Saturday, October 31, 2015

For maximum rage, take creatine

I honestly can't believe I am sitting here writing this.

I really can't.

However because of the fact that the media coverage of some cop slinging a young girl around in a classroom has become a major news story, I am annoyed enough to do so.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, apparently a policeman was called into a classroom to remove an unruly student with a cell phone.  He lost his shit on her, and ended up slinging her all over the place in order to remove her.

I'm not getting into the debate about his behavior.  The issue now, that the media is running with, is that his rage was caused, or possibly caused, by creatine.

And here we fucking go again.

This reminds me of the witch hunt done with ephedrine years ago.

In case you don't remember why or when it was banned, there was a similar kick off (pun intended here) due to the death of an NFL player named Korey Stringer.  Who died of heatstroke after practice.


Ephedrine was found in his locker, but actually wasn't in his system when the autopsy was done.  These facts of course, did not keep the media from their ensuing witch hunt to make it appear as if taking ephedrine was right on par with free basing cocaine in regards to your health.

Completely ignoring the fact that at that time, millions of people took ephedrine for weight loss without any serious health issues.  Me being one of them.

Stringer died in 2003.  Ephedrine was banned in 2004 after the media ramrodded us with story after story of teens basically taking ephedrine and making it appear as if they all suddenly dropped dead faster than a Cambodian villager captured by the Khmer Rouge.

Never fucking mind that ephedrine was used for thousands of years by the Chinese.  However this didn't stop the New England Journal of Medicine to essentially declare ephedrine unsafe based on a total of...brace yourselves...10 deaths related to it over a two years span.

Ten.  Over two years.

Do you know how many die each year from a vending machine falling on top of them?

Around 10-13.

About 11 people die each year from firework accidents.

Can someone tell me why people are still allowed to get Skittles from the vending machine at work, but can't run down to the GNC and grab some old school Ripped Fuel?  Because this confuses me.

For anyone who says the media doesn't have power in regards to our freedom, you are either willfully ignorant or flat out stupid.  They are the driving force in most cases behind how and why OTC supplements end up being off the counter supplements.

But fuck that, let's really shed some light on things.

"It has been estimated conservatively that 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur among patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis every year in the United States. This figure is similar to the number of deaths from the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and considerably greater than the number of deaths from multiple myeloma, asthma, cervical cancer, or Hodgkin’s disease. If deaths from gastrointestinal toxic effects from NSAIDs were tabulated separately in the National Vital Statistics reports, these effects would constitute the 15th most common cause of death in the United States. Yet these toxic effects remain mainly a “silent epidemic,” with many physicians and most patients unaware of the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore the mortality statistics do not include deaths ascribed to the use of over-the-counter NSAIDS." (Wolfe M. MD, Lichtenstein D. MD, and Singh Gurkirpal, MD, “Gastrointestinal Toxicity of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs”, The New England Journal of Medicine,a June 17, 1999, Vol. 340, No. 24, pp. 1888-1889.)
16,500 deaths.  Related to NSAID drugs.

No witch hunt.

10 deaths over 2 years from ephedrine...a drug used for thousands of years in a safe and effective manner.  Completely unsafe and kills teens faster than Jason does at Camp Crystal Lake.

Seems legit.

Now, and don't take this lightly, there will be another long hard look at creatine.  Because this is how our politicians should be using out time and money.  To look at supplements that have been proven through countless studies to be safe and effective, and determine if they should remove them off the shelves.

And they would be doing so because why?

Creatine rage.

Sit down, take a deep breath, exhale, and let that sink in for a minute.


I don't want to get too sciency here but let's look at what creatine is, or does in your body when you take it.

Creatine, once ingested (I assume he hadn't gone full creatine injection route and was shooting it up...that's sarcasm) arrives at the muscle cells and gets converted into creatine phosphate.  Creatine phosphate then gets broken down into ATP which is used during short, explosive muscular contractions.

Once ATP is depleted, your body will then convert glycogen stored in the muscle to make more ATP.
The conversion of glycogen to ATP is much longer than that of creatine phosphate to ATP.  This is why using creatine, which creates a larger pool of creatine phosphate to be created to ATP, works so well in regards to increasing strength.

Creatine is nothing more than a supplement that gets converted into a fuel used by the body for contractile power.

That's it.

The chance of someone having "rage" from taking creatine is the same as someone having rage from carb loading from eating too many doughnuts.  There is literally no physiological link between creatine and it having the ability to make people angry.

Gotta get that creatine fix by any means necessary 

We're talking creatine here, people.  Not halotestin.  Not PCP.

This of course won't stop people from using "I did a creatine load the night before I killed my family" excuse to justify or rationalize their actions and behaviors.  And of course, if this ever reaches congress due to the media having nothing better to do than cover the Kardashians, then it is possible that just like in the death of Stringer, it could get pulled off the shelves due to it possibly having the potential to cause good cops to beat up high school students, and people to go on homicidal rampages.  Nevermind the fact that millions of people use creatine every year without beating the shit out of their family or roommates.   That won't matter.  What will matter is people will need an excuse for their shitty behavior and a scapegoat will be found for it.

In the meantime, people won't actually take the time out to look at the fact that creatine is the most studied OTC supplement of all time, and that it's never once been found to be anything but safe and effective at what it's supposed to do.  No, what they will do is see this cop yanking around a kid in school and go "Johnnie, you can't take creatine.  It causes rage and homicidal behavior."

I wish that was a scenario made up in my head, but that conversation is going to happen at sometime, somewhere in a GNC store in the near future.


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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Online vs real life coaching - the real scoop

Online coaching has become a big service in this modern age.

There it is - my captain obvious statement for the whole blog post right off the bat.

But for serious, there's a million "online coaches" now and virtually everyone offers a service for meal plans, training, supplementation, how to get laid, whatever.

Of course, the market is saturated because all it takes to know how to train someone or do a diet for someone is enter a single competition after a few months of training and you're good to go.  If you somehow find time on a weekend to get a certification you're even more legit than the next guy/gal who did the same fucking thing.

Not only that, but as an online coach myself, who rarely advertises his services (because I'm a shitty salesman), watching from the outside (I guess I'd actually be on the inside?) I see a lot of chest beating about how superior one guy's services are, compared to the rest.

"Why are you going to these online coaches that offer up cookie cutter programs?  I do custom programming that is tailored to your body, bra size, hair length, BLAH BLAH BLAH."  

This is literally the catch phrase I see over and over again from guys offering online coaching.  Personally, what it says to me is you're really trying to shit on other people to make your services look more appealing.

I suppose that's a part of marketing.  I also think it's horseshit.

First off, not everyone needs "custom" training programs.

There I said it.  Going against the grain, and also calling out some of this bullshit I keep reading.

The qualifications of the liter/athlete will determine what he or she really needs.

A rank beginner or intermediate level lifter needs a "specially customized program" about as much as Whitney Houston needed that last line of coke before bathtime.

In fact, most guys aren't elite enough that they need very customized programming.  Starting guys out on a base template then massaging that template from there, works quite well actually.

Then what do you end up with?  Something custom based on the feedback you are getting from them each week.

Generally speaking, if you know your template, and have made it work for tons of people, then you also know how to massage it to make it work for different people.  I love how certain online coaches say "we're not all special snowflakes" then proceed to say "I do CUSTOM programs.  Not cookie cutter bullshit that other guys are doing."

Well which is it?

