29 November 2018

Feast, Famine, And Ferocity Diet, Part 2- Welcome To The Suck

Miss the intro to this series?  Yeah, it's been awhile.  Go here for a refresher.

The story of a phoenix rising from the ashes is iconic and timeless.  It's an archetype that transcends time and place and speaks to the indomitability of the human spirit.  Be it humanity's seeming inborn tendency to root for the underdog, or the dominant American/Western appreciation for the rags-to-riches, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, polar-opposite-of-Donald-Trump motherfuckers who spit in the face of adversity and dominate the opposition because they simply refuse to fucking lose, these stories dominate the modern zeitgeist.  This is the reason the Rocky series seem to be endless in spite of the fact that Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago would have quite literally killed that little man in the ring and worn his skin to their birthday parties, why the films of the 1980's were so obsessed with horrible rags-to-riches stories like Brewster's Millions and that cinematic nightmare Arthur were popular in spite of their dogshit plots and Dudley Moore, and why tales of redemption and rebirth are some of the oldest and most beloved stories ever recorded.

Did any non-Italians actually root for Rocky in this fucking flick?

Rising from the ashes, digging yourself out of the rubble and emerging from the previous conflagration like V in V for Vendetta is as intrinsically motivational thing as one can accomplish, and the inspiration it provides serves to drive you to even greater heights.  Too often, we become complacent, trapped in a mindset that the status quo is good enough, convinced we have chosen the most prudent, effective, and correct path, adopting a mindset that disallows consideration of alternatives.  Stagnation and plateaus then plague our training and stymie our physique and strength goals, yet we tinker and tweak when what we really need is a firestorm to purify our minds and bodies.  To scorch the fat off our soul.  A cataclysm from which we can be born anew, and from which we can regain our predatory glow.

Rebirth after destruction is the natural order of things- maggots grow into flies eating rotting flesh, new growth forms in the ashes of forest fires, and new nations are formed from the rubble of the old.  Hell, the French even refer to orgasms as "the little death," bring new life, ostensibly, from each load dropped.  Just as Taiwan grew out of the ashes of China's post-monarchic socio-political disaster, the United States Constitution was penned after the dissolution of the Articles of Confederation and a near civil war, Robert Downey Jr's rebirthed career after passing out in his neighbor's kid's bed, and Five Finger Death Punch grew out of the death of a couple (and in the case of Motograter, far better bands), lifters can also destroy and rebuild themselves anew.

What I am proposing isn't as dramatic as self-immolation, though it might seem that way at first.  Nor is it intended as a long-term scheme, though it could be used as one if one so chooses.  Instead, this is a diet that is intended to be used periodically to shock the system, shake things up, and knock the rust off of doing the same fucking thing month in and month out.  If you're a fucking machine who is continually making progress with the same 'ol shit and rocking abs that local Amish women use as a laundry washboard, you can just stick this in your back pocket in case you need something different down the road, because if experience has taught me one thing, it's that nothing works forever in the strength game.  

Strength sports legend Hermann Goerner was one of these poor fuckers not once but twice in his hyper-illustrious career.  Losing weight is hardly the end of the fucking world, and you're no special snowflake, no matter what you say- the weight will pile right back on.

With all of that said, it's time to get into the the details of the Feast or Famine Diet.  The diet begins with a brutal introductory period of a protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF) designed to strip both body fat and muscle glycogen from your body (in addition to burning the proverbial fat off your soul) followed by alternating bouts of overeating and extremely heavy lifting and PSMF and high volume repetition work, respectively.  In this way, we compress the cyclical eating utilized by out historical forbears into shorter "seasons" that will net overall muscle gain and fat loss, profound changes in the look of your physique, and concurrent gains in both your maximum effort and repetition strength.  Yeah, with this motherfucker you can literally have your cake and eat it too.

You just have to starve for it a bit.

Remember this transformation?  Christian Bale went from a lean and muscular 6' 184lbs to damn near dead in the Machinist (dropped to 124lbs), then bulked hard as hell for Batman, getting to a thick 215 and then cutting to 190 so he'd fit into the Batsuit in five months.  Bear in mind he was so goddamned malnourished after the Machinist it took a couple of weeks of stuffing himself before he could even go jogging or lift.

The first three weeks are gonna be fucking rough- you'll be hungry, angry, lonely, and tired, but to hell with that HALT shit- stimulants are going to become your best friend.  When I PSMF, I combine either Red Sky, Bronk-Aid, and an aspirin, or Cannibal Inferno and Bronk-Aid three times a day for energy (which you will seriously need) and vastly increased fat metabolism, or do one of those two stacks twice a day and then Cannibal Ferox and Bronk-Aid the third.  Though ECA and ECY stacks offer make dieting a far less miserable and lengthy experience and provide ample energy for training, Chaos and Pain LLC does not endorse such a stack, as such advice would be imprudent, immoral, and illegal, so bear in mind that is my personal recommendation, lest anyone with a JD and a penchant for ambulance chasing out there get any stupid fucking ideas.  In any event, you will likely feel as though you've been exsanguinated by Chaos chiurgeons should you attempt to train without stims, so get acquainted with them and learn to love them if you don't already.

I've basically been reading naught but Warhammer novels for three months, so buckle up for some 40k references.

The Famine (2-4 weeks)
  • 4-6 protein shakes per day, evenly spaced, in water, totaling 1 gram/lb of bodyweight a day.  No meal replacements- keep your carbs as close to zero as possible.
  • 2 weeks if lean / leanish, 4 weeks if chubby / fat
  • Stimulant-based thermogenic (containing caffeine and yohimbine HCl if possible, like Cannibal Inferno).  You can also go old school and combine caffeine, yohimbine HCL, aspirin and ephedrine yourself.  I don't get too crazy dosing it out- when I do that I just take a couple No Doz with a Bronk Aid, 5mg of Yohimbine HCL, and an aspirin- do the research yourself and see what you tolerate, because those stims hit people differently.
  • A thyroid-based fatburner will obviously help as well.  You can either go all in and get T3 and albuterol on a peptides site online, or if you want to avoid the internet stigma of "eat clen, tren hard," you can grab some Cannibal Claw, which is about 75% as effective as the aforementioned stack.  The thyroid stuff is less important than the stimulants, though, because you need the energy, so if it is a one-or-the-other proposition, go with stims.
  • Nutrition repartitioning agents / blood sugar management supplements.  I've tried everything from Cannibal Claw to Predator to handfuls of cinnamon and vanadyl sulfate caps, and they seem to help speed fat loss, but they're not 100% essential like the stims are.
The amount of protein is based on your bodyweight- you're going to consume one gram of protein per pound of your weight.  Thus, you should be getting roughly eight or nine calories per pound of bodyweight due to the trace carbs and fat in your protein shakes.  These shakes are not intended to fuel your workouts or daily life- you're essentially fasting.  Instead, they're to ensure you lose as little muscle as possible while undergoing a fortnight-long fast.

