Saturday, February 13, 2016

You don't have to like it, you have to do it...The preventative Maintenance stuff!

In my last blog entry I made the groundbreaking observation that we should be doing strength training work that we enjoy less we stop strength training out of boredom.  Otherwise, we run the risk of descending into the gym hades known as yoga, Les Mills bullshit, and random inquisition-imitating cardio machinery.  So, if you find something that makes you strong that you enjoy, you should really do that. 

The intuitiveness of this blog is off-the charts I know...

Still, some amount of adulthood has to creep into strength training.  If you appreciate a healthy body then eventually you have to pay the bills with some lifts that keep shit balanced out.  Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I decided to read anatomy and physiology books to learn about how the body works.  The unfortunate problem with this facet of medical science is that if you don't use the knowledge, you lose it.  It's an enormous amount of memorization. 

One such takeaway that I gleaned from this experiment in drudgery was the something called tension integrity.  What that's all about is basically your joints and float on muscular tension rather than bones directly interlocking with one another.   So, keeping shit in proper working order is about making sure the pull between muscles is correct. 

In other words, balance.  Such a word might as well be written in an obscure, foreign dialect when talking to meatheads.  It doesn't have to be a call away from the extreme though.  It can be something as basic as doing either pull-ups, rope climbs, or rows as a supplement to pressing.  That has been the approach I've taken since I upped my overhead pressing work to three days a week.  As a result, I seem to have skipped the obligatory tightness I've heard others complain about with lots of weekly pressing work.

Please don't mistake this writer as someone who read a book and became magically smart though.  One thing that you realize when  you read anatomy books is that underneath your skin, there are tons of different cuts of meat with bizarre Latin names which you won't give a shit about until they hurt.   I'm not nearly smart enough to work out muscles that don't impress women on a regular basis either. 

This happened just recently when I was working out with sandbags mostly while traveling to Wisconsin.  I had some routines I built around having simply a 160 lbs and a 250 lbs sandbag.  After completing the job and eventually I got home, I stopped doing the shit I had been doing for months.  After all, I did those routines since I couldn't do anything else and since I had a bit more sophisticated gear at my disposal, I had no need to bother with my sandbag routines?

Life has a sense of humor in that regard.  Even I should have realized that crude doesn't mean ineffective.  Among the regular flavors on the sandbag exercise menu were good morning and walking lunges.  Around the time I dropped these out of my weekly hoisting, I started driving for work.   A lot.  Everywhere.  The driving was remarkably effective in turning my hip flexors into violin strings.  My deadlift took a major shit.

Realizing that this pain in my hips was really making my deadlift numbers vomit, I decided to start researching ways to stretch my hips out.  One stretch that almost perpetually came up was one that looked eerily similar to something I used to do at least once a week...

So, these movements aren't the sexiest lifts on earth.  They're not in a competition and they don't make it easier to lift hundreds of pounds.  So, they may not make in on your worlds favorite lifts any time soon.  Too bad.  You're an adult now.  That means your body isn't young.  You can't do whatever you want since you sit too fucking much.  You're going to have to do some PM to even out the fact that, generally speaking, we make dumb decisions with how we chose to move...or not move.  You don't have to like it but you do have to do it.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why did I Change to Strongman?

Hi. i'm reading all your blog when i have free time, since 2007. Even if is too mutch "no pain no gain" for me. (training everyday etc)I really appreciate the content and what you write. I'm sorry you have only 500 like here. One thing that I did not understand is why you went from "no tools" to use the kettlebelsl and other "strongman stuff".continues to write please, it's good for my knowledge and motivation... bye and greetings from Italy!

Somewhere along the line last year I received this comment, probably on the Facebooks where I notoriously neglect to do much of anything to hype this place.  I put it here so I can comment on it further in a draft.  Then, like most everything that I did here last year, I completely forgot about it. 

Since then, as I've felt more compelled to write I took a second look at it.  The person who wrote it did bring up something that I've pondered myself since I decided to get into strongman:  why do I keep writing about it on "bodyweight" blog?  I've obviously strayed a long, long way from where I started this blog seven years ago.  Maybe I should start another one? 

