09 October 2016

I Ain't Sweet Like That- Dieting and Training in Lockup, Part 3

By this point, I'm sure a lot of you are thinking "FUCK THIS BODYWEIGHT SHIT, BRING THE WEIGHTS", which I'll have to admit I was thinking a hell of a lot during my interviews.  No matter how vehemently people insist they get huge off bodyweight exercises, I have never found that I can get serious gains with bodyweight-only work.  Perhaps it's that my diet won't support growth during those ventures, the fact that I would probably be walking around at 145 lbs if I wasn't diligently out-eating my appetite multiple times a day and supplementing with protein while lifting far more poundage than my tiny frame was ever designed to handle, or simply the fact that high rep work with or without weights has never served to do more than add conditioning and definition to my body, but I harbor more skepticism for light rep work than Flat Earthers have for any sentence that might issue forth from Neil DeGrasse Tyson's mouth at any given moment.  Nevertheless, inmates definitely swear by it... though they were more than happy to tell me about their forays (and subsequent massive gains) from the wacky odd-object lifting they get up to in lockup.

It's working for former-NFL-badass-and-almost-future-Hall-of-Famer-but-serial-rapist--is-going-to-die-in-jail Darren Sharper, it seems.  Perhaps he'll avoid getting diabetes for a few extra years, bu with any luck he'll die slowly of AIDs

"I would walk the length of the 50-foot cell and back and do 25 push-ups. I would do it for one hour, I would do it for two hours. I would get a minimum of 500 push-ups—regular, elevated, diamond push-ups. I would also do dips on a half-wall—kind of like you’re climbing over a fence.
Another day I would do pull-ups. They had a stairway and there was no backing to it. It was metal and it was grated—you couldn’t just grab the stairway. You had to take toilet paper and roll it up and put it over the grate so it wouldn’t hurt your hands. I would do five pull-ups then walk back and forth and then another five pull-ups.
They would bring in coffee at five o’clock in the morning in this round jug. It was quite large—it probably held four gallons, five gallons—and we would wrap the laundry bag through the handles and we would do curls with that"
- Ryan Fergueson, author of Stronger, Faster, Smarter, which chronicles the author's ten year stint in jail (in which he was in the best shape of his life) for being accused of a crime by a friend who had dreamt it.
Laundry Bag Lunacy

The first method, which I like to call "Laundry Bag Lunacy", is not terribly dissimilar to Arthur Saxon's old school sandbag lifts, albeit with much lighter weights, as it's not common to find hundred of pounds of flour, iron blocks, buckshot, and sand laying around a jail cell or common area.  Inmates will use their laundry bags (or in California, where inmates are allowed pillowcases), which are bags made of nylon netting and apparently so flimsy and torn that they put one in mind of a clapboard shanty in some third world shithole like Eritrea.  The way the inmates with whom I spoke described the state of their laundry bags in county jail made it sound like all they needed was a mournful Sarah McLachlan song and some sad-eyed puppies in them for a commercial to spawn the greatest crowdfunding campaign in history.  In any event, these battered and torn sacks are called into action daily in lockup as they're filled with whatever is handy until they reach the desired weight... which is not to say, however, that they have any idea what it weighs.  Instead, they pick a weight that's challenging for everyone who's going to be involved in the group circuit of the exercise and go ham like they're Road Warriors during a particularly heavy coke and D-bol binge.

"Strength is Life, Weakness is Death"
- Swami Vivekananda

No one cared what Stallone actually weighed in Rambo because his forearms were so fucking big it looked like Sly could snap an assault rifle in half with his bare hands and stuff it up the collective ass of every combatant in Burma.

Typically, inmates will use bottles of water, books, magazines, blankets, food, and whatever else they can pile into their bags... making it a veritable smorgasbord of odd items to add to their buffet of muscular brutality, if you will.  Using these bags, they'll do bicep curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises,upright rows, and unilateral overhead presses.  While this method might seem cruder than Uncle Eddie in the National Lampoon's Vacation movies, it's as effective as lifting steel and places even more strain on the hand, wrist, forearm, and stabilizers than iron... so we all might think about adding daily sandbag work to our regular training.  After all, rare is the man who is mocked for his oversized forearms... frankly, if Sylvester Stallone teaches us anything, it's that massive, vascular forearms make a decently muscular build look positively fucking murderous.

Frankly, inmates are pretty fucking crafty, because when they hook their bags to a mop handle, their lifts start to resemble those done with an earthquake/bamboo bar.

Another mode of use for the laundry bag is to tie them to a mop handle and then mimic any exercise one might do with a barbell and added chain weight.  That is to say, nothing explosive enough to send a length of chain or an abrasive bag filled with odd, often hard and pointy objects, flying into the lifter's eye.  No matter what the lift, however, the goal of each set and rep was the same- to make the absolute fucking MOST of every possible advantage in an effort to move forward.  To wit:
"Prisoners also fill pillowcases with sand to use as dumbbells. In cells people fill trash bags with water and placed inside a bucket with a handle for shoulder shrugs and lateral raises.  [One inmate]’s favorite solution is to stack 40 or 50 National Geographic magazines in a laundry bag for bicep curls and tricep extensions" (Wade).
... in other words, no one cares how you do it, so long as you get it done.

Apparently, Marcus Mariota is a fan of partner-assisted rope work as well.  If it works for soy-filled inmates and hyper-rich NFL players, it could probably work for you as well.

Partner-Assisted Pandemonium

If you've got a partner, this shit is awesome for getting in a workout, or getting a pump on before hitting the bar or the beach (don't act like you've never done it, fuckface.  I know more than one guy that has or does travel with dumbbells in his truck for that reason).  These types of exercises are best done with a towel folded lengthwise in fourths or twisted to make it rope-like, and is best used for exercises like pushdowns and curls, wherein the partners work opposing muscle groups.  To do that joint exercise, partners stand facing one another, and one grabs the towel at the ends overhand, while the other grabs the towels with the same grip in the center, keeping his hands one fist width apart.  Then, one does curls against the other's effort to extend his arms to a full tricep contraction with their elbows pinned in at their sides.

