Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Shooting My Mouth Off...the random thoughts about Strength Equipment

As I've ventured into competitive lifting sports, I've looked back at non-competitive lifters and noticed something different that I never took notice of before:  often times, they get glued to specific pieces of equipment...and that often defines who they are as a lifter.  It's increasingly foreign to me as a competitor in my specific sport since I chose one that is decidedly non-specific in what we lift to begin with.

Still, it came up in a podcast that I did recently with Eric Fiorillo and I thought I'd take some time to discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of different things people use to get strong.  There's not going to be any particular rhyme or reason to this except for what I don't think is frequently addressed when discussing these tools of the trade.

Barbells are the best tool for any kind of squatting or deadlifting.  That probably makes them the overall best strength building tools since those two families of lifts are probably the top two best body builders.  Barbells might also be the best tool for developing the biggest up strength with agonist movements.  Before you ask me what the fuck I'm talking about there, I'll save you the agony of having to stop looking at IG (or pornography) to open up an anatomy book to look up what that means.  When the body moves against resistance, the muscles involved break down into three categories:

  1. Agonist muscles:  initiates the movement
  2. Antagonist muscles: resists the movement (braking mechanism)
  3. Stabilizers:  holds the rest of the body in place while the movement happens.
Barbells are generally the best for number 1. 

I don't think barbells are the overall best tool for upper body development.  Sure, they can have, and continue build sick strength up there but those body parts can probably be developed in a less painful and more effective manner (with less weight.  I still love to use less weight in a harder manner) than a barbell.  

One of my favorite things in the world to do when someone asks me about kettlebell training is to tell them that anything they can do with a kettlebell can be done with a dumbbell.  The blank, lost look is amazing...and humorous.  That's not to say that there aren't things that kettlebells do better than dumbbells...and vice versa (I'll get to that shortly).  Kettlebells are better for doing movements for the lower body than dumbells are.  The signature swings and snatches are definitely safer to perform (as in:  keeping the object in your hands) as well as more difficult to do with (more intense muscular effort) a kettlebell.

For lower body development, kettlebells (and dumbbells, for that matter) are still notably behind barbells in developing the more max strength people crave with weights.  They're mostly good for accessory movements.   While kettlebells can absolutely be used for upper body movements (I use them a lot for pressing in my low ceiling basement) a dumbbell of equal weight will be noticeably harder with the same weight.

Aside from the hype, these reasons may be why kettlebells have never seriously cracked into the mainstream use of the fringe heavy lifting community:  inferior to dumbbells for upper body work and inferior to barbells for lower body work.

Lost among the hype of kettlebells years ago seems to be the effectiveness of dumbbell training.  If we really wanted to be honest with ourselves, dumbbells are probably the best tool for upper body work.   That probably gets lost on most people for several reasons.  Many of the lifts you can do with a dumbbell can be done with a barbell with  both greater weight and less ego-crushing effects.  Plus, they're probably more comfortable on the joints and safer as a result.  Lastly, it's getting harder to find gyms with dumbbell sets that exceed 100 lbs.

As discussed above, dumbbells would have to take a place behind kettlebells for lower body accessory work and a spot behind barbells for building max strength stuff for the same body parts.

These are a personal favorite, for a lot of reasons.  My reasoning for this goes back to that anatomy lesson above:  Sandbags are the safest way to flip to a strength training exercise that hits the stabilizer muscles in the body harder than it hits the agonist muscles.  If you think that's a detriment then you haven't tried lifting in a strongman competition...or in real life.  Most of the time, when you lift an object not meant to be lifted, your stabilizers will work a lot harder than the agonist muscles ever will.  I've outlifted people stronger at barbell lifting with odd objects because I'm stronger with my stabilizers.

Another reason why I love sandbags is that they can seemlessly move from static lifting to walking/carrying movements.  In fact, I've done exactly this in a single lifting movement.  This adds an extra level of versatility you probably won't get with other heavy objects.

