a little bit and ask them to quantify their goals so that we can track measurable data. For instance, if the goal is upper body strength, the quantifiable goal may be to do a strict pull-up and 10 push-ups within 12 weeks.  Lastly I ask them to prioritize their goals in numerical order from most to least important. This is where I have to break it to people that they can’t get “huge and ripped” at the same time.  Typically I give people a week for this assignment.

Next, it’s time for a sit-down chat. I have the client make a list of the obstacles that get in the way of reaching the goals. This can be things like work schedule, travel, family responsibilities, finances (budget for food, gym fees, coaching, etc).

Here’s a scenario - a 42 year old over-weight male client comes to me and wants to “have a 6 pack” before a spring break trip in three months but works nights (hardly sleeps), has 3 small children at home with limited childcare resources, and has an achilles injury which limits weight bearing activity. Additionally, his wife does not want him spending time at the gym.  He eats mostly fast food and is unwilling to touch a fruit or vegetable.  How likely is it that he will succeed at reaching his goal? The question becomes how much can he or how much is he willing to give up in other areas of life? What can be changed and what can’t?  He’s still going to work nights, still has three kids, and still has an Achilles injury.  Maybe he’s willing to give up the fast food and broaden his palate to healthy selections? Maybe his wife will come around?

Only this client knows what he is willing and able to do. Only he can answer the above questions honestly. This is where I explain to him that there is no magic pill and his results will correlate exactly with his ability to adhere to the program – his effort, his preparation, and his dogged consistency.  People don’t want to hear this and may decide not to hire me but I tell it like it is –

1. Great athletes are not born, they are made. Yes, there is genetic potential but it must be honed and cultivated. Skills must be learned and practiced thousands of time.
2. If you are not willing able to follow the program, you will not get the results that you are seeking
3. “Bulky” does not happen by accident. If by “bulky” you mean fat, you ate too much. Putting on muscle takes hard work and not everyone is cut out for it.
4. If you want to be super lean you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Sustained low levels of bodyfat take enormous discipline, effort, and a general overall discomfort. Additionally, social situations can be difficult as food is an enormous part of our culture.
5. Getting “huge” is very uncomfortable too – it is expensive, time consuming, extremely difficult, and may not be the healthiest thing for you. This too does not happen by accident or by following a workout plan in a magazine and drinking some weight gainer.
6. If you are driven enough to pursue your goal, you will sacrifice in other areas of your life. Some damage and or neglect in other areas cannot be reversed.

At this point most people have glazed over and just stare at me. Now it is time for the honest talk. I ask them to re-evaluate their goals based on their lifestyle and what is realistic and achievable for them. This is not a judgment of their efforts or character. It is purely a way to set individualized, realistic, achievable goals with all of the cards on the table. It is a method of encouraging people to examine their priorities. There is no correct answer.  I for one am guilty of having tunnel vision when setting a goal. I have allowed my single-minded drive to accomplish a feat to come in the way of other areas of my life including personal relationships and professional growth. I do not condemn or condone this, it is merely an observation that we are individuals and prioritize in our own way.

At the end of the discussion the client leaves my office with a new set of goals. A set of goals that matches what they are willing and capable of putting forth. These goals provide structure and direction, which are necessary for long term adherence and satisfaction.  Additionally, these goals then become more than wishes because they are achievable.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Benefits of lifting for females (that men don't get)

I really hate all these fitness memes.  I really fucking do.

Everytime I see one, I envision a pack of rabid females that just entered the club, high on friendship and drunk on self absorption, brofisting each other after a round of shots.  Like they just scored a touchdown by running over a 250 pound linebacker with 3 seconds left on the clock for the go ahead score.

Women always love these, and I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's an identification thing.

"I lift weights.  So my shit is fantabulous.  High five, fellow lifting chick!"

Then they sort of, high five or brofist each other through the internet by liking the fitness meme.

Usually it's the "what's your excuse?" meme, with some scantily clad female, wearing nothing more than dental floss as workout gear, in some kind of pose that involves as much ass cheek or cleavage as possible, while hoisting a massive 7.5 pound dumbbell.  Grimace included.

No.  Grinding my ass groove into the couch as I type this.

I get it.  Lifting and association with other female lifters makes you feel cool.  Grinding in the gym is awesome, and finding a whole new wardrobe just for gym days is god damn exciting.

But what else does lifting do for women in regards to feeling better about themselves?  Both physically and emotionally.

I have to preface the rest of this by throwing out that, I'm not a woman.  I don't even play one on TV.  So I took the time to research some nifty shit that lifting does for women.  Maybe it does it for men as well, but that doesn't matter.  It's a gender specific article.

Sex life - Well let's not waste any time here, shall we?

Not only do women orgasm harder, and more often after lifting, they apparently can do so WHILE training.  

So that is definitely a benefit women who train have over men.  I mean, maybe a dude could orgasm while training but I don't see how, and I don't want to see how.  Ever.  Not even once.

Anyway, a study showed that women taking antidepressants get more aroused after exercising while watching porn, than women who take pills and watch porn without exercising.

Maybe I'm breaking my arm reaching here, but I would think that the same data would apply to women who don't take antidepressants.

Squat day?

What I want to know is, what kind of porn was it?  Maybe they didn't get the porn right for each women and that skewed the results.  I mean, women tend to like female on female porn quite a bit, even if they don't want to admit it, or let their neighbors and friends know.  They like that shit.

Where was I?

Oh yeah.

Anyway, I think that is a benefit men don't get either.  I am generally not in the mood after a hard training session, but apparently for women it gets them lathered right up.  Two big scores for lifting and sex life for women.  But make sure you watch porn after as well.  You know, for science.

