20 November 2013

In Death Ground, Fight. Part 1.

Sun Tzu, a long dead Chinaman with a penchant for murdering hookers and writing books to which still yuppies jack off, had a portion of his seminal work The Art of War in which he addressed the proper response to three basic situations in which one might find themselves:
"In difficult ground, press on; On hemmed-in ground, use subterfuge; In death ground, fight."
Though this might seem a bit cryptic, if yuppies can apply this to business, than those of us with the "meathead condition" certainly can apply it to our own lives.  Should you find yourself unable to do so, you're likely to be capable of counting only to potato.  In spite of that fact, I shall elucidate the meaning of my metaphor- one will find themselves encountering a number of setbacks in training, dieting, and competition, and all of those require slightly different responses.  Though it's easy to forget the value of setbacks and injuries, they are actually one of the few things that will keep you progressing forward rather than lapsing into complacency and whatever other training malaise with which you might find yourself afflicted.  Yes, that's correct- it is actually a good thing to plateau and get injured, all of the plaintive missives of the whiny bitches populating the interwebz notwithstanding.  If one never encounters setbacks, they will never find a way to overcome them.  Hilariously, the first impulse of most people is to consult with others to find a solution to their problem, as they're too fucking lazy and stupid to do it themselves.

This might be you.

It might surprise the assembled internet warriors that I never had a significant training injury until I broke a bone in my right hand and tore my left bicep in the Olympia last month.  That's right- I broke a bone in my right hand because I drove the bar so hard into the ground after pulling the easiest 606 in history and then tore my bicep on my second attempt with 675.  As to the former injury, there were parties at the Olympia to which I was trying to prove a point, and as I am not really a fan of the deadlift anyway, proved the efficacy of my ridiculous non-deadlifting training techniques by slamming the bar to the ground and walking away from it contemptuously.  What sucked about the injuries, however, moreso than the injuries themselves, was the fact that they crippled my upper body training for about a month and left me flailing about trying to determine just what in the fuck I should be doing to keep moving forward, as I'd had my sights set on a ~1800 total at RUM and was damned if I'd see that dream go entirely up in smoke just because I participated in a meet I shouldn't have.  This brought on a rather uncommon bit of introspection, and that led to the following missive on the incredible value of training setbacks.  In keeping with Sun Tzu, I've divided training setbacks into three distinct categories and will outline the strategies I've used to circumvent them.

Given that Chun Li is Chinese, one would think there'd be cosplay porn with a Chinese broad it in, but it's naught but Japanese and Americans.  That's almost as weird as the amount of 'shopping done to this pic.

Mountain forests, Or simply "forests", rugged steppes, marshes and fens—all country that is hard to traverse: this is difficult ground. 

Everyone has the occasional training setback.  It could be due to a chronic, nagging pain that you can't shake, weirdness in your personal life, midnight rape by closet golems, on any other of a thousand reasons.  These are without question the easiest of the three "fuck My Life" categories I've enumerated above to resolve, as it simply requires that you identify the culprit and destroy it.  Closet golems fucking up your colon nightly?  Burn your house down.  Significant other acting like an asshole all the time and stressing you out?  Kick that motherfucker off the top of a tall building.  Have a niggling "injury" hampering your training?  Get deep tissue massage.  If I had a nickel for every time someone came to me with an "injury" that was either immediately or almost immediately resolved by Rolfing, I'd have a bunch of nickels.

Goddamned closet golems.

I first stumbled upon this realization when I was trying to diagnose what I thought was a rotator cuff injury.  After a corstisone injection had the same effect on my pain that Kevin Smith has on the average female's vaginal humidity, I started poking around in my armpit to see if I could feel an issue.  What I discovered was a whole fucking pile of issues in the form of nested knots in my bicep, all of which proved extremely painful and difficult to root out, but were definitively the source of my pain.  Likewise, I discovered that my knee pain was caused by tight IT bands and/or weak hamstrings, and massage again came to the rescue for that.

If the owner of this crap squats over 315 I will eat my fucking laptop.

If there is nothing in your non-training life apparently fucking with your training, you either need to try something new in the gym or try harder.  The former bit would hopefully occur to most of you, but the latter bit is a concept completely lost on people under the age of 25.  It seems like everyone under 25 has grown up in an environment wherein just showing up means they get some kind of award, and whereas it was the high school kids who were the go-hards, back in the day, it's the old heads running circles around the kids with abacuses and notepads and Elite EFS gear and rumble rollers and PVC pipes and bands and bells and straps and every other retarded training accouterments one might wish for.  Half of these kids seem to think the key to a big bench is carrying 75 lbs of random lifting detritus into the gym in a bag bigger than they are.  Oh, and per-workout nutrition.  Instead, they just might want to look at the old guys and lift like they do- fucking HARD.

Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and from which we can only retire by tortuous paths, so that a small number of the enemy would suffice to crush a large body of our men: this is hemmed in ground. 