Other variations include upright rows vs. pushdowns, reverse curls vs. pushdowns, and laterals vs unilateral (one handed) pushdowns.  If you hadn't noticed already, PRISONERS ARE ALL ABOUT THEIR TRICEPS (or "back arms", to use their vernacular).

Little -know superhuman Mac Batchelor was a massive fan of barrel lifting, so he'd approve of the water filled trashcans inmates use for big weights.  If he his corpse wasn't writhing with maggots and generally succumbing to putrefaction, that is.

Water Weight Chaos
Serious water weight resistance is damn near as ingenious as the invention of velcro.  Forget the 20 oz water bottles we previously covered- this is real weight.  The preferred method for using water weight in jail is to fill a 55 gallon garbage can with water, then bear hug it and use it as a sort of stone lift / partial deadlift, shrug, or for tandem shoulder work with a partner doing unilateral shrugs, overhead press, or laterals (with a lighter weight).

Another method is to knot the partially filled liner around a plunger handle and use that for a barbell for curls, overhead lockouts and overhead squats, and anything else they one might think up.  Similarly, the liner could be put into an office-sized trashcan, then put into a laundry bag and used in a workout like the following suggested circuit:

  • Bicep Curl x 5 sets to failure
  • Overhead Extensions x 5 sets to failure
  • Upright Rows x 5 sets to failure

If you need some extra motivation, just watch Lock Up or Tango and Cash for a little Stallone-style jailhouse shenanigans. 

Add to that ten sets of pullups, pushups, and dips for as many reps as possible and 400 yards of lunges a day, six days a week, and you've got a program that put 60 lbs of Prime, Grade A beef on on inmate I interviewed in a mere eight months.  I know that seems like an outlandish claim, but you have to consider the fact that most inmates arrive in jail underweight, underfed, strung out on drugs, and under-rested.  Thus, having such normalcies as regular meals, no- or limited-access to the chemicals to which they were previously addicted, and near-constant training can have a profound effect on their physique.  That, topped with the inmates' additional food choices/calorie bombs from commissary, should allay the bulk of your incredulity.  As you'll see in upcoming articles, these guys eat as crazily and intensely as they train.

"Man's spiritual nature is the cause of his material personality- his objective universal form is a crystalized idea."
- Manley Hall

In other words, motherfuckers, if you truly believe it and strive for it, you can achieve it.  Drive all doubt from your mind and allow your indomitable will to direct your hypertrophy, fat loss, massive strength gains, and increased muscular endurance.  Let none escape.

Moxley, Mitch.  I got in peak shape while I was in jail(and wrongly convicted of murder).  GQ.  14 May 2015.  Web.  8 Oct 2016.  http://www.gq.com/story/fitness-in-jail-prisoner

Wade, Jonathan P.  Prisoners talk about strength training.  Motley Health.  Web.  8 Oct 2016.  http://www.motleyhealth.com/strength/prisoners-talk-strength-training

03 October 2016

Arnold Is About As Much "The Best Bodybuilder Of All Time" As Danica Patrick is "The Best NASCAR Driver Of All Time"

Though I am hardly one to start some shit on the internet or raise the slightest fuss about anything whatsoever, having been surprised to read a report on the 2016 Olympia on the Bleacher Report last month, I feel compelled to chime in about claims to the effect that Arnold was one of the greatest bodybuilders in the history of that competitive sport.  Like the persistent ignorance regarding the history and ridiculously insane fallacy of body structure phenotypes, virulent, fervent, and borderline psychosis regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger's competitive dominance and his potential placings in fantasy matchups with other bodybuilding superstars is as endless as it is as retarded... and we're talking low-functioning handypotato deep in a K-Hole after a three week bath salt binge retarded, not the potato from The Ringer retarded.

Tards is about ta get feisty.

I'm certain this will cause a great many of you no little amount of consternation, given the fact that Arnold was likely involved, at least in some small way, in your participation in physical culture/weightlifting/powerlifting/whatever the fuck you want to call it, but bear with me- the proof behind my statement lies in plain sight.  Though Arnold was without question the greatest representative of weight training that the world has seen in the last 60 or so years, his greatness in competition was largely manufactured, and his fellow competitors were often few in number and usually both inexperienced and naive.  Arnold, then, was a Mensa member picking on kids in the Special Olympics... if the Special Olympics were to fracture into half a dozen organizations with different rules and a palpable hatred for one another.

Not only did Bernarr never commission a statue of himself using someone else's physique (Weider used Robby Robinson's), but he was essentially cooler in every way (O'Connell).

When Arnold entered the bodybuilding scene, Joe Weider's empire was in its infancy, often fighting dirty against its competition, in a half-hearted effort to pick up where the consummate marketer and showman Bernarr MacFadden had left off.  Like MacFadden before him, Weider dabbled in publishing soft-core gay porn to pay the bills while battling for supremacy in the burgeoning American physical culture fad, and he struggled to really find his niche until the Austrian Oak arrived on the bodybuilding scene.  Built like a Greek god, dripping with machismo, and so tall and jacked he was like Hitler's wet dream (Hitler had an obsession bordering on sexual with men over six feet tall), Arnold was the only person who could have breathed life into a bodybuilding federation that was international only in name, screwed over competitors and promoters, and was basically run like an elementary school bake sale staffed by child molestors, organized by embezzlers, and which served only weed-infused edibles.
Sidebar: In case you've forgotten, Bernarr MacFadden was a harder motherfucker than you will probably ever be at the incredibly young age 12.  Having grown up in an environment wherein he was constantly being reminded that his death from tuberculosis or some other horrible and now easily curable disease was eminent, Bernarr decided to get hard.  Essentially an orphan he had no money to join a gym at 12, so he did what he could- he bought a set of dumbbells he used religiously every morning until he couldn't lift them, replacing them with heavier dumbbells when he needed a bigger challenge. He idolized the badass motherfuckers he saw coming out of mines and loathed the bitches he saw in banks, so he started carrying a lead ingot everywhere he went at age 15 so he wouldn't go soft (though he worked in an incredibly white collar company that would eventually became Dunn and Bradstreet.  As he grew older and got more wealthy, his penchant for experimentation expanded, and he became a renowned wrestler and strongman weighting only about 150 lbs due to a fanatical, round the clock lifting program and in spite of a near vegetarian diet... all the while running massive capitalist empire ranging from mail-order weightlifting programs to the first modern bodybuilding contest (and with the biggest cash prize ever awarded), sanitariums, multiple magazines, and a variety of other wacky shit .  In other words, BERNARR MACFADDEN WAS EVERYTHING JOE WEIDER FUCKING WISHED HE COULD HAVE BEEN AND NEVER EVEN GOT CLOSE.  
NABBA Mr Universe Earl Maynard.  At 5'10" and 220 lbs, this was one of a handful of people "competing" against "The Myth" Sergio Oliva... who then was one of a couple of people to compete against Arnold.  

