30 October 2010

Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery

If it's not conducted by the mentally retarded.  Read my blog, and then this hunk of shit posted on www.elitefts.com a week later.

The next time you go into the gym, I want you to walk in with a swagger. Walk in as King. Why? Because some day you will be.
Everyone had to start somewhere. Donnie Thompson, Derek Poundstone, Ronnie Coleman — these men were not born as the best of the best. They started small just like the rest of us. They worked to become the best as countless people fell by the wayside. How many training partners do you think they went through and probably still lose as the days go by? It doesn’t matter. Even if they were alone, they would still have the passion to achieve the unthinkable.
You will push harder day after day, workout after workout, rep after rep, and you’ll build the most rock-solid foundation anyone has ever seen. You will have your ups and of course, you will have your downs. A wise man sees failure as progress. You fail, you get back up, and you smash that weight the next time. So many of your peers will give up after just a few tries, but not you. You will set a goal, destroy it, and then move on to a place you are only dreaming of right now.
Let yourself be inspired. There’s no shame in it. Be in awe of people you admire. A big factor for me is the clothing I choose to wear for the gym. So many times I’ve seen pictures of athletes and I’ve actually gone out and bought the same type of outfit. It makes me feel strong. It makes me feel powerful. It makes me INVINCIBLE.
Prior to Paxton Strongman 5 in December 2009, I saw this picture of Dave Tate:
Just look at it. The dude is jacked and ready to tear the house down. I went out, got the shirt, hat, and shorts, and I had PRs every single time I wore the outfit. I felt powerful. Psychologically speaking, emulating this man helped me break down barriers. It can work for you too.
Then, “World Painted Blood” by Slayer came out. The song kicked my ass, and I found another outfit that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck – the same way I felt when I heard the song. I went on to tie for third in Paxton 5 due in part because of the outfit, but also because I walked in there like I owned the place. I had one of the best contests ever. I imitated what made me feel POWERFUL. I took every advantage I could get.
Check it out:
Stand on the shoulders of giants. Feel like they feel. Wear what they wear. Do what they do. NEVER feel like you can’t lift something or achieve something. You damn sure can, because you will push until you do. I don’t care if you fail 1,000 times on the way. You will get there with enough perseverance.
Think of it this way: Vince McMahon from the WWE is in his sixties. There are guys that look better than him, are richer than him, and plenty of men who are far surpass his physical abilities. However, he is so successful due in part because he enters the building with the mindset that he owns the place:

Who gives a damn if people look at you like you have two heads? They will look at you like you have THREE heads when you lift double what they can, when you run faster than them, grow bigger than them, and achieve more than they could even imagine. People will mock you because they want to drag you down to their weak, uninspired level. Strive to be that guy — the one that everyone stops to look at as he loads 45 after 45 onto an already bending bar and just plays with it. Strive to be the baddest man on the block and know — don’t think, KNOW — that soon you will be.
The ability to do whatever you want is inside of you. Own it. Harness the desire and take every advantage possible to get it. Blast the most motivating music, emulate the look of people you admire, and swagger into the gym and DOMINATE  the weights. SMASH through barriers. Lift until you think you cannot go on, and then push further. Sweat, bleed, and swagger. Be the King. Dream of living, and then live your dreams. Nothing can stop you!

Holy shit.  That's what happens when someone lets the mentally retarded near a computer.

29 October 2010

Innovate or Stagnate- The Choice Is Yours, Part 2

"Thus the great mass of men who inhabit the world today have no initiative, no originality or independence of though, but are mere subjective individualities, who have never had the slightest voice in fashioning the ideals they formally revere.... He who saith unto himself, "I must believe, I must not question", is not a man but a mere pusillanimous mental gelding." -Jack London (possibly)
I realize the massive irony inherent in utilizing a quotation to articulate my distaste for the inability of the average person to think critically or form an original thought.  The author, however, perfectly encapsulates my sentiments and is far more eloquent than I, so I felt that its use was justified.  Additionally, the word "pusillanimous" is fucking awesome, so it was next to impossible to pass up.
Scooter- the Liberace of Gobots.

That stated, we'll continue our exploration of the underpinnings of various groups of physical culturists' abject hatred for original through or innovation, and their resistance to outside influence.  (See part one here)  At its root is a concept called 'groupthink'.  Originally, the word groupthink was utilized to talk about more than "mere instinctive conformity -- it is, after all, a perennial failing of mankind. What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity -- an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.'' Since William Whyte made that statement in a 1954 article of Fortune, the definition of the word has metamorphosed like the lamest Gobot of which you could think to mean "the result of successful pressure to conform", which is in my opinion hardly less pejorative than the original definition.  Groupthink is caused by a variety of factors, according to Irving Janis, the progenitor of the word and theory, but stated that "one of the most potent conditions making for groupthink... is insulation from direct contact with informative people."(Janis p 61)  The members of such a group, like powerlifters, then self-police themselves to ensure that they all ascribe to the same philosophy, and brook no dissent within their ranks.  They are then, in essence, very much like those vapid, cud-chewing high school twats we see at the mall while trying in vain to make it in and out of that den of iniquity with our souls and a shred of respect for humanity.
This close-mindedness is actually borne of a somewhat laudable goal, given their highly cohesive, insular nature, as it "consists of the members' strong wish to preserve the harmony of the group, which inclines them to avoid creating any discordant arguments or schisms.  When this constraint is dominant, the members engage in self-censorship of their doubts about whatever policy position seems to be preferred by their leader or the majority of the group.  They use their collective cognitive resources to develop rationalizations to support expectations of a successful outcome, usually by invoking shared illusions about the invulnerability of their organization or nations, and they display other symptoms of concurrence seeking (referred to as 'the groupthink syndrome').  Instead of fear of retaliation, which is the main motivation for conformity when the 'avoid punishment rule is used, the underlying motive for the 'groupthink' tendency appears to be a strong desire to avoid spoiling the harmonious atmosphere of the group." (Janis 56-57)
There's a reason why kegs are in every strongman event.

