04 May 2012

I Am Not A Superhero #2

This pic has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that it's fucking cool.

In the first installment of this series, I began to detail the ways in which you might elevate your overall perfomance and attitude, as I found it odd that people view me as some sort of freak beyond their capacity to match or exceed in performance.  My success boils down, essentially, to one thing- I fucking want it more than other people do.  I want to transcend anything anyone has ever done and ultimately transcend the human condition, by sheer force of will alone.  I'm neither genetically predisposed toward extreme strength nor am I particularly well-framed for powerlifting.  I've got tiny joints, small bones, and incredibly tiny hands at the end of arms neither short enough to make the bench press a simple matter nor long enough to confer anything remotely approaching an advantage on the deadlift.  As such, I find it objectionable when people will claim that something is impossible when it's within their reach, or claim that they've achieved some great feat when in reality their accomplishment is remarkably pedestrian by any realistic and critical standard.  To wit:
  • A bodyweight squat is not an accomplishment.  Frankly, it's not even cause for minor celebration, unless you've spent a considerable portion of your life bedridden, paralyzed, or otherwise crippled.  You know who gets excited about bodyweight squats?  People who should keep their dumb fucking mouths shut about it and go back to the sad little prison of a basement apartment out of which they apparently crawled for an internet signal.
  • Unless you're a woman or weigh less than 115 lbs., a 225 bench press is not noteworthy.
  • With the same caveats as the first two events, a 315 deadlift is not noteworthy.
The bullet points listed above are easily achievable lifts for ANYONE within a year of lifting.  If you've not hit those marks, you need to sit down and do some real soul-searching.  You'll arrive at but one answer.

You're not fucking trying hard enough.

The face of seriousness- generally fucking retarded.

This likely comes as a tough pill to swallow for the lot of you, but the only thing that's going to get your weights to rise is hard fucking work.  Picking the right program, using the right form, having the right gym... that's all ancillary bullshit that will help, but cannot take you where you want to go without the necessary mindset driving the whole thing.  Basically, most people are trying to build a Ferrari from the ground up but  are too busy fucking with the paint and the stereo to bother putting anything under the hood bigger than a lawnmower engine.  It'd be like preparing your entire life to bang 100 chicks in a row, getting tan, hitting the gym, making sure your hair looks right and reading the Kama Sutra, only to realize when you get there that you're gay and cannot get hard in the presence of women.  The whole fucking thing is ass-backwards, but most people think that the mere fact they talk and stress about the details of lifting so much that the rest will take care of itself.
Before we start whining about steroids- that dude is straightedge.

This isn't entirely your fault, though, especially if you're under the age of 25.  Since its inception, the internet's made great strides in reducing humanity to a gibbering fat sack of shit capable of doing little more than posting pictures everyone's seen a million times bearing slightly altered and badly rendered catchphrases on them and clicking buttons to play games with which retards would grow board in seconds.  Growing up in this environment has fucked the younger generations, because in the face of all of this idiocy people under the age of 25 are used to having their own insecurities affirmed rather than denied, and think they're capable of far less than they actually are as a result.  This is actually due to the way your brain develops, though- "The prefrontal lobes, which allow for salient decisions, don't fully mature until you're 24,  Until then, you're at the mercy of the prevailing opinions of your memetic organism."( Travis-Henikoff 92).  In short- you suck because you've not lobotomized yourself to erase the overwhelming theme of catastrophic failure and mental weakness with which your generation has brainwashed you.

Your Smolov calculator's not going to lift the fucking weights for you, champ.
Unless, of course, it looks like this.

To illustrate my point, I'll give you an anecdote from my life.  Pursuant to my posts about deadlifts, I've been working them into my workouts.  Yesterday, I deadlifted sumo for the first time in about 10 years.  I took a crazy-wide stance that exaggerated my new squat stance and worked on getting my ass down to work my hip flexibility.  Using that, all of my sets through 495 were crazy easy- I lifted the weight effortlessly just so I didn't have to stay in the stretch position.  The first time I tried 585, however, I couldn't budge the weight, which was preposterous.  I was appalled, and considered just saying fuck it to the entire workout and going home, thinking maybe I needed more rest, since I'm taken 2 days off in the last 21.  I walked to the water fountain and resolved to do more pulls with 495, since I'd barely worked out and sumo deadlifts couldn't possibly be that difficult.  I started tearing the weight off the floor, legitimately pissed at it for fucking with me.  Then I increased the weight to 545.  Then 585, then I pulled 605 for a single, about a half hour of lifting after I'd getting my balls kicked in by 585.  I did that because I refused to lose, which is something more people need to fucking learn.