I'm not the biggest fan of using sandbags for upper body work.  A sandbag big enough for lower body development will likely be useless for upper body stuff since it will be almost impossible to row, press, etc.  Also, Sandbags can't be used as freely for accessory or isolation work.  If anything, I view them as a barbell substitute when I can't barbell train...or as a strongman event.

Now, all the Caveats to The Above statements...
Many of the perceived strengths and problems with using all of the above-mentioned objects doesn't reside in the object itself but in two factors: how they're made and how they're used.  While barbells are rarely anyone outside of Crossfits go-to for conditioning work like kettlebells are, that doesn't mean they can't be used for conditioning.  Kettlebells can effectively be used to train things like overhead pressing strength.  Just because few do and there are better options out there doesn't mean they won't work.  

Also, consider that certain pieces of strength equipment are kind of rare.  As stated above, dumbbells above 100 lbs are problematic to find in many gyms. Some people have taken it upon themselves to build dumbbells that can be loaded up over 200 lbs because the utility of such heavy dumbbell rows is unmistakable.  Still, someone might label a dumbell row inferior to a barbell one simply because the weights needed to make a dumbbell row difficult aren't as easy to find.  That doesn't make the movement or the tool inferior, just not as practical or available to some.  

So, what I've tried to do with this entry is strip all of the issues concerning use, hype and manufacture out of the equation and evaluate just based what they're inherently best for.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How To Stretch The Outer Limits of Adrenaline and Caffeine...Or My recap of My Experience Competing at Connecticut's Strongest Man

The only thing that has been more infrequent and rare than my writing on this blog has been my ability to actually attend a strongman competition that I've paid money to do. In the 19 months, I paid for, and missed, three strongman competitions since I did Granite State 8 in New Hampshire in July, 2015.  Since I don't have a job that requires me to travel, rendering my ability to compete practically impossible, I managed to actually stop donating money to strongman promoters and actually doing a competition April 28.

It was far from perfect.  While I do have a stay-close-to-home job, it's a night shift, working 6 pm-6 am 3-4 nights a week.  I did have a long weekend off but it proved not enough to flip my schedule around enough to be rested for this competition.  So, I started competing Saturday morning when I had been up already for 15 hours. This hurt.  

Lesson Learned:  Sleep is important!
I really like the look of this competition when I signed up for it in January.  There wasn't a lifting event that I truly hated in the bunch:  140 lbs circus dumbbell for reps, max 13" deadlift, 250 lbs farmers walks for 60', 250 lbs keg carry for 100', and a 240 lbs stone load.  As I commenced training, I learned a very painful lesson about my new work schedule:  While I can get enough rest to feel refreshed in the afternoons i don't work, it's not deep enough to recover from heavy training on the nights that I do. So, I frequently ran into days where I'd be absolutely dead from training loads that normally don't have issues with.  

This lead me to actually write down a plan that I mostly stuck to.  Every day had a light day equivalent that I could do on nights that I worked so I could recover.  I refrained from doing event training or deadlifting on work nights (except light weight carries for longer distances as finishers).  

I also placed a very heavy emphasis on pressing, specifically trying to do drop sets for hypertropy work. My pressing is a particularly weak spot in my strongman acumen and the only thing I hadn't done up until this point was dedicated hypertropy work.  So, I tried my best to do three pressing sessions per week.

There were issues along the way.  I had a trap bar unload on me, mid rep which messed up my hip in March.  Then I got a nasty flu in April that put me in bed for two days. Then, the results of not tapering down my training started getting the better of me.  My deadlift stalled.  I couldn't lock out 131 lbs circus dumbbells. The last straw was dropping farmer handles.  By the final weekend before the competition, I came to the realization that I was fatigued and at this point, I would get no stronger. So, I shut down my training 8 days out.  I slept 10-12 hours a night for the next three days.

Plus, I had to deal with flipping my schedule a bit to stay up during the days anyway.

So, How did the Competition go?
Flipping my schedule didn't go as well as I'd hoped.  I was hoping to sleep until 10:00 pm the night before the competition.  That didn't work out and I sprang awake at 6:30 pm.

I realized I'd be testing the outer limits of adrenaline and caffeine.