This is vaguely understandable, given that strength athletics are generally misunderstood by the public and considered the purview of the mentally deficient or those who have need of a physical compensation for either a small brain or a small cock.  Rather than banding together in a brotherhood of iron, however, any casual observer will note distinct divisions between strength athletes, which didn't exist in bygone eras. Clearly, the lack of these divisions begat much more well-rounded strength athletes and made for a far more enjoyable fraternal sentiment in gyms, as evinced by the fact that gyms were frequently attached to taverns and had a specific place in which to store one's stein while lifting. (Smith)  Can you imagine the Jersey Shore asshats rocking over to a bar after a hard lift and pounding some shots and steaks with the powerlifters and the strongmen?  I highly fucking doubt it.  The powerlifters would be busy with prehabbing, rehabbing, or not laundering their workout gear, while the strongmen would be eating small children, the Highland games guys would be cavorting about in skirts, hammered, singing songs in Gaelic no one could understand and admiring each others' facial hair while the bodybuilders would be jacking 'slin, preening in front of some mirrors and whining about how fat they are.  Any camaraderie that might have existed between physical culturists is gone now utterly gone now, replaced by fractiousness, shittiness, and general idiocy.  That is, of course, except for the strongmen, who seem content to kick ass and drink beer while laughing at the myriad failings of other strength athletes and of course, bodybuilders.
Meanwhile, a few "powerlifters" managed to tear themselves away from the internet for a photo op.

Thus, save for strongmen, who train in endless permutations of splits, exercises, and frequencies, weightlifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders each band together in their cliques like frightened sheep in the middle of a field, braying at any other animal that enters their space. They insist that the predominant method of training is the only way one could possibly achieve greatness in their respective sport.  "According to the groupthink hypothesis, members of a concurrence-seeking group sometimes engage in mindguarding, which reduces the amount of dissent to which they allow themselves to be exposed.  But it does not follow that they never allow themselves to hear or read about dissenting views.  Rather, the hypothesis states that when they are exposed to dissenting views, they do not take the objections seriously enough to reconsider any of their assumptions or expectations pertaining to the policy option that they collectively favor, even though some members may have strong residual doubts."  (Janis p. 279)  This is why bodybuilders, in spite of massive amounts of evidence to the contrary, will continue to assert that the only method by which one can "get hyooge" is to carefully balance their pervasive fear of overtraining with sets of 6-10 reps on the most pathetic weaksauce exercises one could possibly invent.  
The Coan/Philippi routine got him this 300lb-ish deadlift for a 1st place win at 181! W00t!

Many powerlifters do the same for their vaunted Smolov, Sheiko, Coan, and 5/3/1, insisting that any other training methodology will lead to rack and ruin, and is ultimately nonsensical.  Faced with proof to the contrary, they'll do exactly as Irving suggested, claiming that the source of the proof is invalid of any number of half-baked ideas, simply to reassure themselves of their correctness.  The internet makes this phenomenon even more common, as the groups become far more "cohesive and well-insulated from outside sources of opinion and information, two important antecedent conditions of groupthink." (p 283)  As such, they cement their ingrained opinions, lose all objectivity, and indoctrinate neophytes into their special brand of close-minded insanity, for which there appears to be little cure.

Next, I'll deploy post-modernist philosophy, Mariusz Pudzianowski, and Zen-influenced clinical psychology to continue the deconstruction of this fantastic brand of idiocy.  

Irving, Janis.  Crucial Decisions: Leadership in Policymaking and Crisis Management. Free Press: New York, 1989.

Langer, Ellen.  Counterclockwise.

Safire, William.  The Way We Live Now: 8-8-004: On Language; Groupthink.  The New York Times Magazine.  8/8/04. Retrieved 10/26/10.

27 October 2010

Flip The Scrip By Going One Lift A Day

Though not in any way my personal creation, one of my personal favorite unconventional workouts is the one lift a day bit.  Like I said, hardly Earth shattering, but it's definitely a nice way to switch it up, or to work on a lift on which you've been lagging, or to just fucking murder a lift on which you're having an awesome day.  It's the kind of thing you wedge into a week of lifting wherever you feel like it, and there's no shame in knowing you just spent an hour and a half pounding the living fuck out of a lift and making it yo' punk bitch.  
Frantz makes every lift his punk bitch.

There are nearly endless permutations to this type of routine, as you'll see in this installment, but one factor remains unchanged throughout- brutal, heavy, compounds.  This is not a routine on which you'll be doing dumbbell flyes one day and pulldowns the next.  This isn't fucking Jazzercise, and there should be no rubber coated, pastel dumbbells involved.  This should be nothing but the sort of "holy fuck I shit my pants" heavy-ass lifts that one would have seen in a gym prior to the advent of the Nautilus machine and color photography.

As I stated above, there's only one factor that remains constant in this type of routine, and there have been many people with different takes.  I've listed some here for the purpose of illustration, and to give you an idea of the types of splits one could enjoy with this manner of madness.

