30 October 2012

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Zercher Part 4

When not lifting stones, Basques have been known to kick a motherfucker or two dead in the mouth, just because.

So I've covered the stone lifters about whom you've likely never heard.  Now, it's time to cover the ones of whom you have.  The big boys.  The guys who've kept stone lifting on the lips of anyone who knows a motherfucking thing about strength training.  That honor basically belongs to three groups of people:  the Basques, the Icelanders, and the Scots.  Of the three, perhaps the least is known about the Basques, who are an enigmatic people known mostly for speaking an incomprehensible language and blowing up trains in Spain.  If any of you have seen Grosse Point Blank, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez is actually half Basque, though from what I've seen he was missing about six inches and one hundred pounds to truly be representative of that pack of pissed off goofballs.  Next on the list are the people of Iceland, less well known than their Scotch counterparts in terms of stone lifting, but no less prolific.  The Icelanders have more or less dominated stone events in strongman competitions in the modern era, and for good reason- they're huge, they're descended from Vikings, and they love picking up heavy shit.  Finally, the bearded, ginger, crossdressing descendants of William Wallace are pretty much what the world thinks of when stone lifting comes to mind, as the Highland Games are the progenitor of the most prolific of stone events- the Atlas Stones.  Those skirt-wearing, plaid-loving, haggis-eating maniacs probably lift more stones, per capita, than any other group of people on Earth.  Unfortunately, they seem to be too busy drinking beer, buggering sheep, and watching men's field hockey to be bothered to win a major strongman competition.  Nevertheless, they're worth checking out.

The Basques: I've covered the Basques and their stone lifting fetish before, but as a refresher, the Basques are stone-lifting virtuosos.  The shit these guys pull off as a matter of course is beyond amazing- it's practically inhuman.  The two top lifts for men in the stones are 322 and 329 KILOS, or 708.4 and 708.4 lbs for the metrically and mathematically handicapped.  They didn't just lift them off the ground, either- they shouldered the motherfucking things, while weighing around 130kg (286 lbs).  Women also get in on the action, as the Basques have always been far more progressive than their machismo-laden neighbors and have been rocking a remarkably egalitarian society for the entirety of their history.  Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t find records information for the broads, as all discussion of Harrijasotzaileak revolves around two guys- Miel Saralegi for lifting the heaviest stone to date, weighing 329 kg, and Iñaki Perurena, who’s lifted the 322 kg stone.  The latter also holds the records for heaviest weight for reps, having lifted a 660 lb stone to the shoulder three times in three minutes.
Time to reconsider that Under Armour bullshit you've been wearing to the gym.

As I've no interest in reinventing he wheel, I'm just going to repost an interesting bit I found on Basque stone lifting.  The TL:DR is that every Basque on Earth, newborns included, are harder than you.