Posture improvement - 

For women whose bra size goes beyond normal cup sizes, and simply has a tag that reads "over the shoulder boulder holder", this is a huge plus.

Losing fat and building a stronger posterior chain means less back pain for women that are sporting boobs that flat out make life uncomfortable.  For them I mean.  I generally don't see support groups for men that are upset over breasts that are too big.  I feel that is a market that doesn't have a dollar signs associated with it.

So for those that are contemplating breast reduction because of such pain, it's possible you can avoid surgery by getting into the gym and getting those traps, rhomboids, lats, and lower back stronger, while shedding some fat to reduce said discomfort.

Now I want to be CLEAR can't lose giant boobs because of lifting.  There is no exercise to shrink your boobs.  That will come from a reduction in bodyfat.  However you have to remember, that even if you lose weight, and they shrink, it's likely you do suffer from poor posture because of a lack of strength and muscular development in the back.  So combine both lifting and a reduction in fat to get the desired effect here.

For women who work desk jobs but aren't going to be challenging Dolly any time soon in the boob department, you still probably suffer from poor posture.

When I used to do before and after pics of female clients the one thing that always stood out to me was the overall posture change that happened with them.  They went from being slumped over (some almost hunch back), to standing tall with great posture.

If you're a dude with big tittays, I simply advise dropping the soy, and basically all food type products until those go away.  Oh, you should lift as well.

That big, round, ass - 

So yes, men can get this too.  But let's face it, there is a premium right now on women with great butts.  Maybe I hang in the wrong circles but I don't see such a market for men.  I suppose it exists.  I mean there is literally a market in porn for men who like to watch women pop balloons.  I'm not making that up.  It's real.

I don't care if she lifts.  HNNNNG!!!!

Anyway, this is how the whole "real women have curves" memes started.  The problem that happened there is, chicks who did NOT have curves (you know who you are) thought it was about them.

How do you know if you fit the bill?

Hip to waist ratio.

Lifted from this cheesy, but spot on article.....

Women with a waist-to-hip ratio near .70 have a curvy figure. As ratios climb higher toward .80 and .90 curves become less apparent. For example, men generally have waist-to-hip ratios close to .90. The interesting part about the waist-to-hip ratio is that it works for different-sized bodies. Someone like Beyoncé is heavier than Mila Kunis, Adriana Lima, Jessica Alba, or Megan Fox, but they all conform to the magical .70.

Read that one part?

"The interesting part about the waist-to-hip ratio is that it works for different-sized bodies."

So small women can have curves, and big women can have curves.  But women that go over that .70 ratio do not have curves.  They have fat.  

Great news here!  The same principle that applies to the boob reduction thing can also get you into that .70 "sweet ass" ratio.  Lose some fat + gain some ass = .70 magic.  

So we can effectively kill the whole "real women have curves" bullshit, because tiny women can have curves too.  It's not about size, but about ratio.  

But we can't leave it there.  Once again, I have to make note that there are no exercises to "slim your waist" or make your abs appear.  That happens in the kitchen.  There is no such thing as "spot reduction" i.e. doing a movement for a certain area to make it more slim.  Slim comes from following a proper diet for fat loss.  The ass comes from doing a lot of heavy squats, lunges, 1 legged squats, and glute bridges.  

Also from that article....

Essentially, the researchers wanted to know where men look when checking out a woman.3 To do this, researchers showed men naked images of women in upright poses from the front or back. Importantly, the women represented a range of waist-to-hip ratios. Regardless of pose, the results indicated that men rated women with a .7 waist-to-hip ratio as most attractive. Results also indicated that men paid most attention to women’s midriff and buttocks when the image depicted the woman from the back. When depicted from the front, men focused more on the breasts and then shifted attention to the midriff. Thus, the eye-gaze results demonstrate the important of waist-to-hip ratio, especially when viewing a woman from behind.

 So if you've been scoring low in the dating department, this is a great way to start improving your chances of catching the eye of dude.

Conclusion - 

Easy.  Lift.  Enjoy.  Don't post fitness memes.  Or do.  I don't care so long as you're happy and kicking ass at life, because that's really all that fucking matters.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

LEB e-book bundle sale

I get questions asking me which of my books would work best for this or that.

Well, now you can just get them all at a discount.

Until January 1st I'm offering this bundle of all three books for $30.

LRB 365 - A year long plan for non-competitive lifters and athletes who want to take the guess work out of their training. A comprehensive program that consists of training, conditioning, and even covers basic dieting principles to help get you to a new level in the next year.

Strength, Life, Legacy - My most comprehensive book that covers everything from mass training, strength peaking, technique corrections on the squat, bench, and deadlift, as well as specialization, pre-habilitation and rehabilitation movements. Your all in one stop for a myriad of training principles.

Base Building - The principles that will help you build a bigger and stronger base with the squat, bench, and deadlift and peaking cycles. This is where you want to go if you desire to improve on your big 3 through scientific and time proven principles.

This deal will be off after January 1st. So grab it now while you can.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Your passion is their pain

“All my life I've been fascinated by the precipice in all of us. When you come to it, you either choose to fall or you don’t -- Alvin Ailey”

You can do something a million times, and forgot most of them.  But you'll never forget your first of them.  

I don't know how many football practices I had in the hot Mississippi summers.  Quite a few, I reckon.  I don't remember most of them.  In fact, sitting here thinking about it, I can barely recall any.  But I remember my first one like it was just yesterday.  

I was in fourth grade.  The division I played in was made up of fourth through sixth grade, or "pee wee" football as it's known by some.

A few weeks before practice my dad had taken me to this guys house who had a son that was quite a bit older than I was.  He didn't need his helmet and pads anymore and my father was going to buy them from ol boy.  