Arnold's "Competition" History

Yes, yes, we've all heard that Arnold's seven Olympia wins makes him the benchmark for true greatness in the bodybuilding scene, though no one seems (much like the massive ignorance surrounding body phenotypes) to be willing to do an iota of research to determine who it was that Arnold beat.  SPOILER ALERT- it was occasionally nobody or next to nobody, and the rest of the time it was either a bunch of nobodies or the game was rigged to ensure that Weider's prodigy (and his prodigy's best friend, Franco).  And before the Arnold marks start screaming about my lack of qualifications to make such a statement, the fact that Arnold's steroid reign was vastly smaller than modern athletes, or any of the other half a million excuses and justifications they could make on the Oak's behalf, let's all bear in mind that at best, the lot of you likely have only read about the controversial 1980 Olympia, wherein  Arnold was allegedly handed a victory by the judges.  As you'll see in what follows, Arnold was pretty much handed every victory he achieved with the Weiders, and competing in a sport wherein the professional ranks were fledgling in all federations and the IFBB was one of the youngest and least entrenched, Arnold's victories over a couple of other physiques nearly impressive enough to make them bodybuilding versions of Annika Sorenstam... in a sport so subjective it makes open ended questions posed by drunk college girls at bars seem like objective-based interrogations.

In case you didn't know, the Olympia in Arnold's day is hardly what it is now- it was barely a pimple on the ass of the "sport" of bodybuilding, and apparently the weightlifting world gave less than two shits about determining who was champion amongst what was then considered a complete sidebar to Olympic weightlifting and the emerging sport of powerlifting.  If that seems odd to you, consider that Bernarr MacFadden's bodybuilding competition, held in 1903, had cash prizes of $500 (~$13k in 2016) for both the male and female winners... whereas the Olympia's prize in early years, despite being subsidized by the Weider publishing empire, was only $1000 ($7.6k in 2016 dollars) sixty years later.    Arnold was the third Mr. Olympia in what was essentially a brand-new organization promoting professional bodybuilding in what was almost entirely an amateur sport, competing for small crowds, small prizes, and against very few people.  Although all of the big names in bodybuilding were invited to the 1963 inaugural Mr. O, only three dudes showed up- Larry Scott, the youngest competitor in Olympia history, Harry Poole, and the above-pictured professional wrestler Earl Maynard.  It was, as such, hardly a barn-burner of a competition.  As the Olympia grew into the next decade, the size of its competitive pool was nearly as tiny, though it perceived importance was far greater as Weider's magazine empire ground out its compeition in a variety of sheisty, duplicitous, and shrewd (if horrendously shitty) legal and PR maneuvers.

Sergio looked so good in 1973 that Weider pulled Arnold from the competition and arranged to have Sergio suspended from IFBB competition to ensure no one would make his golden boy look like shit onstage.

 As the field had hardly grown, Arnold faced very little true competition when he "competed" for the Olympia crown because the reigning Mr. Olympia was a black Cuban ex-pat, which made him about as appealing to your average white American in the late 1960s as quick-onset hemorrhagic fever in a community of hemophiliacs.  With his only real competition coming from a man who "would run into ... problems" because "his cultural background wasn't in sync with [American] ideals" (Roach, Vol 1 367), Arnold's SS-Obersturmbannf├╝hrer-good-looks made him the perfect golden boy for Weider, and if he failed, insanely photogenic Dave Draper (who took fourth out of four against Harold Poole, the amazingly brutal, always-zero-fucks-given, superhuman lumberjack Chuck Sipes, and the melanin-rich, precontest hamburger munching, genetic freak of a political refugee Sergio Oliva) could have stepped in without missing a single beat.  Without missing a single beat, you say?  Yeah- Sergio won UNCONTESTED in 1969 and lost in a two man field with Arnold in 1970.


One person, I might add, who was fucked over and over by Joe Weider until the man resembled a gibbering lunatic because he couldn't stop carrying on about what a shitlord Weider was.

So, Arnold's first win came in a racially-, politically-, and marketing-motivated judging climate against a single competitor.  His second was hardly more impressive, as he beat a 50 year old Reg Lewis and Oliva, and his third win was a complete joke- in a field of four, three of the competitors were disqualified before the show (Sergio Oliva and Franco Columbo), and the third was perhaps the most insanely hard-training motherfucker in history, Roy Callender, but the guy was just an unknown former bodybuilder who retired from pro wrestling and loved lifting.  The next year he beat Franco again, along with winner of the Most-Fucked-Over-Bodybuilder-in-History Serge Nubret. His fifth, you think might have been better, but nooooooo... Arnold beat 23 year old Lou Ferrigno, the midget Franco, and a half-starved zen monk named Frank Zane like a drunk xenophobes who had stumbled into Bruce Lee's dojo screaming sinophobic slurs.  Yes, in a field of four totally outmatched humans, Arnold reigned supreme in his fourth win. Thereafter, he retired from competition, likely since there was no point to even showing up if he was declared victory, and only reacquired the interest in competing after training for Conan and getting back into decent bodybuilding shape for the first time in a couple of years.  With only seven weeks of contest prep, Arnold won his seventh and final gift from the Weiders, setting a ridiculous and pointless benchmark for the title that people only respect because they are ignorant fucking handytards without an iota of curiosity or drive to do any semblance of research.

