Sunday, April 10, 2016

The accelerator can be your worst enemy

A while back the lifting community was all in standing ovation about an Instagram post that 8 time Mr, Olympia, Ronnie Coleman made in regards to the current condition of his health.

Basically Ronnie has had two hip replacements, and is having to learn to walk all over again.  In the instagram post, he's in a wheelchair being helped up (if I am recalling correctly), and talks about his regrets.  His regret, in all of it, was that he was a coward.  A coward for not squatting that 800 pounds for 4 reps, instead of 2 reps.  Because he knew he could do it for 4, but chickened out and only did two.

Mind you, I believe Ronnie stated at one point that he didn't quit competing because he was ready to retire, but because of all the issues that kept him from training like he wanted to.

His post was shared a zillion times and people so applauded his attitude about it, stating "this is what it takes to be a champion", or some nonsense like that.  Yes I wrote nonsense.

Why?  Because if Ronnie's goals to continue winning and competing were cut short due to what he was doing, then no matter how you want to slice it, ultimately it was counter productive.

"But he won 8 times."

Yes he did.  And could have won 9, or 10, or 11, or whatever.  So in the end, he lost out on achieving more than he could have because he never adjusted his training or mental attitude, in regards to what his body was capable of anymore.

Dorian Yates was my favorite bodybuilder when I was coming up in my young years.  Dorian trained balls out, all the time, without ever taking his foot off the gas pedal.  Even just weeks out from a show.  When there's virtually no possibility that training in such a manner is going to improve on what you spent time building in the offseason.  At that point, what's done is done.  Dorian ended up suffering torn biceps and triceps, and later said that if there was one mistake he made it's that he didn't know when to ease off the training intensity before a show, and that doing so cost him those injuries.

I read this morning that Layne Norton is in such a state that he can't bench press is down over 100 pounds due to herniated disks in his neck.  He can't squat 135 pounds without tremendous pain in his hip.  His deadlift is a few hundred pounds off of his best.  He wrote he's tried everything under the sun to recover but nothing is helping.

I've never been a fan of Layne's attitude.  I've made no bones about that.  However, I never want to see these things.  I don't.  At some point, the one bond all of us have in regards to the iron is the love we have for it, what it means to us on a personal level, and how it reshaped our lives in a positive way.  I can't imagine being in the position Layne or Ronnie is in, and not being able to go to the gym and get in a great session without tremendous pain, or having to go through rehab so I can walk properly again.  In complete sincerity, as brothers in iron, my heart goes out to both of them.

But as the good book tells us, you reap what you sow.

There's been this lifting ideology in powerlifting, especially in the "natty" community, that you need to squat 4,536 times a week, and bench press at least equally that amount.  I also read that you can deadlift a ton of times a week despite the fact that most of the best deadlifters consistently advise against this because recovering from the deadlift is very difficult.  I have no idea why this mentality has taken hold in strength circles but it has, and I honestly think it's hogwash and nonsense.  People have been getting strong(er) for decades, and doing so while maintaining training longevity because they understood that recovery was still a factor in getting better.

Layne I believe, was a huge proponent of these super high frequency training modalities.  Not knowing when to back off, squatting and benching and deadlifting on a very high frequency basis.  I have no idea if this contributed to his current issues, but ruling it out all together can't be done either.  Layne also had very poor squat technique, and despite tons of people telling him this, he refused to take the time out to fix it.

Ronnie could have changed his training ideology, and still kept winning Sandows for at least a few more years, and possibly never stared down the barrel of multiple surgeries for his hips.  Dorian could have backed off of his training intensity pre-contest time, and probably never suffered the injuries that also cut his career short.

People will point to their success and say "well they did what it took to win."  That can easily be debated.  Dorian didn't need to be training balls out just a few weeks from a show in order to walk in and destroy everyone.  The foundation he laid down to do so was already in place.  You really think he was going to shrink, or look less conditioned, if he just took his foot off the gas pedal for a few weeks before a contest, and lose because of that?  Because I don't.