After said purchase, I remember putting this giant can on my head wondering how in the hell I was going to run with it on.  Same for the shoulder pads.  They clacked up and down with every step I took and were incredibly cumbersome.  

Much like having a gun fight, what football looked like on TV isn't what it felt like in real life.  On TV it looked cool, and bad ass.  Dudes flying around, snot lockering each other, catching passes, sacking the quarterback, scoring touchdowns, banging strippers.    

This felt well....not cool at all.  I felt like Robocop had banged a bobblehead doll and boom...there I was.  

Already, football seemed very uncool, and I hadn't even taken the practice field yet.  I was just wearing some pads and a helmet and golf was sounding good right about that time.  But hey, I lived in Mississippi.  And in Mississippi, if you're a male, you're probably going to play football.  

When the big day rolled around, and I would get my first taste of practice, I was scared shitless.  I remember walking onto the field and seeing the sixth graders.  They looked like giants, and gave me a thousand yard stare only a Nam vet could appreciate.  

Yes, I'm exaggerating for comedic effect.  But I do remember them seeming so much larger than us puny fourth graders.

Anyway, practice began and I did my best to hide as much as possible during "hitting" drills.  I watched fourth grader after fourth grader get obliterated and destroyed by the much larger sixth graders.  It was a massacre to such a degree that Pol Pot would have been pleased and offended at the same time.  

Eventually, hiding would no longer save me from such brutalization.  The coaches called for a drill called "bull in the ring."  

Apparently, "bull in the ring" is banned now because I guess....I don't know.  It toughens you up?  Puts some hair on your chest?  Makes you stop being a little bitch and separates the "men" from the boys in fourth through sixth grade?  I'm sure someone will pipe up with why it is banned and defend the banning of it.  They will then log off the internet to go wash their girlfriend's poodle for her.  

Nevertheless, we were playing that shit back then.  

Bull in the ring means there is one guy in the middle of a circle.  Everyone in the circle has a number.  When your number is called, you have to run full speed and crack the dude standing in the middle of the circle.  Basically, it is in fact, a "harden the fuck up" drill.  

Well I was very marshmallowed at the time, so this did not seem like a fantastic idea to me.

When my number was called, I don't recall how fast I ran, or how hard I hit.  But going off of my father's reaction, which was to literally drag me off of the practice field, throw me in the car, and start driving me home, I bet money I wasn't Lawrence Tayloring out there.

Before we got home my dad pulled off to the side of the road and turned the car off.  He turned around and looked at me and told me "I'm going to finish this drive home, unless you get your ass back on that field and start hitting like it matters to you."

I wiped the tears from my eyes and nodded at him, not saying a word.  He turned the car around and drove me back to the practice field.  

When I stepped back onto that grass, my demeanor from the time he threw me in the car until the time I got back, which could have only been a few minutes, was like night and day.  

Mainly, I was fucking pissed.  

My fear had been exposed for everyone to see, and I was thoroughly embarrassed.  But I was really fucking pissed off at my dad for doing that to me in front of all my friends, teammates, and coaches.  

So someone was going to pay.  

I got back in my spot at bull in the ring, and this time when my number was called I ran with every ounce of fury and hate my fourth grade body could muster up.  I decleated the guy in the middle, and was greeted with "ooooohhhhh!!!" from my teammates.

Shit felt good.    

I walked back to my spot and couldn't wait to be called again.  And I was.  Several more times.  Even against the sixth graders I at least held my own.  My fear had been replaced with anger, and determination.  

But something else happened in those brief moments as well.  

I realized, I liked that shit.  

I liked hitting.  I liked getting hit.  There was something about it that is hard to put into words.  The joy of running full speed into another mother fucker and testing yourself against them was very rewarding.  Even if you lost, you would get a chance to try again.  There were only temporary failures.  And through those failures, you learned how to hit better, harder, meaner, faster, and smarter than the last time.  And eventually, you won far more than you lost.

It "took."

Whatever it was that separates the guys that are on the field from the guys picking splinters out of their ass had took with me.  I wanted to be on that field.  I wanted to hit.  I wanted to catch passes and score touchdowns and help my team win.  

I had such a moment shortly after I started lifting as well.  

The first few weeks I was so ungodly sore that I would often wake up partially paralyzed.  And I hated it.  But because I was living with my martial arts teachers parents, he forced me to go to the gym everyday and train with him, pretty much against my will.  

A few weeks in however, I was joking around with his mom in her kitchen and I ended up flexing at her, and for the first time in my life, I saw a god damn muscle.  It was a bicep.  I can remember being that age and seeing other young dudes flexing, who were far more genetically gifted than I was, and being envious that my shit just was not there.  

But it was now.  

And it took.  

That was 25 years ago.  Still clanging and banging.  

"... Couldn't stand her at first, but once it took, I loved her so bad it hurt.''

I think eventually, if you ever really want to exceed your own expectations at something, it has to take.  Even if not at first, it has to take.  You have to find yourself at that cliff, and either you make a choice to fall, and succumb to a passion, or you walk away from it because you feel like the fall just isn't worth it.  

Such was football for a while with me.  Such was music.  Such is lifting, and writing.  

When something takes, you find yourself enjoying all of the misery and discomfort that often comes with it.   I am aware of a lot of bodybuilders that actually enjoy the process of dieting to get ready for a show.  While others, who don't seem to do quite as well, hate it.  They hate the starvation and the feeling of being zombified for weeks on end.  But for some reason, others do fine with it, or even enjoy the misery of it all.  