Arnold's Pro "Highlights"
  • 1970 NABBA Mr. Universe - professional in London, England.  Who cares?
  • 1970 AAU Pro Mr. World in Columbus, Ohio.  Sergio entered the competition after showing up only to watch Vasily Alexeev clean and jerk 500 in an exhibition, so Arnold walked away with an easy victory against one day-of entry Oliva and perrenial bridesmaid-in-competitions Dave Draper.
  • 1970 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York.  Beat one guy who previously won uncontested.
  • 1971 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Paris, France.  Beat two guys, one of whom was 50.
  • 1972 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Essen, Germany.  Beat three disqualified opponents.
  • 1973 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York.  Beat a guy he outweighed by 50 lbs and the sliced and diced but totally outmassed Serge Nubret, because Sergio was so pissed at Weider's shenanigans, tomfoolery, and balderdash to bother showing up.
  • 1974 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York.  Beat one unseasoned competitor and two guys he outweighed by 50 lbs.
  • 1975 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Pretoria, South Africa.  In his final lackluster Olympia victory before retiring, Arnold again defeated the Hulk, Serge Nubret, and a handful of guys who weighed what Arnold weighed in high school, all while competing light and having only trained a couple of months for the event.
  • 1980 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Sydney, Australia.   Arnold is handed a victory in what is widely considered a fixed competition against decent competition, though seven of them would be considered "manlets" under today's standards because they weighed less than most novice lifters can bench.  
I hope I'm in better shape when I'm 70 than I was when I was 35.

A healthy degree of skepticism can be useful when investigating what appears to be a conspiracy theory, and I will freely admit that much of what I've related here might smack a bit of a David Icke-style, the-reptilian-aliens-are-our-overlords, tinfoil hat lunacy, but consider the following:

  1. According to Rick Wayne, professional bodybuilder and longtime Weider magazine editor, "It was no secret around the Weider headquarters that whenever the publisher featured a black champion on the cover of Muscle Builder, sales plummeted.  Surely a champion who couldn't sell magazines was a close to useless as an endorser of food supplements and gym equipment" (Roach Vol II 35).
  2. Sergio's 1970 Mr. Olympia loss was engineered.  Wieder and Arnold were known to be close and had entered into several joint business ventures by 1970, and Weider's fate was increasingly tied to Arnold's.  As such, Weider and Arnold convinced Sergio that Arnold was not competing at the 1970 Mr. World (though Weider had arranged private transportation to the event for Arnold), which precipitated Sergio's naive entry into the contest the day of the event and subsequent loss.  This loss destroyed his confidence and interrupted his preparation for the Olympia, which was held two weeks later. 
  3. Due to the deception, Arnold was crowned Mr. World, run by Jim Lorimer, both of whom began co-promoting the Night of Champions a few years later in the same venue.
  4. Onstage at the 1970 Mr. Olympia, Arnold tricked Oliva into leaving the stage as if he'd lost as Arnold kept posing.  According to a variety of sources, this had a measurable effect on the judges in Arnold's favor, and guaranteed that Weider would have his fair-haired Mr. Olympia for Magazine covers.
  5. Weider quickly passed rules banning IFBB competitors from competing in other organizations, which prevented any real competition from entering the Olympia and kept Arnold out of any competitions that would jeopardize Weider's investment, including an exhibition in 1972 in which both Arnold and Sergio would have been paid $2500 each to compete... at a time when only Mr. Olympia received prize money in that competition and the prize was less than half of Lurie's.

If this was my competition for anything at all, be it a math competition (he was a high school math teacher, but given that calc was so easy I taught it to myself while reading Michio Kaku) or bodybuilding, I'd not lose any sleep about whether or not I'd retain my crown.

In short, Arnold couldn't possibly be considered one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time- it could be argued that he was one of the top bodybuilders of his era, but that would still invite a tremendous amount of room in that conversation for other extremely overlooked bodybuilders from that time period, such as Robby Robinson (two-time Olympia Tall/Heavyweight Class), Sergio Oliva, and others.  Additionally, a conversation about the greatest bodybuilders in history would hardly include a man who only learned to train legs after he started winning bodybuilding competitions... no matter how sick his genetics.  I don't see Hany After all, when some of your chief competition comes from weirdly proportioned, smoother than a college freshman chick after a trip to Dairy Queen, and very likely autistic as fuck Mike Katz, it's pretty hard to drop the ball.  

This isn't to say I lament the sort of machinations that led to Arnold's rise to prominence as a foreigner who married into American aristocracy, one of the highest paid actors of all time, the prime motivator for most of our collective entry into the field of weight lifting, the man who paved the way for the inimitable and underrespected Dolph Lundgren (who punched Stallone so hard in Rocky IV he stopped the actor's heart), and generally one of the greatest public personalities of all time- Arnold is the unmitigated shit.  He simply wasn't the bodybuilder everyone thinks he was... unless recent Conan Jason Momoa should be included in a discussion of great bodybuilders, because Momoa's physique is not far off from Arnold in his prime, at this point.

Stop starfucking.  Start reading.  Dicks out for Harambe.  Lets all stop being fucking retarded, eh?  Jack off to pics of Ronnie or something- at least he was strong, for fuck's sake.

... and yeah, I'm aware that guys like Dallas McCarver are more jacked than I am.  I'm also aware of how the endocrine system works, and about the sad postscript that follows pretty much any negative response to this article.  If Arnold is the best of all time, I am a fucking Chinese jet pilot, and you're fucking retarded.
Hansen, John.  Arnold vs Sergio- Bodybuilding's greatest rivalry.  John Hansen Fitness.  28 Apr 2013.  Web.  29 Sep 2016.  http://johnhansenfitness.com/2013/04/28/arnold-vs-sergio-bodybuildings-greatest-rivalry/

Hansen, John.  The most controversial Mr Olympia- 1980 r evisited- Part 2.  RX Muscle.  7 Dec 2011.  Web.  3 Oct 2016.  http://www.rxmuscle.com/articles/john-hansen/4672-the-most-controversial-mr-olympia-1980-revisited.html

Hansen, John.  The Tijuana incident.  RX Muscle.  9 Feb 2014.  Web.  29 Feb 2016.  http://www.rxmuscle.com/articles/john-hansen/10155-the-tijuana-incident.html

Heffernan, Conan.  1903 and the birth of American bodybuilding.  Physical Culture Study.  22 Oct 2015.  Web.  29 Sep 2016.  https://physicalculturestudy.com/2015/10/22/1903-and-the-birth-of-american-bodybuilding/

O'Connell, Jeff.  Joe Weider (1919-2013): Remembering The Father Of Bodybuilding.  Bodybuilding.com.  2 Apr 2013.  Web.  26 Sept 2016.  http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/joe-weider-1919-2013-remembering-the-father-of-bodybuilding.html

Roach, Randy.  Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors, Vol. I.  Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2008.