If you're Russian or a communist and reading this, stop short of your natural inclination when fasting... and try to avoid a Cannibal Island type situation.  There's nothing wrong with cannibalism, but if it's starvation induced, you've taken the diet a bit too far.

The idea of starting with a famine period is simple- if you're considering a recomposition diet, you're likely not seeing much in the way of definition or abs.  And if you're both small and chubby, stripping off some fat will mean your will put on less fat in your bulking period, because studies have shown that the less body fat you hold, the less you will gain while bulking. And ladies, this is why you put on more fat during a dirty bulk than your boyfriend/husband/training partner/coach/fuckbuddy/etc- it's one of the many ways the gods have issued your gender a hearty "fuck you,"
"Overfeeding: In experiments of at least 3-weeks' duration, the weight gain of thin people comprises 60-70% lean tissues, whereas in the obese it is 30-40%. Underfeeding: In humans, there is an inverse curvilinear relationship between initial body fat content and the proportion of weight loss consisting of lean tissue" (Forbes).
I, for one, tend to appreciate females' higher bodyfat percentages.

As chicks hold higher body fat percentages naturally, the probability they'll gain a greater amount of fat while bulking than a guy is pretty high.  So again, dropping some fat before starting the bulk makes sense.  The second sentence in that study is also important, because it essentially states that people carrying more body fat will lose less fat when dieting than leaner people.  As Metallica said, it's sad but true, 

so if you're a bit on the fatter side, you might want to extend the initial famine period to a month to put you on a better footing when you start bulking.  It'll suck harder than an amateur porn star trying to pay her kid's private college tuition for a month, but it'll be worth it from a metabolic and an aesthetic standpoint.

With that said, you have the single most effective dieting strategy on your side, because the protein sparing modified fast is just as effective in losing visceral fat as bariatric surgery, and it preserves the muscle you have while you're burning fat cells like they're bodies in a death camp (Ravasia).

This bad little motherfucker trained his ass off in a British military prison after slapping the shit out of a British officer while in the RAF and survived the Bengali famine before winning Mr. Universe in 1951.  A bit of privation does a body good.

Famine Training Routine (2-4 weeks)
The logic behind the training routine, then, is fairly simple- just as many of the more warlike (and coincidentally more muscular people in history had an on and an off season dietv(the campaign season and winter), they had an on and off season physical regime.  Whereas the non-campaign months were generally reserved for more sedentary activities and the heavy lifting that would go into building ships, dragging logs, the feats of strength to be performed at festivals, and the like, the campaign seasons were devoted to shit like rowing and fighting.  In short, exercise that would build far more muscular endurance than strength.  Famine training will follow that lead and focus far more on the endurance/pump aspects of lifting than training for pure strength, and the diet will somewhat (at least calorically) mimic the often meager rations that would employ.

Having trained in this kind of caloric deficit quite a bit, I can tell you firsthand that you will likely not be putting up PRs during this period.  You will likely feel drained, lethargic, shaky, and weak, and that is not the state in which most of us put up record numbers.  Though that sucks, remember you are not a fucking slave to your stomach.  Your mind controls your body, not the other way around.  That said, training with your usual poundages likely isn't going to happen, but keeping your training weights close to what they usually would be if you were stuffing your face and increasing your volume will put you in prime position to crush weights when you start eating like you're at an old school Roman bacchanalian feast.  

The following is what I recommend, but it isn't set in stone.  Protocol training can just as easily lead to training as success, because what works like a charm for one person might end in catastrophe for another.  As such, I encourage you to forge your own path.  Having made that disclaimer, I've found that training 4-5 days a week with your sessions consisting of a single heavy compound lift followed by a bunch of repetition work that focuses on the pump and burning up muscle glycogen seems to do the trick.  This is different than the old Chaos and Pain shit for two reasons- 
  1. this is designed to deplete glycogen during a fast, 
  2. the point of my training style is that it isn't dogmatic and remains fluid.  In spite of that shit, I still get people telling me that my own training style "isn't Chaos and Pain," because reading comprehension is fucking lacking in schools these days, apparently.  
* As I mentioned above, I recommend either an extra cap of your chosen fat burner (or two), plus whatever you might want to stack it with, prior to hitting the gym.  That or a stim heavy preworkout (which will also burn fat, and I have no idea how or why that isn't obvious).

Day 1
Strict Military Press- 4 x AMRAP (90%1RM).  2 minute rests between sets
Incline Bench Press- 6 x AMRAP (60%1RM).  2 minute rest. 
Machine Shoulder Press- 6 x 10-12 12RM. 90 second rest.  Triple drop sets on the last two sets.
15 Minutes of bi/tri supersets- 8-12 reps per set.  15 seconds between each superset to shake out arms.  Use cables if possible to keep constant tension on your arms.  

Day 2
Front Squat / Back Squat- 4 x 3 (5RM).  3 minute rests between sets
Front Squat / Back Squat Death Set- use 50% of your work weight for a single AMRAP set 
Machine Row / Super strict Bent Over Row- 6 x 20. 90 second rest. 
Leg Extensions- 3 x 25.  90 second rest.
Leg Curl- 3 x 25.  90 second rest.
Calf Raise- 5 x 5.  90 second rest.

Day 3
Off / Cardio

Day 4
Flat Bench Press- 4 x AMRAP (90%1RM).  2 minute rests between sets
Strict Military Press- 6 x AMRAP (60%1RM).  2 minute rest. 
20 Minutes of Dips.  Whatever your max number of consecutive reps, chop it in half, then do sets of that number with 15-60 second rests between them for 20 minutes.  Prepare to be fucking sore.
Unilateral Concentration Curls (with wrist twist at the bottom)- 5 x 20.  60 second rest

Day 5
Explosive Bent Over Rows (from the floor)- 4 x AMRAP (90%1RM).  2 minute rests between sets.  Call them Pendlay rows if you want, but tards on the internet do them like they're attending a fucking tea party.  Rip the bar off the floor and slam it into your solar plexus, then let it crash to the floor.  Try not to use too much body english, but don't make this something form Nazis can masturbate to.  Make some fucking noise and go nuts.  I rarely do fewer than 10 sets on these because they're more fun than a free handjob in a lube factory from a Vivid porn star, so do more if you feel like it.
Front Squat / Back Squat- 6 x 4 (6RM).  2 minute rest.  
Cable Low Row- 6 x 20. 90 second rest.  Triple drop sets on the last two sets. 
Pullups- Same as the dips on Day 3.
Calf Raise- 5 x 25.  90 second rest.

Day 6
Dealer's Choice.  Train whatever you want for up to 90 minutes.  Literally whatever you feel like training- I've been known to do shrugs for over an hour straight.  Just enjoy yourself.

Day 7
Off / Cardio

Running doesn't seem to be hurting CrossFitters' gains.

A Word in Regards to Cardio

I've made no bones about the fact that I fucking despise cardio.  I don't think it's entirely necessary for getting super lean or for general fitness, but it isn't going to hurt to do some.  Weighted steady state cardio is an excellent choice if you feel like doing some extra training and want to drop fat faster, as are sprints.  Honestly, any extra training you do is going to speed fat loss, so feel free to throw it in. 