I think to exceed your own expectations in strength sports, sports in general, or any passion you decide to immerse yourself in, it all has to "take" enough, so that you can rise above your own perceived limitations, or the perceived limitations placed on you by others.

If you don't enjoy the feeling of a very heavy barbell on your back, then powerlifting is probably not for you.  

If you don't enjoy getting punched in the face, you probably aren't going to end up being a great boxer.  

Yes, there will be exceptions, but that's why we call them exceptions.  For the "rule", these things do apply.  

If you don't enjoy a throbbing, sore ass hell thumb, then Xbox Call of Duty championships probably won't be in your future.  

And these are the things that end up separating the guy who goes into the gym that just wants to "look good for the chicks", and the brute that makes heads turn when he starts loading up the bar in the squat rack.  I'm not disparaging the former for the latter here.  I'm saying there is a difference in mindset, and the acceptance of pain and misery as part of the process with one person, where there is not with the other.  One is going to require a lot more mental fortitude than the other.  Because reaching places where others do not get to go, or fear to tread, is not for the faint or weak of heart.  It is for those who embrace the awfulness that manifests itself during that fall from the precipice.

I've long said and truly believe that going through the motions doesn't and will never produce the kind of results that you see from someone who truly loves what they are doing. 

The person in the gym that is going because "it's good for my health", but really doesn't enjoy or love being there, will never truly enjoy the results they could have, if somehow they actually learned to love it.  To embrace the soreness, the straining, the aches, and pains that come with real effort.  

To those of us that do embrace it, our passion is their pain.  And that pain is our passion.  

When I suffered my first bicep tear, it was during the start of the second quarter in a semi-pro game.  The fullback came through the hole and I lit him up.  But in the process of it, my arm was bent and hit his shoulder pad, tearing the tendon off the bone.  I finished playing that quarter and only sat down when I realized being on the field and not being able to fully tackle was a liability to my team.  Had I learned a technique to tackle with one arm effectively, I'm pretty sure I finish the game and that season.  However, surgery was required at that point thus my season was over.  

With my arm in a cast, I couldn't do a lot of upper body lifting, so I decided that squatting everyday was a great idea.  

People who don't love these things in that kind of way, look at me squatting with a cast on my arm as stupidity.  Maybe we are stupid.  Maybe people who are in relationships where they do awful shit to each other, but somehow find a way to keep loving each other enough not to quit, are stupid too.  I don't know.  

What I know is, when something takes, it will engulf your life and fulfill it in ways that make it easy to dig deep down, to find a way to press on.  To push past the anguish and pain, because well, you love it so bad it hurts.  

And if that's stupid, then stupid is as stupid does.  

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What is "natural" anymore?

No one knows what a natural bodybuilder "looks" like.

I've read hundreds of these discussions about who is on and who is natural and all of that bullshit, and here is what I think.

1. How do you define natural?

I don't even know what natural means anymore. Back years ago, guys took pro-hormones, which were INDEED legit oral steroids. Yet because you could buy them over the counter, they claimed they were still natural.

So those guys claimed natural status (and you know who you are) yet it's obvious they were not "natural".

There were several guys that went into retirement or quit competing after these products came off the shelves. Why? Because they couldn't compete at the same level (and no, I'm not naming names but some guys are outing themselves slowly now).

Clen? Not natural. T3 or T4? Not natural. Is taking ephedrine natural? Some people say natural is defined by the organization in which you compete, and I personally think that's bullshit. To me natural means food, training, and sleep. That's it. Nothing else. Nothing that spares lean tissue, speeds fat loss, or dries you out that you can't do with food, cardio, and training.

2. Height and weight with leanness

I do believe there is a correlation here. My belief is, for the NORM, there are some height to weight to leanness ratios that generally cannot be breached naturally by the majority of human bodies. I am being careful in my wording here because there will always be an exception to that rule. But most guys that are 5'8" are not going to be able to walk onto a bodybuilding stage at 220+ natural. In fact, I feel pretty safe in saying no one could. And to get back to point #1, how would you ever REALLY know? People beat drug tests everyday.

Think of it this way. Arnold was pretty gifted genetically. And he competed at around 230-235 pounds at 6'1". And Arnold was obviously not natural. So if a genetically gifted bodybuilder can use, and compete at 230 at 6'1" are you really willing to believe that a natural guy could step onstage shredded, shorter than Arnold and almost as heavy? I have trouble digesting that.

3. "he's been lifting for X amount of years and trains hard"

I had this conversation with a really smart dude the other day. And we both agreed that muscle mass for a natural guy, is going to be pretty maxed out after about 8-10 years of REALLY intelligent training and dieting. There may be a morsel gained here and there after that, but the fact is, it won't be much. From there it's about a change in muscle maturity and density, but for the most part, the ratios are going to be pretty close to what can be done.

Just because a guy is dedicated and trains hard for 20 years doesn't mean he can naturally build a physique that can rival drug users that are also of similar genetic advantages. In other words, two guys with similar genetic muscle building ability, the guy that stays natural will never catch the guy that chooses to use. This should be obvious but I still see people arguing that if you just train really fucking hard for X number of years then "drug like" gains are possible. It really doesn't work that way. Trust me, I speak from experience.

Monday, December 8, 2014

LRB - 20 things

I've had a string of posts on the LRB Facebook page (found here - ) regarding some simple guidelines about everything from getting bigger or stronger, to client/trainer relationships.

This is not a reprint of those, but more of a present narrative of simple principles you can use throughout your lifting life.

