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14 August 2009

*The Road Less Travelled

Someone recently queried me on how I got started with all of this high volume shenaniganery. Though I'm sure I'll leave some of the less important bits out, I shall tell you.

I was always a small, chubby kid growing up, in spite of the fact that I pretty much played sports year round. My diet sucked, and I didn't exactly come from a long line of herculean people, so I was built like an homo floresiensis with a little potbelly. It was a bad deal.

I was, however, fast, and tremendously violent growing up, like a pudgy Dennis the Menace. Thus, when I was able to try out, I went for football, and was dismayed to discover that I could not bench press 135 lbs at a bodyweight of about 130. At the time I would imagine I was around 5'3". This fact was accompanied by no small amount of mockery, and I found myself in the gym thereafter, with no idea of what the fuck to do with myself other than bench press. Focusing almost exclusively on the bench press, weighted dips, and for some reason, calf raises, I was benching 285 by the following year, and kept after it, getting stuck here and there but plugging away diligently, using the shitbox routines I found in Muscle and Fitness and other assorted bullshit bodybuilding magazines. Throughout high school and the first two years of college, I was forced to keep my bodyweight low, running a shitload and continuing with my ridiculous bodypart routines, as I wrestled 134. Thus, once I quit wrestling in my junior year, and simultaneously running, I found my bodyweight jumped up to around 165 within a couple of years, and I kept after it, eating the typical bodybuilding diets and doing the basic bodybuilding splits, all the while competing in powerlifting.

I kept tinkering with my diet, and by around 2005 I was always hovering around 170, lean enough that a couple of my abs were always visible, but struggling with my bodyfat and my constantly plateauing strength levels. I then dropped my bodypart splits and adopted some collegiate wrestling strength and training plan I purchased online. That program jumped up my volume considerably, as I had always stuck to the 3 exercises by 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps, with the occasional maxing session, and I was now doing more along the lines of one exercise per bodypart a couple of times a week, with a bunch of sets and 4-5 reps per set. This resonated with me, as I recall my favorite leg workout throughout college was nothing but squats, going:
1x10x135 (weights are pretty much ballpark of what I was doing around 2000)
1x8x185
1x6x225
1x4x275
1x2x315
1x2x335
1x4x315
1x6x275
1x8x225
1x10x185
I loved that workout, so when I had the opportunity to do just one exercise per bodypart, I did it. After doing that program, I started dabbling in hybrid bodypart splits, doing some upper/lower or push/pull workouts, and dropping my reps. This continued, and I kept working out no more than 4 or 5 times a week, until I discovered Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kubik, and Rock, Iron, Steel by Steve Justa. Those guys opened my eyes to a bunch of shit I had never considered doing, and I started seeking out old school lifting advice in the form of books posted on sandow.uk, building wacky routines that were pretty much catch-as-catch can. I found that I could train the same bodypart 5 days in a row if I did it right, with no adverse effects. My lifts kept going up steadily, and I was no longer bored to fucking death by the monotony of always doing the same fucking cookie-cutter routines. It also occurred to me that if I kept training like everyone else, I'd look like everyone else, and just about everyone I see in the gym looks like shit. The old timers, though, they looked like they could eat sheet metal and shit nails. Around that time, I stumbled upon Chad Waterbury's High Frequency stuff. That shit confirmed what I was already starting to discover- the human body can handle a hell of a lot more punishment than your average trainee dishes out. I started training up to 8 times a week, and I found that I got leaner and stronger, though I would actually get burned out after a while and take a forced layoff of a few days, and then come back rested and refreshed. Waterbury's stuff was too programmed for me, though, and too planned, and it seemed retarded to me that I would be forced to keep adding reps or weight week after week, all the while knowing that it was fucking impossible to do so at certain points. I'd always felt that the human body is neither a machine nor a computer, and treating it like anything but the organic entity it was would result in little more than disappointment and frustration.
Winter of 2005-2006. Apparent Toughguy pose. Yikes.

Thus, I started working within my boundaries, maxing a lot, pounding exercises on the days I was strong and backing off or dropping them on days I didn't, and I found that my strength jumped up exponentially, and my bodyfat dropped precipitously. I then started to train with a like-minded lunatic, Matt Weist, the nephew of the owner of Iron Sport Gym, and the two of us started doing what were, by all accounts, the craziest days of lifting ever. We'd clean and press for two hours nonstop with 90-95% of our one rep max, then finish with the log or the stone. We'd do singles on shrugs with 945 lbs until our straps exploded. We'd train 13 days in a row. And all the while, we got bigger and leaner and stronger.
Weist the beast.
This is how ChAoS and PAIN was born.

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