Or, perhaps that my blog wasn't just about how I decided to move for purposes of getting strong.  Maybe I was making points about training all along about stuff that I don't really like in this little subculture of people who like to get strong.  As soon as I decided I wanted to make a conscientious effort to get stronger WAAAY back in 2002, I remember getting hit with ideas about how I had to
to do certain things to accomplish that end.  Indeed, there's a lot of, "do what I say and do", that goes on with lifting. 

You have to go to a gym...
How many times have I heard how necessary going to a gym to get your body in check I cannot even begin to say.  An early motivator for me to use bodyweight was with the traveling I did for work and my pinched finances from importing a Peruvian wife decimated my capability to use gyms to get strong.  Never being one to look at conventionality and say, "oh shit, I'm fucked," I searched for alternatives.  I stumbled down some bad alley ways for information here and there before I finally got things working properly but I managed to get stronger, even bigger, with just my body as the source of resistance. 

There is a distinct possibility that I will always work out more in parking lots and garages than I ever will in gyms. 

Even as I delved into strongman, I still don't regularly go to gyms to train.  I've got far more equipment than I used to.  I still travel a lot so I'm still largely minimalist.  My bodyweight training lessons served me well in that regard.  For my last competition,  I trained far more in a parking garage with two sandbags than I did in the gym down the street.  While didn't win, I was still competitive.

The moral of the story is that gyms are NICE.  They are not NECESSARY.  Yes, your life has to bend a bit to accommodate your training.  That doesn't mean that your training doesn't have to bend to your life as well.  You may not always be able to get to a gym.  You may not always be able to use weights, or use the type of weights that you want to use.  You have to figure out alternatives.  These alternative can get you strong. 

Do what you like to do
Okay, there were several points in time from 2002 to now where I could have easily joined a gym and lifted weights long before I did.   I didn't have to stay in hotel parking lots or my basement and do enormous quantities of weird push-up circuits.  The reason why I did was because I enjoyed doing it.  That's also the same reason why I started picking up weights and I ended up getting into strongman. 

Seriously, let that sink in for a moment.  Now think about how many people just do shit because they're told to do it in a gym, regardless of whether or not they actually enjoy what they're doing.  It's not surprising to me that people eventually stop training since, with weight training, you are either a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, an Olympic weight lifter, a strongman, or a crossfitter.   They all have their lifts, their protocols, their clothing, their programming, and even their own gyms.  They behave like idiotic, rowdy sports fans with their prodding criticisms of one another's styles of temporarily defeating the gravitational pull of an inanimate objects on a temporary basis.   That has to wear thin eventually. 
 Believe it or not, I enjoyed this!
So, seven years ago, I enjoyed bodyweight.  Now, I enjoy strongman.  It's actually that simple.  Both provide me with enjoyable ways of overcoming resistance and therefore, getting strong.  That needs to be remembered when people do this stuff.  You'll never find a definition in a dictionary that defines strength with a specific lift.  That's just the creation of a click within a subculture.  Never forget that. 

That's been the underlying theme of this blog for a long, long time.  Find a balance of working with what you have while doing what you like to do.  It doesn't matter with what implements you do that with or how you choose to move. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Lesser-known Advantages of Bodyweight Training

If readers have been stopping by and been a bit disappointed by the lack of purity in the content of my bodyweight-based blog since I jumped into the deep end of the strongman pool, I'd advise you to buy a gallon of distilled water...and shove it. 

Okay, maybe there is a bit of a point there.  I don't do a full-blown bodyweight blog any more than I train BW-only.  As I've branched out I still don't forget my roots.  Those have to be into some grounds of practicality and a strength trainer can't get any more practical than a BW training. 
This blog has always been about acknowledging that training has to mold around the rest of your life.  Getting strong can only encroach on your job, family, sleep and porn time so much. 

So, BW has a lot of advantages dealing with the pragmatism to any strength trainer.  The question is what are those advantages?  I do have three in mind that you may not realize. I'll start out with  performance-oriented one, moving to the less obvious, life molding shit. 