Roach, Randy.  Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors, Vol. II.  Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2011.

19 August 2016

I Ain't Sweet Like That- Dieting and Training in Lockup, Part 2

This should say "I will judge you if you didn't have to watch August Mordum Underground more than once because you were too busy fucking to see half of it.  Same goes for A Serbian Film- I still have yet to be facing the screen for the childbirth scene.

Holy shit, that was quite a lengthy break I took in between articles, but you all have my assurance that such Maddox-esque breaks in productivity will not continue to be the norm.  It might come as a surprise to many of that you that a person like myself might suffer from burnout, but by my estimation there was not a single week between August 1995 and February 2015 that I trained less than four times in any given week, even as I was traveling around Asia and Europe, getting surgeries, marriage, divorce, and any other ridiculous thing of which you could think.  Finally, I cracked last year and my training slipped into the abyss as I partied my ass off and watched nearly every horror movie above a D-grade available on the internet (and if you haven't seen August Mordum Underground, do yourself a favor and call of the kinkiest motherfucker of whatever gender you feel like banging, grab a bottle of whatever you feel like drinking, every sex toy at your disposal, and a trashcan for when you throw up, and fuck your way through that gem a couple of times).  Despite my irregular training, utter lack of squatting (it's insanely hard to squat drunk), and a diet that essentially consisted of tater tots, chicken fingers, pizza, Diet Coke, and enough vodka to drown even the staunchest Putin-supporting Russian, I managed to more or less maintain my physique and strength levels for the better part of 8 months.  Eventually the wheels fell all the way off as I found it hard to even grind through half hour workouts, and I basically quit training for a couple of months, a couple of times, over the succeeding 6 months.  Though I kind of regret having done so, I was snapping out at cashiers over nonsense when I was training because I was so irritated at having to continue to force myself through the gym every day as I had from about 2011 through the beginning of 2016.  Every workout, light or heavy, long or short, odd lifts or conventional, had become one massive mental fisting session produced in some dank German dungeon with caestus gloves... and writing about training was several times even more painful than that.

Caestus gloves are even a bit beyond the loopy, blood-stained sheets-wrapped nonsense that transpires in my bedroom.  That'll have to wait until I'm rocking some badass Girl in the Box-style torture basement, I think.

However you might look at the fact I let my training slip harder than an elderly broad in socks on black ice, I definitely learned a great deal about starting back up after relatively long layoffs (anywhere from two weeks to a couple of months, how to diet to facilitate the greatest gains when on a comeback, and regained my interest in trying unconventional methods to regain lost strength.  This is what led me to try the methods used in jails around the country, as I have known quite a few guys who've spent time in jail and prison, and they always looked better coming out than when they went in.  That said, I definitely cannot say the same for chicks- either they lack access to the gym, have no interest in training while in lockup, or just eat waaaaaaay too fucking many or too few honey buns in there, they almost invariably come out either looking half starved or like they got hit in the face with a hot shovel coated in mayonnaise.  In any event, what I'd seen with the guys I knew definitely left me wondering what might be accomplished if I took what they'd discovered in their experiences and added my own personal Ed Gein meets L. Ron Hubbard meet Jack Palance type of insanity.  With that, we shall continue where we left off in jail and prison training.

Perhaps some of the inmates enjoy both training and rape.  Maybe he just likes being overly groomed.  I've no idea.

More Bodyweight Training

Burpees- I DESPISE burpees.  I loathe them more than mayonnaise and I refuse to even allow an unopened jar of that nasty shit with my bare hands... I hate it so much I actually allowed liquid water to exit my eye cavities while screaming like a woman when a giant bag of that gelatinous white horror ripped as I was trying to empty it into a vat of what was to be ranch dressing while helping out a buddy's cousin by working in his salad dressing factory for a couple of days. Hitler had a full blow love affair with the gypsies in comparison to my near psychotic hatred of burpees.  Inmates, however, seem to love that loathesome exercise nearly as much as Crossfitters, and do them with the same sort of frequency and variation- daily, and in every conceivable permutation.  Google them if you want some ideas or click here for a selection- the only type that don't fill me entirely with vitriol and venom are 8 count burpees with a pullup and a pushup included, as they at least get a tiny bit of strength work in there, rather than simply being a test of mental fortitude and one's ability to maintain their composure while incredibly annoyed and out of breath.

Dips- Ahh, the perfect counterpoint to burpees.  Fun to do and known affectionately in the better informed circles of the strength training world  as "the upper body squat", dips are phenomenal for building huge shoulders, pecs, triceps, seem to somehow contribute to building big traps (I have no idea why, but inmates swear up and down that dips are responsible for their trap size), and definitely bring out the vascularity and striations in your pecs and shoulders.

Bench Dips-  This exercise is massively popular due to the great importance inmates place upon "back arms", the most vaunted of muscle groups in jail.  Though I abandoned these as too easy and too much trouble than they were worth when I was a mere 150 lbs, using 4-5 additional plates for extra resistance, prisoners appear not to have come to that conclusion yet.  I would recommend against these, but it's entirely your call as to whether or not you find utility in these.

Handstand Pushups- These are a bit more rare than the aforementioned exercises, but still occur.  When these are done, they're done with a spotter and a liberal amount of assistance from their spotter.

Hanging Leg Raises- Done of anything handy for whatever volume you choose.  There's nothing fancy with the form on these in jail- they're done just as you would do them in the gym.

Situps and Crunches- Again, the volume is totally up to you.  Just as they inmates are with hanging leg raises, these are typically not done in any super-cool jail style manner.  It seems the majority of these are done sitting on one's bunk, with their feet wedged underneath a crossbar to keep their asshole and tailbone from being ground into dust doing them on the concrete.

Planks- These are particularly popular in lockup because they offer the opportunity for direct competition, wherein two or more people compete to see who can hold a plank the longest.