By the way, there is some evidence out there that the aerobic exercise will induce hypertrophy (Konopka), which actually supports a theory I have regarding the use of a couple of specific exercises to develop maximal strength (which is the basis of a book I'm in the process of writing).  As such, you would probably do well to include some cardio in your routine.

So there you have the Famine part of the Feast, Famine, and Ferocity Diet.  Coming up next, I'll detail the fun part- the Feast, and the program that goes with turning you into a musclebound warlord of the weight room.  Also in the hopper are articles about another 1950s era bodybuilder, a good, old fashioned Chaos and Pain rant, and part twoof the Berserker or Zen Monk series (about which I had completely forgotten).  Like I said, I've got a ton of new shit to drop on you people. 

Forbes GB.  Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise.  Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000 May;904:359-65.

Konopka AR, Harber MP.  Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy after Aerobic Exercise Training.  Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2014 Apr; 42(2): 53–61.

Jebb SA, Prentice AM, Goldberg GR, Murgatroyd PR, Black AE, Coward WA.  Changes in macronutrient balance during over- and underfeeding assessed by 12-d continuous whole-body calorimetry.  Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Sep;64(3):259-66.

Longland TM, Oikawa SY, Mitchell CJ, Devries MC, Phillips SM.  Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):738-46.

Ravasia D, Ravasia K, Sabowitz B.  Protein Sparing Modified Fast Favors Loss of DXA-VAT and Preservation of Lean Body Mass. J Clin Dens. 2014 Jul;17(3):399

27 November 2018

The "Perfect Gym" Is All In Your Head

Not too far off from my setup in Beijing.

As I staggered the fifteen steps from my toilet shower to my desk, sweating like a pedophile in an elementary school bathroom, desperate to find another roll of toilet paper, I lamented the fact that dysentery was going to steal yet another day of heaving around some heavy iron from me.  That's not to say I wasn't going to train, but rather that I was going to train light to avoid shitting my pants under a heavy load.  Just five days earlier I had hit an all-time high in bodyweight, 171lbs, which was just about 10lbs heavier than my best bodyweight prior to entering the smog-choked land of the terra cotta soldiers.  Upon turning and seeing the trail of blood I'd left on the floor leading to the small pool forming directly beneath me, I decided that discretion was the better form of valor, because unless I'd been shot in the browneye by an overzealous and underfed Chinese soldier, I should probably not be bleeding from the rectum and a day off from the gym was indeed in order.  After a moment of half-delirious consideration, I washed down enough anti-laduzi (Mandarin for diarrhea and the only word of Chinese my dad ever learned) to prevent a normal person from ever shitting again, I fired up the showerhead over the toilet bowl because my asshole felt like it had spent a weekend with Marsellis Wallace's buddies, a pair of pliers, and a blowtorch, so a shower was vastly preferable to scrubbing my abused asshole with what amounted to sand paper but was alleged to be toilet tissue.

I have no earthly idea how much money my dad spent in sending me Met-Rx in 1998, but it was not an inconsiderable sum.  He was the fucking man.

Unless you're a fecalfeliac, you're likely wondering what the fuck this story has to do with anything lifting related.  The tie-in, rather than another rant about eating to grow, is that I managed to pack on ten or eleven pounds of rip in about six weeks without the aid of supplements beyond a couple of meal replacement shakes and/or protein bars a day, and of those six weeks I had dysentery for at least three.  Not only that, but I accomplished that feat in the most rudimentary gym I've ever seen that wasn't in Uganda, and I'd already been training for five years, so these weren't noob gains.  Add  to that, it was summer in Beijing, so the temperature ranged from 90-100 degrees in the daytime with the smog-choked humidity so thick you had to use a steak knife to cut it before you could take a deep breath, and the gym in which I trained daily didn't even have a fucking fan, nevermind an air conditioner.

If that's your thing, you likely didn't need the explanation behind the intro.  

Nah- this isn't another public service announcement to enjoin you to eat like you're white trash at a shitty buffet.  This is a statement regarding the endless online discussions about finding the right gym to ensure success.  This debate, like the mindset behind it, is entirely wrongheaded.  As it is with choosing a program, the maximization of success with gym selection is far less about the equipment than it is about the effort one expends on the equipment they're using.  To wit:


Herschel Walker built an unbelievable physique with little more than thousands upon thousands of pushups and situps, and a shitload of sprints.  At 51, he almost certainly looked better than you and everyone you know with that routine, and he spent literally nothing on gym memberships beyond an mma school.

Marcy Multi gyms were so basic they should have come with Ugg boots and a pumpkin spice latte.

Bruce Lee built a crazy strong and muscular physique with a routine centered on PHA (peripheral heart action) training that mostly utilized a Marcy trainer, the predecessor to multistation Universal machines.

For his role in Reign of Fire, Matthew McConaughey literally grappled with cows and carried shit around his ranch to bulk up.  His basic weight workouts, like Bruce Lee's and Sonny Chiba's, three days circuit training.  Nothing special, yet the dude looked like a badass in that flick without ever touching a bumper plate.

Big Jim Williams was the first man in history to bench 660lbs and still one of the biggest benchers ever, in spite of the fact that he had to take all of his attempts back to back (he had as much time between attempts as it took to load the weight and count down from 90), and he did almost all of his training in prison.  In spite of what you might think, weight lifting equipment in jails is hardly state of the art, and at the time Williams competed bench presses were notoriously rickety even in high-end gyms.

In case you missed it, there are dudes in Africa who are doing a hell of a lot more with a hell of a lot less than you.

The list of athletes and celebrities who have done amazing things with their physiques in rudimentary gyms or *gasp* on machines is endless and dates back to antiquity, and should provide ample evidence to convince most people that they needn't train at the regional "hardcore," "functional" gym that happens to be the talk of the internet in order for them to maximize their potential.  Though I realize this simple fact should be easy to grasp, I fully realize it isn't because the internet mostly exists to destroy the fabric of reality and replace it with bullshit.  As such, here are a couple of gym anecdotes that might help to drive the point home:

My favorite machine in high school, and one that tragically no longer exists- a weighted dip/pullup/calf raise machine.

My old high school gym was a 1980's special donated by a former student who upgraded his home gym and gave us the stuff he'd bought a decade prior.  It boasted a Marcy multi-gym, a few old Nautilus machines, a squat rack, mismatched dumbbells, and a couple of benches.  Everything was old and fucked up, and we loved it.  In two years, my bench went up 140 lbs and I went from a pudgy kid to a three sport varsity athlete with school records for bodyweight exercises.