Need mid-section strength? You need BW
Filed under things I wished I'd saved a link to years ago was a video or picture of Derek Poundstone doing ab wheel rollouts (on his knees) .  While those athletes will likely make mountains out of mole hills debating the usefulness of direct ab work, those who agree you need some ab work will probably end up doing something BW-oriented. 

Why that is so is actually pretty simple:  the best ab work is BW stuff.  Even better is that pretty much the solid majority of all basic BW movements demand some sort of strong abdominal activation to complete.   If reach down into the toilet bowl that is T-Nation and can stomach pulling out a Bret Contreras article, he did an interesting test on abdominal activation during popular ab exercises.  The ab wheel and pull-ups topped the list. 

Never one to back away from sounding like an expert that I'm not (all while never being shy about admitting that I'm not),  I think that a large part of the reason why BW ab exercises are so fucking good for strength is that they're all largely about contracting the abs to hold the back in place during execution.  That simple cue is the basis of using abs in just about every, single lift done. 

Bodyweight is the most House Friendly Strength Training
Not too long ago, I crossed going to Iron Sport Gym off my bucket list of places that I wished to go in the USA.  This place exceeded all of my lofty expectations of how awesome it would be with its stunningly low quantity of cardio equipment, squat cages that filled up before the few token pieces of cardio equipment, and the crotchety owner Steve Pulcinella.  It's simply about as perfect of a set-up place as I'd expect any real strength sports-oriented gym to be, complete with the ability, even the expectation I daresay, of moving huge ass weights while making grunting noises and dropping shit like a fucking boss, if needs be. 

That's how a gym should be.  That's not the rest of the world.  The rest of the world, such as your home, probably expects a bit more courtesy with the noise you make, the equipment you use, and where you use it.  Few things rile a wife up more than dropping an axle loaded with plates on the basement floor, shaking the walls a bit, and making the toddler asleep above wake up abruptly. 

For this reason, bodyweight is ideal.  Since your weight is your body, it doesn't need to be loaded onto anything and it's not like you're going to drop it on the floor.  A body doesn't have a distinct metallic clank every time its used either.  This makes it well-suited for training in places where you kind of have to accommodate the peace and quiet of other people. 

Bodyweight is More Time Efficient
Since my training became mostly weights, I'm constantly plagued with the sense that I'm just not getting very much at all done.  The more you need to change weights and equipment, the longer the whole training process takes.  Strongman is even worse.  Most strongman gyms have an event day on a weekend, largely because it's such a pain in the ass to drag out so much equipment and train.  The process goes quicker when there's a few more hands on deck. 

That's the elegance of training without weights or equipment.  With no weight and equipment changes, a lot more volume can be packed into a shorter time period.  Lots of strength training deals with the notion of building a strong base.  A fundamental of that initial base strength is the capability to do a lot of work.  I can't really find a better way to get that injecting a healthy dose of bodyweight.  One of my favorite BW routines involved a simple superset of pull-ups and handstand push-ups.  I managed to put well over 100 of each in 40 minutes.  

So, if this recently-rare entry into my blog hopefully imparts on you as you push away from you keyboard is that despite the world full of toys to get strong with, the places you have to do them, and the ways that you can use them, BW has some intensely pragmatic and useful benefits that even a n00b strongman like myself can still appreciate. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

So-and-so said this and this is what I think again: Is Nick turning into a grumpy, old man?

Yes, I'm back to blogging.  Apologies for the long, long layoff.  Someone commented that I better have a good excuse.  Well, I was lazy and I had no desire to remove my writers block.  Here's one I started writing but never finished up about 8 months ago...

For a guy who comes off as shocking well built, obviously strong as shit, and generally pretty spry, Nick McKinless certainly came off as a grumpy, old bastard.
Fuck it! Stop listening to the gifted, young people!
- Anyone under 35 has an advantage.
- Anyone gifted has an immense advantage.
- Despite body type nuances anyone under 35 can do anything and gain muscle EASIER than anyone over 35 plus.