Though it should perhaps be no surprise to anyone, an avowed allegiance to Jeebus or Allah appears to have no positive effect on the rate of recidivism in felons... perhaps if they actually understood the books they professed to hold above all others, they'd have better luck.  Ah well, YOLO like a muhfuh.

Of Note:
More than one inmate with whom I spoke will literally swear on a stack of Christian Bibles (and felons are hilariously Christian, by and large, and are wholly ignorant of the awesome irony of their situation as a result) that a circuit of dips, pullups, and pushups done for endless sets and reps will leads to massive gains, rips, and muscular endurance.  Speaking from experience, this type of a workout will get you more ripped than a teenager's jeans in any 1980's John Hughes movie but will put about as much mass on the average person as P90X done as hard as humanly possible.)

"Only he who deserves power who every day justifies it."
-Dag Hammarskjold

While I didn't see any convicts with a physique quite this ripped, their version of TRX training definitely gave them insaley sick definition given their dogshit diet.

TRX-Style Movements

TRX-style movements are all the rage in jails and prisons, and I highly doubt any of the inmates using that method have ever even heard of TRX.  The methods they've been using have likely been in use for decades, and I would not be the least bit surprised if they been the inspiration for strap systems like TRX

Rows- Using a sheet wound into a spiral (which gives it far more tensile strength), inmates hook the sheet around one of the uprights of their bunk beds or a staircase at roughly eye level, brace their feet on the ground (often using a partner's planted foot to serve as the brace) while laying back at a fairly extreme angle, and then do rows just as they would seated with a cable stack.  Essentially, the movement is a semi-horizontal pullup with a rotating grip, roasts your midback and traps after a few sets if you keep your elbows tucked hard into your sides as you pull, and is awesome for extra volume on your back as a whole.

Face Pulls- One of my favorite accessory exercises, face pulls are awesome when done in the same manner as the sheet rows.  For these, however, you simply keep your elbows high and flared as you pull your face toward the point at which you tied the sheet.  These ill trash your traps in particular and will give you that badass look you see on some guys where it looks like they're getting "back titties"- basically help grow what look like a sick set of pecs on your upper back.

Flys- This exercise uses the same setup as the aforementioned exercises, but the lifter faces away from the upright and does what amounts to a cable crossover.  These are an awesome finisher for a brutal Deck of Death workout mentioned in the previous installment, as well as a hell of a standalone exercise for chest if done with enough volume.

Chest Presses- A great finisher for ever set of the flys, if you want to bang out more reps after you'e hit failure on a set of flys, these simply change the movement for the flys slightly.  Pressing more level with the floor shifts the focus more to the upper pecs, 25 degrees lower moves the focus to the pecs as a whole, and 20 degrees lower shifts the focus to the lower pecs (which is more or less pointless, but if that's your thing, do it, I guess).

Curls- These are done with the exact same setup as rows, but the movement changes in that the elbows remain stationary, locked into their sides, as the lifter curls themself itoward the uprights.  These are pretty badass, as the lifter can use a wide array of grips to shift the focus of the movement to the forearms (with a reverse grip), to the brachialis (for bicep thickness and strength using a hammer/neutral grip), the entire bicep with the usual supinated curl grip, and a mix of those grips (which is, of course, my favorite method), rotating the grip through the curl from a reverse grip to a completely supinated grip wherein the pinkies are pointed toward the outside of the biceps at peak contraction.

Tricep Extensions- These are done with the same setup again, but facing away from the upright.  This is by far and away my favorite tricep exercise, as doing these modified overhead extensions trash my triceps like they have never been trashed.  Trashed like a dead crack whore left in a forgotten dumpster filled with dogshit and left in the hot Florida sun all August kind of trashed.  Like curls, these can be tinkered with by changing the grip, and I really like doing them with a neutral grip that shifts to a slight outward push at full extension to get an extra squeeze in the outer head at peak contraction.  If you haven't yet caught on, these are like a french press/overhead extension, leaning away from the upright with your feet braced at the bottom of the upright or near it, elbows pinned at your ears through the movement, flexing your trips to bring you to a more or less standing position at peak contraction.

Shoulder Press-  This is a badass burnout exercise, done with the same motion as the chest press, but angled higher so the press is being done in a straight line from your shoulders past your head in line with your neck (just like if you were standing upright).  The stressors feel slightly different because of the odd angle, but the effect is the same- your shoulders end up fucking pumped and fried after 10 or so sets to failure.

Though my skepticism about the TRX system upon first seeing it likely rivaled those of Hitler's generals when they heard Hitler had demanded tanks nearly 200 tons in weight and the simultaneous conquest of three continents by a relatively small single country and its bitch-ass allies, thinking it to be retarded, trendy bullshit, I could not have been more fucking wrong.  As far as assistance work goes, you would be hard pressed to find a better way to get in a metric fuckton of work in a short period of time.  Moreover, the fact that TRX-style movements are closed-kinetic-chain movements leaves people far less susceptible to injury than with machines or dumbbells, as the movements are far more natural.  In short, you guys need to get in on this shit, as the speed with which they increase your overall muscularity and muscular endurance is nigh on fucking frightening.

Does that mean I'm suggesting you forego weights for bodyweight movements?  Certainly not- I'm simply suggesting that the addition of bodyweight movements to your regular routine could yield some seriously impressive results.  As I've mentioned before, I've noticed in the past that the addition of a few hundred pushups a day has contributed greatly to pushing through plateaus on the bench press, and the addition of pullups to any workout always results in more muscularity than weights alone.  Maybe that's even a bit mental, but whatever it is about bodyweight movements, they seem to simply provide a ton of upside with very little downside, so just shut the fuck up and add some to your workouts.

Up next, we'll cover makeshift weight/odd object work that goes on inside prison walls and their actual lifting techniques and training style lifting real iron.  While it might seem counter intuitive for the advocates of the modern day, internet-led [bitch-made, ahem] "intellectual", double-blind study affirmed lifting regime, inmates provide an unbelievably interesting and compelling counterpoint with what amounts to a no-fucks-given, balls-out, real-world perspective.   And at the end of the day, fuck it- if it worked for Kali Muscle, it might be worth looking into.