A steadfast refusal to admit defeat is what has perennially delineated winners from losers, and the successful from the unsuccessful.  If you're satisfied with "good enough", then good for you, but fuck off, because the adults have shit to talk about.  Elite athletes all share two things in common- and insatiable desire to win and internalized motives to succeed.(Connaughton)   Without those things, you cannot become pretty fucking good at something, much less elite, unless you happen to be a complete freak of nature.  Although elite athletes are the parties most generally studied in regards to their motivation the its contribution to their success, there's another group of seeming superhumans who generally transcend even the mindsets of athletes- warriors.

Though warriors have a bit of an added impetus to succeed, like not getting shot in the fucking face, they've honed their skills at being fucking awesome.  They know, however, that before you get into the nitty gritty of sallying forth and conquering shit, you've got to focus on your goal.  Of all the people in history, few are more renown for their ability to focus on a goal and achieve it than elite military forces.  I've no background in the military due to my overwhelming hatred of authority figures, but the guys in elite military units ranging from the SAS to the Seals to the former Selous Scouts to the Spartan 300 know that they're capable of driving their bodies to superhuman feats through nothing but the power of iron-clad minds.  Though we're not humping a bunch of shit into the ass end of nowhere to fight for a cause only rich white men with a shitload of cash to earn off it can fully understand, the warrior mindset can aid lifters as well.  Our war's not an exernal war, however, it's an internal battle against weakness.  Done right, blood and sweat will be shed, but in the end, the victor will emerge strong, more confident, and more resilient than when they entered the fray, or they'll become a bitchy poster on some internet board whining about how "nothing works for them and they're doomed forever.  Please help."
A pistol in your grill doesn't hurt, either.  With that kind of motivation, I'm thinking we'd see a lot more 500 lbs squats.

One thing all warriors share is a survival mindset, which essentially boils down to a psychotic focus on a specific goal, which ostensibly includes the continuation of breathing.  "A survival mindset denotes a presence of mind allowing the warrior to focus completely on the task of the moment.  It is a mindset totally devoid of emotion, where perception, analysis, and response all merge into one process."(Siddle 134)  Lest you think it's not, this is totally applicable to weight training or any other sport- you have to focus on what's at hand and not on the other bullshit in your life.  If you focus your attention entirely on that deadlift rather than half-assing it because it's been easy up to that point, you'll make the lift rather than miss it.  No matter what the Chicken Littles on the internet might say, you life is rarely at stake in the gym, but your honor, your integrity, and your self-worth sure as shit are, especially if the person you've been trying to impress happens to be watching you out of the corner of their eye and you've made a show of getting psyched up for a big attempt.  You have to learn to focus your entire existence down to a few scant moments and a couple of square feet if you truly want to move huge weights- if you're preoccupied with bullshit, you're effectively dead.

Psyching yourself up for a lift, then, become fucking critical.  I've personally always hated the whole slapping scenario before a lift, but it does stimulate your CNS to dump adrenaline.  In my world, getting slammed in the face is either a prelude to fighting or fucking (or both), but not lifting.  I personally find it distracting, and it makes me angry as shit when people touch me as I'm preparing to hit a big lift.  Not angry in a good way- angry in a distracted, "I want to fucking stab the toucher" sort of way.  Thus, it's important to figure out what is going to work for you to get into the proper mindset, help you control your emotions and aid you in removing negativity from your mind.  Negativity in any form while lifting is a terrible thing, even when it comes in the form of the oft repeated "Lift that weight, pussy!" format.  If your spotters not bleeding from an open head wound after you rack the weight, you likely believe that you are in fact a pussy, so you're pretty much fucked from the get-go.    Some fear of the weight you're lifting is positive, however, as the adrenaline dump you get from initiating your fight or flight response redirects blood flow to major muscles.(Siddle 89)  The adrenal secretions from the FOF response have been shown to increase performance in gross motor skills like simple pushes, pulls, and squats (i.e. powerlifting movements), so that fear (or any other mentally excited but focused state into which you can put yourself) is actually a good thing.(Siddle 43)  Walking into the gym piss scared of every weight, however, is just as destructive as being too relaxed, however-"Too much anxiety, fear, sadness...can paralyze."(Rosenberg Forging)  Thus, you are going to have to lift a lot of fucking weights before you even come to a reasonable conclusion about what constitutes a genuinely big weight.

