Wednesday, April 8, 2015

So-and-so said and this is what I think: Alex and some anonymous person

There might be too decent of a chunk of my ego that's driven to let you know that I'm not a normal strength trainer.  That variation in strength training is easily explained by the simple fact that while I get acknowledgements (which polite manners dictate that I should accept with a, "thank you") to being strong, I came about that label by unconventional means.  Very simply:  I very rarely trained in gyms like other people around me do.  The past decade or so has been  very top heavy journey of improvisation to get to where I am today.  So, I don't see the same means, movements and methods as the answers to strength like everyone else does. 

Still, my ego has limits.   I abhor any notions that I'm an expert, even the mere thought that I might know what I'm doing.  I generally don't disagree with Alex Viada either so this one has me in some very strange territory:

Had an interesting conversation the other day regarding conveying information, with a certain person not "feeling" like an expert because nothing novel or earth shattering was conveyed during a training this individual gave.
People don't go to experts to be shocked- there are very few fields I've seen where you can speak to an expert and learn something you quite frankly didn't already know. In the time I spent in consulting, I certainly never told a client anything surprising... A coach, even an amazing coach, will rarely, if ever, tell you anything you didn't already "know". When's the last time you read a "10 things you need to fix about your squat" article written by a world-class squatter that told you anything you hadn't heard before?
What the experts will tell you, though, is what matters. They give you focus. They take those six hundred things you already know and tell you which matter the most, and in what order.
Is it right to disagree with a guy whose legs look like this?

I've relayed it before:  when I first started training in a gym in Florida (which lasted well over a year), I really did feel like I had landed on Mars.  My training was so, drastically different than what everyone else around me was doing that for the duration of my visit.  What I considered very important was very, very different from those around me.  WHAT I FOCUSED ON WAS DIFFERENT.  Naturally, you all know I got into strongman and I did it with some of these people.  So, what was so different between me and them in terms of what was and wasn't important that stuck out at me?

Change of movements just don't happen
Bodyweight long ago taught me that to make progress, I'd have to modify the form of the movement that I was doing, sometimes drastically, to keep making strength gains.  Even when I started touching weights, I usually worked with an object of limited ability to modify the weight.  So, once again, I'd change how I moved with it to get progress. 

That just doesn't happen a lot in gyms.  The moves stay pretty constant.  The accessories might change.  Weight just gets added.  The reasons are pretty simple:  competition.  That narrowly defines strength into specific lifts with the most weight.  Since these gyms will also have far more specially adapted environments to improving your performance in competitions, the need to change movements to make progress not necessary. 

up until strongman, I never competed in anything.  I never defined my strength that simply.  I couldn't.  Still, I got strong.  A friend of mine who set records in powerlifting at 20 years old in shirted benching acknowledged that the first time we trained together that I was.  Even now that I do strongman, I love the variety of different lifts in the sport.  So, training movements can vary and still have some success.  Or at least it should...

Powerlifting's foot print has been ENORMOUS
I said that strongman should have some variety to movements in training that I can enjoy but I was kind of surprised when I found out that training generally involved a weekend, "event day", while the rest of the training week often looks suspiciously like 5/3/1 or modified Westside.  Oh, wait, it often IS 5/3/1, Westside, or some other powerlifting-based programming. 

Even in amongst strongmen, everyone loves to talk about their total and their prowess in the three power lifts.  Even the bodybuilders do this.  At least with crossfit, you get a break from this comparison since they don't do them since they're not functional. 

Actually, their functionality in my chosen sport of strongman is questionable to a degree.  Lots of people talk about how wonderful of a base powerlifting can be for strongman but the truth is that there is no real basis to say what previous physical endeavor best prepares you for strongman.  Zydrunas, the consensus-best strongman at the moment, started powerlifting before doing strongman.  Yet, he has traded WSM and Arnold wins with Brian Shaw, who used to play BASKETBALL, as does the heir-apparent to both in WSM, Thor Bjornson.   Before the Zydrunas era, Pudzanowksi dominated strongman and he was an avid martial artist in his childhood years.   Strongman has been largely dominated by guys who never really did a lifting sport before they got into it! 

I never bothered with powerlifting since they have yet to build a cage, barbell, bench and plates that can easily fit in the back of a pick-up.  Plus, my morbid, almost-unreasonable, disgust for the bench press has been well-documented by myself.  So, clearly I have no plans to compete in powerlifting any time soon.  That doesn't seem to have hindered my strongman training too much.

It's surprising to me that such an increasingly marginalized lifting competition continues to be exert such influence since...

So, when you frequent a gym, it seems like you have to be in a group.  Ever notice that?  For purposes of brevity, let's just look at strength training.  You can do bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman, Olympic weight lifting, or crossfit.  So, they all have their training protocols and their choice movements that they do to get to their definition of strength. 

Why?  Because I can!
What I find comical is how many people choose a branch on this tree, but never compete in any of the above.  So, riddle me this:  if you're not going to compete, then why not just do whatever you like to do to lift?  It's surprising to me how many empty headed dumb asses would bench religiously with powerlifters even with no intention of ever powerlifting, even if they weren't fond of benching.  I know I'm not the only one.  What I can't understand is if you don't like a specific lift, then why do it if there is no real need (competition)?

Yes, I will agree that some kind of squat and some kind of deadlift is important to integrate into any good strength training.  Yet, it doesn't have to be a back squat or a conventional deadlift.  Drew Spriggs brought this up in an excellent training article here about how to train for strongman without implements.  Note how many times he brought up stiff-legged deadlifting.  I don't see them done enough depite the obvious carryover.  Odd, since this form of deadlifting is probably more relevant to normal life than the conventional one we're all commanded to do because...POWERLIFTING

"people try so hard to be different from everyone else that they end up being the same as everyone else. Stop trying. Just be who you are. Wtf?! "

Yeah, those kind of people are clearly annoying, even in strength training.  So, I do different shit quite a bit because what's important in my situation to get strong is very different than the rest of the well-equipped world.   I enjoy odd and wacky but it usually has a point.  While I may not totally disagree with such a statement that Alex makes, I do think that too many people out there wearing the expert label don't have the right focus in matters of getting strong.  Their focus has a narrowed field of view.  Maybe they're just like the rest of us:  novices still learning. 


Anonymous said...


Congrats, you double-fucked up the name of WSM. Anyway. I like you blog for some years already.


Tinmanjohn said...

Are you still doing handstand pushups?

Justin_PS said...


Not in a while, and I'm not really sure why that is.