"Stone-lifting, perhaps the most spectacular of Basque sports, has its origins in the quarries and in the use of large standing stones to mark off boundaries. Over the years it has managed to avoid the dangers threatening the survival of other traditional games, which are so often forgotten by the press, overlooked in the distribution of official grants and squeezed out of education programmes by more fashionable disciplines imported from other continents. However, the sports events of the Basque Country continue thanks to the support of local councils which include exhibitions in their festival programmes, and thanks also to their extensive coverage in the press by expert journalists who have managed to carve a niche for themselves among the pages reserved for football, the king of sports in Spain.
The first step for a “harrijasotzaile” (the Basque word for “lifter”) is to go to a stonemason’s workshop, find a stone he likes, and have it properly prepared for the challenge: to lift one kilo more than at his last attempt. This is done by injecting lead into holes that are worked into the original granite slab, until the stone weighs exactly what the lifter wants. The current world record for stone-lifting is held by Migeltxo Saralegi, a 27-year-old from Navarre, who succeeded in lifting 320 kilos. But because of his youth Saralegi has not yet replaced the greatest lifter of all time, his neighbour, friend and teacher, Iñaki Perurena, in the memories of stone-lifting aficionados. Perurena, who is also known as “the colossus of Leiza” (his native town), has achieved popularity ratings in Spain that are unheard-of for a rural sportsman, though they are understandable in light of his competition history. He became national champion at the age of 17 with a lift of 175 kilos, and defended his title year after year with progressively heavier stones until 1987 when, at the age of 31, he achieved what was thought to be impossible: lifting a 300- kilo stone onto his shoulder. Once this psychological barrier had been broken he continued to break his own records, up to 318 kg. There was competition among the Basque local councils to host his record attempts, which were supported by private sponsors, while booking agents helped maintain a rising interest in the events.
Despite the inevitably rough-hewn image of a man weighing almost 130 kg who lifts stones for fun, Perurena, who also works as a butcher and farmer, has given free rein to his more sensitive side by writing poetry about his land and its people. As he grasps the stone and tries to lift it onto his shoulder, he talks to it and asks it for help. He is even capable of disqualifying his own valid lifts if they are performed with the necessary strength but “‘without grace”. The main ambition of stone-lifters is to be considered as sportsmen, not just as local curiosities. Like all other athletes they need daily training, a balanced diet and a refined technique. Because of their exceptional physical condition some have received offers to become boxers or weightlifters, but most stone-lifters reject such offers without a second thought. They don’t want hasten the demise of an entire people’s tradition"(Russell)

In Basque stone lifting, four different kinds of stones are used for four different events: a cylinder, a rectangular cube, a granite cube, and a granite ball.  Of those, they utilize the two cubes, both of which weigh in at 440 lbs.  Typically, Basque stone competitions are timed events, in which the lifters lap their beast of a stone, shoulder that motherfucker, then toss it backward over their heads into a padded pit like they're 1990s Steven Seagal tossing some hapless jamoke over a bar and through a window.  The events usually last three minutes, and begin with the weight on a base of automobile tires or sandbags.  From there, these wacky badasses lever the weight onto their padded thighs, then rotate it onto their padded chests and then drop it.  If they're using the ball, the weight is instead rotated rolled around their neck and dropped, rather than dropped behind them. Occasionally, they'll see who can lift the heaviest stone in an effort to see which of those leather-clad maniacs is the baddest of the bunch, but most often it's reps for time (Jeck 44-46).

Iceland:  Like everyone else, the Icelanders have their own spin on stone lifting.  Frankly, it's hard to conceive of there being so many ways to compete in stone lifting, but one's imagination seems to be the only limit in this sort of testosterone-fueled shenanigans.  The Icelanders have two main stone-lifting events- the lift and carry and the lift and load.  The former is most famously done with the Husafell Stone, which is a 396 lb. flat monstrosity with three oval corners.  The stone was carved by an Icelandic pastor with a fetish for stone lifting and stone wall building who was apparently named after one of the seven dwarves, Snorri Björnsson.  To test the strength of travelers, he set the stone out with the challenge of carrying it around a goat pen he constructed just for that purpose.  The event can also be conducted with the smaller Dritvik Stones, which comes in four flavors- the fullsterkur ("full strength"), a 341 lb. stone; the hálfsterkur ("half strength"), a 228.8 lb. stone; the hilariously-named hálfdrættingur ("weakling"), a 107.8 lb. stone; and one I cannot imagine anyone wanting to lift, the amlóði ("useless"), a 50.6 lb. stone.  While I imagine this sort of thing began in the Viking Age as a way for a man to prove he was worthy of raiding, it's been used since the Vikings turned their swords into ploughshares to determine who was fit to work on fishing boats, "with the hálfdrættingur being the minimum weight a man would have to lift onto a ledge at hip-height to qualify" (Wikipedia, Lifting Stones).