Ronnie was already killing everyone for years, and could have easily changed his training modality that allowed for a longer competing life, without the ramifications involved in the training style that ultimately ended his career.

I don't know what all was involved in Layne's issues, but as stated, I do know that it appears he was a huge proponent of doing the big 3 multiple times a week, with near maximal poundages, and I honestly have no idea how or why anyone arrives at these training junctures.

People like to say that "training/powerlifting/bodybuilding is a marathon, not a sprint."  Then why do so many sprint their ass off, trying to reach goals, without realizing that the joints and connective tissue only has so many reps in them over your training life?   If you plan on training as a part of something you will do for a lifetime, then what's the rush?  It's going to be hard to reach your goals when you become so haphazard in training that eventually your state of being overzealous causes it all to come crashing down.

Years back, I knew a powerlifter who believed in this whole "squat five times a week" bullshit.  Often working up to 550+ every single day.  After a few months, his IT band and hips were so inflamed he could no longer squat without debilitating pain.  And he never hit the numbers he was chasing as his goals.

I've read many times that you need to do the maximal amount you can in regards to volume and intensity, and while it may look good on paper to buy into such principles, the fact is, the body can and will break down if you aren't smart enough to keep some of these things in moderation.

You can't smash the accelerator to the floor, and pin your foot down on it in a permanent state without blowing something in the engine at some point.  I'm here to tell you, no matter how invincible you think you are, if you don't learn some moderation in your training, you will pay for it eventually.  Not if, but when.

If 90% of your training efforts give a return of 90%, without the consequences of surgery or pain, then I feel like that's a better option than 100% of everything giving you a 100% return, but with possible training ending problems that are going to bite you in the ass down the road.

This doesn't mean you can't and shouldn't have periods in your training where you get a bit insane to get past a plateau, but that's the point.  It should be something done in short spurts that pushes you slightly forward, before instilling some sanity back into your overall paradigm.

I've made a lot of mistakes in my own training.  And maybe it's possible that if I did some things different that I squatted more, or benched more, or pulled more, or have more muscle than I do now.  But at 41, right now, I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, and on my "good days" can still overhead press over 300 and deadlift 700, and I don't wake up everyday in pain, or have any surgeries on the horizon.  I can go sprint multiple times a week, and do any and all activities with my kids.

There's no amount of weight on the bar that can outweigh those pleasures to me.  If none of those things matter to you, then that is completely your prerogative.  But if you want to learn something valuable in regards to what all of these people and guys like Mike Matarazzo (who said, as he was lying on his death bed "it wasn't worth it"), then it's that indeed, the phrase slow and steady wins the race.

Despite my dislike for Layne's attitude (or at least how it comes across online), I do wish him a speedy recovery, and that if he feels his training methods were a contributing factor due to his current condition, he can serve as a voice to his audience not to make the same mistakes he made.  That Dorian somehow can serve as an audience to the people who follow him, knowing the value in taking your foot off the accelerator.

And that people don't end up having to suffer and go through what any of those guys did, because they were smart enough to listen, and learn from the mistakes of others, rather than their own.

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  1. My two close friends, both pro bodybuilders, have disused this topic quite a bit. We look at people like Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath, and Jay Cutler (who is not competing anymore) who both look and are functioning fine. All have competed at the elite level of bodybuilding, and two of them have gotten to the same destination that Ronnie and Dorian had, but are not semi-cripples. Same goes for Mike O'hearn, who lifts ungodly poundages, but has obviously taken a slow and steady approach to lifting (and likely some other component of the whole ordeal).