  1. HIIT vs steady state - Throw out the research for a minute and remember that conditioning is for heart health, and overall well being.  When you're in shape, you feel awesome.  And feeling awesome, is awesome.  Yes, they can both help you get leaner, but abs are made in the kitchen.
  2. You really can't out train a shitty diet - Not only that, why would you want to?  Eat like a champion would, and you'll get closer to looking like a champion.  Best of all, you'll feel like a champion.
  3. Sleep is your most natural restorative process - Make sure it's just as big of a priority as your training, dieting, and programming.  
  4. Your lifting should primarily be made up of barbell and dumbbell work - Machines can have a place but free weights offer more training economy.  
  5. Unless you are missing both legs, you should be squatting - Not much else to say here.  Stop making excuses and get a barbell on your back.  
  6. There's no such thing as an inherently dangerous movement - All movements are dangerous when performed improperly.  This doesn't apply to movements done on uneven surfaces.  You should never be standing on swiss balls to strength train.  If you're a circus clown...ok.
  7. Give every program a fair chance - Program hopping is the best way to find out that there isn't a simple program out there that works for you.  If you're going to give a program a try, give it an honest one.  6 weeks minimum.
  8. You can't stay lean and get huge - This doesn't mean you need to turn into Mr. 40" waist either.  But if you're holding on to a very low degree of bodyfat and won't give that up, don't expect muscle to pile on either.
  9. Do an equal amount of pulling work for your push work - If you are doing a total of 100 reps of pushing work in the training week, then you should be doing at least 100 reps of pulling work in that week as well.  It's important to keep muscular balance between antagonist groups to avoid injury and weak support muscle groups.  
  10. Work towards performance goals to fulfill physique goals - If you want a bigger back, improve your chin ups.  If you want bigger legs improve your squats.  If you want bigger arms, set goals to press and curl more.  If you increase the performance ability the physique improvement will come.
  11. Learn the difference in moving weight, and making muscles work - Moving weight means making the body work in a synergistic fashion to move the barbell through space.  Making the muscles work means you are cognizant of making certain muscle groups stretch and contract against the resistance.  They both have their place and are important.  Use them appropriately. 
  12. Be open to constructive criticism - Learn the difference in destructive criticism and constructive criticism.  One is there to be ignored and one is there to make you better.  Don't dismiss ideas, concepts, and arguments because of dogmatism and short sightedness.  
  13. Don't try to ride two horses with one ass - Trying to be good at a whole bunch of things at once is called Crossfit.  If you're more interested in getting stronger and growing more muscle mass as the main goals, narrow down your training to meet those goals.  Trying to get good at 17 different things means you will probably be about average at each.  Narrowing it down to 3 things means you have a much better shot at becoming great at those.
  14. Don't fret bad training sessions - It's going to happen.  Remind yourself of this fact.  A bad training session here and there is usually an indicator that progress is being made, because your body is downregulating performance.  Progress isn't always linear.  If progress has been oncoming and steady, then eventually you will overreach on the recovery curve (fatigue now outweighs recovery).  Your body is smarter than you are.  When you feel weaker than usual, and everything feels awful....LISTEN.  Pushing through one of those sessions is a recipe to get injured.   
  15. 80/10/10 - In regards to #14, remember that 80% of the session you perform will be run of the mill, "get the work in" type training.  10% will suck, and 10% will be awesome.  Believe it or not, those 80% sessions are the most important.  Those are the building blocks that create a base of strength and performance.  Don't get too elated about the awesome ones, and don't let the bad ones think you suck.  
  16. Set realistic goals - If you just squatted 405 for the first time, don't set a goal to squat 450 in the next six months.  Set a realistic goal in a realistic time frame that will give feedback that your training is on point.  Adding 5 pounds, just five pounds, every 6 weeks to a lift means you would have increased that lift by roughly 40 pounds in a year.  That's a massive gain in a year by just concentrating on the small goals.  
  17. Enjoy your time off - When life calls, listen.  Lifting should be what you do, not who you are.  Break your diet on special occasions.  Take time off from the gym for holidays and vacations.  A better quality of life generally means better training.  Don't deprive yourself of enjoying life because of the barbell.  The weights will be there waiting for you when you get back.  Life is fleeting.  Enjoy it.
  18. Don't get complacent - The best thing you can do to ensure that your progress dies is to be too satisfied with what you have accomplished.  If you don't desire to be any better and are happy with where you are at, then you have no worries.  Because you won't improve or get better.  But if you're not happy with where you are at, and progress has stalled for a long time, ask yourself if you've simply been complacent because of prior achievements.  Lots of times people get very happy with success, and then have trouble achieving more.  If training and progress have been in the shitter, take a long and honest look at the work you've been putting in and ask yourself if it's really been enough.  
  19. Believe in yourself - This is paramount if you are to overcome the many hurdles you will encounter in training.  If you don't believe you can do something, you won't.  The very start of getting past a plateau is finding the ability to summon up enough self belief, and eradicating self doubt, so that in your mind it becomes possible.  Achievable.  "Whatever I think about all day, I become."  Don't think about becoming a failure, or you will be one.  Think about becoming a bad ass Viking stud muffin or Warrior Goddess.  No, you won't become one, because it's metaphorical.  But you get what I'm saying......
  20. Learn to be patient - This one can be very hard.  But this is a lifetime journey.  Not "6 weeks to a bikini/beach body."  As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.  Enjoy the struggles as they will teach you more than your victories.  Then savor your victories and rise up for the next challenge.  
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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Kick off the new year by kicking ass

Well it's almost that time.

You know, the new years stuff. Everyone is going to pack into gyms for the start of the year with renewed vigor and energy to get lean, swole, strong, firm, toned, jacked, awesome, etc so forth and so on.

The problem is, most people end up last about 3-6 weeks before their vigor hits the "empty" mark on the gas tank, and those 6 days a week in the gym dwindle to 5, then 3, then 2....then somehow, negative days in the gym.