When you're hemmed in, you're basically either suffering from moderate training injuries or long plateaus.  The former can be trained around, to an extent.  For instance, I tried to roll through an ankle bar years ago and managed to get myself an avulsion fracture of my right ankle in the process.  Docs gave me a low cast, and I promptly hobbled my ass into the gym and started squatting on it the following week.  This was not a walking cast- this was a regular, rounded cast.  I was going to be damned if I was going to see my squat drop simply because my ankle decided to fail me, and I continued lifting as usual.  Similar injuries would be broken fingers/toes, or pulled muscles in your extremities.  All of that can be trained and/or trained around.  What you want to avoid is making the injury worse with your training, which seems to be one of the only two options I see assholes on Facebook taking... either they continue training in the exact same manner that got them the injury and fuck themselves up worse of they just stop training.  One's stupid and the other is stupid and weak.  Try not to be either.


Instead of doing the same old shit or nothing whatsoever, forcibly drag yourself out of whatever box-named-after-a-dead-Russian you're in and fucking do different shit.  Look around your gym- there are thousands of pound of equipment at your disposal, and you can use ALL of it.  Stop being a pompous ass who thinks that his/her MASSIVE 315 squat affords you the right to talk shit about the bodybuilders hammering away on machines all day long.  I've seen those cats enter powerlifting meets, and the results are hilarious.  In a meet a couple of years ago I saw a 200 lb kid pull 700 in a meet, and it was the second time he'd done the fucking lift.  He was just really used to lifting really heavy shit at a variety of angles, and happened to have a some sort of superhuman monkey grip.  The second you lock yourself into a mindset is the second you consign yourself to failure.

No, dude, I'm telling you, bodybuilders are weak because there's no carryover... oh, fuck.

Same goes for a long plateau- you're doing the wrong shit.  Even the most perfectly designed program can fail miserably if you hate it, don't have the mindset to do it with the proper amount of vim and vigor, or you have to cut corners to make it work for you.  Time and time again I've seen lifters beat their faces on the wall like psychotic retards in an attempt to force a themselves to succeed on a program for which they're unsuited.  that's not you failing on a program, that's the fucking program failing you, because it wasn't designed for you.  The sooner everyone gets this fucking message the better, because the topic is literally going to give me a fucking ulcer at some point.  Cookie cutter programs are for cookie cutter people- leave them to the gingerbread men and women of the world and use your fucking brain to determine what's best for you.  And before the beginners of the world chime in with bullshit about how they're incapable of thinking for themselves, SHUT THE FUCK UP.  No one wants to hear that bitch made drivel, because it's fucking stupid.  There are Special Olympians who outlift you, and it's not like they've thought their way into beast mode- they just see a fucking weight and pick it up, put it down, and repeat.  This shit could not be more simple.

Still at a loss?  Frankly, I think getting past plateaus couldn't be more intuitive, but I am also a genius who's been training for more years than most of the people reading this have not been not not shitting their pants.  While you try to figure out that triple negative, I will related what Mel Siff suggests for ramping right the fuck over a plateau like you're a soccer mom in a Hummer texting about some inane television show while she's plowing down mailboxes on the way to pick up little Suzie from ballet practice.
  • Attempt to increase the number of repetitions with near maximal loads. This is one of my favorite methods, in fact, and I use it pretty much constantly.  To do this, you essentially focus on making your rep max for a certain rep max higher in reps, i.e. taking a 2 rep max to a 3 rep max.  That generally works wonders, and once you've increased by two reps, you can usually move 10-20 lbs more on your previous rep max.
  • Increase loads by unfamiliar increments. According to Siff, "sticking points often relate to the numerical value of the load that associates with one’s current 1RM. For example, if you are trying to increase your 1RM of 100kg via succession of sets of 80-90-95-100kg, the sequence could be changed to sets of 80-92.5-97.5-102.5kg."  In my experience, that sort of a sticking point is usually about as mental as it is physical, so either tricking yourself into lifting just above or just below the weight with kilos or pounds, depending on what's unfamiliar to you, having your lifting partner change the training weights on you without you noticing (a la Arnold with Franco back in the day), or just jumping right over your sticking point weight by five lbs and having a spotter handy to help you out if it ends up a catastrophe.
  • Add minimal weights increments near your attempts with your 1RM. Siff says, "Very light weights (0.5-1.0kg) will be virtually unnoticeable. You should simply continue to train as if the small increment was not there."  That's all well and good, but I've never found that microplates help for shit.  Maybe it's my impatience, and maybe it's just my desire to impose my will on the world, but I don't think involving microplates in your program does much more than indicate the possibility of a micropenis.
  • Alter or improve technique in problematic exercises.  Master trainer Siff thinks that plateaus are occasionally due to imperfect technique, and that the use of a coach or a self-conducted (read NOT A FUCKING FORM CHECK VIDEO) can lend itself to a solution.  Again, I've benefited not at all from the suggestions of other people when it comes to determining whether or not my form can be improved, because there are precious few people on the planet with the requisite experience and knowledge to provide such an analysis.  Most of the people who are happy to contribute form advice are either pompous beyond any reasonable understanding of how self-confidence is formed, or too stupid to understand they're talking our of their asses.  Either way, you're better off looking for weak spots on your own if you cannot find a competent coach.