These are truths.
If you want to get better listen to the coaches and trainers that are still gaining muscle, staying lean, keeping in shape and generally improving. These people are the real teachers.
By all means follow the 'pretty trainers' and the 'gym bunnies with nice butts etc' but for the love of god DO NOT LISTEN TO THEIR ADVICE!!!
In my twenties and thirties I really thought I knew it all. After all I had a 640lbs Deadlift, a 310lbs Bench and a 440lbs Squat. And I was good at some VERY off lifts. Hah! And you thought I was gifted. Nope! The deadlift soon went away once I started hitting the ground as a stuntman.
The point is training is EASY when you are young and gifted. And so you mess your bodies up with bad form, stupid programming, showing off on social media, program hopping and bad recovery methods. Go for it! But I promise you it will catch you up.
Let's see how you all look in your 40's, 50's, 60' and beyond...AND what you can lift.

Theoretically, I should disregard this grouchy-sounding ol' bastard since I'm under the age of 35 (as of this writing) except the guy has done just about everything that can be done to a body in the name of fun and games.  So, I shouldn't disagree with my elders.  Thing is, though, I don't.

We've all watched our favorite highy-paid athletes get to around the age of 30-34 and proceed to degenerate into overpaid and hollowed out versions of their old selves.  Its almost as though a light switch went off and they're just unable to turn it back on.  What happened is pretty much what Nick McKinless is bitching about above.

Being a teens or twenty-something athlete is a grand time.  Your body is still fresh and young, responding with aplomb to practically every stimulus in training that you throw at it with cheerful positivity.  While it feels like no wrong can be done, something happens around the late 20-mid 30's.  The body's new car smell wears off, so to speak.  Abusive movements that a new body was able to shake off with alacrity suddenly create aches and pains.  Or, as in my case, an injury happens that requires surgical repair.  Once cut into, you're never really the same. 

This isn't the end of the line but merely the point in an athletes' life where they are forced to accept that they just can't do anything they please without consequence.  The body still has plenty of life to it but now care and consideration have to be applied to training if they wish to proceed onward at a high level. 

This is why young lifters don't know shit.  Chances are high that at 23, they've never had to adjust to anything in their training.  When your body breaks, that's you really start learning about how to build it back up.   That kind of problem solving with human muscle just can't be duplicated with a mere strength goal built towards with a fresh, young body.  It requires so much more study and care.

I'm pretty sure my ACL tear was such a turning point.  After reconstructive surgery and PT, I had a soda straw for a left leg.  I maintained about a 180-185 lbs weight throughout the whole ordeal, most of it going to my upper body.  Once I re-started training with my legs, I was partially smart.  I used  a lot of sled work since it didn't put to much stress on my knee outside of muscular tension.  I did front squatted variations that forced me to use good squatting form (goblets, zerchers and belt squats).

I didn't do everything right though and proceeded to deadlifting (295 lbs for singles.  Yes life sucked).    Unfortunately, with my leg strength so imbalanced, I'd lock out the right leg first.  Eventually, this caused irritation in my lumbar discs, taking me out of the deadlifting game for a while longer. 

I focused mostly on squatting and quad strength.  this proceeded to bite me in the ass when all of the quad-dominant work gave me IT band pains. 

Then, the disc thing.  Again.  One week before my first strongman competition. 

I eventually realized that I still lacked the  natural hyperextension in my left knee.  That still caused my right leg to lock first.  So, I resorted to hyperextension work on a GHR to force that ligament to hyperextend a bit more naturally.  Of course, the extra spinal erector strength didn't hurt either.  I threw in more unilateral leg work, focusing on trying to focus on the muscular contraction each time I lifted something. 