This is where high volume training comes to save the day, once again.  Not only does high-volume training make you demonstrably stronger (see the eleventy billion posts I've written on the subject for citations), but it allows you to learn to perform at very high levels in a high stress environment, like in a competition.(Siddle 35)  Doing this is considered by experts to be a critical aspect of training, and is absolutely necessary if you want to perform consistently at the highest levels.  This isn't just because you're strong as shit after training with high weights and low reps day after day, but because at that point your form and response to high weights are controlled completely by your subconscious- there's no lag as you think about shit, and there's no degradation in performance due to high levels of anxiety inspired by a load that greatly exceeds that to which you are used.
Rizelyx says "Fuck Smolov in his stupid ass".

Sometimes even the most John Henry of motherfuckers finds him or herself completely flummoxed by their lack of success, and injury, or just a blase mood.  Should you find yourself fucked and betrayed utterly by your body, you need to go against your instincts to fall back on dogma and approach the problem with a flexible mind.  If the internet is any indication, you motherfuckers will start screaming "SMOLOV!" at the top of your fucking lungs and run screaming for a camera and a calculator at the first fucking setback.  Restrain your apparently natural impulse for attention whoring and rigid systems of training established by a Russian for whom I couldn't even find a fucking biography.  Sit down and actually think about what you've been doing.  Think about your levels of motivation, your recent progress, your form.  One-size-fits-all programs are in vogue in our current environment, as most people appear to have a fucking hardon for a benevolent dictatorship that will give them all of the fucking answers while eliminating any trace of individualism we might have left.  Fuck all that- rigidity is rarely the answer, and it's never the answer for elite athletes when attempting to reach a positive resolution when mired in a negative situation.(Troy)  Remember that Smolov's only been popular since Pavel brought it to the US, and most of the records in the US have been stagnant in that time.
Well, he certainly appears as one would expect an authority on powerlifting to look.

Though you might think I've run rather far afield from my original theme, it all ties back to the original theme- the shit I do is possible because I've got the correct mental environment to facilitate it.  No great feat in history was ever achieved without a burning desire to achieve greatness, and aiming low will only limit your capability to be remembered positively.  Get your fucking chins up and expect more out of yourselves, because I'm no more a fucking superhero than you could be if you simply stopped letting your goddamned brains make you suck.

Sack the fuck up and go do something epic.

     Connaughton D, Wadey R, Hanton S, Jones G.  The development and maintenance of mental toughness: perceptions of elite performers.  J Sports Sci. 2008 Jan 1;26(1):83-95.
     Rosenberg, Robin.  Forging Steel. Part 2: Soldiers, Superheroes, and Resilience.  The Superheroes.  Psychology Today.  10/22/11.  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-superheroes/201110/forging-steel-part-2-soldiers-superheroes-and-resilience
     Siddle, Bruce K.  Sharpening the Warrior's Edge.
     Travis-Henikoff, Carole.  Dinner With A Cannibal.  Santa Monica:  Santo Monica Press, 2008.
     Troy AS, Mauss IB.  Resilience in the face of stress: emotion regulation as a protective factor.  Chapter appeared in S. Southwick, D. Charney, M. Friedman, & B. Litz (Eds.), Resilience to stress. Cambridge University Press. Published online.  http://www.du.edu/psychology/erl/troy%20mauss_resilience.pdf  


  1. Great post.

    How much of it was fueled by your reddit adventures?

    1. Less than you'd think. Reddit merely reaffirms my hatred of humanity, rather than providing the main fuel for the fire.