World Gym Tucson, which is now a boxing gym, was the best gym in which I have ever trained.  The bodybuilding mecca of southern Arizona in the 1990's, our member rolls included IFBB pro Rusty Jeffers, a couple of Westside transplants, and the most entertaining cornucopia of weightlifting maniacs I've ever seen.  It had no AC, no pussies, and an absolute lunatic for an owner who would physically throw people out of the gym for minor gym rule infractions like leaving a plate leaning against the squat rack.  Powerlifters and bodybuilders trained together (I don't think I even met an Olympic lifter until after 2000, and internet icon Steve Pulcinella was the only person I'd ever met who competed in strongman prior to 2004 or 2005), and all of the serious lifters went to every competition our gym's members entered... mostly because at that time people only competed to win, not to show up and collect a fucking participation trophy.  Every person I knew in that place was jacked and strong, and we'd have non-stop impromptu competitions on everything from squatting for reps to deadlifts to bench to one arm dumbbell rows. 

Top Gym Vienna. With the motto "No Wellness," I knew these were my kind of people.  At the time, I was eating paleo and although prevented by EU law from taking ephedrine, was a ripped-to-fucking-shreds 170lbs when I returned home, after repping 440 on the front squat and doing ballistic pullups as the gym's sole strength athlete.  You don't need to train in a strength oriented gym to be fucking strong- everyone else in that gym was an old school string-tank-top-and-spandex-shorts clad bodybuilder or figure competitor stick figure, yet we all got along famously and killed it in the gym daily.  To say there was a lot of gratuitous high fiving going on between sets is like saying the volleyball scenes in Top Gun are slightly homoerotic, and that kind of rampant positivity and mutual respect made for a badass training environment.

Iron Sport Gym is one of the few strength gyms on the planet I don't despise, and I've made massive gains as a result of training there periodically over the last 20 years.  To give you some idea of how long I've known Stevie P, I found his gym as the result of seeing his ad in the Yellow Pages of the phone book years ago.  If you're unfamiliar with him, he's the progenitor of the DYEL meme, a World's Strongest Man competitor, a Hall of Fame Highland Games competitor, and one of the most hilariously surly people on the planet.  He's one of the most knowledgeable guys in strength sports, and our conversations helped mold my training methodology.  If you're ever in the Philadelphia area, check it out- it's packed with pro bodybuilders, pro strongmen, elite Oly lifters, and a number of powerlifters of varied skill levels (though I've heard their gossip game is on a bean).

24e- This was the gym I trained in to set my world record, in a chrome squat rack with bars that I bent completely out of shape.  It boasted no competitive strength athletes at all, had a perpetually broken homemade platform, nothing but octagonal plates, and a handful of competitive bodybuilders.  Three or four guys in there benched over 500lbs (in spite of the bent, dead bars with collars that wouldn't spin and slippery vinyl benches) and never took a single gym selfie or video of themselves doing so, because they were far more interested with lifting than with posing online as lifters when in reality they'd rather be doing anything else.  This gym was also the birthplace of my supplement company, and generally stands as proof that gyms are built on people, not equipment, and that bodybuilders make a gym, while powerlifters generally ruin them.  That said, "mainstream" obsessed money grubbing dickheads can kill a gym even more quickly than USAPL lifters, and that gym was the victim of on such shitslug.

Renmin University gym.  This is the aforementioned gym in Beijing.  It boasted no fans, no AC, enough rust on the plates to give you tetanus just looking at a photo of the gym, two extremely unsafe squat racks, and a single bench.  This place even lacked dumbbells, and it was so fucking hot in there that I looked like I'd just gone for a swim in my clothes after my second warmup set.  It was in that primeval place that I learned how to pack on mass quickly, lifting heavy as shit on made up exercises and just going nuts the entire time shirtless in rust stained shorts.

Stern's Gym in 1970 and his gym in 2001 were not appreciably different.

I've got plenty more examples, because I've trained all over the place.  I once did a set of 97 reps with 135lbs on the squat, weighing maybe 150, in a squash club's tiny gym; I've done death sets of deadlifts overlooking the Hong Kong skyline in a posh resort's fitness center; threw around some weights with the guitarist from Sworn Vengeance at the awesome hardcore gym 22nd St Barbell in Iowa; partially retore my bicep goofing around with the gym owner of an awesome Ninja Warrior/strongman gym outside of Chicago called Golden Age Strength Club; I've had awesome workouts in innumerable Gold's Gyms, Powerhouses, 24 Hour Fitness around the country,  plus the iconic Golds and Worlds in Venice Beach and Vince Gironda's gym there, Leo Stern's gym in San Diego that was practically a museum piece when I trained there, among many others.  Hell, I've trained in a guido gym in Pittsburgh that even had a fucking shrine, an honest to god shrine, to Robert DeNiro in it, an LA Fitness in North Hills, PA in which the dudes were so juiced up they had to wipe the pus off the benches between sets because their backne would burst, and have seen dudes bench 405 on free weight benches in Planet Fitness.  In short, I've got a pretty good idea of what constitutes a good gym, and what you need to have a good lift... and it's not the facility or the equipment.  It's the people who train there and the people who run the place.

If you can't find someone you want to fuck in a CrossFit gym, you need to get your test levels checked, ladies included.

If you want to dispute that, feel free, because I have one trump card you can't beat- CrossFit gyms.  If the ridiculous performance of CrossFitters in the Games isn't proof of concept enough, consider the following- if you're going to be training half naked with a bunch of people who are trying to outlift and out-hot you, chance are you're going to think twice about skipping workouts or cheating on your diet.  The motivation of others will carry over to you.  Likewise, if you've got an undiscussed competition going on with some bench bro from your gym and you know they're gonna be checking to see how many reps you get on behind the neck press out of the corner of their eye, you might push a little harder when it's time to do your accessory work.  The equipment you're using to achieve the strength you want to display is only an impediment if you're a complete fucking pussy who wants to excuse your weakness with nonsense.  In fact, training on shitty equipment has the benefit of making the same weight on a good bar or a good bench seem light by comparison, so when you hit the platform weights that were a struggle fucking fly up... and it will give you extra reasons to excuse unimpressive training weights when you're typing comments on Instagram (seriously, fucking stop that shit already.  Your every goddamned lift does not need to be filmed).

If only New Orleans Athletic Club would allow people to train in their historic weight room...

Speaking of training on different equipment, much of the online discussion on the subject of choosing a gym seems to come from people with little experience in doing so and even less in lifting.  It's a literal matter of the blind leading the blind, which necessitates one other entreaty- for the love of all that is unholy, hit up some other gyms in your area.  See what is out there.  Get in some workouts on unfamiliar equipment, around unfamiliar people.  Not only will this give you a great deal more perspective on the subject of what actually constitutes a great gym, but you may discover your gym is inferior to other gyms, be they an LA Fitness, a Planet Fitness, or Ryan Cellis's awesome spot in Pittsburgh.  You might find that you have some of the best workouts of your life while travelling, because you will likely feel the need (like I do) to immediately insert yourself into that gym's strength hierarchy... and you might come to find that your gym isn't the local end all, be all of strong motherfuckers in the area.

If the gym in Todd Schorr's mind was open to the public, I would be the first motherfucker on the planet to sign up for a membership.