Bednarski and Chaillet 
Olympic weightlifting badass Bob Bednarski followed a system like this all the time, and it worked wonders for him.  With it, Bednarski was able to shatter the world records in both the clean and press (456 lbs) and the clean and jerk (486 lbs) at a bodyweight of 242 at a time when the Soviets dominated Olympic weightlifting, and this was pretty much the last hurrah of the US Olympic weightlifting program.  Bednarski apparently used a ton of routines throughout his career, but this is the one he used to shatter the world record.(Purposeful Primitive 28-30)

Monday Clean and Press 350-385x3 (5 sets)
Tuesday Snatch 305-315x3 (5 sets)
Wednesday Squat 450-500 x3 (2 sets)
Thursday Clean and jerk 405-435x1 (5 sets)
Friday off
Saturday Total on 2-3 lifts Work up to a max single on 2 or 3 lifts
Sunday Squat 450-500x3 (2 sets)

Mark Chaillet also used this on the deadlift, where he'd spend one day a week working up to a max on the that lift.  (PP 39)  I don't have the details on this, but he was a major proponent of working up to a max incrementally, hitting it, and then quitting it.  Although there are likely dozens of internet geniuses currently claiming that maxing every workout is nonsensical and idiotic, Chaillet managed to utilize this scheme to become one of only four men in history to deadlift 800 in four different classes and set 10 records in 4 different classes.
The best part of T-Nation
Dan John
Dan John (of T-Nation fame) is also a proponent of this style of routine, and he outlined a far more intense program than those listed above on the aforementioned, now infamous, site. (John)  His program is as follows:

Week One: 7 sets of 5

Set One: 225 for five
Set Two: 245 for five
Set Three: 265 for five
Set Four: 275 for five (getting tired, tough lift, might not be able to get another set)
Set Five: 235 for five (nice refreshing drop in intensity)
Set Six: 255 for five (nice, challenging set…but not hellish)
Set Seven: Either 275 or 285, depending on spotters and energy

Week Two: 6 sets of 3

Week Three: 5-3-2

Week Four: Off!

Frankly, I've never tried this workout, but I like where he's going with it.  He, of course, recommends using compound lifts for this type of a routine, with a split something like the following:

Monday: Bench Press or Incline Bench Press
Tuesday: Row or Row Variation
Wednesday: Squat
Thursday: Off
Friday: Military Press
Saturday: Curl, Deadlift, Whatever
These silly bastards actually used to put useful information in their mag.

Another type of one-lift-a-day workout about which I've read (I think from an Ironman mag in the 1990s) utilized the following rep scheme on every single lift: 


That might not seem like it's all that bad, but the goal is to make your ascending poundages considerably heavier than they were going in- and that's fucking hard.  I used to do this all the time with squats, and loved it.  As I recall, I'd do something like the following, when I was a 134 lb wrestler in college: 


It didn't always work out that way, but as I recall, that's generally how it went down.

My Personal Take
Now, of course, I always take shit a bit further, and I find myself using this type of a day for any of the above three reasons- just as my motivation varies, so does my execution.  On days where I'm simply loving the lift, which are usually power cleans or partial squats, I'll spend as much time as I feel like just pounding the shit out of a given weight, and then cap it off with a max effort.  There's no science to this- it's just me enjoying the lift.  I'll usually do this on a Saturday and do whatever rep scheme I want, taking as much or as little rest between lifts.  Occasionally, I'll go so far as to bring a book and something to eat to the gym, and just pound away on it until I decide I'm done, reading and eating in between lifts (on something like partial squats).  Frankly, I love those days, and if I had my druthers I'd do them more often, but my gym's hours currently don't afford me that luxury.  By the end of those workouts, however, I'm happy, exhausted, and feel like I could eat rocks and shit gravel.  
Blast from the past.

On days where I want to work a particular lift for practice, I pick a weight from which I won't back off, usually one with which I can do 3 reps, and pound out sets with only a trip to the water fountain as a rest.  My triples will become doubles, which will become singles, which will end in a fail.  At that point, I'll slow down the workout, and usually mix in a light lift that has nothing to do with the single exercise in question, just to make my pace more deliberate (if you train with a lifting partner, that will be unnecessary).  For instance, I did this yesterday with bottom position reverse grip bench press.  I threw 325 on the bar and kept at it until I was grinding out singles.  At that point, I added weight, went slower, and did singles with 335.  To reduce my pace, I started using the wrist roller and working neck in between sets.  When I reached the point at which I couldn't lock out a rep at that weight, I backed off to 225, did two death sets, and called it a day.
Practice makes perfect.  I'm going to go practice.

Francis Galton wouldn't have agreed with this method, as he believed that a lifter "perhaps flatters himself there is hardly an assignable limit to the education of his muscles; but the daily gain is soon discovered to diminish, and at last it vanishes altogether. His maximum performance becomes a rigidly determinate quantity."  Fuck all that noise.  That silly-assed notion has been proven false more recently by numerous studies that I'll cite in later blogs, but for now you can rest assured that Galton's obsession with genetic limitations has been nearly definitively proven false, and that practice does indeed make perfect. Studies have shown since Galton made that claim that "ability tests can predict early performance on a job, whereas final performance is poorly predicted. Even for a well-defined skill... with relatively unselect groups of subjects, numerous efforts to predict the attained performance from pretraining aptitude tests have failed."(Erickson et al) Provided one monitors feedback (which in this case would be increased weight on a given exercise, critiques of form, and biofeedback such as recurrant pains or injuries) "subjects' performance improves monotonically as a function of the amount of practice according to the power law."(Ibid)  For those of you without access to google, monotonic increases mean that each performance is greater than or equal to the previous performance.  Thus, although people "believe that because expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance [and] the expert performer must be endowed with characteristics qualitatively different from those of normal adults", this is not necessarily true.  Ericksson and his pals "deny that [qualitative differences between expert and normal performances] are immutable, that is, due to innate talent. Only a few exceptions, most notably height, are genetically prescribed. Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain."  In essence, the more you do an exercise (provided you're doing it correctly, the better you'll get at that exercise.  This theory has been borne out over millennia, and it's continued to be proven in the modern era.  Thus, this will work if you want to improve at a given lift in particular.
He just shit himself.