  2. Hey, what are three books you think every son of bitch should read?

    1. That's a tough question. Non-fiction, fiction, or what?

    2. Non-fiction, preferably. It doesn't have to be the three "most important" books, as that would be impossible to distinguish.

      I'll just rephrase the question to something less ambitious: What are three books that had a great impact on you and, at the same time, you think more people should read?

  3. This was fucking awesome. I honestly couldn't care less about the Predator diet or what music you listen to; it's shit like this that keeps bringing me back to this blog week after week.

  4. another good one. Everybody should start following this Irish 18 year old kid on youtube. Keep in mind he's from a country with virtually no prominence in weightlifting...but does have a firm anti-doping agency to contend with. Awesome.


  5. Couldn't agree more.

    A good book I think a lot of people here should check out is called "Talent is Overrated"

    Cliff's notes version: essentially anyone that achieved any level of greatness (regardless of field) did so through ball crushing hard work. Book is loaded with examples including sportsmen such as Jerry Rice. That guy crushed in the NFL for 20 years and set numerous records. The book details his insane dedication and worth ethic because he was never considered a gifted athlete or a #1 recruit. Hell, the guy play Division II football in college. Anyways, his off season training was absurd.

    Another really cool example was of a scientist who so absolutely loathed the concept of talent that he set out to prove that anything could be achieved through sheer determination and hard work. He decided to raise his daughters to become champion chess players (at the time no female had ever achieved this feat because it was thought that women sucked at logic). Sure enough, his daughter became the first ever female Grand Master through nothing more than years upon years of hard work.

    With that said, after reading this blog entry I went out and set a new PR on my 5K run.

    1. Pretty much what Outliers says: natural talent probably does exist, but its importance is massively overrated and the top people in any field have all worked their asses off getting there.

      Of course, most people like to ascribe more importance to natural talent because it gives them an excuse for being shit. It's the same reason why people claim that if they were on steroids they too would be pulling 800+ whilst rocking 4% bodyfat.

      I find it really weird though. To my mind, the fact that hard work is all that separates me from greatness is a good thing. If it was all about natural talent then that'd suck, but instead I just have to work hard (very hard) and it'll come with time.

  6. Sack the fuck up and go do something epic.

    Nice quote.

  7. "It'd be like preparing your entire life to bang 100 chicks in a row, getting tan, hitting the gym, making sure your hair looks right and reading the Kama Sutra, only to realize when you get there that you're gay and cannot get hard in the presence of women."

    Haha, this made me snort ground beef out my nose I laughed so hard!

  8. Fucking awesome post.
    Regarding Smolov, I think it works so well for most people exactly because these same people are weak-minded.
    They never push themselves except if there´s someone demanding it.
    For example, a guy decides to squat heavy 4x a week without a plan. When he wants to hit some heavy triples, he loads the bar with 90 percent of his 1RM and the first set is brutal. The vast majority of people will just lower the weight because `it aint doable´.
    If they are following the Smolov template, however, chances are that he might push it and hit another 9 sets, beacuse he wants to finish the program and brag about it on BB.com.
    He keeps doing it for 3 weeks, gets stronger, bigger and leaner and claims that Smolov has a magical rep scheme that works oh so well.
    But we all know it´s not, it´s just plain fucking hard work. Do it frequent enough, heavy enough and with a ton of volume and you´ll get stronger. It´s not fancy science.

    1. Interesting point about Smolov. Sad, but interesting.

  9. Smolov will teach you that you can do far more than you thought possible. Squatting 4 times a week however is not the best frequency for consistent progress. Also with percentage based programs make sure you plug in a number you can hit every day as your max. Testing a max is a test of strength as much as it's a test of adrenaline release. You can't bank on maximal adrenaline release everytime you lift. The first thing that happens when you squat everyday, is that you learn to lift with sub-par adrenaline...and that's when the real progress begins.

  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMSWWgGU6Z8

  11. Finally, Harm's Way ends up on here. Most well-suited band for this site. best work out jams ever, and their vocalist looks like a nightmare.

  12. Reading about shit like this (smolov) makes me grateful that I workout mostly in parking lots with sandbags, stones, BW, and pushing my Chevy silver ado around because I'm largely unplugged from all the nonsense.

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