A big problem with that is people go in with long term goals to change their body with short term minds and short term plans.

A couple of years ago, I created LRB 365 for this very purpose.

It's a 365 day plan (for those that don't math, that's the entire year) to get leaner, stronger, bigger, more conditioned over the course of the year.

365 contains the following -

- A phase for mass gain
- A phase for conditioning and fat loss
- A phase for strength peaking
- Two sample diets depending on your goals
- A spreadsheet that makes all of your programming easy as pie

It's $10.

If you don't compete, but still want to end up looking more awesome by the end of 2015 than you did at the end of 2014, throw the $10 at it and make 2015 a priority towards doing so.

Or don't. And continue to ask questions all over the net with no direction and spin your wheels for another year.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Poliquin/Klokov round 2 - Top 5 reasons to go

A couple of months ago, I was privileged enough to be asked by Charles Poliquin to attend a seminar he and Dmitry Klokov would be putting on in Montreal.

Let me say that in 25 years of being involved with the barbell, this was easily the most awesome experience I've had in that time.

Charles and Dmitry left from Montreal to finish the tour in Australia and it apparently was just as big of a hit there as it was in Montreal.

Because of that, there is going to be Poliquin/Klokov round 2 for 2015.

Here is the link.....

My top 5 reasons to attend this seminar are as follows:

1.  You get a chance to learn from the best in the world

Charles has been at this since the Pangaea broke apart.  His depth of knowledge really is astounding in ways that blew my mind.  If you are an athlete, and want to know how strong you need to be at certain movements to improve certain athletic measurements, Charles can tell you.  And not from conjecture.  But from decades and millions and millions and millions of years of collecting data from the world's best athletes.

Dmitry is a silver Olympic medalist, and all around freak.  But he's also incredibly smart in regards to technique and programming structure.  Let me also add that Dmitry is a very hands on guy with everyone he works with.  So you're not going to attend and go through some movements and have him gloss over what you're doing right, and what you're doing wrong.  He gave each person a TON of hands on personal attention.  And if you're a female, I'm sure you'd appreciate that.

2.  You will get to witness some freaky shit

You know those stories you hear about shit in lifting where you roll your eyes because they seem too stupid to be true?  Well, that's what happened at this seminar.  Except that I got to see it in person, with my own eyes.

Everything from Dmitry doing 405-440 pound push presses 15 minutes after waking up, to Charles increasing mobility through only what I can call "witchcraft".  He literally improved my and Dmitry's shoulder mobility by doing some painful shit to our ears.

Trust me, you don't want to miss either of these things.

3.  Mobility and injury prevention

One of the unique things about attending this seminar to me was how both Charles and Dmitry went about teaching mobility and injury prevention.  Charles knows a ton about improving mobility for the lifts, and Dmitry have a lot of very unique ways to approach things like warming up, and "foam rolling".  And by foam rolling, I mean using a barbell to hurt yourself.

4.  Exchange of knowledge and information 

Another aspect of this seminar that was incredibly cool was actually watching the exchange of information between Charles and Dmitry.  Despite the fact that both have been at this for a very long time, both guys are very open to learning from other people and each other.

This is really the sign, as far as I'm concerned, that you're dealing with two very intelligent and well experienced individuals.  We can't know everything.  And I have often found that the people with the least amount of knowledge believe they know the most.  And the people who tend to know more than most, are always the most eager to learn more.

It was awesome to watch Charles and Dmitry teach each other throughout the seminar and not just the students.

5.  Because it's awesome

Not sure what else to say.  Getting the chance to spend a week with two people in the industry that really admire and look up to was one of the highlights of my lifting career.  If not THE highlight of it.  There's literally no way you won't walk away from the seminar light years ahead of where you are now in terms of knowledge, skill, and improvement.

All in all, don't miss it.  You will absolutely not walk away disappointed at all, and I can promise you that you will feel like it was the best training investment you ever made.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Early Christmas sale!


25% off EVERYTHING (except e-books)

So I know that everyone is Christmas shopping and that shit can drain your pockets. Especially if you have kids, or a woman you managed to snag that is way out of your league (I'm joking!).

So I'm dropping this Christmas sale on your early and going 25% off everything in the sto' until Monday.

Some new shit in the store you may not have seen.

- Ladies skull socks
- Chalk
- Straps
- Ladies and doods drawstring bags (I use this myself for my chalk, elbow wraps, wrist wraps, straps, etc)
- Long sleeve mens and ladies


Coupon Code W14JZ70Z146TUC

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No bullshit, no frills powerlifting split

I swear to Christ almighty, no matter how simplified you make a program now, people will still have questions about it.

No matter how much detail you lay out for them, they always seem to not understand something, or want to know if they can substitute one movement for another movement.

I can understand wanting to know if you can substitute a machine movement because your gym doesn't have one, or you don't have access to one.  But I've seen even the most basic routines and programs beat to shit over questions.

I think people like to ponder over training routines than actually use them.  Like a group of fancy pants at a interior design expo where they make remarkable comments over paintings and vases, but never buy a god damn thing or actually decorate a single room anywhere.

One of the reasons why people have so many questions is because there are so many options now.  Forgotten in all of those options are that they are called assistance or support movements for a reason.  Picking great support movements is important.  Let's be clear on that.  However worrying about weak points when you're squatting 3 wheels and benching two is flat out bullshit.  You just need to get stronger and stop worrying about making your training more complicated than it has to be.

Don't chase the 5% all the while ignoring the 95%.  And that 95% is just really basic shit.