Take a look at that list of issues from one knee surgery.  In one year's time, I had to figure out a way to bring my lower body strength back up, fix my back, rehabilitate my knee, and even out my leg strength.  I learned about the importance of having natural joint movement back, the importance of unilateral strength training, and working with and around pain.  At the end of it all, I came out stronger than I was before.  That's not a learning curve that can be replicated with a simple strength goal.   Dealing with a fragile body teaches someone the proper balance between strengthening without abusing.  You just don't know that line when you're young, fresh, and have no wear on your body. topic but you should really check this short that Nick made a while back


Saturday, June 13, 2015

My List is Better: The 5 Best Exercises Ever

I think that a fair share of my readers will agree that T-Nation over the years has degenerated into the strength website most like your refrigerator.  Sure, you'll glance at it (regardless if you'll admit to it or not) to see if there is anything interesting but you know there isn't; just the same shit as the last time you glanced in.  Still, every once in a while, someone puts something interesting in there.  You know, like a friend brought over some good beer and threw it in there much like Nick McKinless posted there what seems like too long ago.  If, you know, you had friends that nice...which you probably don't.

Okay, T-Nation pretty much sucks. 

Still,  I did read Dean Somerset's article, "The Five Best Exercises Ever."  It was a  reasonably well written piece.  I even agree with a good chunk of the movements listed as well as enjoying the historical perspectives.I also like that the movements were less specific to a particular execution with a specific implement.  Still, like any other internet fitness God, I think I have a better list and you're about to get bombarded with my rendition of the five best movements in history.  

Actually, I wouldn't change too many on the list.  I'm just going to give better reasoning as to why I think they're so good.  I'll even do it without wearing a polo shirt. 

Seriously, why do so many trainers and PT's wear polo shirts? 
Removing the Antiquity Requirement:  Squatting
From what my modest research over the years into physical culture history, the squat seems to be relatively new to hoisting for strength.  It seems to show up in Germany around the time that barbells started to catch on.  Somerset mandated in his inferior article that exercises had to be around for thousands of years.  Generally I'd agree but the squat has too consistently shown to build strong, massive legs, even entire bodies in general, for the past century and a half.

Just because the Romans weren't quite genius enough to use it can't take away from the fact that this was probably the best, single movement to become popularized in the past 150 years of lifting.  In fact, if you look at who were considered the real leaps forward in strength athletes in this period of time, most of them were also prodigious (for their times) squatters.  Hackenshmidt, Steinborn, Grimek, Anderson... Name an all-time great strength guy and you'll likely also name a great squatter.

Squatting alone may be the most convincing evidence that the modern strength athletes are better than their counterparts, if you chose to pick that fight. 

Rope Climbing
This is one I'll agree on for sure.  We all know that rope climbing is regarded as more advanced BW movement.  Someone usually has to be very proficient with pull-ups before even trying this.  Advanced bodyweight demands a high strength to bodyweight ratio.  That favors a person who is muscular and lean. 
Hey, Whiffet, challenge!  Top this, Mr Six Pack...

All lifting sports have their contingent who loves to be fat and strong, arguing that it gives them some sort of edge.  My chosen sport of strongman loves to hold up Zydruanas as the latest piece of evidence, disregarding the fact that prior to him the most of the WSM winners were all lean.  In fact,  at least 3/4 of the strongmen who won that title were all lean guys.  Historically, the strongest guys were usually the leanest guys.  

Did the they climb ropes?  Fuck if I know.  Still, I've never seen a fat ass get up a rope.  It's a lean, strong person's proposition all the way.  That's probably why rope climbing so consistently shows up throughout history as an exercise.   It builds lots of strength and promotes high strength-to-bodyweight ratio like few other movements do.

Who says drugs in training aren't useful?  Well, only people that like being wrong, I suppose.  Still, I'm not talking about  using the drug that the LAPD (circa 1990's) favorite drug to hate.  I'm simply consolidating all forms of weight training-bipedalism into one  acronym: Pushing, Pulling and Carrying. 

People love to talk about lifting weights all the time and even though strongman has nearly half of their events involving PCP, I still don't think this shit is given nearly enough attention.   PCP's are all pretty easy to learn, idiot resistant with execution and can serve dual roles of strength and conditioning.  If the strength gods would bless me, I'd do some sort of PCP every single day.

