- H.L. Mencken"
Of late, I've noticed that people seem immensely preoccupied, at least on the internet, with comparing their "achievements" in the gym with those of others. Numerous benchmarks have been bandied about as indicators of a particular level of strength, all of which I've found to range between laughably low and downright embarrassing. It would seem that this is because everyone appears to be very preoccupied with comparing themselves to an average, which is never a good way to determine excellence, and it's either a salve to the ego of someone who sucks at lifting or completely inconsequential to someone who doesn't. In either case, they're pointless. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the existence of these charts, here they are (ladies, the misogynist who made this chart apparently felt that you are undeserving of a chart... of which you should probably be glad):
I find this one particularly funny, because according to it, I was a pro level lifter before I'd even had a sip of protein powder as a 134 lb wrestler. I was that strong not because I'm a freak, but because I trained 6 days a week with people a hell of a lot bigger and stronger than myself... and I actually put some effort into lifting.
These seem to make sense if you're the type of person who needs a benchmark against which to gauge your success, but if you get validation out of a chart you're probably one rainy day away from throwing yourself off a fucking bridge anyway. Thus, anyone who falls into that category should start working on their jump squats so they can do it right.
This chart would be more aptly called "If This Means You're Strong, The Apocalypse Is Nigh".
Now we're starting to enter the land of funny. If you bench less than 225 at any bodyweight as a male over the age of 15 who has two working arms, your name should not exist anywhere in conjunction with the word "strong", let alone "very strong". This category should be called "Bitch Mode".
This shouldn't even be a chart, and if you're on it, you're not a person.
Weirdly, for the pre-internet generations, the only benchmarks in the gym were beating gym records, beating your friends' best lifts, and adding another 45lb plate to any lift. Those were cool milestones in retrospect, but hardly our overarching goal- we just liked lifting and knew strength would result naturally out of training. Our milestones arose out of having fun in the gym, and trying to be better than everyone else, rather than simply trying to reassure ourselves that we didn't suck. If you're looking to the internet for validation that you don't suck, here's a newsflash- you suck harder than any other person whose lifetime predated the internet.
There might have been a healthy serving of this from time to time. We didn't give a shit- we were trying to fucking move weight. The only way you avoid failing hilariously in the gym is if you never fucking try.
For instance, I started out with a sub-135 lb bench as a freshman in high school. During my sophomore year, I took a weightlifting class and began competing on bench and weighted dips with another guy about my weight. We benched 3 to 5 times a week, using ever angle on the bench, rep range, volume, and chest exercise permutation of which we could think. By the end of that year, we were both benching 255 with regularity, and by the time Thanksgiving of my junior year rolled around, he hit 300 on the bench and I hit 285.
The upper body weakness of the members of Reddit's /r/fitness amuses her greatly.
We're not the only people I've seen make those jumps, either. My girlfriend Krista, who grew up chubby as hell and totally unathletic, took up Olympic weightlifting her junior year in high school and continued through last year. During that time, she never benched. When she started benching in August of last year, she maxed out with a bounced touch-and-go 85lbs at a bodyweight of about 140. She's now "strong" by the standards of the dumbass charts above for men because she's been training her ass off at the lift for 6 months and is now hitting paused singles at 155 at a bodyweight of 130. That's right, she got leaner and much stronger in 6 months by busting her ass in the gym and dieting hard.
In college, my 150 lb rock climber roommate went from a 225 lb shitfest of a deadlift to 405 for ten in one year, and he never even took a protein supplement. He just deadlifted and did pullups four or five days a week for a year. He and I even got a kid we hated to squat 225 for a double after 6 months of training when he'd never squatted before in his life, and literally folded up like an accordion under 135 the first time he squatted. Another guy in the gym at the time did an unassisted liftoff and touch and go bench of 495 at a bodyweight of around 250 and wouldn't even let anyone stand nearby to spot... just because it was badass. This is how people get fucking strong.