I blame myself, partly.  I write quite a bit about offseason training, peaking, and other matters that can and do convolute and confuse the average bloke who just wants to push more weight.  I write about these things because they do pertain to my own training, and other advanced guys training.

However the be-all end-all in all of this bullshit is really simple.  Squat a lot, bench a lot, do some bodybuilding stuff that is simple, and repeat that each week for a very long fucking time.

If you want proof of that, look no further than Gillian.  She's a brute and absolute monster and all she does is squat all day, bench all day, climb monkey ropes, overhead presses, does chins, and dips.

All of this shit in bunches.

Then you have dudes that weigh more than her still benching less than her after 5 years of training because they have spent so much time fucking around with "weak points" and bands and chains and totally forget that there is no substitute for a LOT of hard work.

So let's cut through the bullshit and for one time make this really simple.

Day 1 - Squat
Squats - Base Building Model III
Abs - Sit ups - 5 sets of 25

Day 2 - Bench
Bench Press - Base Building Model III
Hammer Curls - 4 sets of 20

Day 3 - Squat assistance and deadlift
Front Squats - Base Building Model I
Deadlifts - Base Building Model based on your max

Day 4 - Bench Assistance 
Overhead Press of any sort - 4 sets of 6 working up to a top set
Chins - 5 sets of 5 (weighted if you're strong enough to do 20, bodyweight only if not)
Dips - 4 sets of as many as possible

Some overall notes about this.

  • No you can't change anything.
  • No you can't change anything.
  • No you can't substitute something for something else.  All of these movements should be able to be done pain free.  If something truly does hurt, just drop it.  
  • No you can't take out something 
  • No you can't change some rep and set ranges
  • Yes you can do it exactly as written
  • Yes you can run this program for months on end.
  • If you can't squat, bench, and deadlift pain free, then you're probably not powerlifting.
  • Yes you can run this in the offseason or for peaking.  I mean, all three lifts are included.  Peaking and offseason is more about your programming if all three lifts are included.
  • You can split up days between as you see fit.  So if you want to train three days a week, and do day 4 on the following week, that's cool.
  • Set a good everyday max (EDM).  And base your big three programming around that.  Focus on improving speed, and not missing reps.  Always leave one in the tank.  
  • For the support work, progress as needed.  Remember, it's assistance/support.  Treat it like a supplement.  Don't major in the minors.  Get stronger on your support work but don't fret over it.  Get the work in and call it a day.
  • With that said, it's still ok to have some goals on support/assistance work to keep you focused so that you're not just fucking around.
  • Use fatigue singles occasionally when you're having a +10% day.  If you're destroying your fatigue singles at each testing, bump your EDM by 5% and reprogram.  
  • No you don't need to squat 12,402 times a week or bench that many times a week to get stronger.  There's this fad going around now where apparently, you need to do the lifts a million times a week to improve.  The big three are not overly technical lifts.  It's not olympic lifting.  Yes they do need practice, but they have a bigger need for stimulation and then recovery than practice.  
  • Have fun.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Spine stabilization in the squat

I've seen guys that apparently are in a position of teaching and authority talk about squatting and pulling and giving some really bad cues in regards to stabilization with them.

"Chest up! Arch!"

This is wrong.

The most protective thing you can do when you squat or deadlift is to stabilize the spine. You cannot do this without core stabilization. So if you think "chest up, arch your back!" is correct, then get in that position/posture, and push on your abdominal wall.

Is it rock fucking hard, or soft? It's soft.

Is that stabilization?


You create that stabilization through the core and spine by pushing down and out through the obliques and abdominals. I can't remember who I told, but the "cue" (if you can't feel how to do this) is almost like when you're constipated and have to push real hard to take a shit. That's not spot on, but if you can't "feel" what that stabilization is through breathing and muscular contraction, then this will at least get you started in the right direction.

Furthermore, when the load gets heavy enough in a squat, you're probably not going to be able to hold an exaggerated "chest out! arch!" position. What happens after that? Your torso will cave because there isn't sufficient stabilization to support it.

So now you've been teaching yourself and practicing a position that isn't applicable to how you need to move heavier loads. And anytime you're practicing a position of technique that isn't applicable to your heavier/higher intensities, something can and will probably go wrong. This is why a lot of people who have an exaggerated arch when squatting get caved over when the load gets heavy. They haven't learned how to properly support that load in a correct position.

Ignore the "arch your back! get your chest out!" stuff, and learn how to stabilize your core and spine properly. This means you generally end up with a neutral spine in both squatting and deadlifting.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Everything does NOT work

In every interweb battle about training or nutrition, there will be dogmatic people who will refuse to budge on their stance regardless of how much anecdotal or scientific proof is presented to them.  This is because it's very hard for some people to admit they are wrong, especially after mounting a keyboard attack in defense of their position that left their fingers smoldering.

These discussions rarely end with someone yielding to their "opponent" and they either bow out by not responding anymore or cling to a simple truth that undermines the whole truth of a debate.

But I can respect that.  Even if it's ignorance, I can respect someone with passion about their belief.  I didn't say I respect ignorance, just the passion.  LOL I can respect someone more than is willing to change their opinion or position based on being confronted with new truths or evidence.

But you know what I can't respect?  The people who just stand around, or write articles where they essentially aren't ever "wrong", but they aren't ever really right either.  Because they establish a stronghold in "everyman's land" where they sort of agree with everyone all at once.

These usually tend to be the same people that spout of such garbage as "everything works."  Or the even more nutless approach to it all.  "everything works to a degree."

What degree?  And what is everything?  And if everything works, why aren't we all doing everything and why don't we stop trying identify real working principles of training and nutrition if "everything works."?

"I want to improve my bench."

"Do dumbbell flyes with 5 pound dumbbells."