I've alternated between more upper body-dominant stuff like frame carries, overhead sandbag walking, famers handles, and weighted sled pulling.  Then, I've pushed trucks, dragged sleds, and used prowlers on days where I want to hit my legs.  Repeat process.  For weeks.  That's how valuable I think they should be to the strength world.  

Combining them makes good stuff even better.  I've done sled/prowler combos.  I've dragged sleds while carrying a sandbag on my shoulder.  I've seen beardo-extroardinaie Adam Wayne Caposella do a yoke with a sled.  Friend Chip Conrad did a sandbag shouldered-farmer carry.  There's as much versatility with weight-walking as there is good work for the body. 

Getting Shit off the Ground and Overhead
Another one that I agree that Dean got right.  There's a reason that this combination of movements essentially is the backbone of both modern strongman sport and early physical culture alike.  There really is a lot of limitations on your strength if you can't do this well.  Recall my broscience theory years ago:   if you have strong hips, back and grip, then you're good to go.  Ground-to-overhead lifting pretty usually hits all of this pretty hard, demanding that you have all three.  

A funny thing happened years ago in strength gyms. People got really, really focused on putting up insane lbs of weight.  While there's nothing wrong with that inherently.  What was wrong was that weights started getting less awkward.  They were pre-positioned in places to make them easier to lift more.  Putting them over the head was marginalized since, you know, its hard to do a lot of  iron over your head in a very short timeline. 

So, if you wanted to combat that asshole that said modern lifters are stronger because they squat,  you could retort that old time lifters took things off the ground and put them overhead with far more regularity.  While the modern gym-goers are starting to rediscover the utility of ground-to-overhead (giving birth to quaint phrases like "functional training"), the ancients knew it all along. 

Going back to what dead people you forgot all about after your tests in school, you'll see a common thread in Dean's and my list:  Asid from being rooted in manual labor, the implements needed to execute these strength movements are pretty rudimentary.  Chances are good that most of them you could do right now if you'd just stop fucking around on the internet, pushed away from the screen, and got moving.  In that regard, there are few strength movements that are more minimalistic than the push-up.  All you need is your body and the ground. 
...Or a stupid-popular, crazy old motherfucka for extra weight

Just because the rest of the strength world outside bodyweight training doesn't look at push-ups as strength moves doesn't mean they can't and don't build strength.  I've been pretty vocal about this lately.  They can throw weight onto every other strength movement.  Just throw some weight on push-ups too.  It's like they forgot that there is no rule book that says push-ups can't have weigtht. 
Chains, vests, sandbags, other humans...they've all been used in the past. They all work.  They've worked for years too, regardless if shaved apes of today forgot about that. 

This list also happens to summarize my training lately since I got home from Florida.   In this period of time, I've gotten bigger (10 lbs) and did my first no-zero strongman competition.  While I won't say that this qualifies me as an expert yet, I will call it definitive progress using stuff that's worked for millennia. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Weighty Matters: Combining Weights and Calisthenics II

About four years ago, I wrote one of my favorite blog entries about adding weight to common BW movements.  It's turned out to be one of my more popular entries.  While I'm opinionated I'm not dogmatic or without a sense of compromise. So, I imagine that my audience is much the same.  That might explain why an entry like that one, with its compromising tone, went over so well. 

As my training has given more into weights and strongman, I haven't forgotten the effectiveness of BW stuff.  Often times,  I weigh them down with heavy stuff.  Very recently, I finally got off my ass and showed off how I used a sandbag for heavy push-up work in lieu of both not having a place to bench press and despising the bench even if I did.  You can find that here.   Although ambition got the better of me momentarily by posting that video, laziness struck when I noted that I liked adding chain to one arm-push-ups but failed to post proof that I am awesomely clever enough to undertake such a movement. 
Such maneuvers are excellent ways to bring up questions of validity in training.  As I've stated in the past, I don't care to enslave myself to practicality when training.  If it's fun, I'll do it.  Still, there are methods to the madness.  One arm push-ups are a great way to hit those muscles that nobody gives a shit about because girls and gym bros don't tend to admire them.  You know, the serratus and all those lower shoulder blade chunks of meat that make you care about them via injury from lack of training.  In case your overpaid online coach never told you, working these muscles are why you do face pulls.
The next merger of iron and bodyweight that I've adored lately is double rope climbing with some junk chain that someone inexplicably stretched the piss out of (which should have taken tens of thousands of lbs to do) at work.  