  2. With that said, and keeping on topic, I just want to see if perhaps you can chime in on a simple question regarding the slow and steady approach for bodybuilding, particularly for legs, instead of the always-balls-out approach that leads to a bad spot. My legs are my strong point and I am at a point at which I don't think it will be wise to have two balls-to-the walls leg training days per week. I make the my best progress on upper-lower splits. No other scheme works as best for me. However, I think my knees are taking a beating from front squatting at one session and back squatting at another, which is an idea I got from you for a heavy-light scheme which I see written in most of your mass building programs considering the front squat is always going to be lighter and less stressful on the back. Are you fond of goblet squats perhaps? Perhaps legged stiff-legged deadlifts for the lighter day too? You have any other heavy-light ideas you have toyed around with for continuous size gains? I know you get tons of questions and this is your livelihood, so if you can't get answering this, I understand. It's just I religiously follow your stuff and love the e-book I recently got from you. I got my first show coming up this fall and want to make my workouts count.

  3. Great article, Paul. As much as I liked Jamie's stuff, to whom you may or may not be referring to--his immediate results stand for themselves, but it always seemed like he based much of his rationale off of manual laborers and people in professions throughout history who notoriously ended up with shattered bodies by middle age. They got strong, no doubt, but to take his example of sherpas who'd ruck hundreds of pounds up and down mountains--wonder how those guys were doing at 40 or 50 years old...anyone who's done manual labor has worked alongside guys who were buck strong but totally broken and in pain at 50.

  4. Agree with you 100% Paul. Lifting is meant to make us better not worse. There's always a price to pay for balls to the wall attitude. Great read mate.

  5. While I get what you are after, I'd respectfully add that all the men you have mentioned have been champions. it's not really fair for you to compare yourself and what you can do (as you said, a 300 lb OHP & 700 lb deadlift and sprint) to what even someone like Layne can do. The guy was a top natural (presumably...I believe him) bodybuilder and is now one of the best IPF lifters out there. Meanwhile, many will look at you Paul and shrug at an average total for a geared up lifter. But that's exactly what I think your point should be - you have different goals than the champions you've called out. I'm not sure a guy like Layne could be a champion-class lifter without training the way he does. I would concede that Ronnie and Dorian could have laid off the crazy lifting at times, but that's just not them.

    1. 1. No one cares about natural bodybuilding.

      2. I totaled top 20 in two different weight classes while not even wearing a belt.

      3. Dorian even stated, as I wrote, that he should have backed off in training leading up to competitions.

      4. Go ride Layne's jock someplace else.

      5. Layne honestly shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as Yates or Coleman, the article was about knowing when to back off and when to accelerate regardless of if you're a champion or not.

      6. Your comment came across as you being a total dickbag.

    2. I agree with the points you make, and that comparisons are unnecessary at best, but Layne could probably have become a top class lifter and achieved even more with a more reasonable approach to training. Daily heavy training is pointless even for drug-enhanced lifters. Ed Coan and Captain Kirk trained each lift once a week - can't argue with their results.

      I don't think a parallel can be drawn between Ronnie and Dorian. Ronnie often went balls-out heavy on the big 3 lifts and other compound exercises. Dorian didn't squat or barbell bench, and only did partial deadlifts (not very heavy, if interviews are to be believed). So "going heavy" obviously meant very different things to each one of them.

      I think in their case the massive decline in size and shape was more due to their decision to stop juicing heavily once they were done competing. In a recent interview, Dorian mentioned how it took his hormone levels forever to (somewhat) recover once he stopped using, and how he suspects the juicing left him sterile.

  6. Ill feel sorry for Laynevwhen hevstops coming across as a know it all prick.

    DUP is the dumbest thing this decade

  7. Not trying to be a dickbag but have you every trained as a natural athlete? Perhaps more stress is required is there is no outside stimulus?

    Going balls to the wall a couple of weeks before a show is undoubtedly retarded tho

    1. Of course I have. I was natural for 20 years man. All of my principles of training were based on training NON enhanced.

    2. I don't think it makes any sense that a drug-free lifter would somehow need more outside stimulus than an enhanced lifter, since "enhancement" helps you recover faster and train harder/more often. It fails the test of basic logic.

      I have seen this nonsense propagated on several "natty" boards/sites. Maybe it's one of those bro-principles like "squatting for big arms".