For those of you tired of wandering the gym aimlessly, want to work on your form or execution on a given lift, or simply want to try something new, give this a shot.  It's worked for some strong motherfuckers in the past, and it's endorsed by a member of the clergy (Dan John), so you always have the possibility of receiving spiritual enlightenment while getting your lift on.  Have at it.


K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer.  The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.  Psych Rev. 100; (3): 363-406, 1993.  

Gallagher, Marty.  Purposeful Primitive.  West Chester: Dragon Door Publications, 2008.

John, Dan.  The "One Lift a Day" Program.  

25 October 2010

Innovate or Stagnate- The Choice Is Yours, Part 1

"Whatever weapon your enemy possesses must be duplicated or improved upon by you."  This is a universal truth of warfare and or competition, but it seems that the vast majority of lifters these days merely ape their competitors, rather than attempting to improve upon their enemies’ weapons.  The internet is awash with amazingly repetitive conversations wherein various parties will query the masses regarding the efficacy of one of perhaps five lifting programs, with the purpose of competing against the very people they’re asking.  The fact that this is inane and self-defeating is completely lost on these idiots, as they’ve come to the conclusion that the only efficacious training methodologies are those that have been created in the last 40 years and are currently popular.  Anything else, in their obnoxious, poorly articulated opinions, is utterly futile.  They seem to think that strength sports are like Nascar, and that everyone's entering the field with precisely the same mechanics, and that we should all do the precise same thing in order to determine who's the best at utilizing a one-size-fits-all regimen.  I don't know about you, but Nascar's something to be avoided or mocked (or both), rather than something to emulate.  If I know my enemy's coming to battle with a broadsword, I'd rather make a game effort at rolling in with a lightsaber, rather than trying to battle them with their own fucking weapon.
As I’ve stated in a previous blog, I attribute this remarkable close-mindedness to our soft society’s myriad failings.  Though we rail against the Chinese Communists and their societal emphasis on conformity, but our society is worse- even while we bloviate endlessly about our societal embrace of individuality, we’re even more prone to hammering down the nail that sticks up than they, or even the Japanese, are.  “There are many around us who are entrenched in their beliefs and hold dear their view of the world as fixed and predictable.  There are also people who, while not cynical, are still mindlessly accepting of these views.  A new approach… to our lives is needed because the naysayers- those who demand empirical evidence- are winning.  It is they who have determined  what’s possible and what’s acceptable, to our collective detriment.”  (Langer 18)  People these days simply accept whatever they’re told, blindly, without looking at what they’re being told in a critical manner.  This is why the idea that human civilization was previously hyperadvanced is laughed at, despite the fact that there the Temple of Baalbek is completely unrecreatable with modern technology, or the fact that the ancient Mesopotamians had batteries, or the fact that we have detailed descriptions of technology we’ve only recently recreated in the most ancient of Hindu texts (the mercury vortex engine).  Archaeologists and the average person believes that these aberrations were mere toys of the ancients, or that immense amounts of slave labor could move 1200 ton stone blocks where our most advanced equipment cannot.  Similarly, people explain away the strength feats of “old-timey” strongmen as the produce of genetic freaks, impossible to recreate even with the aid of our advancements in nutrition, supplementation, and equipment.
These absurdities persist in the face of evidence to the contrary simply because other people say so, and groupthink dictates that we ignore the outliers and focus only on the average human.  In classic scientific inquiry, a majority of subjects need to show an effect to conclude that the effect is real.  In contemporary scientific thought, there is currently a movement afoot to show that only one example can prove an effect is real- “if just one monkey spoke one real world, we’d have enough evidence to draw conclusions about primate communication abilities” and to suggest that the effect was  recreatable.(Langer 17)  This echoes exactly my sentiments- if just one person shows that something is possible, everyone can then strive to achieve their result.  Just as Roger Bannister showed that the four minute mile was not an unbreakable barrier, the old time greats and modern beasts of the iron alter our reality to show that a 700+ lb one arm deadlift is just as possible as a sub 4 minute mile, if one properly applies oneself.  If gravity can bend light and Lamar Gant can deadlift 6x his bodyweight, so can you- the possibility exists.
“The psychology first requires that we begin with the assumption that we do not know what we can do or become.  Rather than starting from the status quo, it argues for starting from where we would like to be.  From that beginning, we can ask how we can reach that goal or make progress toward it.”(Langer 15)  Thus, our reality is fundamentally altered with the knowledge that such an act is possible.  We’re inundated, however, with negativity, excuses, and disbelief.  We’re skeptical of everything, and believe in nothing.  This certainty is what holds us back- it hardens and closes our minds to the world in which we actually live, and creates an atmosphere of in which little is actually possible for “the average person”.  You’re not average.  I’m not average.  There is no average.  The idea of the interchangeability of humanity is a myth perpetrated by socialists, who in their laudable way wanted workers to be treated in the same manner that the owners were.  Their rhetoric, however, has replaced observation of the real world, however, and we now ignore what we know and embrace that which we are told.
We need to start focusing on what's possible, and ignoring the naysayers... since possible is far cooler (or in that case, hotter) than what's probable.

Langer, Ellen. Counterclockwise.  New York: Ballantine, 2009.