Scottish:  The Scots take stone lifting incredibly seriously, or at least as seriously as they take sheep-rape.  They are constantly testing their strength with a wide array of stones, and have traditionally had what they refer to as "manhood stones" in every clan for their youth to lift as a measure of their maturity.  As such, they have a dizzying array of stones in places that range from pretty much unpronounceable to "holy shit is that even a real human word"-type unpronounceable names.  The most famous of these are perhaps the Inver Stone (268 lbs), the Dinnie Stones (which weigh 413 and 321 lbs, respectively), the Menzies Stone (253., the Blue Stones of Old Dailly (which Steve Jeck estimated to weigh 290 and 320 lbs., respectively), and the North Sea Stone (which Jeck estimated to be between 350 and 400 lbs).  There are, however, a set of stones even more famous than the aforementioned that have become the gold standard of stone lifting strength, and perhaps the only you've ever seen lifted- The original set of Atlas stones, the McGlashan Stones.  These stones have been used by those furry motherfuckers for years as a Scottish Highland games staple, and consist of five stones weighing 90, 110, 120, 130, and 140kgs.  The guy who created the McGlashan Stones later produced a second set, which he called the Atlas Stones and are used in every World's Strongest Man competition, weigh 95, 105, 115, 125, and 135 kgs.(Jeck 73)

That pretty much covers stone lifting in every public permutation I can find, though I highly doubt it's a comprehensive list.  In the final installment of this series, I'll tell you how the world's best stone lifters train, and how I mimick their movements in the gym without stones.  I realize that will get the Diesel Crew all abuzz with fury because they believe there are no gym lifts that mimic those movements, but fuck 'em- some of us don't feel like wandering around the countryside looking for rocks to lift when there are perfectly good weights right in front of us.

24 October 2012

Chaos And Bang Your Earballs Carb Backloads Like A MOtherfucker

Check it- we interviewed the carb backloading guy, and the result was solid gold.  In the meantime, don't let dogs eat your face.  TYhat looks to be a bad time.

Download that shit here.  It'll make you feeeeeel goooooood.

09 October 2012

I Think This Is Officially Middle Aged- Random Shit I've Learned #2

I started this series last year on my birthday and might as well keep it up, as it seems to be an appropriate way to reflect upon shit I've learned in the previous year without any real structure or guide.  This year was pretty fucking crazy for me, as it's still odd to think of myself as a powerlifter, nevermind as a world record holding powerlifter.  In any event, here are some things I've learned on the road to breakin' fools while their bitches drool.
  • You can learn shit from bodybuilders.  They're much maligned, and often for good reason, but they're not entirely retarded individuals.  One would think I'd have learned this already, what with the fact tht I've cited examples like Marvin Eder and Chuck Sipes in the past, but it wasn't until I really tried to get my bench moving that it occurred to me that bodybuilders are the best proof of my contention that high frequency is critical for steady progress.  After all, we've all seen countless "bodybuilders" with massive upper bodies and no legs, and we all know they train the same muscle groups two to four times a week.  When I started examining the problems with my bench, it occurred to me that the "bodybuilders", not the strength athletes, are the by far and away the best benchers in any gym.  Garrett Griffin's a great example of a current bodybuilder/bencher.  If you want a decent bench, you're going to have to train the fuck out of your chest and arms just like the bodybuilders in your gym.  If you don't, you're probably going to make an ass of yourself when you hit a meet.  That's not to say that I'll be adopting a bodypart split (ever again), but if you've got a lagging bodypart, utilizing the techniques of a bodybuilder who's got that bodypart in spades might not be the worst idea you've ever had.  If nothing else, it'll be better than deloading to the bar after getting terrible advice from redditors about your shitbox squat.

  • More is generally better.  In line with the above, it seems the more frequently I train, and the more frequently I train the powerlifts or permutations thereof, the better I get.  At this point, I bottom position squat, jump squat, and partial squat once each per week, bench at least twice a week, and shrug twice a week.  I've never been stronger, never looked better, and never felt better just walking around.  Thee are pretty few exceptions to the rule that "he who rules does more", and if you look at guys like Platz, Belaev, Young, and Gant, you see that doing more seems to be the way to go.  Ronnie Coleman, the most successful bodybuilder of all time, trained 6 days a week for the majority of his adult life, and it paid the fuck off.  Bust your ass in the gym and the gods will confer upon you greatness.  Skimp and you'll suck harder than a meth-head in an oral gangbang.  
You don't get legs like that with a 5x5 program.  Did I mention Platz squatted 635 for 8, ass to the floor, and 350 for 52, at a bodyweight of around 212?  Again, you can learn shit from bodybuilders.