So somehow you end up with the special snowflakes?  It is close to Christmas I suppose.  Some neighbors even have lights up already and it's not even Halloween.  Can you believe that shit?  I mean you might as well just put them up after Labor Day at this point.  Or just leave them up all year.  I left my Christmas tree up once until Summer.  The kids told me I should decorate it for every holiday that came along to make the house more "festive".  I thought about it, then realized they were mocking me and took it down the next weekend.

I know how to raise a smart ass.

On the flip side, if the athlete is very elite, then yes, they probably need something more in depth than a base template.  However, this requires a lot of feedback from the athlete to even create such a program.  A beginner or intermediate, or even guys who "think" they are advanced don't often know enough about their body or how to execute movements properly, to give that much feedback.  So you fix those issues first, and start them out with a base.  Not sitting down and writing out a program for 10 hours for someone that can't squat 315.

I've made countless of people better using templates.  So has John Meadows.  So has tons of very good, qualified online coaches.  Again, if you want a guy to end up with a custom program that is REALLY fit for him or her, and they are not exceptionally gifted or elite, then you always massage it as you go along.  Then they HAVE a custom program.  But it starts with a "base".  And even if the program is customized to start, it generally needs massaging as you go.  So what is the difference?  The program is going to change as you go regardless.  How much depends on how the trainee is progressing.

Same goes for diets.  Most of the top coaches start from base templates.  They aren't sitting down and writing out how much tilapia you'll have at 2 P.M. then how many ounces of broccoli to go along with it.  No.  They have a "base" they work from, and massage it from there, based on your progression.  You think a guy with 200 online clients doesn't have templates?  Seriously.

At the heart of it all, doing someone's diet is the easiest part.  Generally when the client fails, more often than not, it's because of their lack of discipline to adhere to said diet.  Is this always the case?  Of course not.  But if a coach has a string of success behind him there will be some stragglers that come along that simply do not adhere to what their coach has told them, then say their services were sub-par.

On the flip side, I see a lot of guys that do in person training bashing online coaching.  I will agree with them that to an extent, in person coaching has a ton more advantages over online coaching.  You can really fix a lot more problems with someone in person than online, even if you have video.  You get to know the person on a more personal level.  Although that can have drawbacks too.  Like dealing with all of their personal problems that they inevitably bring into the training session.  And if you're with someone long enough, that will most likely happen.  Now you're not only a trainer, you're a therapist.  Something you're probably not qualified to be one since you know, you're teaching them how to lift weights and scold them for sneaking a Snicker's bar when they aren't supposed to have one.

But in-person coaches shit on online coaches for the same reason online coaches shit on other online coaches.  To make one seem more credible than the other.  And that's horseshit too.

Truthfully, there's great in person coaches, and shitty in person coaches.  And there's great online coaches, and shitty ones.  I mean this is how everything in life works.  It's not limited to teaching people how to build a better body or move more weight.  You can insert this into every career on the face of the planet.

"There's great doctors, who save lives.  And shitty doctors who leave the scissors in your stomach as they sew you back up."

"There's great porn stars, and shitty ones who make your libido crash and die faster than walking in on your grandma and grandpa getting it on."

Or maybe you're into that.  I'm not judging.  Maybe I am in this case.  Because if that IS your thing, then seek immediate psychological attention.  You should never ever get turned on by seeing that.  So if you happen to be the person that does, and you're reading this, look for 5 star therapists in your area and book an appointment immediately.

Now where was I....

Oh yeah, in person vs online coaching and shit vs non-shit.

As for in person guys shitting on online coaching, you can walk into 100% of the gyms in the nation and find shitty in person coaches in there.  Or you can find someone who really knows their shit.  So in that regard, this is no different than online coaches either.

I am going to leave at this -

What all of it boils down to, is results.

Whether you spend 19 hours writing out a guys program (Freddie's programs generally take my half a day to write out because well, he's an IFBB champion) or whether or not you use a base template and massage it from there, what matters with coaching is one thing.


Does your online or in person coach get results from the majority of his or her clients on a consistent basis?

If the answer is yes, then the methods he uses aren't worth debating over.  Are they?

If the coach doesn't get results from the majority of his or her clients on a consistent basis, then they could spend 19 days writing something out, and it's of little relevance.  Who cares about how long it took someone to write out a diet or program if it doesn't produce results?

Your coach should have a lot of these to show you

I've seen tons of articles about what makes someone qualified and there's always some list of shit that honestly, doesn't matter if the coach isn't getting results with clients.

How strong you are, or how much weight you can lift has zero relevance on how great of a coach you are.

What someone totalled on the platform doesn't make them a good or bad coach.  What matters is, do they make the lifters they are training better?  Yes or no?   That's it.  Nothing else need be asked.

Does the in-person or online coach get their bodybuilder/figure/fitness/bikini/tuxedo get results, and put their clients in the best possible position to win?  Yes or no?

There is no list of "this is what your coach needs in order to be qualified."

It's easy.  Ask to see their success stories.  Either they have them, or they don't.  All the pre-sales hype bullshit means nothing without tangible results.  And all of the certifications and degrees in the world mean nothing without results.

To quote my friend and "coach", Trevor Kashey..."produce or shut the fuck up."  

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Supercompensation: More muscle, less fat...all of the fatigue

Over a year ago I made the decision to shift my training and my entire training mentality in a new direction.  

I wanted to get leaner again, and put strength as a primary factor to the side for a while.  However the idea of doing a bunch of cardio was not very appealing to me as my wheels were spinning about how I would lay this new plan out.

Let me be clear, I think conditioning is important.  And if you really desire to get down to single digit bodyfat levels I think it's very difficult to do that without conditioning of some sort, unless you're very genetically gifted. 

Luckily, as I was beginning the process of all of this I was in Australia with John Meadows, and John said something one day in passing about cardio and getting lean that made a light bulb go off.

He talked about the fact that so many guys do so much cardio before a show that by the time the show comes around, they are stringy and flat.  His exact quote at the time was "do you want to look like a guy that does a lot of cardio, or a guy that lifts weights a lot?"  

I already knew the answer to that question, and thus the answer to how I would go about my body recomposition revealed itself.  

I would simply increase my training volume and frequency.  

If you've paid attention to my other articles, one of the principles I adhere to about growing and meeting the demands for recovery is that your frequency, volume, and intensity can't all be maximal at the same time.  You pick two of the three, then downregulate the third.  

Seeing as how I knew I would be training more often, with a high degree of volume, I knew I would be scaling back the amount of weight I would be slapping on the bar.  

This did not mean that I would be training "easy" or "light".  You don't have to train "heavy" (which is a relative term for everyone) in order to train hard.  You don't even need to train heavy in order to grow.  You need the maximum amount of tension generated in every rep, set, and session that you can create, with the appropriate amount of weight.  

So make no mistake, you cannot train "light" and grow.  If you can curl 100 pounds for 10 easy reps, no matter how hard you contract your biceps on those 10 reps, if you never add weight to impose new demands that stimulate the fibers to grow via exertion, then your biceps aren't going to grow.  So at the end of the day, tension and resistance work hand in hand to compliment each other for maximum muscle growth.  

But there comes a point where weight on the bar isn't always as important as a lot of people make it out to be, when it comes to growing muscle.  

The breakover point - 

Which brings me to talking about something I ended up calling "the breakover point".  This is a term I use to describe where you go from using the absolute maximal amount of weight you can, while keeping the highest degree of tension on a specific area, to using more than that, and lose maximal tension for the muscle you are trying to target.  What happens in this instance is that other muscle groups must now kick in and become more involved/active in order to perform the movement, thus actually taking away tension from the targeted area.