22 October 2010

Modulate Your Frequency, The End (Finally)

To this point in the series, we've established the following:
  • high frequency training is hardly the sole purview of steroid-riddled maniacs, but rather a time-tested and formerly very well regarded routine,
  • even the fattest and most pathetic people in our society thrive on high-frequency routines
  • you're likely not mentally or physically prepared for the rigors of high-frequency training due to your temporal and geographical location in the space-time continuum.
Thus, there's really no reason not to try high frequency training, save for your own time constraints, general unwillingness, or lack of mental preparation. My last two blogs covered the basics of overcoming the myriad mental hurdles you'll likely hit, though, so with a bit of prep and some continual rewatching of Crank 2, you should be ready to fucking crush shit in the gym. Crank 2, you say? Fuck yeah- a frenetically-paced movie about a guy who keeps himself alive by sheer will, all the while engaging in a bit of the ultra-violence and some public sex? Fucking sign me up.
Once you've overcome the mental aspect, you can get cracking on the physical. The average trainee likely spends only four or five hours a week in the gym, separated into as many training sessions. This entry's going to outline two slightly disparate schemes for increasing your total workload, without a lot of extraneous bullshit because I'm pressed for time and I think I've made my point on high-volume.
The first method for increasing volume is that of the Bulgarians, whose system's been studied at great length by Westerners eager to learn the strength training secrets of that impoverished country filled with swarthy He-Men. The method of increasing was outlined in a Critical Bench article, which I've thrown in here for your viewing pleasure.
First, you create a basic full-body routine template:


Snatch: 3 singles, using 'Maximum Training Resistance' (use matrix)
Clean & Jerk: MTR matrix
Front Squat: 3 singles, using MTR, then 2 doubles with MTR -15 kilos

Back Squat: 3 doubles with Monday CJ MTR + 20 kilos
Power Snatch: 3 singles with MTR
Power Clean and Push Jerk: 3 singles with MTR
Romanian Deadlift: 3 triples with Mon CJ MTR + 20 kilos

Snatch: work up to true 1RM
CJ: work up to true 1RM
Front Squat or Back Squat: work up to true 1RM

Next, you add a session to the middle day of the week, with the original session conducted in the morning and this one done in the evening.

Snatch 80%/2 (3-4 sets)
CJ 80%/2 (3-4 sets)
Snatch Pulls 3-4 sets of triples with a weight 10 kilos over what was used for the snatches

A couple of months after this, the author of that article suggests you add another day. "What previously would have been the M, W, F workouts, respectively, will now take place on M, Tu, and Sat. What do we add in? On Thursday, you will do a workout that looks exactly like Monday's."

Thereafter, you add another session. See the pattern? "You will add an AM session to Monday. (with the previously done Monday session moved to the PM, or done second)" that looks like this:

Snatch: 85%/2 (3-4 sets)
CJ: 90%/2 (2-3 sets)
Back Squat or RDL to MTR
Step 5: Adding Two Sessions

Last, you add one more session on Thursday you add an AM workout that looks the same as Monday's AM workout, and on Saturday you do the following workout (though it is more of a CNS warm-up than a workout) in the AM:

Back Squat 80%/3 (3 sets)
Power Snatches: 'light'
Power Clean and Push Jerk: 'light'
At that point, you'll be hitting the gym 8 times a week, breaking your ass "just like the Bulgarians." As I've explained, the Bulgarians train a fuckload more than that, but insofar as this article and anyone with a fulltime job are concerned, this is how you're going to get it done, step by step, in paint-by-numbers format. In case you're curious about how those wacky little Eastern Europeans work their loading protocols, I found the following explanation, which is pretty interesting:
Bulgarian lifters go for their daily max at every 2 sessions. However that daily max is not necessarily a personal best attempt, rather it's a load that is very challenging for that day. In most cases, it equates to 85-95% of their competitive max. In their "heavy" sessions Bulgarian lifters will build up to their daily max. This max is not an end in itself, rather it is the starting point of their training: the daily max is used to calculate the training load for the rest of the day. Once a lifter reaches his max, he backs down 25-40lbs and do 3-5 sets of 2-3 reps. That are the money sets! With this form of training your daily session is always adapted to your present capacities. Bulgarian wave loading parameters Sets 1 - 3: Warm-ups with a load lower than 60% of the competition max/personal record Sets 4 - 7: Work up to the daily 1 rep maximum Sets 8-9: Daily max - 40lbs for 3 reps Sets 10-12: Daily max - 25lbs for 2 reps They will use this form of loading for 3 daily exercises. On "lighter" days they will do technique work with a relatively light load (60-70%). They will not have a precise number of sets to do. They do 3 different exercises, allocating 15-20 minutes per exercise and they do however sets they feel comfortable doing that day."
With a little imagination, you can adapt this template to any couple of lifts at which you want to get fucking good, and you will. I think if you're applying it to powerlifting, you'd likely want to consider making the second daily session a speed session, so as to prevent an aneurysm or other unforeseen catastrophe. If you want to give the above loading protocols a shot, however, and email me the results, I'd be fascinated to find out what the result was.
Even powerlifting, although powerlifters will claim that it's impossible and you'll get cancer of the AIDS.

If you want something a little less rigid, a little more fun, and certainly less orthodox, you can try my methodology for adding workouts. It is hardly scientific, and although I'll explain what I do (more or less) in this blog, I've actually got an upcoming blog that will outline my reasoning and basic AM workouts in greater detail.
I don't care if she wants something less rigid, because rigid's all she's fucking getting.