  • Sleep is easily as essential as training and dieting.  Every time I hear that my style of training "broke" someone, my response is always to ask how much sleep they got.  The answer's always some bullshit about how busy the person is, yadda yadda.  If you're not going to sleep, your training is going to suck.  plain and simple.  There is no fucking way around it.  I've blogged about sleep before and how to improve it- get at least eight hours of sleep and make sure it's quality.  If you're not going to get eight hours of sleep or more on the regular, accept you're going to suck and shut the fuck up about it already.
Sometimes you have to go that extra mile.

  • You're almost never not going to be injured or hurt.  This is perhaps the hardest thing for people to accept and understand, but they need to figure out, in a fucking hurry.  If you're training hard and heavy with the goal of lifting something awesome, something is always going to hurt.  Whether it's your wrists, elbows, knees, hamstring, or even something ridiculous like a serratus muscle, one bodypart or another is always going to be giving you some bullshit.  The elite athletes train in spite of or around those injuries.  Sometimes they get worse, sometimes they get better, and sometimes they just get supplanted by another recalcitrant bodypart.  Any way you cut it, something's always going to be bothering you.  Suck it the fuck up and keep going.  If it's an intense pain or a chronic pain for weeks, treat it like you would any other injury and rest the are until it the intensity of the pain is markedly diminished or until you're frustrated enough to risk a real injury to train through the pain.  Bear in mind that minor injuries often precipitate major ones, however.  Before he tore his bicep, Dorian Yates had a shitload of niggling pains in that arm for months.  He trained through and tore the ever-loving shit out of his bicep as a result.  Thus, it's up to you to decide if you're hurt or injured and either soldier on or take time off.
If you're gonna make an omelette, you're gonna have to break a couple biceps.

  • Most of us should overhead press more often.  Because big shoulders look awesome and bigger shoulders look awesomer.  The bigger my traps and shoulders get, the more insane the comments I get about my physique, when the rest of it's more or less unchanged.  Additionally, having a badass overhead press is probably more impressive than anything else.  Igor Lakunin, Russian world champion, trains twice a da, for 2 to 4 hours a session, and puts weight overhead at almost every session.
  • Bottom position squats are fucking key.  I credit these with the ease with which I get out of the hole, no matter what the weight is on the bar.  Try them and see- they're brutal, but they're worth it.
  • Every single setback you encounter in your life will become a boon if you approach it aggressively and positively.  This runs the gamut from work to relationships to lifting, and it's always true.  When I've found myself injured in the gym, I altered my technique and training to allow me to continue training hard, and my lifts have always improved as a result.  Sitting around moping like Eeyore off his meds is going to result in nothing more than continued failure and misery.  If you hit a wall in life, figure out a way to go over or through it without stopping to consider the wall's existence.  You can figure out how it got there after you get past it.  The important thing it to continue to progress to avoid stalling altogether and then backsliding.  
  • Getting older sucks subjectively, but is pretty fucking awesome objectively.  As you get older, you should get better, not worse.  I've personally never looked better, been stronger, fucked harder, or been more erudite and articulate than I am now.  There's no reason you should give ground to age.  For those of you who bitch when you get out of bed in the morning, you're fucking doing it wrong.  
Grab life by the throat and fuck it into submission.  Anything less is undignified.

05 October 2012

Chaos And Bang Your Earballs Cheque Drops Edition

We ran the gamut on this one, and I went off, again, on form check videos.  Download here.

For the people wondering why I linked Eat Big Lift Big, here is your answer: they promote heavily tatted chicks with big booties who can lift shit.  
Who does not enjoy this?  People who post form check videos, I assume.

And to those of you who post those godawfulfucking vids, do the right thing.  Get Budd Dwyer on the deal.  you have to be sick of listening to your mother crying herself to sleep at night.