30 March 2016

I Ain't Sweet Like That- Dieting and Training in Lockup, Part 1

One topic that seems to pop up on internet message boards with the regularity of a geriatric with a Metamucil addiction and the high-speed insanity of the pop-up plastic punching bag rodents in Whack-a-Mole is the unerring ability of inmates to get jacked and strong in spite of their indigence. appalling soy-and-sugar-filled diets, and the occasional inaccessibility of strength training equipment.  By rights, every inmate in America should look like a pasty-faced, estrogen-filled, paunchy, detrained, sloppy-assed couch potato, but instead look like jacked-as-fuck bodybuilders that most gym goers wish they did.  Every now and again, a pic will surface on the internet showing a bunch of dangerous looking dudes so heavily muscled that they make the nerds on Bodybuilding.com start paying to the sniveling gods of Planet Fitness for a lunk alarm to magically appear on their desks.  The subsequent conversation regarding the methods the inmates used to send a giant “FUCK YOU” to the gods and the internet dipshits who demand empirical evidence for every diet and training method is invariably based upon the rambling musings of the genetic freak, general lunatic, and superhumanly strong inmate known as “Britain’s Most Dangerous Man”, Charles Bronson, and due to a total lack of other legitimate resources, never provides an adequate answer.  The topic of Kali Muscle then rears its grotesque, Freddy Krueger-esque head, and the entire conversation gets derailed like an Indian passenger train as it devolves into polemic so laden with volleys of unfounded invective that it resembles a Justin Bieber fan messageboard that’s been brigaded by tr00 metalheads more than a passing conversation about training methods and diet.

I know this feel.  Thanks, internet.

“When confronted by a problem involving the use of the reasoning facilities, individuals of strong intellect keep their poise, and seek to reach a solution by obtaining facts bearing upon a question.  Those of immature mentality, on the other hand, when similarly confronted, are overwhelmed.  While the former might be qualified to solve the riddle of their own destiny, the latter must be led like a flock of sheep and taught in simple language” (Hall).

It seems that for some reason, no one ever thought to interview actual inmates about how they get so insane jacked when it seems like most of the most vociferous weight training bloviators on the internet have trouble breaking the 175 lb mark.  Well, guess what?  I fucking went out and interviewed a whole shitload of felons so we could collectively get to the bottom of this apparent quandary.  Instead of sitting back on my laurels and simply pontificating upon my assumptions about their training, I sought out people who have actually spent more time in prisons and jails than outside of them (and who surprisingly do not train on the outside), because it seems obvious that it’s far better to get information directly from the horse’s mouth rather than getting it from a bunch of 15-year-old know nothings idly speculating about shit while peering through a film of dried cum on their monitors.  Thus, the following series of articles is the produce of a number of interviews that were frankly far less life-threatening than one might expect from a guy who’s lived in at least half of the richest suburbs in America, given that the interviewees had upwards of 200 collective felony convictions and countless misdemeanors.

Lifting In Lockup

One thing I’ve always found amusing about the fake-ass toughguy, chicken hawk, loudmouthed, bitch-ass right-winger radio demagogues like Rush Limbaugh is that they’re just as piss-ass scared of inmates as the pussy-ass politicians who demanded everyone get locked up on meatball bullshit in the first place. The result of this fear, in many prisons and jails, was to remove the gyms and weights from many penal facilities and restrict access thereto in those facilities where the weights remained… all because the inmates were going into those facilities underfed and underweight and coming out brick shithouses of hate.

You might see a dude who got beaten with hammers in prison, but I see a guy who should have spent more time lifting and less time playing spades and smoking.

There are a couple of reasons why these dudes are able to accomplish what most gym-goers do not:

  1. Survival.  Being so jacked and strong that the Hulk would think twice about rumbling with you earns you the same respect as Mike Tyson in his prime and reduces the chances that anyone will start shit.
  2. Work ethic.  They work out harder than meth-head housewives clean their bathrooms during a week-long run.  If they have the opportunity, they train, whether it's inside, outside, or upside down, doing pushups, pullups, burpees, and every other bodyweight exercise of which they can think if they can't get into the gym and murder some weights.  One inmate I interviewed said he gained 40 lbs in 5 months lifting for one to three hours a day and additional workouts consisting of nothing but bodyweight exercises, 7 days a week.  Maniacal hardly describes that sort of a program.
  3. Boredom.  You cannot fathom the utter, mind-numbing, suicidal thought inducing, grinding boredom that incarceration entails.
  4. Competition.  Jails and prisons ave an air of competition that make the Olympics look like a game of pre-school hopscotch.  There is a constant, overriding, brutal air of competition to be the biggest, meanest, baddest, strongest motherfucker in god's cruel kingdom inside of every correctional facility.
  5. Getting laid.  According to nearly every inmate with whom I spoke, there is one premier, overarching reason why dudes in the penal system train so they can get laid immediately upon release.  
Marcinko knows that first you get the money, then you get the bitches.

"Yesterday's successes are fond fucking memories.  As soon as you start resting on your laurels, you begin cutting corners and taking shortcuts.  You get fat.  You get lazy.  You want to play it safe.  In my business, the business of killing people- the oxygen thieves, the corner cutters, shortcut takers, and professional safety experts are the ones who will get you killed.  If you're dead you can't accomplish your mission.  And if the mission isn't accomplished, YOU HAVE FUCKING FAILED!"
- Richard Marcinko

Yeah, I know- lifting isn't quite analogous to war, but the quote goes harder than a roomful of teenagers snacking on Viagra while checking out Bonnie Rotten vids, and and quote rings true in the gym- the motherfuckers who cut corners and take shortcuts are fat and lazy.  They lift like shit and thus look like shit.  Unlike those doughy fucks, inmates train.  Think you might be in danger of overtraining?  It's far more likely that you're just a fucking pussy.  These guys hammer their bodies in every time they lift, then follow their gym sessions up with endless sets of bodyweight circuits and game after game of basketball.  For example, the following program was used by one inmate I interviewed in concert with a shitload of food to take him from 150lbs of bones to 235 pounds of pissed off felon in just under a year:

Day 1: Two hours of biceps, triceps, and back, followed by another session consisting of various bodyweight exercises.
Day 2: Two hours of chest and shoulders- incline, decline, and flat bench with a variety of grip widths- followed by shoulder presses and laterals.
Day 3: Two hours of legs- squats, extensions, curls, and calves.
Day 4: Two hours of abs.
Day 5: Repeat.