Rope climbing kicks all kind of ass.  At the moment, I'm trying to goose my bodyweight up to the 215 lbs territory.   Doing BW during such attempts has served me well.  Things like this 30 lbs o' chain rope climb require a good strength to bodyweight ratio.  That's generally obtained by having a lower bodyfat percentage.  In other words, doing these while bulk generally keep getting too fat in check.  That may be brocience as fuck, I admit, but it's worked for me in the past. 
Note that on both of these, I've gone out of my way to use other methods to increase the difficulty.  Rings and two ropes will go a long way to making less weight more difficult.  I may be doing weighted BW but I'm not going to fall on the sword of only using adding weight to make stuff harder.  Plus, these aren't BW movements that often get the weighted treatment.  Take this as friendly reminder to not be afraid to take a different road that's slightly less traveled.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Massachusetts Strongest Man...improving with improvisation

Disgraceful to myself that I got so nervous about my latest strongman competition.  I had so little implement training time for this and it flat-out made me nervous.  I allowed my previous, luxuriously-outfitted gym to lull me into thinking that without implement time, I was going to bomb on this heavier Massachusetts Strongest Man Competition.  I was so tense that I needed some lower back work by the much-appreciated chiropractor on site at the competition. 

I didn't have a log and I hadn't touched a log in over a year.  I had no car deadlift set-up or a 500 lbs frame.   I do have sandbags, some kegs, a fire hydrant and just prior to the comp I scored an anchor chain.  With no place inside to train these and a winter that just didn't want let go of the ice all over my driveway,  it would seem that I was kind of screwed. 

Bullshit.  Such thinking was never part of my mindset prior to all of this and I was determined to not let it become that way again for this training cycle.  I'd just have to get creative, like I always have.  So what did I do and how did it call come out?  I'll elaborate...

The Log Press
Of all of the events I'd have to do, this was probably the most difficult to improvise for.  The log is technical and there isn't a great direct substitute.  Overhead pressing in my training environment is even more fraught with issues since I have a low-ceiling basement that only really allows the use of my kettlebells over standing overhead training.  I did do some overhead work outside before my driveway turned to pure ice and the frequent sub-zero temperatures made my fingers go numb. 

So, heavy, double kettlebell pressing was the only play I had.  I'd clean them and push-press away, doing heavy sets of 2-5 reps for as many sets as I could or had time for.  Then, I'd strip off some weight in ten lbs increments and do three sets of strict presses, taking off 10 lbs each set. 

My previous best on a log was 180 lbs, over a year ago when I was fresh off physical therapy restrictions but was training the log a couple of times per week.  I managed only one rep with 200 lbs.  This felt more like a technique issue since the one rep felt weirdly easy when I got it.  I didn't attempt more because my knee made one of those disturbing pop noises and I elected to stop since I still had a whole competition to complete.   Sixth place, but no zero.

The Car Deadlift
Without a doubt, this was by biggest success in spite of having no car deadlift frame to use.  Back in Tampa, I discovered that a barbell hack squat was very similar to a car deadlift.  So similar that I'm downright shocked that practically nobody uses them to train for it.  I guess it's a sign of the blind hegemony of modified powerlifting routines that dominate strongman programming.  Dumb shits. 

I think the reason why this so closely resembles the car deadlift lies in the fact that to successfully hack squat, you have to move your hips very quickly forward so the barbell doesn't smash into your hamstrings or your ass as you hoist it upwards.   That's the exact, same hip movement in the car deadlift. 

This was supposed to be a heavy car lift.  Unfortunately, the frame wasn't set up properly and it turned into a rep festival.  I took third place in this event, getting credited with 38 reps.  Carryover at its finest. 