I guarantee Mike Matarazzo never guaged his arm size against that of the average man for inspiration.
Your goal in life should never be to do "as well", be "as good", or work "as hard" as any other person. Instead, you should be striving to overachieve at all times- this is how humanity has lurched forward even while monomaniacal assholes, religious zealots, and harbingers of economic doom wrought havoc on society at large. Measurement by a standard set by the average person leads only to mediocrity, socialism, venereal disease, and eventual burial in an unmarked grave. Transcendence of the human condition, however, leads to every extreme of which you could think- fame, infamy, riches, poverty, brilliance, insanity, super strength, and crippledness, but no matter what the goal, those people will be remembered for their efforts. It's hardly a matter of what other people are doing that drives you forward, as other people are inconsequential nothings, motes of dust, and a possible minor irritation in the quest to achieve greatness, whether that greatness come in the form of intellectual or physical pursuits.
"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."
- H. L. Mencken
Since time immemorial, man has striven to transcend the human condition. Ancient people revered those who did so as gods, and they then became immortalized in the writings of the time. Thus, the ancient warriors who served as the Michael Jordans of the battlefield are still remembered today, as Achilles and Ajax, Gilgamesh and Herecles. Even at that time, humans looked for ways to vastly outdistance the performance of their peers, as we are a naturally competitive species, and codified systems of weight training emerged with specialized diets and concomitant performance enhancing drugs. Herecles purportedly trained with weights under the tutelage of his patron Chiron (History of Weight Training), and Greek Olympians took everything from opium to bull testicles to improve their performance, all while eating a meat-heavy diet unlike anything eaten by the average Greek (History of PEDs in Sports) and using systems of weight training nearly as old as the written word. This was not done in an effort to "cheat" as there was no draconian prohibition on the substances one could consume in order to exceed the performance of the average person, but rather simply to be better than the simpering, weak, ignorant troglodytes these great men found themselves surrounded by. In short, they wanted to transcend the human condition through their own actions and self-improvement.
Fast forward to the modern era- Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra ushers in a new era of transhumanism, a field of study that grew directly from Nietzsche's concept of the "Übermensch". Amusingly, Nietzsche's work inspired the hero Superman, the goody-two-shoes alien superhero who taught generations of little boys to mind their p's a nd q's and do what they're told. This was about as like the intent of Nietzsche's work as it was the creators of Silly Putty to have created a toy out of plastic explosives, and yet, just as the toy, Superman became a G-rated joke of what he was originally intended. Nietzsche's original intent was that the übermensch (overman / superhuman) should transcend all of the trappings of humanity and exceed the intellectual, physical, and moral performances of their human underlings... most of which were embodied in Superman. Superman, however, became a joke version of Nietzsche's theories because his superhuman strength and intellect were still bound to humanity by his laughable adherence to Judeo-Christian morality, which is neither logical nor laudable in the eyes of an übermensch.
“Something unappeased, unappeasable, is within me.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Driving the übermensch, and man in general, is the "will to power", a concept Nietzsche championed throughout his works and also serves as the basis for my interpretation of transhumanism. For those who are unaware of the concept, transhumanism is generally the purview of people who want to become the Borg from Star Trek. Instead of simply improving upon nature's design through force of will, these people seek to remove and replace parts they feel are weak, ugly, or ill-designed with technological constructs that serve the same, or better, purpose. This concept, however, is at odds with what I believe to have been Nietzsche's intent, in addition to just being weirdly distasteful, if for no other reason than the fact that electing to allow someone to hack bits off your body and replace them with man-made parts is fucking strange. Thus, instead of improving themselves by force of will, they are willing to pay for improvements to themselves that aren't really "theirs"- they're foreign objects where their parts used to be.