I will give you an example of this -

Let's say you are doing side laterals with the 30 pound dumbbells, and you feel all of the tension in the medial deltoids.  Your form is perfect, and every rep feels spot on.  For the next set, you jump to the 40's.  Now suddenly, you have to flex your traps to start the rep, and bend forward at the waist to use some momentum to get the movement started.  Now your concentration has gone from feeling the medial delts working, to moving the weight from point A to point B.  Despite the fact that you are using more weight, there is actually less tension in the area you are trying to target.  

This means once you picked up the 40's, you crossed the breakover point.

The breakover point is what you want to avoid when you want to use maximal weights for maximal tension.  If we want tension to be maximized in a particular area, then it means we want to minimize the amount of activation by the other muscles involved in the movement.  

It is true that you cannot totally isolate off a muscle.  Other muscles will always be involved, but the degree to which that happens depends on how you execute the movement, and the amount of weight you use for your working sets.

This is why training for maximum muscle growth, and maximal strength aren't as related as people think they are.  

Training to move maximal poundages means whole body synergy.  You want as much whole body tension as possible, so that as much muscle as possible is engaged in moving the weight.  This way, the tension is dispersed across a greater amount of muscle, thus allowing you to lift more.

If you are trying to grow maximum muscle mass, and are trying to target specific areas with certain movements, then you need the greatest amount of tension from that movement going into that particular area.  And this will actually mean less weight on the bar than if you are trying to involve the whole body in the movement.  

So this downregulates "intensity" (weight on the bar) in a natural fashion.  

However this does not mean that your perceived intensity has to go down.  You still need to train hard, but with a combination of the greatest amount of weight you can use to create maximal tension, without crossing the breakover point.  

Since weight on the bar would be lowered, that left me with upping the frequency, and volume.

This was the first key component in regards to me setting up my new training. 

Build volume and frequency slowly - 

If there is one major mistake I see novice or inexperienced lifters make when they decide to make changes to their routines, it's that they overhaul everything at one time.  Always starting on a Monday of course, because that's when we start new diets, routines, and dating new people.  

On Monday.

Even if today is Monday, it will start next Monday.  That's just how this works.

But I knew I couldn't go from training on average 3 days a week, to 7 days a week (which was the goal) starting on "Monday".  

So I made it very simple.  For the first two weeks I trained four days a week.  Then the next two weeks I trained 5 days a week.  The next two weeks I added in a sixth day, then finally by the last two weeks of the second month, I was training seven days a week.

So starting at week 1 for the first two months, my frequency looked like so - 

Weeks 1 and 2 -  4 days a week
Weeks 3 and 4 - 5 days a week
Weeks 5 and 6 - 6 days a week
Weeks 7 and 8 - 7 days a week

My volume on a session by session basis did not change much during this time.  The first two weeks I did one bodypart a day.  I would do four to six movements per session, for between 4-6 sets for approximately 8-12 reps after warm ups.  My movements varied quite often because I didn't want to go stale doing the same exercises every week.  I also knew this would be an important factor once the other parts of my plan started getting put into place.

Generally my split was like so - 

Day 1 - Legs
Day 2 - Chest
Day 3 - Off
Day 4 - Back
Day 5 - Off
Day 6 - Shoulders
Day 7 - Off

The only difference I made, starting in week 3, was that I added an arm day.  That was it.  The sets and reps protocol remained the same.  4-6 movements for 4-6 sets of 8-12 reps.  

Day 1 - Legs
Day 2 - Chest
Day 3 - Off
Day 4 - Back
Day 5 - Off
Day 6 - Shoulders
Day 7 - Arms

Starting in week five, I made a change with an additional training day.  I started doing legs twice a week, arms twice a week, with chest, back, and shoulders each getting a day.  One of the reasons I did it this way is because arm workouts, even the most brutal ones, have less of a systematic taxation than other bodyparts.  I wanted as little workout "hangover" as possible.  Meaning, after big training days, I tend to feel very tired and worn out.  Since I was going to be training six days a week, I wanted to minimize that feeling as much as possible....for now.  

And the two areas I also felt I needed to bring up the most at this point, were my arms and legs.  

So by that point my split usually looked like this - 

Day 1 - Legs
Day 2 - Arms
Day 3 - Back
Day 4 - Chest
Day 5 - Arms
Day 6 - Shoulders
Day 7 - Off

Starting in week 7, I went to seven days a week.  At this point, I was pretty acclimated to this type of frequency, so I went into a rotation of giving each bodypart a day, and just kept it that way.

Day 1 - Legs
Day 2 - Arms
Day 3 - Chest
Day 4 - Back
Day 5 - Shoulders
Day 6 - repeat starting from day 1

Bring on the insanity - 

At this point, I was seeing pretty steady changes in my body composition.  My diet was very tight, as in, I ate "clean" (I know, some people hate that term, but deal with it) probably 95% of the time.  I carb loaded when I felt flat, but the rest of the time I usually kept the majority of my carbs to the two meals following my training session.  If it was a big day, like back or legs, I would eat around 0.8 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight covering those two meals.  

Seeing how at about this point I was down to around 235 pounds, that meant give or take between 185-200 grams of carbs covering those two meals.  No, that's not a lot for most people but I actually eat less than most guys my size.  So for me, that worked out pretty well.  On days where I only did arms, I might only have carbs at the post workout meal (which is almost always cereal and milk), and that was about it.  Again, instead of being super rigid about my macros, I let how I looked and felt tell me what I needed to do.  If I was tired and flat, I would carb load for up to six hours post training, usually over three meals (every 2 hours).  Why six hours?  Because that's the window post training when glycogen resynthesis is the most accelerated.  So I wanted to take advantage of that window to stuff the majority of my carbs into it.

Body composition changes during this period

All of this was going along fairly well, and I was losing fat and retaining muscle (my strength was pretty steady throughout) at a slow but steady pace.  

The idea of training more however, started creeping into my head.  And I wondered, if I started training even more, what would happen?  I was handling the frequency and volume pretty well at this point.  In fact, on some days it was higher than what I listed earlier.  I had plenty of leg days where I started with between 400-600 lunges.  Yes, to start.  Then I would go do leg curls, leg extensions, and front squats.  The crazy part was, training with this much volume and frequency, my work capacity had gone through the roof.  That's amazing right?  By letting my body acclimate to the work, it actually dealt with a tremendous amount of it just fine.  

For now, anyway.  

But what would happen if I started training twice a day?  

Well, there was only one way to find out. 

Metabolic stress sessions - 

When I decided to start training twice a day, I went ahead and added it to my whole schedule.  This sort of defies my initial rule of adding shit in slowly, but the way I did it meant rearranging so that all of my "big" work came in the first training session, then I would do "small" workouts in the evening that were more metabolic stress type sessions.  

I went back to my original split of doing legs, chest, back, and shoulders and constantly repeating that schedule.  In the evenings, I would do extra sessions of ultra high rep sets for arms, shoulders, calves, etc.  

Weeks 9 - 10 - 7 days a week / twice a day 

Day 1 - Legs a.m. / arms, shoulders, calves p.m.
Day 2 - Chest / arms, shoulders, calves p.m.
Day 3 - Back / arms shoulders calves p.m.
Day 4 - Shoulders / arms shoulders calves pm.
Day 5 - repeat starting from day 1

I did this for about two weeks, until I decided to start adding in more "big sessions" in the evenings as well.