So, after a four hour drive to Connecticut, a bit of warming up and loosening things as much as possible, I was pressing a 140 lbs circus dumbbell.  As it turned out, only three guys showed up to compete at 200 lbs.  I managed to get three reps with the dumbbell, good for a second place finish.  This was disappointing since I hoped to get 5-6.  One bright-ish spot was I botched a third rep attempt with the left hand which left my shoulder and tricep feeling drained. My leg speed wasn't there.  So, I switched to my right arm and got another rep.  Unfortunately, I lost time because I thought I missed a rep when I actually got it and almost attempted an unnecessary extra rep.

Next up was the one event I was dreading the most:  a 13" max effort, best of three attempts deadlift. Miss a lift, you're out.  Deadlifting had gone, by far, the worst for me in training so Started conservatively:  450 lbs.  Second attempt was 500 lbs.  One guy opened with 600 lbs.  Yeah, I wasn't expecting to win the event.  I simply didn't want to loose too many points.  My opening for that came when the other guy dropped a 535 lbs instead of lowering the bar on his second lift.  I took 525 lbs on my last attempt and took second on this event too.

I was hoping my moving events would put me in the running for first place.  The problem was that I was getting tired and running out of caffeine (I had two 24 ounce coffees, a protein shake with 400 mg of caffeine and my electrolyte drink spiked with 600 mg of caffeine).  My farmers were uncharacteristically slow:  9.25 seconds. My pick and first two steps were too slow.  Another second place finish.  This really pissed me off.

Kegs actually didn't go terrible.  This had been my slower moving event in training.  I was actually happy with this because I used to have a tendency to take excessively long steps, make my stride too wide and therefore slower.  This time, I kept it shorter and sweet, getting 100' with a turn in a bit over 20 seconds.

By this point, the first place guy had taken first in all of the events.  I had taken second in the first four.  I had no chance of taking first and unless the third place guy took first in the stones and I zeroed them, he could't over take me for second.  I was far too drained to go all-out on the stones for no benefit in points. I took my time and gladly took third in the stones but second overall in the competition.

What Went Right
What made me most happy about my performance was that I was consistent with holding second place. I also liked that I only really made one or two errors throughout the competition (the dumbbell, and the slow pick on the farmers).  I was also savvy and played against the lesser experienced third place finisher well.  I found it amusing that the deadlift and the keg ware what I projected would be my weakest events and they turned out to be the two that I performed to expectations.

The biggest issue was my crazy nights schedule.  My whole performance was marred by just flat-out not being rested.  There wasn't a whole lot I could do about that.  It was the price I was willing to pay to compete.  It just made me tired and slow.

Still, I had fun, got to compete and made a lot of new, cool friends.  I seemed to make myself popular by bringing homemade donut muffins and blueberry stout to share with whoever wanted them.   I'm unsure about future competition at this point.  I signed up for Pennsylvania's Strongest Man in Lancaster at the end of July but with my budget limited for strongman, I'm taking a wait and see approach.

In the meantime, it's back to the drawing board, working on my pressing and my deadlift, trying to get stronger and have some fun along the way.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Horribly Overdue Blog Post and Horribly Overdue Product Review: The Hook!

Yes, fans, it's been far too long since I've posted anything but I've got some blog entries cued up and ready to fire off.  Sorry about the Drought and I hope that you enjoy this one...
I'm sure that most people who ever write reviews of equipment do mere weeks after they receive said equipment, brand new, generally un-abused and not touched by the ravages of time.  That might be a mistake. I can't speak for the rest of the shaved apes reading my blog but I would have to plead guilty to falling victim to being easily excited by new items in the mail and the novelty of something fresh to play with in the gym.  No, it's probably better wait a few years to thoroughly use, and possibly abuse, the item in question to see if it will hold up and does its features add to training in a positive manner.

Well, the second part is easily proven correct.  Suspension trainers seemed to have taken off since the advent of the marvelously overpriced TRX was birthed on the world almost a decade ago.  In terms of sheer versatility to money spent on a piece of equipment, it's easy to justify the expenditure of plata on a suspension rig.  If you're into general purpose, upper body strength training, you could be set for life with this.