In short, the perfect gym is likely out there, but it exists between your ears.  Hell, even athletes who own badass gyms like Kansas City Barbell agree- the owner, Jay, told me that his best experiences lifting were not at his own gym but at the old Worlds Gym in Reading, PA, because he was lifting with a pro Highland Games competitor and a dude who played in NFL Europe and every training session was beyond ball-out.  Equipment isn't holding you back when you train- your mind is.  The gym isn't the problem- you are.  Greatness is within your grasp, but you've got to be your own salvation.  Keep an eye out for the people who train fucking hard- not the Instagram dipshits constantly filming every fucking thing for the internet, and not the fuckers who foam roll for an hour before they train (incidentally, I will be gassing those motherfuckers my first day in office as overlord of post-apocalyptic America).  All of that shit is window dressing to disguise the fact they're not there to train, but to preen.  Forge your own path and own your shit rather than placing your destiny in the hands of strangers, whether they be on Facebook or the owners of your gym or anyone else.  And remember, The perfect gym is not a physical location but a mental one, formed out of your mindset, desire, and drive.  Build one worthy of attaching to a drinking hall in Valhalla, because the alternative is dying unremembered. 

23 November 2018

[Full Fucking Redux] Baddest Motherfuckers Ever- Benny "I Live In a Fucking Cave" Podda

When I first penned this article, there was little in the way of info on Benny Podda, and what I could find seemed to be as much fiction as fact.  Turns out, however, that my sole source for information wasn't off the mark- more recent stuff, in addition to a read of Bill Romanowski's biography, confirmed the utterly maniacal shit I'd read.  As it was nearly ten years old, I thought it might bear a bit of an update in form and content, so here is my heavily revised redux of my third BME... and holy fuck, I've been doing this for almost ten years.

And because I know that I dropped the beginning of a series and then nothing for two months, rest assured the remainder of the "Feast and Famine" series has been written and is in the process of being typed up.  I actually hand wrote so much shit in the last quarter of the year that it is taking two people weeks to type it.  In short, there will be plenty for you to read in the coming months- I've been a busy motherfucker.

In the past I've been asked why I focus so heavily on the outliers in the strength community, rather than the more conventional lifters who've had success over the years in a more reserved fashion.  The answer is quite frankly, that greatness and boring rarely coincide, and where they do it is more coincidence than a causal relationship.  The clock-punching Rudy-style workhorse who starts at the bottom with no talent and achieves marginal success from a refusal to give up and a no-shucks-given attitude only inspires pussies to continue being pussies.  Moreover, they're fucking boring, and succeeded not because of their utter lack of personality but in spite of it.  I'd go so far as to say I despise those people, because they convince the weak sauce posers in the lifting community that they belong in the presence of titans simply because they take the same supplements and wear similar clothes.

Fuck that noise- it's the Benny Poddas of the world who are the humans to be admired and emulated.  Not in deed but in spirit- in the refusal to take the easy road to mediocrity, in the desire to be the shot heard round the world rather than some fitsperation douche in melon colored joggers.  People who find the average human to be fucking disgusting and aren't afraid to show it, because normality is a disease to be avoided by anyone with a scintilla of a desire to be someone who shall be remembered by successive generations.

Lest you think that I am simply holding aloft a pack of weightlifting sideshow freaks as people to emulate, you needn't- these dudes weren't simply weird and violent for the sake of being weird and violent.  They were weird and violent because it was in their nature to be that way, and that nature is what propelled them to the top levels of bodybuilding and the upper echelon of elite strength.  Follow in their footsteps or don't- I don't give a fuck.  just know that the road less traveled is definitely the more interesting one, and the one from which there is the most to be learned.   

Benny Podda Vital Statistics
Height: 5'6"
Weight: 215 - 255lbs
Squat: 850lbs x 1 rep; 315lbs x 50 reps, FOR FIVE SETS 
Deadlift: 800lbs 
Bent Row (for reps): 500lbs
Bar balanced on throat, no hands, for more than a minute: 415lbs

Just the fact that the last bit could be included is a testament to how fucking awesome and ridiculous Benny Podda was in his prime.  The man's life is like a Warner Brothers cartoon come to life and turned X-rated.  He's trained elite athletes and blockbuster actors, shunned the spotlight more than he's sought it, and combined more esoterica into a single cohesive (at least to him) training methodology and lifestyle than even Bruce Lee considered doing.  Benny Podda out-weirded dudes in bodybuilding at a time when those dudes lived on Nubain and cocaine, claiming crazy superpowers like vampirism in bodybuilding contests that featured everything from Lilliputians to maniacs who'd jump offstage screaming because they broke both ankles (like Mike Quinn) but would get high fives rather than medical attention to Jimmy "The Iron Bull" Pellechia's outrageous strength stunts consisting of moving massive poundages over short ranges of motion with a lot of help from spotters and a ton of body English.

"You know that feeling when you're blowing your load?" he asks. "Instead of letting that go out, you reverse the whole thing. It feels like your body is on fucking FIRE! I lift weights with that [energy] coursing through my body and my ticking testosterone a thousand-times normal--'cause I just fucked myself." Then he smiles calmly. "See? That's why I can hang 220 pounds from my fuckin' nuts."

Frankly, I've no idea if it helps or hurts to list the weirdest bits about Benny first.  Redditors would argue that it hurts, due to the fact they think his eccentricity discredits his entire methodology.  Given that I'm inclined to do the exact opposite of whatever Reddit says, I'll begin with what I consider to be the best parts about a guy who likely warmed up with the best lifts r/weightroom has ever posted as max attempts.
  • He lives in a fucking cave. That's right, a cave.
"To get to Benny's cave, you must first go to a remote waterfall to be purified. This is especially important for first-timers. You don't want the cave to reject you--when this happens, it induces terror. "Your soul is rended from your body in a spiritual tear," Benny explains. So, you suffer the pain and indignities of purification. The water pours down on you with the shocking force of spiritual flagellation. 
The cave's climate is reminiscent of Podda's Pittsburgh: hotter than hell in the summer, freezing cold in the winter. The cave has been inhabited for thousands of years, Benny says, and it leads to an outdoor amphitheater with perfect acoustics that can only be reached via the cave. 'The opening is a vaginal orifice. In initiation ceremonies, the Cahuilla would pass through it one by one to be 'reborn' as warriors'" (O'Connell).