For now, I can tell you that when I started increasing my volume to increase my workload, I designated my AM workouts as primarily light workouts. Thus, I started by going Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 20 minute workouts that consisted of either reasonably light machine work (yup, machines!), dumbbell work, bodyweight exercises, or light barbell work with a focus on form. At that point, I stopped (for the most part) doing light workouts in the evening, and but truncated some of my heavy workouts to balance the load. Thereafter, I added two more AM workouts after a couple of weeks, and generally stick to a volume of 3-5 AM workouts and 6 evening workouts, for a total of no less than 8 total workouts a week. I self-regulate my volume based on time constraints and how I feel, so the following is hardly a set routine- it's more like a sweeping generalization than a program. My AM workouts range from 15 to 45 minutes, and my evening workouts range from 30-90 minutes, depending on aforementioned factors. I posted a basic outline of my workouts in this blog, and though my routine varies widely, that's a pretty accurate depiction of what it generally looks like. Should I find that I'm in a tremendous amount of pain, or if I find my lifts falling off, I'll back off a bit to allow myself to recover, though I'm still in the gym 6-8 times a week on the backoff weeks.
It's a journey that will hopefully include co-ed naked rockclimbing sometime soon.

The key to my strategy is that my program is supposed to be a journey, rather than a destination. I constant tinker with my loading, my exercise selection, the workout frequency, and every other parameter of which I can think. The purpose for this is two-fold: I have no set goals in mind, and I want to continue enjoying my twice-daily trips to the gym, rather than dreading them for their monotony.

Like I stated in the last installment of this series- this isn't fucking rocket surgery. The biggest bitch of the entire thing is dragging your ass out of bed in the morning and getting to the gym. Once you're there, the weights practically lift themselves. Thus, if you want to start adding volume, step one is setting the alarm, what you do once you get to the gym matters less than the fact that you're actually there- get there first, and figure it out from there.
Ding Dong motherfucker! Now, go set your alarm.

18 October 2010

Seriously... Get Your Fucking Head Right

In my most recent entry, I stated that it's important for a person to have their head right when they're entering the gym. I posited that we're so saturated with negativity (which is really just a boatload of excuses people have compiled to excuse shitty performance), that it's tremendously difficult to have success no matter how enthusiastic or willing the lifter. I truly believe that this is a massive problem facing most people, and it's one of the most difficult to overcome- forget the training routine selection, adherence to the routine selected, dieting, etc- the biggest battle you're going to fight will be against yourself, inside your head.
You'll notice, reading through old blogs, that I've made comments like the following:
"When you hit the gym, you should be focused on the larger picture- hitting your goals, whatever they may be, and making everyone weep with fear when you stomp around the gym like a miniature Godzilla, not quibbling internally over nonsense that will have little to no bearing on achieving your goals."

"Here I was, perusing a bunch of New Age books in search of alternative methods of getting so pumped up that you could slaughter legions of your enemies, Arnold-in-Commando-style, when it occurred to me that I knew of a way, right offhand, that'd work."

"If you're a hooligan, you eschew bullshit and all of its unpleasant trappings, and you grab life by its throat and fuck it into submission."

These aren't meathead-esque exhortations to act like an asshole in the gym or on the street- they're statements meant to set the stage for how you should feel when you're in the gym- you should feel indomitable, like an immovable object, a force that cannot possibly be opposed. This is not because you're to physically beat everyone around you into submission- you should feel this way because you should be so infused with positive aggression and overall positivity that you feel invincible. Why? Because your mind controls your body, and if you constantly proclaim to it that you're awesome, it will have no choice but to physically realize that thought. That is why I'll generally suggest that someone try harder and get more pumped up before a deadlift attempt rather than spending time dissecting their form. Let Bennie Magnusson be your guide- get pumped the fuck up and wreck shit.
This is not just some esoteric, happy-go-lucky, Tim Robbins bullshit- this is science. It has been proven ad infinitum that one's mind is far more powerful than one's body, and that one can alter one's physiological processes simply through the power of one's mind. I'm not suggesting that you should get all Jean Greyed up and utilize your telekinesis to levitate your next deadlift PR- I'm stating that you can actually make yourself stronger, bigger, and leaner through the use of positive thought, and by the same token, if you constantly obsess over being fat and weak, your body will alter itself to match your perception of reality. Like Henry Ford said, "If you believe you can or if you believe you can't... you're right."(Lipton 112)
Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is that of a sect of Tibetan monks in Northern India, who are able to drastically alter their body temperature to stave off hypothermia through the utilization of intense meditation. Using a yoga technique known as g Tum-mo, they entered a state of deep meditation. Other monks soaked 3-by-6-foot sheets in cold water (49 degrees) and placed them over the meditators' shoulders. For untrained people, such frigid wrappings would produce uncontrolled shivering. If body temperatures continue to drop under these conditions, death can result. But it was not long before steam began rising from the sheets. As a result of body heat produced by the monks during meditation, the sheets dried in about an hour. Attendants removed the sheets, then covered the meditators with a second chilled, wet wrapping. Each monk was required to dry three sheets over a period of several hours." (Cromie) Similarly, monks in Sikkam, India can lower their metabolisms by 64%, and other monks in the Himalyas have been documented sleeping in sub-zero temperatures with only a thin cotton blanket as protection from the elements. Despite this fact, the monks didn't even so much as fucking shiver in response to the cold, as they simply did not believe in its effects.
I realize that it must sound as though I'm about to offer you a choice between a red pill and a blue pill, but this isn't the Matrix, and this shit is fucking real. The power of belief is so strong that Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer proved that she could induce weight loss in hotel maids by explaining to them exactly how many calories they burned at works- a number that vastly exceeded their perceived metabolic expenditure. (Spiegel) Similarly, studies have shown that the placebo effect is so strong that 32% of severely depressed people show marked improvements with a sugar pill, compared to only 50% who actually receive medication for their illness. (Lipton 110) In most clinical trials, "fake" drugs prove just as effective as the real ones, simply because the people being tested believe in their power. (108-9) This is not simply limited to drugs, either- a 2002 study at Baylor School of Medicine showed that a faked knee surgery was just as effective at reducing chronic knee pain as was the $5000 surgery, a fact that the doctors conducting the experiment found disconcerting, to say the least.
If your spotter gets negative, that barbell may end up rearranging your teeth.