Let me be clear here, I did not always train arms, shoulders, and calves every evening.  I let my mood dictate a bit of that.  Sometimes I would do 300 reps (total) of a curl variation, and then 300 reps of a triceps variation.  Or do 500 total reps of side laterals then calves.  

For those that can't get to the gym that are interested in doing this, I will make this very simple for you.

I brought the 15 and 20 pound dumbbells up from my basement, and just left them in the living room.  Sometimes these workouts would take half an hour.  Other times, it was another hour long training session.  I did not up carbs during this time other than once again, based on how flat I looked, or how lethargic I felt.  I wanted to let my body let me know rather than being dogmatic about macros.  

In week 11, I decided I would go ahead and add in a third training session to some days.  Not only that, I would do two big workouts some days as well.  So legs sometimes got trained twice in a day, with the same metabolic stress training session throw in at the end.  Same for chest, shoulders, back, etc.  

So a chest day might mean I did my usual chest work at the gym, consisting of incline press, db bench press, hammer strength presses, and cable crossovers.  Then I would eat two meals, train at home doing various flyes.  Eat two meals, and a short metabolic stress session.

Starting at about week 12, I began noticing systems of what I would actually call overtraining.  I personally think it's very hard for a lifter to "overtrain".  This is something that is usually seen more in endurance athletes.  But I would say at this point, I had to be pretty close.

Both of my eyes twitched nonstop all day long.  I was beyond irritable all the time, and my sleep was horrendous.  And this is coming from a lifetime insomniac.  I could barely get to sleep, couldn't stay asleep for very long once I did, and I felt like a zombie pretty much 24/7.  My training sessions really went into the shitter about this time, and I had to literally talk myself into every single one of them.  I mean like in the mirror "you lazy piece of shit, ride this out!" kind of talks.  My previous warm ups, started turning into near work set weight.  

I dealt with about two weeks of this before I knew I had pushed things about as far as I could go.  Mentally and physically, I was gassed.  

I was definitely "overreached" at this point.  I didn't see any more benefit in regards to body composition changes happening at this point, and in fact I felt smaller, weaker, and flat pretty much all the time regardless of increasing carbs.

It was time to take advantage of this.

The return to my roots and high intensity training - 

The common thought in regards to overreaching to accomplish supercompensation is that one needs to "deload" then take advantage of the temporary rebound you get from that.  However, the context this is usually used in, is for strength peaking.

I didn't care about strength at this point.  My goal was maximizing fat loss with muscle retention.  Or, possibly...just possibly, even reducing bodyfat while gaining even a little bit of mass.  Because the last many months of researching net protein balance, nutrient timing, and some other factors left me believing that even advanced guys could lose bodyfat and gain muscle, even though the ratio would be small.  Still, losing fat and gaining muscle even in small ratios is the most supreme of options for advanced lifters.  So I'd take whatever I could get.  

So I did not deload, per say.  I scaled training back to four days a week, lowered my volume, but stayed with my ideas of not crossing the breakover point in regards to weight on the bar.

My new split ended up looking like this - 

Day 1 - Legs
Day 2 - Off
Day 3 - Shoulders
Day 4 - Back
Day 5 - Off
Day 6 - Chest and arms
Day 7 - Off

My sets were brought down to 1-2 "top" working sets.  However I did add in lots of set extending techniques like rest/pause, drop sets, strips sets, etc to every movement.  I used extended set techniques the preceding months as well, but not always on every movement and almost never taking sets to failure.  This time, I was taking that 1 or 2 sets to complete failure, then with forced reps, then with extended set techniques as far out as possible.  So sometimes, there would be rest/pause sets to failure, with forced reps, followed by a few strip sets as well.  I wanted to milk as much effort and tension out of those 1-2 big sets as possible.  

The biggest change here was that after a few weeks my lifts jumped back up dramatically.  My sleep improved, my eyes stopped twitching, and my irritability went away.  I did actually add in two days of intervals because I had gotten so used to training everyday that having a complete "off" day felt kind of...weird.  And it also felt good to do some shit to just get back into "conditioning" shape.  Suddenly I didn't hate cardio anymore.

In retrospect - 

Did it suck? 

By the end, very much so.  Looking back, I probably had things dialed in about right when I was training 6-7 days a week, with the small workouts thrown in, in the evenings.  I feel like this is something that could be done for an extended period before transitioning into a potential deload, or downregulating volume and frequency.  

From here, I will run the HIT stuff for a while, then slowly transition back into volume and frequency again.  

The rebound, or the supercompensation from overreaching paid off very nicely.

How nice?

My bodyweight went from around 235 on my flat days, and 242 post carb load days, to around 245 on my flat days, and 251 post carb load days.

And while I can't be certain if I lost fat, I absolutely did not gain any.  So at worst, I gained muscle while not gain any fat at all.  This all happened when I felt like I had everything dialed in perfectly.  

What was the imperfect parts?

From my experience with this, I would not use the last few weeks of training three times a day.  I didn't see any improvement in body composition from this, and if anything it may have declined slightly during that time.  When I was at my heaviest and leanest, it was during the last few weeks before I transitioned into that phase of training.

Some disclaimers here - There were times when I would take a random day off.  Either due to flat out being exhausted or because of life in general that made training take a backseat.  I also rearranged my program at times based on other factors, but this is pretty spot on in regards to what I did.

Other factors - Nutrition wise, I did something else I wanted to prove.  I lowered my protein a bit.  Yes, I lowered it.  I've read study after study that showed even in hard training athletes, that as little as 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight was still enough to elevate muscle protein synthesis.

Just to be on the safe side, I stayed at 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, rather than the 1.25 grams per pound I was usually at.  Funny enough, lowering my protein seemed to actually make me feel better.  I have no idea if that makes sense, but only eating 4 ounces of chicken rather than 8 was far easier on my stomach and digestion (naturally), and I had a lot less bloating.  This made for a far more comfortable "life".

All in all, this was a very successful phase of training in my life, and one I will repeat again.  It played a huge role in helping to further along my body composition improvement, and now that I understand where the pitfalls are, can plan for a more efficient run with it again in the future.


Get my new manual "Inception:  The beginners manual for mass and strength" at ejunkie.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Inception - Beginner/Intermediate program for mass and strength manual

This program is for those who have been training for 6-24 months. An advanced guy could use it absoutely, however I set it up so that guys who are pretty new to training could get in the gym, take the guess work out, and just focus on doing simple basic movements, getting stronger, and working hard.

This program is based around benching and squatting at the base, while building the back and posterior chain. There is no deadlifting and I outlinewhy in the manual. Before you balk, let me tell you that the two best deadlifts I ever pulled were done after not deadlifting for long periods at a time, so I wouldn't worry about not deadlifting for 12 weeks. If your squat improves, and your posterior chain gets bigger and stronger, you can then move back into concentrating on deadlifting and reap the rewards.

The program is 12 weeks long, and I know if followed to the letter will absolutely help guys grow, get stronger, and give some great direction in regards to building a solid foundation for future lifting.