  • He takes training like an escaped mental patient to an entirely different level.  
Forget Intensity or Insanity, Blood and Guts, and all of the other rhabdo-inducing, man-killer regimes of which you've heard.  Podda's methodology makes all of that shit look like the produce of a bottom-tier USAPL lifter's mind... if you discount the fact that information on the Mongols' training techniques is, at best, extremely scanty.
"Philosophically, Benny merges German Sturm und Drang, Eastern asceticism and a lot of other really weird shit. "My physical training is based on the philosophies of Genghis Khan," Benny says. "He taught his troops the importance of exterior and interior training. His warriors learned how to turn themselves inside out so that they could project their inner power out like lightning" (O'Connell). 
  • His psych up methods make even WSM-era Kaz look like a vanilla chai latte sipping vegan men's physique competitor.  
He once ran straight through a wall, Wile E. Coyote-style, to psych himself up for a heavy lift.   In another fit of apparent Super Saiyanism, Benny ran full tilt into a lineman from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was not lifting but talking on a pay phone.  Not only did this early predecessor to crowdkilling crush CYC's best efforts to date just on their face, but Podda managed not only to knock a 285 lb man who benched over 600lbs ass over teakettle, but he headbutted him with such force that the pay phone was ripped out of the fucking wall.
  • He had a bizarre pharmacological and herbological regimen that led to shit like this:
"Fueled by everything from the visualization techniques of Vipasanna Buddhism to anabolic steroids and herbal concoctions that he drank from root-filled mayonnaise jars, Benny trained like a human wrecking ball. Manion recalls walking into his establishment one day and seeing Benny doing reps with his head wrapped in a blood-drenched towel, others scattered nearby. "The cable had snapped on a long cable-row machine and the handle had hit him on the head," recalls Manion. "He had to keep replacing the towels when they got soaked with blood. I made a guy take him to the hospital, and it took 12 stitches to close the open wound in his head" (O'Connell).
  • He transcends every possible conception of what is "cool," "possible," or "human," and shows just how fucking brutal people can be if they stop letting society dictate what their behavior should be, think for themselves, and not be afraid to try shit that is so far out of the box they've forgotten what boxes look like. 
"I have seen Benny break bricks with magazines, crush coconuts with his bare hands, squirt blood out of his nose, and swing 225 pounds from his testicles. This is NOT Benny being crazy, this is him transferring energy and power to accomplish what he wants accomplished. He puts himself in a state of mind that defies any normal brain patterns you and I may have which gives him the ability to do these abnormal things, like take a 2x4 to the gut and smile while doing it. When Benny was doing his body building contests, he would invite a couple people from the audience to come up and hit him with 2x4's while he did his routine. Nothing is normal with Benny, normal is boring to him" (O'Connell).

    Quite frankly, with a laundry list of violent peculiarities like that, you'd assume some sort of fittingly comic-bookesque backstory, like the man was raised in the weight room of an insane asylum by a kindly, elderly Chinese orderly and his trained attack monkeys.  Tragically, it was nothing so interesting, and no one could have predicted upon Podda's birth the path his life would take.  Born in a tiny mining town east of Pittsburgh into an old bootlegging family, Podda's boredom in a small town led to his involvement in a variety of extra legal activities that definitiely included car theft and possibly included acting as muscle for local mobsters.  What the mob was doing in Bumblefuck, Pennsylvania is absolutely anyone's guess, but that allegedly led to Benny being sent to China to live with a family friend for five years.  Given that we had neither travel nor trade with Nixon until the mid-to-late 1970s, that story is almost certainly bullshit.  What definitely did happen is that Benny acted like a complete fucking maniac and tried to rob a pharmacy with a goddamned bow and arrow.  He was apparently shot in that failed attempt at stone age weaponry to secure painkillers, and landed his happy ass in prison.

    Substitute the a couple of letters after the "S" and swap a blind kid in a hospital for a murderous psychopath in solitary confinement and this could be a case of art imitating life, because Stick wasn't introduced until 1981 and Podda might've met The Swan in the 1970s.

    Prison only served to make the already batshit Benny even stranger, and in a story seemingly lifted right out of a Daredevil comic book Podda was taught to master his chi by a man in solitary confinement known as "The Swan"... after beating his cellmate half to death with a food tray.  While Podda mastered his chi he apparently spent long hours reading various esoterica like the Bhagavad Gita, and he emerged from jail even more peculiar than he was when he entered.  Nevertheless, he went on to nab a football scholarship at the University of Richmond, where he majored in biochemistry, but he ended up doing more drinking than training and studying and was expelled. 

    At some point in this story, Benny Podda started lifting, and he discovered he was a fucking badass at it.  After dabbling in powerlifting he gravitated toward bodybuilding, and became a legend in the East Coast bodybuilding scene for his psychotic training style and zany posing routines.  Benny knew he lacked the classic lines of the pretty boys of that era like Mohommed Makkawwy, Chris Dickerson, and Samir Bannout, so he went the other way and tried to drive his black-hole-dense physique to the limits of thickness and vascularity.  Doing that, however, required him to take it to the fucking extreme... which to Benny seems to have meant that he had to live in a small, windowless room with nothing but a cot and a stack of books.  Apparently, his "Spartan lifestyle was a purposeful attempt to avoid distractions from his goals. So devoted was he to his goals that “The Beast” would wake up three hours before his 6:30 AM workout to perform Taoist meditation" (Colescott).  By the time he got onstage, Benny was completely unhinged, and his performances reflected his mental state- he'd flex so hard blood would spurt out of his fucking nose, rock Wolfman masks, and do other bizarre shit, including the one time he hung himself for 5 straight minutes and then lifted his head and gave the audience the finger before cutting himself down.  

    If only Tim Belknap had enjoyed spelunking- we might have been treated to such awesome training vids that Jujumufu would have been beyond derivative when he hit Youtube.

    Eventually, Benny came to the same realization that whacked other awesome bodybuilders of the 1980s in the face like a like a UFC fighter's fist in the face of a crazy hot porn star- the more brutal a bodybuilder, the less marketable they were.  As such, all of the most interesting guys with the most effective training techniques and the craziest physiques were shunned by the mags, and he hung up his trunks alongside badasses like Tim Belknap, Tom Platz, and Jusup Wilcosz.  With that, Podda decided to live like Riddick in complete solitude with only a mountain lion as his companion for an extended period of time.  
    "When we got to the cave Benny told me stories about the nights he'd spend there, the peyote he would eat, how people would bring him stuff from town, and how he'd talk to the spirits. You'd go inside the cave and it opened to an auditorium type of thing where it almost looked like [a place] where a band would play. He said the spirits would sing to him, talk to him, and they'd chase him through the catacombs of rocks. He slept with a rock as his pillow, people would come bring him food, cases of beer—I remember him talking about the beer as one of his luxuries. He'd train at the cave, lifting rocks and doing spiritual types of things. He broke his ankle when he lived there, getting chased through the rocks by the spirits and stuff. Instead of going to the hospital, he'd heal it by walking through deep sand that he said was over 200 degrees and the heat from the sand would heal his ankle. I stuck my hand in the sand and I couldn't even keep it in for a second because it was so hot" (Harder).
    Nor was this some kind of retarded, Instagrammed, Millennial attention whoring adventure- he took his duties as a priest of the fucking Sand People more seriously than the CDC would take a case of someone cracking out from ebola in the middle of an Olympic stadium.
    "Podda had recently undergone a fasting and training regimen that carved an approximate and deliberate 60 pounds off his stocky frame. At that time,excess muscularity impeded his duties as a priest, and Podda shed the bulk as a part of an overall spiritual and physical transformation. He spoke of a functional “second anatomy,” in essence a literal and dormant suit of muscle that can be “worn” or “removed” virtually at will, which exists “inside” his physiology and is readily available in many different guises. After a time, Podda returned to his muscular ways and gained an approximate 85 pounds of lean bodyweight within several months. This is hard to imagine and more difficult to believe, but in the world of the Podda, anything is possible" (Skipton).
    It was from this cave that Benny operated as he became a trainer, and from which we gain a bit of insight into what his methodology actually is. 