Keg Carry and Chain Drag
I was disappointed with this one more than any other event.  I had the most implement time with this event and I didn't place well at all.  I had to run 50' with a 200 lbs keg and then grab the anchor chain and run 50' backwards.

This is what I was preparing for:  550 lbs drag here!

I planned this out pretty well.  Since I have stupid-long arms, I was going to use my knee to push the keg high up on my chest and grab it on both sides.  In practice runs, it worked beautifully.  I rigged up a tire sled with 150 lbs of chain to drag it by before I got my anchor chain.  Once I got my anchor chain, which weighed around 550 lbs, I figured out that I could go two seconds faster if I grabbed both ends of the chain and dragged. 

So, I figured I'd have this one sewn up. 

The disgruntled face of dashed plans...

I was the third slowest time.  The keg we ran with had a bizarre, two inch bulged rim that ran around the middle of the keg.  I didn't want to chance dropping the keg since It was obviously wider than my practice one.  The anchor chain was easily 200 lbs lighter and had a cut-off link at one end that wouldn't allow me to grab both ends.  So, this turned more into a test of foot speed than how much weight I could drag. 

Dude, where's the other 200 lbs?
500 lbs Frame Hold
I don't want to say that I have great grip strength, but I certainly have enough to do strongman.  That was definitely something I had going for me when I started the sport.  I thought I had placed worse than I really had on this one.  I got 31.3 seconds, coming in 4th for this event. 

When it comes to grip work, I've gotten to the point where I'd rather just throw in a grip element into my training movements where it doesn't hinder the progress of the overall set too much.  So, I high rep-deadlifted, hack squatted, rowed, and curled with my axle mostly.  Often times, I'd hold reps on my hacks and my deads for as long as possible.   I did a lot of rope climbing too.  So, while I beat myself up a bit for not holding longer, in the end I didn't do too bad on this one at all. 

Odd Object Load
This is another event that went pretty well for me too.  Initially, we were supposed to pick up, carry, and load a fire hydrant, a 200 lbs sandbag, a 200 lbs keg, and a 240 lbs atlas stone onto a 54" platform.  On the day of the show, the carry was eliminated (to save time) and a field stone was substituted for the hydrant (much to my chagrin). 

I do this kind of stuff all the time, both for work and for fun.  Plus, I also do a lot of Zercher Lifting to strengthen the muscles I'd use to load stuff.  Another mystery to me is why not that many strongmen throw in stiff-legged deadlift work into their training since so much of what we do involves getting shit off the ground in a stiff-legged fashion. 

While I took 4th in this event, I had some of the cleanest lifts.  Except for dropping the stone because I didn't get myself situated dead-center of the stone, I had the some of the technically-sound lifting in the show, it seemed.   The sandbag was left loose and that gave a lot of people fits.  Another fun part for others was the rule that the keg had to be stood up.  Neither bothered me. 

So, overall, I had  a weak event (the log) and a disappointing event (keg and chain) but the events I placed high were pretty well executed and I took 5th place out of 9.  As I got to the end of the competition, I realized that at 5'10" and 205 lbs, I was probably the smallest guy in this novice class.   The winner was 6'5" and 300 lbs.  Fittingly enough, he looks a little bit like Thor Bjornson.  

What I was happy with was this show was heavier than my first and I got no zeros.  I successfully strengthened up my lower body and also put on about 20 lbs since October.  At this point, I'm looking to do Granite State Strongest Man at the end of July as a Middleweight.  At this point, I think I'm done with being a novice and losing events for no other reason than I'm undersized.  I'd like to bump my weight up to 215ish lbs in the meantime.  I tried to get to this weight for this competition but the soreness from training and growing was just becoming a pain in the ass.  Clearly, bulking up should be done when I'm not in the middle of contest preparation. 

In the end, I had a ton of fun and I managed to progress despite being limited by the quantity of the gear I have.  That's been a goal of mine long before I took up the sport.  The affirmation that I can still do so is gratifying.