7 weeks of hypertrophy training with lifts based around breaking rep PR's and increasing overall base strength -

5 weeks of strength peak training in order to increase base level strength and create a strength base -

The program is repeatable (meaning it can be ran back to back many times over) and performance goal based -

Cues for techniques on the squat and bench press -

An emphasis on creating balance from back to front, so that common muscular imbalances are addressed from the beginning -


Friday, October 16, 2015

Raising young lifters

I have to preface this entire article with the fact that this is about my experience in training with my own kids.  I am not trying to tell anyone how to parent their kids because that's not my business.  I am just relating my own experiences in training with two of my daughters for those that also have an interest in having their own kids train alongside them some day.

Recently, I publically shared an email my daughter sent me after a few months of training together.  Her message to me in that e-mail received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the people who follow me.

In a nutshell, my middle daughter wrote me an e-mail one day, thanking me for all of the wonderful things that being in the gym and getting stronger had been doing for her both physically, mentally, and emotionally.

For me, as a father of three, it was a very moving and emotional e-mail to receive.  In essence, it was beautiful.

Those of us that are striving to fill our place as a good role model for our kids, we desire very much for them to proud of us.  More than any stranger on social media, or even our closest friends, it's the affirmation from them that we desire most.  To know that they are proud to call us "dad" or "mom".

I would even go so far as to say that I know for myself, when my kids are proud of me, or any of my accomplishments, that means more to me than even making my own parents proud did.

I received a lot of messages and e-mails that were all very positive and uplifting about her e-mail.  I also was asked a lot of questions from some parents about how to get their kids interested in lifting.  So I thought I would give some insight to this, and maybe shed some light on how parents can get their kids involved in lifting, and help give the gift of strength to them.

To be clear, this wasn't my first rodeo in regards to having one of my kids be my training partner.  Let me also be clear, this is my own experiences with this.  How you parent your kid is entirely up to you.  I am only going to give my thoughts on this and where I feel like I failed, and succeeded.

My oldest daughter actually trained with me for well over a year, and even did a powerlifting meet with me during that time.  She did well, and was actually a pretty good deadlifter.  I think she pulled 245 at around 100 pounds in the gym at one point, and for the most part was a hard worker.  But training never "took" with her like I had hoped it would.  She eventually found other outlets in her life that she enjoyed more and lifting soon fell to the wayside.

And that was perfectly ok.  To me there is a massive difference in having your child be your training partner, and participate in say, recreational sports.

Team sports vs lifting partners - 

I've never been that dad you see at the pee wee football practice that is beet red in the face, screaming at his kid or the coaches, trying to turn his 9 year old son into Ray Lewis Jr.  If you want me to be perfectly honest, as a former football coach and as a kid who had a father similar to that, I detest that shit.

Sports should be a positive outlet for kids.  Something that helps to build character, and a competitive spirit.  I do not however, believe in participation trophies, and I also detest a lot of school policies now that make it so that anyone and everyone who tries out for the team gets to wear a uniform, and at minimum sit on the sidelines and be a "part of the team."  Even worse, when I was coaching, every kid had to get an equal amount of playing time.  Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I do believe in the Lattimer philosophy of earning a place at the table.

If you don't know what that means, then you never saw the movie The Program.  In The Program, Lattimer was the juiced up dude that spent the whole summer training his ass off in order to make the starting squad, and earn a "place at the table".

That is exactly how I grew up in regards to sports (I don't mean spending the summer juicing up to make the squad).  Wearing the uniform meant you earned it.  Stepping onto the field as a starter meant you earned it.  It was earned; not given.  And if you weren't good enough, then you didn't make the team and you could go find a corner to cry in if that's what you needed to do.  And none of us felt sorry for you about it.

And I still support that method of thinking.  Because I believe it helps kids more than hurts them.

As adults, rarely are we going to be in a position in real life where we just get handed participation "trophies".  We're probably not going to get the same raise as the guy who works his balls off, while we slack on the job.  To me, teaching kids that things had to be earned, and not deserved, was paramount in building strong character and resolve.

My way with my kids, and again I have to keep repeating this because I do respect that as parents we all think "our way" is best (otherwise we wouldn't be doing it that way), is my way.  Everyone has their own values and principles that they want to instill in their kids, and that is obviously their right to do.

For myself, I never ever tried or forced my kids to be the best at recreational sports.  My rules to them were only a few.

1.  If you start the season, you finish the season.  You don't get to quit even if you hate it.
2.  You will give your all.  You don't have to be the best on the field, but you have to give your best effort and be the best player YOU can be.

I massaged those rules when it came to the gym.  To me, it wasn't the same.  For a myriad of reasons.

I was never going to force my kids into staying in the gym with me if their desire wasn't to do so.  I always felt this line of thinking was counter productive in regards to planting the seed of the iron, then helping them water it, feed it, and watch it grow into something special for them.

Kids aren't a lot different than adults in regards to being passionate or disinterested about things.  Your buddy can tell you how awesome his hobby is, and have supreme life boners about it, but you flat out may not understand why and never have a single iota of interest in it.  No matter how many times he tries to make his passion appeal to you by having you participate in it with him, it just may never appeal to you.

Some things appeal to the nature of who we are, and some things do not.

Being in the gym and moving iron is no different.  Regardless of age, or gender.  People who love the iron and never leave it come from all walks of life.  Regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, those of us who find the gym and never leave, do so for our own personal reasons.

When my middle daughter, Emmy Jo (her real name is Emily but I've always called her Emmy Jo), was around 9, and would see me and my oldest training together, I told her she would have the chance to lift weights with me one day too.  A few months ago, to my surprise, she was the one that actually came to me and expressed interest in training.  So of course, I welcomed that opportunity.

However, I knew I was going to do things different with her than I did with my oldest.

I learned a lot of lessons from the first go round with my oldest daughter that I felt were probably counter productive in regards to her loving the iron.  Maybe they played a part in her becoming disinterested later, and maybe, as noted before, the iron was just something that was never going to "take" with her.

Nevertheless, I decided to do things very differently this time around with Emmy Jo.  Things I felt would make training more fun and exciting, and create more potential for it to "stick" with her.

With my oldest, I was still competing in powerlifting, so my training revolved around doing lots of squats, deadlifts, and bench pressing.  Naturally, as she was going to be my partner, she would have to learn these movements and focus on perfecting her technique, and apply a form of simple progression on them.  Of course, I did massage her training so that she wasn't copying my program exactly, but for the most part, we did a lot of the big three together.

So a great deal of our energy was spent in the gym perfecting her movements, technique, and slowly adding weight to the bar.

All basic concepts to help build the foundation for lifting at the beginner level.  In essence, this is not a bad concept.  It looks good on paper.  Lots of things look great on paper that in real life, don't always end up working out that way.  It's like that NFL team that went out in the offseason and signed all these big name all-star free agents, only to find out that as a cohesive unit, it doesn't produce in the "W" column like you'd believe it should.

And in retrospect, I believe focusing on these things too much (perfecting the technical aspects of her lifts) played a bit of a part in her losing interest in training down the road.

Let me also add in that, as someone who has trained a ton of novice lifters, teaching the squat, deadlift, and bench press for me to people with poor coordination and body control, is about as much fun as masturbating with a high powered Hoover vacuum cleaner.  Or maybe you think that's fun, I don't know.  What I do know is, when you're training with your kid, there has to be a balance of teaching, and fun.

You're not dealing with a paying client.  You have to be half coach, half partner.

You're trying to create something you can share with them that is fun, exciting, and creates the potential for foundation promoting.  If every training session is like a weekend seminar with some coaching perfectionist, then all of those things tend to get lost in the process.