So, the Hook, like other suspension rigs, doesn't need to prove that it's worth the money in terms of sheer utility.  What it does need to do is prove it's durability, features, and price put it above the other suspension rigs.  After four years of playing with it, and other suspension rigs, I can verify that it does and that it's better than the others.

I promise that I do more with these than just curls.  

The Hook is a project of a semi-retired internet-aquaintance by the name Bruce Tackett.  The handles were primarily designed to be used with bands (which he sells) but he eventually branched out to include an Isometric Strap and also some squat harnesses,  He also sells a door attachment to use all of these on.  While I have played with them using bands, my REAL interest was using them for bodyweight movements.  So, my Hook accessories have been used with my body (which in the past several years has varied between 185 lbs and 215 lbs) dangled off of them in some manner.

What this bodyweight suspension rig has all over all other competitors is it's sheer simplicity.  The Iso Strap is simply a piece of webbing with loops double stitched into it at roughly 6" increments.  The Hook handles simply hook through the loops and away you go.  This makes it far more secure most of the other suspension rigs that use some sort of mechanical locking mechanism to adjust the fixed handles.  I've had several of these locks slip on me while using them.

Plus, there is no guess work with the positioning of the handles and if you're accidentally going to put yourself at an easier angle to train at. This is particularly helpful when I train one arm rows and one-arm pull-up training work.

What Have I Used The Hook For?
 Initially, I bought the Hook, door attachment and Iso-Strap for Bodyweight movements.  After all, this was what my main training modality was back in 2012 when I bought it.  The majority of the training movements were Pull-ups, Dips, One and two arm push-ups, One and two arm (mostly one) rowing, and chest flyes.   My use of this rig dramatically increased when I tore my ACL.  I do have to note that my handles that I currently have were not the original ones I bought.  I did break one of them while doing dips a few days before my surgery.  Bruce was unquestionably apologetic, aghast, and promptly sent me an updated, new design handle that I've had ever since.  Even after surgery, I was heavily restricted with my lower body movements and so I still trained mostly upper body, and largely with the Hook.

Eventually, I recovered from the whole ACL ordeal and I was frankly so fed up with training so much with this instrument that I stopped using it as a primary training tool.  Plus, I started training at a gym where I got into strongman so I trained far less at home.  I still used it once or twice a week when I didn't make it out of work on time but it was far from the primary training tool.  I also took it along and used it when I traveled by airplane and used it in hotels.
My pressing accessory work on Wendesdays

Fast forward to this past summer.  I ended up having lunch with my friend Jamie and he strongly suggested that I take up using it but more for bodybuilding style isolation movements as an accessory to my main lifting.  This had never crossed my mind before and since he's just as stupid fucking strong as he is smart as all hell, I listened.  The Hook became my primary tool for arm training ( tricep kickbacks and curls) as well as upper body accessory work (forward and reverse flyes, plus shoulder pressing).  Since the Hook and the Iso-strap laughed off the staggered grip pull-ups and one arm bodyweight moves, this was no issue.  The latest movement I've started using the Hook handles for is chain pressing.  Using a 65 lbs chain, I hook the Hook through a link and press the chain for reps as an accessory for my circus dumbell work.  It sure beats a mechanical lock on a strap that slips while you're working out.  That's just dangerous.

There has been damage. The Hook is structurally sound and still usable, don't get me wrong.  I have, however, torn the edge of the padding on the handle with the chain press and the hooks have a plastic hose to cover the U-bolt that forms the hook itsself.  It is worth noting that these were designed to be used with some bands, isometrics, and some bodyweight work.  I'm clearly pushing the limits of what this thing was designed to do with all bodyweight, no bands, no isometrics and now chain lifts.

Then, we have to talk cost.  To set yourself up with what I've got will put you back around $100.00. That's quite a bit below the cost of even the most basic TRX.  Plus it's a superior system anyway with more versatility than the others.  This is that one time you're well-suited to support the little guy and get in touch with Sierra Exercise Equipment if you are in the market for a suspension rig.

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