By the same token, you can royally fuck yourself up with negative thoughts. I've always fucking detested spotters who will call the lifter a pussy while he's lifting, or other assorted nonsense. That sort of negativity has never fucking worked, in my mind. It's another thing altogether, however, to think to yourself that "so and so thinks I'm a fucking pussy, but I've got their fucking pussy" and then crush a bunch of weights in outright defiance of their suggestion, and to prove what you know to be the truth- that you're a fucking badass. It's a subtle distinction, but a vastly important one. Just as the placebo effect can work in your favor (I've heard of people gaining weight and getting stronger within 24 hours of taking "oral GH", for instance), it can fuck you up royally. In 1974, a guy named Sam Londe was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a disease for which there's little hope of recovery once it's in an advanced stage. Londe was given a couple of months to live, and he ended up dying in a few weeks- in spite of the fact that an autopsy showed that the initial diagnosis was incorrect, and he showed almost no cancerous cells in his throat. (Lipton 111) This effect, called the nocebo effect, can have just as profound an impact on your health and lifts, but in a massively negative way.

For those of you still unconvinced, I can understand your skepticism. Whether it's the effects of the mind on quantum physics (as asserted by Lipton and friends) or that reality is mere perception, and that one can change in on a whim (like the Buddhists and Hindus think), or if it's simply that we've some untapped reserve of energy that can affect our internal chemistry on an atomic level- our minds control our bodies. Not only that, but they control the bodies of others. Practitioners of Transcendental Meditation participated in a study that was published in the Social Indicators Research journal, wherein they allegedly lowered the crime rate by 20% over an 8 week period utilizing group meditation.(Hagelin, et al) Exactly like Ghostbusters II, right? The power of positive thinking might sound like some homosexual "The Secret" bullshit, but there's something to it. Thus, I enjoin you to stop being so fucking negative about yourselves- and there are those of you who are massively, horrifically negative about yourselves- and buck the fuck up. You're likely more awesome than you think, and if you're not, you can literally fake it until you make it.

Now go fuck shit up.

Cromie, William. Meditation changes temperatures: Mind controls body in extreme experiments. Harvard Gazette. 4/18/02. http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2002/04.18/09-tummo.html
Hagelin, JS, et al. Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, DC: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July 1993. http://www.mnaimhac.org/resources/Effects%20of%20Meditation%20and%20crime%20-%20DC%20study.pdf
Lipton, Bruce. The Biology of Belief. Carlesbad: Hay House, 2005.
Spiegel, Alex. Hotel Maids Challenge the Placebo effect. NPR. 1/3/08. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17792517

15 October 2010

Modulate Your Frequency, Part 2- Get Your Fucking Head Right

I think, by this point, I've established fairly conclusively that with the proper application of will, inurement to physical pain and a heavy workload, and adequate sleep and nutrition, that the human body can handle just about anything. That stated, some people might not want to increase their training frequency, or find that the structure of their lives prevents it. If that's the case, so be it- that's not to state, however, that they cannot handle much higher training frequency and volume, it's that they will not. History has shown, however, that it is by and large extreme effort that produces extreme results, so one can hardly fault their genetics for what is in essence their failure to succeed due to a failure of will.

Best pose ever?

To men who had the will and applied it, Saxon and Aston, both managed to put overhead upwards of 300 lbs with one hand- there’s not a single person on the planet who could even begin to approach that feat, much less duplicate it. Hermann Goerner, at a bodyweight of between 240 and 275, deadlifted 727 with one hand and 793.66 with two, both raw and natural, and with a double overhand hook grip. (Willoughby, 94) According to powerliftingwatch.com, there's only one person in the current rankings at 242 who could match Goerner's deadlift, and only 3 at 275- and none of those guys are in tested federations. Charles Rigoulot, at a bodyweight of 200 lbs, clean and jerked 402 in 1924 (Willoughby, 98), a feat untouched until the steroid era by a guy of a similar weight, and the guy who beat him never punched a Nazi officer in the fucking face- Rigoulot did, even though he was a Frenchman.
Wrong Frenchman to fuck with.

So how, then, could this have been possible? These guys trained constantly, competed far more frequently than modern lifters, and were capable of lifting tremendous poundages in an astonishing array of lifts, refusing to merely consign themselves to excellence in one or two lifts. They should not, by the standards of the modern nay-sayers, have been able to lift a paperweight, given their random, brutal, and consistent training regimens, without the aid of supplemental GH, steroids, and of course, the ubiquitous black magic utilized by anyone who does something the plebes cannot. If you’re finding yourself offended or disgusted by any part of this series, or if you're busy making excuses for why you can't handle more than four training sessions a week, you’re probably a generally weak person, tell people that you “test badly” to excuse your insanely low grades and standardized testing scores, and a bad lay.
This is, however, not entirely your fault. We live in a society where children are raised singing idiot songs led by purple dinosaurs. They sit in front of a television, are refused the opportunity to explore the world by their parents, who although they fear that child rapists and gypsies lie in wait for their children behind every tree, refuse to pay any attention to them. As such, the children are raised to be slothful, close-minded, virtually useless consumers incapable of thinking for themselves and bereft of the ability to make logical deductions. Whereas previous generations either encouraged or forced children out of doors to explore and get exercise, to become inquisitive and learn shit on their own, our society teaches them to fear the unknown, to sit on their asses, and to avoid anything that constitutes physical effort.
If you haven't yet seen They Live, you need to, stat.