Despite the fact that my oldest daughter ended up learning the lifts, and progressed fairly well on them, I can see how training would have been pretty monotonous and boring for her.  And when we are getting involved in a new activity, one of the key components I believe, is that it has to maintain a level of excitement for us in order to keep us coming back to it with enthusiasm and vigor.

And while there are tons of lifters who live and breathe squatting, benching, and deadlifting, and feel like hitting PR's in those lifts every few weeks or months is like winning a few hundred bucks from that scratch off lotto ticket they bought at the 7/11, not everyone identifies with that type of training idealism.

Yes, I'm fully aware that there are powerlifters who won't understand that for everyone the pinnacle of training utopia is not hitting some PR's on a few select lifts.  Just like there are plenty of gym bros who have no idea why guys are attaching bands and chains and using boxes to train with, when all they give a crap about is having a set of big pipes and pecs for the ladies they will be trying to court at the clubs on the weekends.

So this time around, with my middle daughter, I knew there would be a lot of things I did differently than I did with my oldest.  I wanted to make training easy to learn, fun, and rewarding.

Luckily for her, I wasn't preparing for a meet, and my training had actually shifted back towards hypertrophy and more of my bodybuilding roots.  So our training would look vastly different than it did for my oldest daughter.

For one, I wouldn't be making her squat.

I personally hate teaching a novice how to squat.  I've done enough seminars and teaching at this point that I can tell you, there are plenty of people who have been in the gym for quite some time don't squat properly.  Teaching a beginner, for me, is a fairly excruciating process.  And in retrospect, I don't imagine it was very fun for my oldest either.

Instead of us just walking into the gym, throwing some chalk around, then proceeding to "get after it", it probably felt like science class.  Going over all of the nuances involved in proper squatting may be fun for some, but I don't think it was fun for her.  So this time, squatting was out.

We would be doing a bit more machine work, and a wider variety of movements with short learning curves.  Then she could simply concentrate on adding some weight to the bar, the stack, or moving heavier dumbbells.  Again, fun and easy.

On the surface, this seems like common sense if you want to get and keep someone interested in training.  In essence, just make it fun.  Sure, there will be hard work.  But if training is not fun, regardless of your level of experience, going to the gym isn't going to be the highlight of your day.  Instead of being that refuge to get away from the grind of life, it becomes part of that grind.  And despite all of the popular memes about "grinding" in the gym, I personally don't want to feel like the gym is a grind.  I want to be excited, enthusiastic, and motivated when I walk in.  And this was the feeling I wanted my new training partner to have when she hit the gym with me.

Because I wanted her to also still feel "involved" with me during training, I actually structured my own training the best way I could so that we would still be doing most of the movements together.  I didn't want her off on the other side of the gym using some piece of equipment while I was concentrating on doing something completely different so I could "specialize".

My personal opinion is that to build that bond, and help the whole process become a closeness building experience, you need to be doing things together.  Not isolating them off from you while you work on shit you feel like you need to be working on while they do something else.  If a kid expresses desire to get into the gym with you a big reason for that could be to simply share that time with you.

In Emmy Jo's own words to me, she didn't desire to be jacked or ripped.  She just wanted something to occupy her time alongside dad with.

So as I structured my routine, I did so in a way it both fit my goals and made being in the gym a fun process for her as well.

Because my training focus had changed, there would be more machine work, which would make things easy for her.  I still needed to squat from time to time, but instead of trying to teach her to squat, I would have her do split squats right along side me instead.  Split squats are easy to learn, and yet can still be challenging at the same time.  Also, I could sit on the bench with her between sets of squats, and laugh and talk.  Doesn't sound like much does it?  But it's three minutes that you get to spend strengthening that bond of training even further.  Training wasn't just lifting weights.  It was time with dad that was just for her.

Once she had been in the gym with me for a while and became comfortable, I also added in things where we could help to push each other to do more, and create little competitions between us.  Like walking lunges, or simply beating each others rep numbers for certain sets.  The weight didn't matter.  If she did 9, I would try to do 10.  The next set, she'd have to be smart to pick a weight she could do 11 with, that was still difficult.  I would let her pick her own weights for these sets, as I felt this also let her feel more "involved" than me just coaching her up.

But there was a surprise that came with bringing her in as my training partner that I did not expect.

Little did I know, that just like I was when I got into the gym at a young age, her desire to work hard and push things to the limit was quite tremendous.

In fact, sometimes annoyingly so.

Because beginners often recover from even the hardest of sets than an advanced lifter, she was constantly telling me "Dad, hurry up.  Time for another set."  Sometimes, she'd even get annoyed at how long I was taking between sets (I actually do train fast, I swear), and do 2 sets for every 1 that I did.

This annoyed and motivated me.  Yes, to train harder.  To work at a faster pace, and basically to match her intensity or even outdo her.  In essence, something happened I personally did not expect.

She was making me a better lifter.

Yes, I just wrote that.  I hated that I felt like in some ways she was working harder than I was.  I was the one that was supposed to be setting the example.  Then she'd work to blood vessel bursting failure, rest for a minute and be ready to go again.

Now once again, I'm aware that because a beginner cannot move the same amount of weight, their recovery time is going to be much quicker than mine, but I did not care.  The competitor in me did not appreciate this 13 year old busting my ass in the gym when I was just trying to make this whole process fun for her!

And then it hit me:  The reason why she was working that hard, and pushing me every session, was because I had made it fun.  And her enthusiasm grew exponentially.

The more we trained together, the more she wanted to be involved in every aspect of it.  For example, if I was doing incline press with 315 or more, she didn't want me asking someone else for a spot.  She wanted to know exactly how to do it, and what was the best way.

Be still my beating heart!

She also wanted to work the pin on the stack for my drop sets.  She wanted to strip plates off the bar during strip sets.  She wanted to know how much effort to apply in order to make forced reps be perfect.  On days when I was off or having a bad day, she became very aware I wasn't focused enough, and would put me in check.

"Dad, you're not focused.  Get it together."

When it was time for hard working sets, she started to learn how to turn it on and get in the zone.  And when it was my turn to be ready, she would tell me "let's get it, dad!" and slap me on the back.

I don't know if all of this came together with her because my approach was different, or because I truly believe the iron ends up resonating more poetically with some people more than others.  Maybe it was a combination of the two.  But whatever it was, this time it "took".  

Since I've had experience with two kids now in regards to getting them into the gym, here is my own personal advice about how to do that, and how to create the best environment so that they may end up loving it as much as you do.

1.  Make it fun

Without a doubt, this is rule number one that I learned.

As I've covered, training with your kid isn't training a client.  They aren't paying you to be there.  My personal opinion is that when your kid comes to you to ask about training with you, it's because they want to share something with you that they see you love.

Think long and hard about this.  Think long and hard about what you want to make this experience like for them.

Create an environment where you feel like partners.  One of my mottos about parenting is that "we are our kids providers, protectors, mentors, and disciplinarians; we're not supposed to be their best friend."  This time together is an exception.  Yes, coach them up, but be their best training partner.  And help teach them in a positive and constructive manner how to be one for you.

If you want your kid to get interested in training, my personal advice is simply extend an invitation.  Let them know if they are ever interested in training with you, that you'd really enjoy that.  They may be afraid to ask, or may feel like that is "your time" and don't want to intrude.  I don't know.  All I know is, forcing it on them to get them involved is probably not a great idea.  Again, this is just my opinion.