    3. doesn't chad wesley smith also use the same high frequency high volume style as Layne? I did his PH3 program and you do everything 3 times a week, but you don' touch anything above 85% at any time. Sounds pretty similar to what I've heard about the juggernaut method

    4. Chad is/was pretty big on using low intensities for most of those blocks if I recall.

  8. I have mixed feelings on the big 3 multiple times a week. I agree with you that going balls to wall multiple times a week is stupid and setting yourself up for injury. On the other hand if programmed intelligently I see nothing wrong with doing the big 3 multiple times a week.

  9. I'd say overall this post is laughable.

    Of course you make some decent points but as mentioned earlier all of these guys are champions. It's funny how strong the "go ride laynes dick" crowd is... Maybe more than the "dick riders" themselves.

    It's easy to make justifications for your own short comings... Injuries are apart of any sport and minimizing them is always the goal. Unfortunately you can do everything possible "right" and still tear your ACL on the opening drive of week1 game1.

    I'd say Layne has done a good job standing up to injuries compared to others. Everyone is different. Jesse Norris trains just as intensely and frequently and he seems bulletproof. Go figure.

    1. I'm confused. where is Layne a champion? Tossing Layne's achievements in with Ronnie and Yates is pretty fucking thin if that's what you are doing. It really is. Is that what you're doing? Because I've "won" powerlifting meets. Am I a champion as well?

    2. Discussions on optimal volume/intensity/frequency are completely valid.

      Questioning Layne's achievements is not. He won USAPL Raw Nationals and broke the squat world record and placed second at IPF Worlds. Enough said.

    3. Ed coan is one of my best friends, but he just had his second hip replacement. There is a high correlation between low bar squatting and bad hips. just because someone does something and achieves something with it, doesn't mean it was the most optimal way to get it done. Everyone is fair game on criticism. That's how life works.

  10. How much volume/intensity/frequency is optimal is a completely valid discussion. Doubting Layne's achievements is not. He broke a squat world record - enough said.

  11. Great read..Lifting is meant to make us better. Not only does strength training increase your physical work capacity, it also improves your ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL's). It improves bone density. It promotes fat-free body mass with decreasing sarcopenia.
    Muscle building supplements Xtreme no

  12. Read Fred Hatfield, PhD on frequency and intensity. Besides it is supposed to be body " building" not destroying and in bro-speak isn't it supposed to be a "life"-style? Simple shit! Use good sense, watch fixed bar movements or suffer avascular necrosis of tendon sheaths and give you CNS and muscles time to repair and grow

  13. Read Fred Hatfield, PhD on frequency and intensity. Besides it is supposed to be body " building" not destroying and in bro-speak isn't it supposed to be a "life"-style? Simple shit! Use good sense, watch fixed bar movements or suffer avascular necrosis of tendon sheaths and give you CNS and muscles time to repair and grow

  14. Read Fred Hatfield, PhD on frequency and intensity. Besides it is supposed to be body " building" not destroying and in bro-speak isn't it supposed to be a "life"-style? Simple shit! Use good sense, watch fixed bar movements or suffer avascular necrosis of tendon sheaths and give you CNS and muscles time to repair and grow

  15. Great article, but to play devils advocate one of the reasons high frequency is popular is because it allows you to spread x amount of volume over more sessions which should allow for better recovery and more practice with safe form. The problems arise when it's used because someone wants to do volume that would take them 5 hours if done in a single session.

  16. Looking back on this late thread and saw your reply paul. I honestly can't tell if your purposely trolling.

    Who mentioned Layne and Ronnie in the same comment or breathe? Me?

    Oh no that's right. You did in your article.

    I'm honestly clueless as to what your reply means. He's set (regardless if currently held or not) world records in one of the most respected and strict PL Feds there is. I don't understand why or how you can blow that off as a non-achievement...

    Why are you angry and why do you stalk Layne from face book to Twitter to your own website to the dark corners of Reddit? It's honestly laughable lol.

    1. Actually Layne and I have talked many times in the last six months and are completely on friendly terms.