If you're an "everything works" guy, before you jump back in protest, you have to remember that you are the one thinking and speaking in absolutes.


I'm still at a loss.  What the fuck does that even mean?

"What it means is, everything will work to some degree for a little while."

Oh thanks for continuing to be even more ambiguous and refusing to actually take a hard stance on anything or give a concrete opinion.

No, everything (whatever everything is) does not work.  Doing pilates isn't going to make you super fucking strong.

Neither will training one time a week.

Neither will training 40 times a week.

"But you're getting extreme, Paul!"

No I'm not.  That's the fancy part about using absolutes like that.  When you say EVERYTHING it means........well, EVERYTHING.

And everything does not work, and everything is not a viable solution to training problems.

One of the biggest facets of carving out a productive training plan is to have very specific goals.  Without them, how are you going to decide what the best course of action is?  You're just going to throw some shit together and go train?  You're going to wing it?  Do the ol Weider muscle confusion and instinctive training principles?  Is that where you're at?

After more than 60 years of strength experimenting there are some things we do know that works, and some things we know that don't work, or works very poorly.  There is a reason why certain types of athletes, strength athletes, bodybuilders, etc all eventually gravitate towards certain training paradigms.  It's because....(drum roll)....there are generally a narrow subset of ways to be efficient in training.

There are general rules that have to be met, or training won't be productive.

To get bigger or stronger, progressive overload has to be accomplished.  There's no way around this concept.  If you want to get bigger or stronger this principle must be adhered to.

At some point, you need to do one of the following....

  • Lift the same weight for more reps
  • Lift more weight for more reps than the lesser intensity
  • Lift more weight for more reps
  • Do more volume
  • Do less volume if you have overreached (deloading) 
  • Lift a weight that has a high RPE at a lower RPE (rate of perceived exertion) 
There's probably more here, but you get the point.  Over time, you must demand that your body be capable of doing more work than it was capable of before.  The body getting stronger or bigger is essentially a survival mechanism or reaction to the stimulus being applied to it.  Fibers get thicker and/or stronger to account for the stress being placed on it.  

At some point, if you want to get good at something, you need to do that thing.  This specifically applies to competitive strength athletes.  The S.A.I.D principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) has to be adhered to.  

This is why a lot of geared methodologies failed for so many.  Box squats won't develop your back squat.  This is not me shitting on box squats.  Box squats can be a useful tool even for raw guys.  But it shouldn't be used to develop your competition squat, or your back squat in general.  You need to, you know, do regular squats for that.  

No amount of rowing or hyperextensions or ab work or whatever is going to develop your deadlift if you aren't deadlifting.  You have to practice the movement.  

I will give a great example of this from my own perspective.  

This past offseason I deadlifted very little.  I did a ton of deficit stiff legged deadlifts.  This was on purpose.  I wanted to really strengthen my posterior chain and I feel like deficit stiff legs do that for me better than regular deadlifts.  I also get a tremendous amount of carryover from stiff legs to deadlifts.

However because I did not do many deadlifts, or didn't deadlift for a long time until meet prep time, once I did start pulling regular deadlifts again I did not feel especially strong at them.  This wasn't because I wasn't stronger in my posterior chain.  I was.  I took my stiff legged deadlift from 550 for 4-5 reps to 605 for 3 reps.  Indeed, I got much stronger.  However the motor cortext wasn't primed for regular deadlifting.  I had not been practicing the movement.  Thus when I did deadlift again, I felt slower and less efficient than usual. 

On the flip side of this, after just two or three deadlifting sessions my deadlift speed skyrocketed and I ended up pulling a fairly easy 700 at my meet.  This was indeed my plan all along.  Get stronger using a "like" movement to the deadlift, build the posterior chain (make it stronger), then spend a cycle working on the deadlift to take advantage of that.    

I knew the first few weeks of deadlifting would in fact feel shitty because of all these reasons.  So I was prepared for that.  I'm completely aware of the importance performing the movement to get good at it.  For me however, deadlifts tend to ramp up very fast, then bog down or even regress at times.  So I only need to deadlift for a few weeks before it tends to peak out in performance.  

What I'm getting at here is, you have to understand your own body in regards to how it applies to the S.A.I.D. principle, but it must be adhered to at some point in order for you to improve at that thing.  Had I not pulled from the floor at all leading up to the meet, I doubt I have pulled worth a shit at all.  Even though my hamstrings, back, traps, and erectors were all clearly stronger, the movement itself had to be trained.  

So with all of that bullshit out of the way, back to "everything works".  

People say this to be polite, or to agree with basically everyone all at once.  Even if it means contradicting themselves.  

Certain principles work.  And work well for what they are intended to help the lifter accomplish.

Certain principles don't work well, or won't work at all depending on the goals of the lifter.  

And certain things just don't work.  What I mean is, you don't comprise a routine made up of machines if you intend to do a Crossfit competition.  

Saying "everything works to a degree" is like saying "all cars work" or "all cars work to a degree".  Well all cars don't work, but driving a 1979 Pinto isn't ideal if you're trying to win a professional rally race or even maintain life on the road for an extended period.  

If you want to reach your training goals in the quickest and most efficient manner as possible then you need to search out what course of action looks best for that.  Applying the "everything works" mentality is a great way to not understand why you are doing all the things you are doing.  And knowing those things are paramount in regards to getting past plateaus and routine design.  

Understand why you are doing what you are doing in training, and the purposes behind all of those things.  Taking the stance of "everything works" is a terrible mentality to bring to your own table if you want to find the most efficient method to accomplish a task.

"Everything works."

And nothing works if it isn't applicable to the goal trying to be reached.