2.  Be cognizant of what they like, and don't like

If they hate doing an exercise, don't make them.  There's no reason to.  If you get training to "stick", over time their goals will change, and they will probably desire to learn those movements they initially did not want to do, and that process takes care of itself through nurturing the love and enjoyment of training.

If they don't want to squat, try out lunges.  Try split squats.  Try trap bar deadlifts.  There's no reason to try and get your kid to marry himself or herself to an exercise they hate because you think it will be good for them.

There are movements you love, and movements you hate.  When your kid starts training with you, they aren't going to be any different.  The problem is, they may or may not voice what they like or don't like.  Their body language should speak loudly about what movements they enjoy and don't, but you may still have to ask.  Get feedback from them on a continual basis about what they are enjoying and what they dislike.

Part of making them feel like they are part of training is to let them have some input as to what they want to get stronger or better at.  Once again, this provides a lot of positive association with lifting.  They get to have input into training, and thus, are part of the "team".

3.  Feedback - Constructive criticism, destructive criticism, and positive reinforcement 

I've never gotten much from positive feedback.  It's nice.  It feels good.  It's cool.  But it has never been something that drove me to be better.

Different kids respond very differently to various types of feedback.

From a young age, I hated criticism.  Or so I thought.  I hated hearing it; but it absolutely fueled me.  Anytime a coach chewed me out or singled me out, I absolutely hated it...and it made me better every damn time.  But I can never ever remember a great coach giving me any type of criticism that wasn't constructive.

There is a massive difference in destructive criticism, and constructive criticism.  One exists to serve no other purpose than to try and break you down, and the other to lift you up, even though it may not feel very good at the time.

People who have a genuine interest in you getting better, and fulfilling your potential will offer up constructive criticism from time to time, and you need to be able to know what that looks like and discern the difference in destructive and constructive.

The delivery is often a big difference in how criticism "feels".

"You can't do it that way, that's wrong and stupid.  Let me show you how to do it right, you moron."

"This is not bad, but let me show you a few things that will make it a little better."

Essentially the two sentences are trying to accomplish the same task.  To let someone know they are doing something incorrectly, and needs to be fixed.  But obviously the wording and delivery make one look destructive, and the other constructive.

In my opinion, it's important to always leave destructive criticism out of this partnership.  In my opinion, destructive criticism is the best way to drive them from wanting to share that bond of training alongside you.  By creating negative experiences and context in regards to training.

Constructive criticism and positive reinforcement I believe, both have a time and a place.  When Emmy Jo would be having an off day due to lack of concentration, I would let her know about it.  No different than she did for me.

"You're not focused today.  Concentrate and kick ass with me."

And she would respond positively.

At the same time, when she would crush some new PR, or muster up the courage to try weights she had previously been afraid of, I didn't belittle that by saying her form wasn't perfect or that it could have been better.  I hugged her, kissed her, and told her she was awesome.  It wasn't about how deep she squatted, or how strict the movement was.  It was about her finding the confidence to even try.  And that showed me she was growing in regards to the intangible things that lifting gives us, that we can't always explain to people.  That feeling of being able to do something that we may have never thought possible.

At her stage, it didn't need to be executed perfectly.  It wasn't about that.  It was about her finding the virtue of courage that precedes all the other positive virtues in our life.  And I wasn't about to step on that in any way.

4.  Pick movements with a short learning curve and add in corrections slowly over time -

As noted, this was a huge difference in training my oldest.  I made sure to pick movements that were easy to teach, and then just let her get after it.  This made my job easy, because I wasn't teaching thoracic spine, hip extension, foot pronation, blah blah blah all day.

So this part was easy.  I knew what movements she could learn quickly, and add weight to at a quick pace.  This again, spurred her on to love training even more.

Down the line, when they have built a level of confidence and strength that they feel good about, making corrections comes much easier.  Because they have better body control and can "feel" things better than they could when they first started.

And speaking of corrections, the other thing I did this time, was add in a simple correction each week here or there.  I didn't try to make everything perfect from day 1.  Then as the weeks passed by, all the corrections came together and her technique became very solid.

A sample list of movements we did, and simple "coaching" I did looked like so -

Legs -

Leg Extensions - Concentrate on controlling the weight up and down.  Don't rush the reps.
Leg Curls - Same as leg extensions.  Control the weight up and down.
Leg Press - This was easiest.  Just make sure there was a GOOD range of motion.  Keep your back and butt on the pad.
Squat Machines - We used various ones.  I didn't emphasize depth at first.  I made sure her knees tracked properly.  Once she got the hang of this, we started emphasizing more depth.
Lunges - Take big steps.  Keep your torso upright.

Shoulders -

Seated Dumbbell Press and Machine Press - Good range of motion.  Weight used was irrelevant.
Side laterals - Don't swing the weights up and down.  Stay light and use good control.

Chest -

Incline Press - Elbow to wrist alignment.  Make sure the elbows and wrists line up with each other under the bar.  To help her with this I would actually put my hands on her wrists and move her through the ROM so she could "feel" the proper motion.
Hammer Strength Bench Press - Same as incline press; make sure the wrists and elbows are in line, and in line with the handles on the machine.
Dips - Elbows point behind.  This was made easy just by telling her to lean forward (I held her feet on these)

Back -

Chins and pull ups - I just held her feet as assistance here.  No real corrections.  Pull yourself up.
Pulldowns - Chest out, think about pulling with your elbows into your back.
Dumbbell Rows - Same as pulldowns, think about pulling with your elbows, and not your arms.
Shrugs - Touch your shoulders to your ears.

Arms -

Curls - Stay strict, don't swing.
Pushdowns - Stay strict and don't rush the rep speed, don't make the range of motion too long (don't let it come all the way back over the top of your head)

As the weeks went on, I would add in more corrections.  Usually just one at a time.

Let me also add that things like assisted dips, chins, lunges, and bodyweight stuff are great because they are easy to teach, and are great foundation builders.  Not only that but they also help with building balance and coordination.  This transcends into learning other movements much easier I have found.

Conclusion - 

For me, training with my kids isn't just about lifting.  I view it as my opportunity as a parent to give part of myself and my passion to them.  How I hand over that gift needs to be done in a way that makes them want to open their heart and mind to it.  Not create resentment for it.

No matter how many great things YOU think lifting can do for your kids, you cannot force something upon someone, without some level of resentment creeping in.  Even if the end results are positive, the gift you handed over will ultimately have been flawed in some way.

It should represent a positive experience in their life.  A time they share with you and the iron that is rewarding, empowering, and lasting.  For those of us that have been under the iron for a very long time, these are the factors that have kept us here this long.  And it will for them as well.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

No regrets - the road to hell and back

“There is always a gap between intention and action..”

― Paulo Coelho

Most of us set out on the road of our life to do something with the intent on bettering it somehow.  Whether it be financially, romantically, physically, spiritually, whatever.  

It all starts in our mind with a thought.  The betterment of what we are, who we are, what we want, or what we want to become.

The intention, more times than not, manifests itself due to a lacking of something in our life.  The realization that a hole or hollowness exists in some area we've been awakened to.  

It can be emotionally driven, longing for the company of another due to an extended period in solitude.  Or it can be financially driven, due to an extended period in poverty.  In fact, that awakening is often due to some sort of poverty that exists in our life that needs to be rectified.  

The problem is, the other saying goes "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."  

Getting from point "A" to point "B" is never as trivial as it appears on paper, or in some process that unfolds in our minds.  There always lies this invisible area between A and B that is full of strife, hardship, angst, resentment, or regret that doesn't reveal itself until our actions allow it to.  That or the actions of someone else helps reveal it to us.