    Wandy and Benny would definitely get along.

    As I've mentioned, Podda's workouts were like old school Wanderlei Silva fights- they were bloody-as-fuck, attack-from-every-conceivable-angle affairs that likely seemed longer to the meat being pounded upon than they were.  Yeah, that sounds like a euphemism for masturbating, but as Podda seemed keen on mentioning load dropping at every possible opportunity, he'd likely consider that unintentional double entendre apt.  One of his most famous clients was Chuck Norris, who was always in good shape but never what anyone would consider a muscle-bound beast at 5'10" and 155lbs.  Known more for his presciently hyper-tight jeans that allowed him to kick any motherfucker in the face Norris wanted and his voluminous, glorious chest hair than his pecs, the only person in history who can divide by zero decided to level up from Jack LaLanne to Sylvester Stallone, and decided Benny Podda was the man to do it.

    "'I didn't know who the fuck Chuck Norris was and didn't give a fuck,' says Benny. 'They took me up to his house and we hit it off because I pounded the fucking guy. I yelled at him, 'Kick me in the fucking chest as hard as you can!' He's like, 'No, I shouldn't.' So I berated the fucker until he did it--and I didn't budge when he did." 
    If I am not mistaken, that's Podda spotting Norris on what appears to be a hilariously Brad Castleberry-style 425lb incline bench in The Hero and the Terror.

    What resulted was a Norris who looked far more like an ass-kicking rogue cop than an extra from a 70s porn film, and it was due to Podda's realization than Norris was basically doing a bodybuilding show every two weeks for the movie, so he peaked Norris accordingly.  Ever the innovator, Podda's peaking method is like nothing you've ever seen.  It consisted of supersets to which an extra exercise was added on each set, transforming the superset into a triset and then a giant set, all the while fueled by less calories than you'd feed a six year old.  For instance, here is the three day a week program he built for the workout and shirtless scenes in the film:


    Set 1: Incline Bench Press + Flat Bench Flyes
    Set 2: Incline Bench Press + Flat Bench Flyes + Dips
    Set 3: Incline Bench Press + Flat Bench Flyes + Dips + Vertical Chest Press Machine
    (The same weights are used for all three sets and all sets are done to failure)


    Set 1: Overhead Machine Press + Upright Rows
    Set 2: Overhead Machine Press + Upright Rows + Dumbbell Laterals
    (He only included two sets here because the shoulders were pre-fatigued from chest work)

    Pushdowns- 12 back-to-back sets of this exercise, beginning with a light weight for six reps, then adding 20lbs each set until reaching failure at or before six reps, then cascading back down and doing each weight to failure.  That sounds fucking horrific and awesome, all at the same time.
    Reverse Grip Bench Press- Though he didn't say so, I am guessing this is done on the Smith Machine with the same method as the pushdowns.

    Back (According to Podda, Chuck could not develop back width prior to using this routine)
    Chins supersetted with T-Bar Rows- 3x10 (all reps done slowly and very strictly, pulling as high as humanly possibly on the chins)
    Pulldowns- 3x10


    Barbell Curl- 1x10 with 10RM, followed by 30 second rest, AMRAP with same weight, 30 second rest, and another AMRAP set that ends with a static hold with the arms at a ninety degree angle and elbows in tight at the sides.


    Static hold with body held parallel to the ground on an incline situp board, which according to Podda "is one of the most effective and brutal abdominal exercises there is" (Podda).

    Chuck, on set, wondering how many calories are in chrome, because motherfucker he must've been starving.

    And the diet to fuel that workout, which also consisted of three days of running or biking per week, was 1200 bland-as-fuck calories a day of turkey breast, egg whites, potatoes, and whole grains in a 60% CHO, 30% PRO, 10% FAT split.  Though it sounds like a fucking nightmare, that was pretty standard for that era- if you adjust the calories for a 200lber, you're looking at a whopping 1550 calories a day.  It's no wonder Chuck never trained legs- not only did he lack the flex fabric technology for jeans we now enjoy, but there's little chance of getting in a decent leg workout on that calorie level without a 1980's style Colombian preworkout.  In any event, Podda had this to say about the program:

    "This diet consists of about 1200 calories a day; 75-100 grams of protein, 220 grams of carbohydrates and between 25 and 30 grams of fat. The diet goes on for two weeks, with a small carbohydrate deprivation cycle two days before the peaking date, to drain water from the subcutaneous tissue. Then we have Chuck taking carbohydrates every three hours to fill himself back up to make the skin and muscle as tight as possible for the peak time. It's all designed to peak on the day the scene is shot" (Podda).

    Benny Podda being Benny Podda, he remained friends with Chuck Norris after the filming for The Hero and the Terror but shrunk from the spotlight, allowing notoriously prickish Lou Ferrigno to pick up where he left off and train Norris for Delta Force 2.  As he once said, "I have an intense aversion to conventional notions of success," and he apparently took that shit seriously.  Nevertheless, he did train a couple of other celebrities, and got a ton of good press for packing 50lbs onto the worst parented, over-coached, burned out and now horribly meth addicted felon Todd Marinovich before the draft, leading him to a first round draft selection in the NFL and one of the saddest bust stories this side of JaMarcus Russell.  

    It's not often that a nose tackle makes the cover of a bodybuilding mag... unless, of course, he has Benny Podda as his trainer.

    Though Marinovich ultimately turned out to be a useless pile of tweaker trash, Podda made such an impression with Marinovich's physical transformation from skinny junkie into the quarterback who was chosen before Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Farve in the draft that NFL super-agent Tom Conlon started recommending him to everyone he could.  One of those someones was Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, who had been plagued with a nagging hamstring injury that left him basically crippled.  Utilizing a mix of insanity, Eastern medicine, and apparent sorcery, Podda had Montana playing golf within hours and starting at quarterback the following Sunday.  Likewise, he fixed San Diego wide receiver Curtis Conway's nagging knee injury, which had kept him out of a couple of games with that same blend of who-the-fuck-knows-what.  According to Bill Romanowski, "after a few of sessions with Benny, Curtis was back on the track, and screaming "OH MY GOD!"  Perhaps the most ringing endorsement Podda received from an NFL player came from defensive tackle Bill Maas (the goof on the cover of the bodybuilding rag pictured above), who hired Podda in the offseason and was so floored by his physical improvements he called Conlon one night and said, "Hey Condo.  This guy Benny Podda?  I think he's... Jesus Christ."