The driving force behind the two sides of transhumanism, and many training protocols bandied about on the internet, is an age old question- "is it nature or nurture that makes us who we are?" Philosophers have argued for centuries about this issue, and in spite of lengthy discourses written by men like Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, and Grotius, philosophers still cannot come to a consensus on the subject. luckily, however, I exist to finally put an end to the debate. It is nurture, not nature, that makes man who he is. At his essence, man is a brutish, violent, greedy, physical creature with the requisite mental acuity to wreak havoc on the world wholesale. It is nurture that has forced man to become a simpering, cowering, weak-willed and -bodied version of his prototype, and it is nurture that can bring forth the best that prototype has to offer. This process is neither pleasant, nor is it quick, but enduring it will allow you to regain the physical and intellectual superiority of our ancestors.
Perhaps not entirely accurate, but a far closer to the appearance of a Cro-Magnon man than your average salaryman is.
For those of you, and I'm sure you are legion, who will contend that genetics play a large role in your current level of suckitude, allow me to pre-emptively retort- there has been no long-standing eugenics program of which I am aware that has created a race of subhumans. The body somatotypes that are bandied about in bodybuilding magazine are well-recognized as psuedoscience by everyone but Joe Wieder and Reddit. Your physical stature is a direct result of the food your parents fed you growing up and your level of physical activity. That's called nurture, motherfuckers, not nature. If you suck, it's because your parents trained you to do so and you decided to continue on the path they chose for you. those people you think of when you think "genetic freak" are actually just people raised in an environment that made them what they are. To wit:
- Nikola Tesla, one of the most prolific inventors and intelligent people of all time, was constantly forced to do memory exercises and study as a child. Because of this rigorous training, Tesla was able to do calculus in his head as a youth, and he retained most of what he learned through his father's rigourous mental exercises. As for his inventive side, his mother was an inventor who created a number of devices to aid her in housework, which Tesla credited with inspiring his inventive side (PBS).
- Alexander Karelin, who was nicknamed "The Experiment", grew up in Siberia, the son of a truck driver and an office worker. As he lived in Siberia, Karelin's life was far from cushy, and he grew incredibly strong from skiing everywhere and dragging trees he felled by hand through the tundra to their house for firewood. This lifestyle inured him to hard and heavy training, which he initially conducted by rowing boats through ice-filled rivers and running for hours through waist deep snow. He continued his brutal training throughout his career, eventually amassing a record in Greco-Roman wrestling of twelve European Championships, nine World Championships, and three Olympic gold medals, winning every match he entered for thirteen years, and going ten years without giving up a single point (Karelin).
- Jerry Rice, widely considered to be the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, credits his brutal training regime with his success. Rice had very average speed, but was able to set records that surpassed those of the second place receivers in total reception yards, total touchdowns, and total receptions by over 50%. Rice busted his ass in training to get the skills necessary to achieve these accomplishments, training twice a day, 6 days a week in the offseason. Rice's workouts were so brutal that his trainer won't release them to the general public for fear someone would gravely injure themselves trying to replicate Rice's feats (Colvin).
There are plenty of other examples, but you get the point- greatness is earned by a will to power; a will to surpass one's humanity; a will to become the übermensch. No fancy program is necessary, no incremental progression will lead to greatness, and no amount of conversation about it will do a motherfucking thing.
Stop talking and start doing. Will yourself to power.
Alexander Karelin Biography - Siberian Childhood, A Terrifying Maneuver, A Political Career, A Brilliant Career Ends, Chronology. Russia, Olympic, Ancient, and Gold - JRank Articles. Web. 20 Mar 2013. http://sports.jrank.org/pages/2441/Karelin-Alexander.html#ixzz2O8eH2IpT
Colvin, Geoff. Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. . London: Penguin Books, 2008.
Historical Timeline: History of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports. Sports and Drugs- ProCon.Org. Web. 17 Feb 2013. http://sportsanddrugs.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=002366
Tesla: Life and Legacy. PBS. Web. 20 March 2013. http://www.pbs.org/tesla/ll/ll_early.html
The History of Weight Training. Personal Power Training. Web. 17 Feb 2013. http://www.personalpowertraining.net/Articles/the_history_of_weight_training.htm