They end up being revealed because while our we set out on that path of good intentions, we often find ourselves off the beaten path due to losing sight of the most simplistic parts that do make walking the path hard.  Or that we find along that walk, the simplistic parts are actually the parts we despise the most.

The guy that wakes up one morning from an all night binge in a crackhouse didn't just wake up one morning and decide that smoking crack was what he wanted out of life.  Tracing back through his own distorted steps, it was probably something as simple as smoking weed on the weekends with his friends.  If you don't think so, watch that movie Requiem For A Dream, and watch each of the characters lives devolve along said distorted path.  No one ends up in their own personal crackhouse due to a singular choice.  It's almost always a collection of choices due to an emptiness that we just can't live with anymore.

I woke up over a year ago in that crackhouse.  Not literally a crackhouse.  But my own personal crackhouse.  One I built through the loss of good intentions due to selfish wants and needs, all the while rationalizing decisions I was making that were impacting not only my own personal happiness, but the happiness of so many that loved me.  

I had a friend living in his own crackhouse at the time.  We talked daily, or sometimes weekly.  Asking each other rhetorical questions like "how did we get here?"

Why we ask ourselves these questions is actually quite the mystery to me.  Because we already know the answer.  Our responses back to each other each day or weekly was the same.  

"We're just really fucking stupid."

We end up in these places through our own choices, intentions, self serving desires, and coveting.    

Essentially, we unglue the parts of our lives that held us together in a way that we could manage to keep us sane, and then scatter then all about in order to embrace the insanity that somehow makes us feel alive again.

You read that correctly.  We unstitch the norm, the complacency, the equilibrium, because after a while our soul rejects the boredom that inspires the epiphany that we are no longer alive.  We're just breathing.  

And that's when we embrace the hell of poor decision making.

In essence, our passion for life and experiences get sucked right out of us on the way to point "B" because the parts that can cause strife, regret, and angst, can actually come from complacency.  

There's few things worse than waking up to the realization that life is passing you by, and that there is a finite amount of time you're going to have with it.  This is why I often think the definition of insanity is the guy that works the 9-5 job, comes home and plops down on the couch to watch the same shows every fucking night of the week on the television.  

Maybe that's just me, but that doesn't look like living at all.  That looks like existing.  Maybe the simple fact of existing is enough for some, but most people have a series of stories to tell from their past that involve a lot of shit they aren't too proud of anymore.  They often end up with these stories because of one of my favorite quotes...

"Bad decisions make for great stories."

I often laugh when people tell me they have "no regrets" about life.  That's a lie.  Whether you're lying to me or to yourself, it's irrelevant.  To have "no regrets" based on the fact that you say you're only where you are today because of those decisions is to be severely negligent in regards to personal hindsight.  Who's to say you wouldn't be better off had you made other choices or decisions?

"Yes, but we learn from those choices."

No shit, Sherlock.  We learn something from every decision we make that has a severe impact on our lives.  Sometimes, we keep making the same decisions over and over and we don't even have explanations why.  This is where the "how did I get here?" questions later becomes the "God, I'm so fucking stupid" statements.  

In other words, what we often "learn" is nothing more than what the outcome of those decisions are going to be.  

The guy sitting in prison from robbing banks or selling drugs probably isn't sitting up saying he has no regrets, because he learned a lot from the things he did.

Yeah, like they land you in fucking prison.  Doesn't seem like destination "B" was ideal to me.  But I could be wrong.

We all have regrets.  Anyone who says they regret nothing is a liar, or somehow has convinced themselves that they made all the right choices along the way.  So even the "wrong choices" were the "right ones" simply because a lesson was learned, and they "wouldn't be where they are today had they not made those choices."

Doesn't that really depend on where you are today?  Or where you could have been had you not made those choices?

It's like the house of lying to yourself that is built with brick after brick made out of bullshit cliches. 

If you regret nothing, then that means you'd do the same stupid shit all over again.  

"No it doesn't, it means I don't regret it because..."

Yes, we covered this.  Because you learned something from it.  I learn when I feed Baron too late at night and don't let him out he sometimes takes a shit in the living room in the middle of the night because of this.  

Thus, I regret feeding him too late at night, make a choice to feed him earlier, then make sure to let him out to shit in the yard before I go to bed, rather than in the living room at 3 a.m.

I don't change my patterns of life without regret.  No one does.  

We can't change without regret.  Regret is THE THING that is supposed to create the betterment of change in our life from learning from those decisions.  Otherwise, we just keep repeating the same shitty things over and over again.  Thus, where is the regret?  

In case you want another word, it's called repentance.  

Here is some wiki for you in case it's still not catching on...

Repentance is the activity of reviewing one's actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs. It generally involves a commitment to personal change and the resolve to live a more responsible and humane life.

Notice that word in bold there?  

Without being introspective enough to review your previous actions, and regret them, change cannot manifest itself in your life so that you ultimately end up at the point "B" that gives you fulfillment.

I think people say shit like "I don't regret..." whatever as a means of rationalizing poor decisions.  

I think it's ok to say we are fine with making certain poor choices because ultimately, it may not have impacted our life in a significant way.  

I also think it's willful ignorance to sit back and say you have "no regrets" in regards to choices or decisions you made that tore someone else's life apart in order to appease the selfish desires that overcame you.

Most of us rationalize our poor decision making due to a want in our life to fill something that is missing.  And the reason we do so, is because more often than not, making the right choice is the hardest one.  

There are things I know now about life, that if you had told me a year ago I would have never believed it.  That I would find happiness in places that I thought did not exist.  Because I just could not imagine my life looking a certain way, and still being able to wake up happy in the morning.  

And trust me, I woke up every morning unhappy for a very long time.  To the point of wondering how I could take another day of feeling that way.

Luckily, I had people around me strong enough to help make decisions or choices that I could not make, that made things better.  Luckily, I had people that were willing to stand beside me while I suffered through that invisible area that exists between point "A" and point "B".

I have regrets.  I have made amends the best I could for all of my wrong doings, and paid my penance many times over for being that dumb asshole that has "no regrets" and keeps making the same stupid as shit mistakes day in and day out.  

Without regret, we cannot find repentance.  And without being able to repent, we cannot find the strength or the courage to change the things in life we want to reshape the most.  And that thing, is usually who we are.  Which is why most people, at the core of who they are, never change a whole lot.

It's because change doesn't happen until something happens within their lives that force them to reevaluate their decisions, or how they feel about certain things.  It can't come from the words of family, or friends, or even your therapist (unless they are really, really, good).  It usually comes from the context of association.  Meaning, we lived it, we felt it, and we either don't ever want to feel that again, or desire it more than anything else in the world.

And if we despise it, and keep finding our way back to it, then regret and repentance never found its way into our hearts and minds.  If we desire it, and know it would make our life better and fulfill us, yet we keep our heart and mind locked into a place of complacency that keeps us from those desires, then we will keep paving our own personal road to hell, and never find our way back from it.

The gap between intention and action, is that we may intend to change things, but then lack the courage to actually act on it.  And there once again, lies that invisible area that ultimately ends up creating the most chaos in our lives.  

Complacency will kill you, but so will living a life you don't wake up happy about in the morning either.  The thing they share in common is that they both sneak up on you one day, and you'll be sitting in your car with a friend asking them the same question my friend and I were asking each other....

"How the hell did I get here?"

Because we chose to be there.

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