My approach to plateaus has been somewhat different.  Instead of using microplates or sitting down with a bowl of popcorn to watch the fascinating evolution of my squat, I (surprise, surprise) black glass that plateau like it's a xenomorph-infested planet by doing the following:
  • Alter the exercise.  If I am stalled on the bench press, for instance, I will either alter the manner in which I conduct it altogether for a time, or I'll change the second day exercise altogether and change the rep range on the first.  I always do major lifts twice a week at a minimum, so I will either change my primary lift from a full back squat to a bottom position back squat, for instance, or change my supplementary second day from something like a front squat to a jump squat, then monkey with the rep range on the heavy first day slightly.  I'm not talking about going from singles to tens, I'm talking about going from singles to triples, or from triples to fives.
  • Alter the arrangement of your exercises.  This could be within a day or within a week.  Either way, you want to shift your priority to the very beginning of your training week to ensure you're at your freshest when you attempt it.  
  • Replace the stalled exercise with a similar exercise.  I've done this with both the bench and the squat to get them moving again.  In the former case I replaced it with reverse grip incline bench press, and with the latter I replaced it with the front squat, but kept all other parameters (loading, reps, etc) the same. 

Yeah, it really is that simple.  Up next, we'll have the death ground bit- what to do when the universe up and fucks you to bits and you have to train through injury and illness.  To all those of you who are going to ask me about hernias, please do me a favor and kill yourselves.

Siff, Mel.  Supertraining (6th Ed.). Denver: Supertraining Institute, 2003


  1. I was going to comment on that ass but I cannot confirm the presence or absence of cock.

    1. Definitely a natural born chick. I've forgotten her name though.

    2. Looked at the comments just to find the name... YESSS

  2. I just want to say one thing to you Jamie: you are one big motivating, smart motherfucker! Keep up the work. Your mindset has changed my work ethic a the gym. Fuck magazines and internet bitches. I train 6 days a week and heavy ass since I'm reading this blog. No fitness guru has done a great job, but your work made me who I am today.

    1. What, this blog's helped make you a prick?

    2. Why have you not killed yourself yet Rant? I thought your pussy pills needed to get adjusted? Great article btw Jaime, its amazing how writing from a chinaman a thousand years ago can be so motivating.

  3. What about hernias? Sorry, I had to. Great article.

  4. That pic with the gear on the bed is classic. Reminds me of this guy at the gym the other day. Had a belt and elbow wraps on, fucking curling. Less than a hundred pounds, at that, like sixty. Never saw him do anything that required any of that gear. Yesterday a guy in the power rack next to the one I was squatting in was doing curls with the Goddamn bar. LA Fatness is almost as bad as planet fitness.

  5. Sometimes you can't work around some injuries tho, i fucked my back and can't even wipe my ass at the moment.

    1. Non related, but I have definitely sustained small aches and pain whilst sitting on the crapper for too long reading this blog.

    2. Backs are just one of those things you have to come to terms with and know it will be a temperamental whore the rest of your days.

    3. I've got alot better during this last days but still can't bend over, next sunday i'll try to do some light squats and see how things feel.

  6. Fucking awesome article!

    I frequently read one of your articles right before my training, it's better than any pre-workout stimulant, seriously.

    Looking forward to part 2!

  7. I've read the art of war ,and just couldn't get into it. May give another go, been awhile since I've last read it. Miyamoto Mushashis book of five rings on the other hand I loved.

  8. Yes!!! Nice piece!!
    I was looking over my program and I've been doing triples for a lot of it so I through a fuck into the air and created a vince gironda/Jamie Lewis style system for a 4 week Christmas cut. I'm a chubby (or fat fuck) 28% bf.

    Ive started a 8x8 low carb 3days on 1 day off with a day of PSMF and carb refeed evening meal.

    Day 1 - pull - deadlift, bent over row, pull-ups, curls
    Day2 - bench, overhead press, bench variation, dips.
    Day 3 - squats, more squats, calf raises
    Day 4 off with PSMF and carb evening then repeat.

    All done with 30-60secs between exercises and done as a circuit. 2-3 min rest between giant sets. Weights are about 70% of 1 rep max

    Please tell me if this is not going to destroy my current 1 rep maxes and turn me into a Greek godlike lean and jacked mother fucker.

    I feel it's definitely shedding fat on day 2 already but I don't want to look like a runner!!

    Ps- I know you hate reps.

    1. You never know until you try, man. Just give it hell and let us know what you get out of it. Even if you lose a little strength, if you get ripped and keep the majority of your strength, you'll be in far better stead than when you started.

  9. Most people would probably benefit their lifting by banging their head against the wall and emulating a psychotic retard.

  10. god damn it I poured a shit load of whiskey in my crock pot while drunk making stew and I keep forgetting about it until a half hour after I eat a few bowls.

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