Obviously, not every prison or jail allows their inmates to train 7 days a week.  In many institutions, it's limited to three days a week, so the remainder of their workouts have to be done with bodyweight work.  TONS of bodyweight work, Herschel Walker-style.

Greatest metal face ever.
"Sheer pain wrapped in animal willpower."
- Richard Marcinko
This is where the line between genius (albeit idiot savant- style genius, given the fact that most inmates seem to possess all of the technical strength training and programming knowledge of your average potted plant) and insanity, as necessity is the mother of inventiveness and these guys seem to employ mad-scientist-esque imagination in their bodyweight workouts.  Luckily for you, I've gotten you guys the inside scoop for this maniacal training, which will work just as well in a hotel room on a vacation as it does in lockup.  For those of you who are worried that your gainz will suffer and your efforts will be "wasted" (by the way, every lazy rat fuck on the Internet who whines about their endless worry that they might be "wasting their time" with the wrong workout while dithering about their program should eat a fucking lead salad, because they're annoying pussies without whom the world would be a better place), hear me: FUCK THAT SHIT.  Inmates train, by and large, on around 3000 calories at most, and in many situations on 1600 calories or less, most of which are carbs and fat, and they make gainz in spite of themselves just by going fucking hard.

...so just go fucking nuts.
"It is better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past." - Major General von Clausewitz
In true Chaos and Pain fashion, these weightless workouts are frequent, often lengthy, and almost completely structureless.  Instead of painstakingly calculating their volume, employing loading tables, analyzing their form, and generally turning lifting into a series of unnecessary calculations.  These motherfuckers just train.  Circuits of burpees, pullups, jogging, and pushups are followed by dip and pullup competitions, or challenges to lift random heavy objects, or wheelbarrow races (running on their hands while a partner runs behind them, holding their feet as they would the handles of a wheelbarrow).  Zero fucks are given about fatigue and no one ever utters the foul, unspeakable term "overtraining."  Nah, these guys "ain't sweet like that."  You can't take much from people who have nothing to lose, and inmates make the absolute best out of a seemingly hopeless situation by being tough and adaptable.  Given that their exercises are limited only by their surprisingly robust imaginations (dat adaptability!) it'd take too long to cover every possible permutation.  The following, then, will just be rather comprehensive highlights to provide you with a jumping off point more badass than tossing yourself off the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The following exercises come in three delicious varieties: traditional bodyweight exercises, TRX-style movements, and makeshift resistance work using odd lifts and unconventional implements.

Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight movements serve as an incredibly strong foundation for strength training, and my recent use of them and careful consideration of my early years of training have caused me to re-prioritize these essential movements, from which I've deviated considerably in the last couple of years (much to my detriment).  Not to put too fine a point on it, but high repetition bodyweight movements are the shit.  The following are the movements and variations most popular in prison (which is interesting, because the inmates are generally completely ignorant of exercise science and nutrition, but necessity is the ultimate monkey, and these guys are doing exactly the right shit).
  • Pullups- Always an excellent mainstay of any workout because a strong posterior chain makes for a strong lifter and barn door lats look awesome on everyone, pullups make up a great deal of inmates' bodyweight routines.  These are often done outside of the gym, hanging from anything that's handy, be it the cell door or window, the top bunk of a bed, or the back of an open stair in the common area.  Every imaginable grip is used to shift the focus of the exercise and reduce burnout... which of course facilitates more volume.  As for rep schemes, they are all over the map, and generally swing between maximum reps for burnouts in short timeframes and total volume over longer periods of time.
  • Pushups- Pushups are the mainstay bodyweight exercise of any place o incarceration, as prisoners are obsessed with building huge "hoods" (pecs/chests) and "back arms (triceps), and few things work to that end like a couple thousand pushups per day a couple of times a week.  Inmates do these on the floor, on their knuckles, on the tips of their fingers, their wrists, incline, decline, diamond, ballistic, and from a deficit.
  • Deck of Death-  The Deck of Death is utter brutality, and I've written about it before- this is what I used in high school and college to bring up my bench.  It shouldn't shock me, then, that my bench all but stalled out in subsequent years and my chest lagged behind my other body parts until my recent re-entry into the hallowed lands of 5000-7000 pushups a week.  Though I typically just do straight sets of 50-100, recording each set to ensure a minimum of 1500 a day, 3 times a week, plus additional days of a few hundred, I will occasionally do the Deck of Death to mix things up.  For that, I shuffle a deck of cards and do pushups according to the face value of the card (Jacks=11reps, Queens=12 reps, Kings=13 reps, and Aces=20 reps) and the suit (Diamonds= Diamond pushups, Hearts= Incline, Clubs= Decline, and Spades= Wide grip).  I recommend doing all reps but diamonds on your knuckles for more forearm/wrist work, using flip flops or towels for padding, and once you've finished the deck, you'll have done 440 pushups.  Although I don't time these, it's best from a workout density standpoint to complete the deck as quickly as possible.  Doing so will give your chest and triceps a pump so fucking brutal your balls will ache, you asshole will pucker, and anyone who sees you shirtless will think you shot your pecs full of Synthol.
  • Squat- These can be done any number of ways, as you can likely imagine.  TYhe prominent method for forcing leg growth in lockup, however, is the Tyson workout, or "Tysons", which is also done using a deck of cards.  To do these, take 8 playing cards out of the deck at random and place them on the ground in a straight line about 18" inches apart.  Then take one more card from the deck, squat over the 1st card in the line and squat to below parallel, dropping the one you're holding on top of the card on the ground.  Then stand up, then squat and pick up the first card, then squat and pick up the second card and move to the second card in the line.  Repeat what you did the first time, squatting and dropping the two cards in two movements, then squat down three times to pick up each of the cards.  Repeat until you've picked up all of the cards.  If you use short rests, your legs will be burning like gonorrhea after a few sets.
The list definitely goes on, and this series is going to be loooooooooong, so get ready for a shitload of new posts in the coming weeks.  I realize I've been slacking like crazy with the posting, and that'll be rectified in the coming months.  To tide you over until part 2 is posted, however, I'm taking it back to the old school- here's the aforementioned porn goddess Bonnie Rotten to get your day started off right.