    If Benny's story sounds somewhat reminiscent of Mas Oyama's, I think it's because Benny liked Mas's style, rather than just lifting his stories outright.  That's not to say I entirely believe the Benny stories about fighting in Bloodsport-style deathmatches in the Orient in the early 1980s, however- I think the legend of Frank Dux might've bled into Benny's at some point in the retelling.

    Benny's programming for these guys was all over the fucking place, as one might imagine.  Though he'd competed in powerlifting and was well known at Jim Manion's Pittsburgh bodybuilding mecca of a gym to be superhumanly strong, he was just as, if not more likely to recommend training more in line with Mas Oyama's mountain training than bodybuilding or powerlifting methods, and he tailored his clients' training to their individual needs rather than forcing them to adapt to his methods.  As such, Benny's training rarely matched that of his clients', and his clients' programs were all unique.  As such, he'd have champion martial artists Chuck Norris sweating in the gym, while his high school basketball stars would be outside in the mountains, lifting giant logs, climbing cliffs, and running on railroad ties to improve balance and coordination.

    I've no idea how much credit Podda got for Romo's arms, but if any part of those things were Podda's doing, we should all pay attention.

    By far and away, Benny's most vocal supporter was one of the most violent defensive players ever to play professional football, Bill Romanowski.  When Romo hired Benny, he was already one of the most assiduous trainers, dieters, and supplement takers in professional sports.  Romo helped build the supplement juggernaut EAS in the 1990's and was well-known for carrying a fishing tackle box full of supplements and gear everywhere he went, and meeting Benny just ramped up the insanity.  Podda ranted and raved about Romo's food choices (he was eating like a 1990's bodybuilder) as if he was a teenager living on junk food.  In a rampage that would presage the end of their working relationship (Romo's wife couldn't stand Podda), Podda essentially tossed all of the shit in Romo's kitchen and replaced it with fertile eggs, steak, and enough weird Chinese herbs that Romo could have opened up his own Chinese apothecary.  The eggs were of particular importance because, according to Podda, they contained "energy, life, little dots of blood- the dots that turned into little chickens." 

    This woman could diet for the SI Swimsuit issue cover and live with a genuine lunatic... but thought Benny Podda was just too goddamned unhinged to be hanging around her house.

    Romo was the kind of psychopath Podda could work with- he had been fined for all kinds of on-field shenanigans like stomping downed players, breaking fingers in fumble piles, and spitting in opponents' faces, and once broke one of his teammate's faces with a single punch in practice.  Romo was so crazy and violent even his teammates feared him, but it was that kind of crazy that earned him four Super Bowl rings and two Pro Bowl appearances, and he credited the shit he learned from Benny Podda with helping with that and being invaluable in Romo starting in an unheard-of 243 consecutive games.  The intensity with which those two approached Romo's training and diet completely surpassed anything anyone else could tolerate, however, and Romo ended up moving on to less psychotic trainers after working with Podda for a while.

    Although their working history was tragically short, Romo still ended up with a laundry list of weird Chinese supplements gives us some idea of what Podda himself uses.  Though this list is sort of uninspiring, Romo swears that this shit is all essential.

    • Dynamic Warrior stack- Appears to be for general health and kidney support
    • Yin chiao- Cold and flu
    • Gan mao ling- Cold and flu
    • Zhong gan ling- Cold and flu... how many colds did these two fucking get?
    • Bi yan pian- Anti-inflammatory for sinuses
    • San she dan- More cough and cold shit.
    • Osha root- A mood enhancer known as loveroot because it makes bears nuzzle each other.  Only Benny Podda would have known this.
    • Minh mang- tragically, this is the one by which Podda apparently swore and Romo loved, yet I cannot find any information on it anywhere.  It's named after a legendary Vietnamese emperor who advocated the slaughter of Christian missionaries and fathered 142 kids by 43 women, so I'd guess whatever it was it increased aggression and testosterone.  Maybe it was a euphemism for Cheque Drops?    
    I don't give a fuck if you like bodybuilding or not- if this doesn't entertain you, little will.

    In short, Benny Podda was a fucking enigma- we're not sure precisely how he trained, but we know he trained hard as shit and unconventionally, and he was strong as fuck as a result.  We don't know what his diet was like but we can guess, and we know he scoured the Earth for the most effective pharmacological aids, both narcotic and non-narcotic.  Of all of the people in the history of training, Podda was likely the most dedicated to his craft and the most innovative in the pursuit of excellence, and his example should stand as one of the most interesting and compelling of all of the lifters in the zeitgeist.  Additionally, the story of Benny Podda is one we should all heed- being an anomaly might not always work in one's favor, nor will it always bring financial success.  By all accounts, however, Benny is completely happy with his body of work and the cave-dwelling lifestyle he currently enjoys.  And even more than that, Benny Podda will be remembered long after he's dead, and that is the closest thing to immortality one can achieve.  The people who stick to well traveled paths, on the other hand, make no impact on the world- they live safe, unoffensive, uninteresting lives and are gladly consigned to the dustbin of history without leaving a mark on the world.  
    "The world of tradition is dying," Benny laments. "When the last flame goes out, that's when you have apocalypse--like the great flood, the Black Plague, earthquakes and nuclear war. It'll make World War II and the dropping of the atom bombs look like nothing. But as long as one person keeps the flame alive, a complete cataclysm can be avoided."
    BenShea, Adam.  Benny Podda: Muscle Man, Medicine Man, and Martial Artist.  JoshStrength.  24 Jun 2018.  Web.  17 Nov 2018.  http://blog.joshstrength.com/2018/06/benny-podda-muscle-man-medicine-man-and-martial-artist/

    Colescott, Steve.  The hardcore twelve.  AtLarge Nutrition.  28 Nov 2009.  Web.  19 Nov 2018.  https://atlargenutrition.com/the-hardcore-twelve/

    Harder, Jeff.  Photographing Benny Podda, the bodybuilder turned martial artist turned cave-dwelling medicine man.  Vice Sports.  23 Jul 2017.  Web.  19 Nov 2018.  https://sports.vice.com/en_au/article/9kwv37/photographing-benny-podda-the-bodybuilder-turned-martial-artist-turned-cave-dwelling-medicine-man

    McLeod, Paul.  Trainers.  Los Angeles Times.  15 Oct 1996.  Web.  19 Nov 2018.  http://articles.latimes.com/1996-10-15/news/ss-54017_1_personal-trainers/2

    O'Connell, Jeff and Steve Stiefel.  Wild Thing.  HighBeam Research, reprinted from Men's Fitness.  1 Nov 2004.  Web.  19 Nov 2018.  https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-124007834.html

    Podda, Benny.  Training Chuck Norris.  The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban.  4 Dec 2016.  Web.  19 Nov 2018.  http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2016/12/training-chuck-norris-benny-podda-1989.html

    Romanowski, Bill.  Romo: My Life on the Edge: Living Dreams and Slaying Dragons.  New York: Harper, 2005.

    Skipton, Todd W.  From beast to priest: the transformation of Benny Podda.  Excerpt from Raising a Man.  Ebook, 2010.