It's a shitshow, to be sure, but this is the world in which we live. As such, people in the modern world are by and large both physically and mentally incapable of repeating the feats of the people of bygone eras, due to their brainwashing and soft bodies. This makes our task much more difficult, but it’s not impossible- we can regain our former glory. It’s going to be a massive pain in the ass, however, and will require a level of physical and mental effort that will transcend anything most people have ever experienced.

How then, should one go about embarking upon this journey? It’s not as though a person can simply go from being one of the obese, wheelchair-bound social networking addicts of that sheatheap movie Wall-E to an aspiring Bulgarian weightlifter in a day. Or a month. Or a year. The examples I’ve put forth were all those of people who’ve spent their lives enjoying massive amounts of physical activity, and then applying that enjoyment to becoming epic lifters of prodigious weights. Similarly, the incredibly Olympic weightlifters of Bulgaria, Russia, and China all begin their careers in the sport at an extremely young age. Thus, when they hit puberty, their bodies have already been tempered by iron, and they’re used to spending hours every day in the gym. Not only are they used to it- the best of them enjoy it. It’s a way of life. There’s hardly a person in America today, in a land where at best they play soccer a couple of months a year and no one keeps score, where everyone’s taught to a test, the nail that sticks up is hammered down, and books like Your Fat is Not Your Fault are front row and center in bookstores, who’s prepared to embark upon a weightlifting regimen that could lead them to the greatness of the behemoths of the past or the titans of the non-Western present.
Dunno if this is getting your head right... but everything about that is definitely right.

You’ve got to start somewhere, however, and here’s what I suggest:
First, you’ve got to get your fucking head right. This might mean devoting a great deal of time to learning about the people I’ve mentioned, or simply reading about people you find inspiring. Developing a positive mental environment is essential, however, as no amount of negative motivation can propel your fat ass into the gym 12 times a week. That jackass who slobbers all over the place while screaming “Lift the weight, you fucking pussy” needs to take a fucking dirt nap… or at least stay the fuck away from you. That bullshit isn’t conducive to becoming better- at best, it’s only encouragement not to continue sucking. Three books I recommend to aid you in this pursuit are The Super-Athletes by David Willoughby, Manthropology by Peter McAllister, and Gladiator by Philip Wylie. I’ve mentioned the first two ad nauseum, but the third is an insanely inspirational novel that essentially birthed the superhero fiction genre, is both thought-provoking and massively poignant, and the protagonist bears “an immense loathing for the world.” It’s not your typical goodie-goodie horseshit- it’s actually compelling. One of the quotes is part of the reason I started this blog:
"'Eugenic offspring. Cultivated and reared in secret by a society for the purpose. Not necessarily your children, but the children of the best parents. Perfect bodies, intellectual minds, your strength. Don’t you see it, Hugo? You are not the reformer of the old world. You are the beginning of the new. . . The New Titans! Then -- slowly -- you dominate the world. Conquer and stamp out all these things to which you and I and all men of intelligence object. In the end -- you are alone and supreme.'”
(An aside- Clearly, I thus far have had no interest in creating any progeny. My offspring are my thoughts, my opinions, and the results of my continuous and exhaustive research into strength training and nutrition. Like the protagonist in Gladiator, I fight bitterly and constantly against the philistines of the world- people who blindly accept the conventions and mundanities of our society, reject intellectualism, and heartily embrace all that is trite, so that they can pass through the world like unthinking drones in drab, uninteresting lives. For those of you horrified by this amalgamation of socio-political theory and physical culture, you probably should be- I intend to incite a small revolution.)
Is Sarah B the product of some super-secret Swedish eugenics program? Possibly. And well fucking done, Sweden.

Next, you're going to have to experiment with increasing your frequency. This is where you apply the shit I just outlined in the above paragraph to yourself- start thinking for yourself, rather than letting others do the thinking for you. When I was first confronted with the question of how to increase one's training frequency, I was incredulous. Why not just ask me how to get out of fucking bed? It shouldn't even be like learning to tie you shoes, I thought. Well, apparently I'm the only one who thinks that way. As such, I gave some consideration to my transformation from a bodypart workout guy to a full body routines with higher volume guy, and recalled my experience with Chad Waterbury's High Frequency System. The program is pretty fucking awesome, in my opinion, and is a nice primer for anyone who's looking to increase their training frequency and dabble in the same sort of training I do. The essence of the program was essentially to use three weeks to acclimate to a training regimen unlike the bodypart split most people follow. In the fourth week, you add a second workout once a day, ever four days. At that point, then, you're doing a morning and an evening workout once every four days in place of a single workout. By the seventh week, you're doing two-a-days two days in a row, taking a day off, and repeating. It was pretty much fucking genius, provided you started at the beginning.
Rumor has it that Ajax used Waterbury's programs. Read your Homer, it's in there.

I, of course, started at the end, and I paid the price. If you're used to slow-paced, single or double bodypart workouts, jumping headlong into a routine wherein you're training everything multiple times a week, and twice a day to boot, is unadulterated insanity. To say that I was sore all the time was a vast understatement, and I eventually cut my training back to M-WT-S, with two sessions either on Saturday or Wednesday. It involved a lot of experimentation, but that's what I eventually adopted as reasonably comfortable. Later, I dropped the two a days and monkeyed with the program in the Waterbury Method, adding and subtracting the shit I didn't like. It wasn't until George Bush utterly laid waste to the economy while I was in grad school that I started training twice a day regularly, however. Being marginally employed or employed at a gym gives you plenty of time to train, and that's when shit really started to take off for me. I guess I can thank GWB for that.

Next up: "Part 3- the Bulgarian system, what I would do if I were you, and what I do since I'm me."

If you want to download Gladiator in pdf format, you can do it here.

Willoughby, David. The Super Athletes.