Training Log: Entry 1278
Tabata KB swings
Training Log: Entry 1277
(2) Mat Pulls 545
Notes: Lost that 10th rep, but I am ok with that. Lockout is strong again, and breaking off the floor is clean. Will pull from the floor next week, and then give my max a test with straps.
SSB Squats 210+chains
Blast strap fallouts w/2 chains+5lbs
Training Log: Entry 1276
Notes: 3/5/1 approach again. My bench strength has returned. Had an ugly 9th in me, but I just called it at 8. Meet is coming up, and no point in getting hurt doing something stupid.
Bench 190 w/3 sets of chains
Notes: Training later in the day than normal, flies came out and kept landing on my face mid set. Lost my concentration on the final one.
V handle chins w/5
Training Log: Entry 1275
(15) Suspended Bar Squats
Notes: Legs dead from previous conditioning. Looks like each link is about 30lbs of leverage. If I fade heavily, i will deload, but so far I'm still calling this a victory.
Notes: Locking out now. Amazingly, I actually accelerate very fast though the last few inches of lockout. I thought I would be slow due to not training it for a few months. WM set is still without lockout.
Training Log: Entry 1274
Notes: Going 3/5/1 ala 5/3/1 for powerlifting, but only hitting singles on the final week. Shot for 6, but legs were still dead from yesterday's conditioning, was buckling under the weight.
FG swiss bar 150
DB rows 205
Notes: Cutting the volume with the meet date looming.
Miniband pull aparts
Not a training log entry. This is my attempt at an article. Thoughts appreciated.
ThingsI Think I Know
I have been lifting weights since I was 14. I have been making mistakes the entiretime. Just when I think I have it allfigured out, I learn that everything I know is wrong. I have fallen victim to dogma multiple times,from people who know, people who think they know, and people who know theydon’t know. There are multiple thoughtsand theories out there, and many of them are right some of the time, but noneof them are right all of the time. Ihave compiled a list of thoughts I have on training that spit in the face of alot of conventional wisdom, but it wasn’t until I broke through that dogma thatI was able to push my limits and succeed.
Before I start, allow me to clarify who I am, inorder for you to decide if I am worth listening to. I am 26 years old, and have competed in boththe 198lb and 181b class in raw powerlifting. My best competition lifts include a 485lb squat and 584lb deadlift inthe 181 class, and a 342lb bench in the 198 class. I have pulled a 525lb deadlift for 9 reps intraining, and as of my writing of this, I am slated to pull a 545lb deadliftfor 8 reps minimum in 2 weeks (as part of a ROM progression trainingprotocol). My videos are on youtubeunder the channel name Emevas if you are interested in seeing my liftspersonally. Before getting intopowerlifting, I fought (poorly) in MMA, trained in boxing/muay thai, wrestledin high school, played one terrible season of football, did Tae Kwon Do fromages 8-17, failed at pee wee hockey (but still trained for 1-2 years), and wastoo fat for pop-warner football. I amgood at being terrible at many things, but I believed they helped me lay down afoundation of athleticism that assisted me in powerlifting.
On to the list, and my explanation of each item asthey apply.
1: Use Straps On Any Movement You Can (WithinReason)
Within reason means things like deadlifts, rows,pulldowns, and other movements of the like. Don’t strap up for pressing, curls, leg presses, etc.
“Straps are for pussies. Just use mixed grip on deadlifts. Otherwise, your grip will get weaker.”
Here is thething: most commercial gyms just plain suck. You’ll never find a bar with real knurling on it, and if you do, it’llbe filed down the next time you train. Additionally, these same gyms will forbid you from bringing in chalk,mainly because we all still have PTSD from chalkboards in elementary school(that reason makes just as much sense as what any gym will tell you, so just gowith it). With these two factors playingagainst you, good luck getting a grip on anything in the gym in the firstplace, and this is assuming you aren’t a sweaty bastard like me in the firstplace. Factor in a sweaty grip and it’sgame over anyway. In these situations,straps are forgivable even for the meatheads, because you aren’t using ahandicap, you are leveling the playing field.
That said, the biggest argument against using strapsis that it weakens your grip. This istrue if and only if your only form of grip training is your other gymlifts. But someone who is actuallylegitimately concerned about grip strength is going to find this reasoninglaughable, because you should be engaged in far more serious grip training than simply whatever happens whenyou are deadlifting or rowing. If youare worried about grip strength (which you should be), do some real gripwork. Get some captains of crushgrippers and train them hard after your workout or on non-training days (notbefore deadlifts), do some plate pinches, throw in some farmer’s walks and buildsome legitimate skull crushing grip and popeye forearms. The same guys that are worried about strapsrobbing grip strength tend to honestly have terrible grip strength, whereasWorld’s Strongest Man competitors, who use straps on deadlifts, have insane grip strength due to their griptraining.
Additionally, straps serve the benefit of permittingfor much more substantial lat recruitment in rowing and pulldowns compared tobeing strapless. I have a video serieson youtube that goes over lat recruitment in more detail, but essentially, yourecruit the lats by pulling with the elbows, not the hands. By using straps, you can completely bypassthe hands as a link in your pulling and ensure that it is your lats that aremoving the weight, not your hands/arms.
After strapping up for everything, I broke newbarriers in my deadlift (going from 525 to 585 in 8 months) and actuallydeveloped a set of lats. Buy nice, don’tbuy twice. Get the ironmind “strongenough straps” and never look back. It’sgood enough for Derek Poundstone, so it’s good enough for you.
2:All Deadlifts Should be Touch and Go
“A deadlift starts from a dead stop on thefloor. That’s why it’s called adeadlift. If you don’t pause on thefloor, it’s not a deadlift.”
I will agree with that, purely because I am asemantic asshole. That said, it’s aterrible reason to choose how you do an exercise. Anyone who has done a deadlift knows thatbreaking off the floor tends to be more the most stressful portion of the lift,even if you are strong off the floor. Breaking a very heavy weight off the floor is taxing. Doing it multiple times in a workout is very taxing. Doing this multiple times a week/month inturn is incredibly taxing. In manycases, it makes recovery between workouts difficult without excessiveeating/sleeping (which I am very much in favor of, but also realize that manyhave lifestyle that will not support this/don’t want to get excessively fat).
The touch and go style ensures that you break offthe floor significantly less in a workout (I’ll still break off the floor atleast twice, once for the initial, and one more time after the first put downto see how many more reps I can eek out), making the entire process lesstaxing. Additionally, many make theargument that dead stop deadlifts are more analogous to a competition deadlift,since you only do one rep in competition. I argue that with this logic, the touch and go is actually a better toolfor training for a heavy single. Anyonethat has ever seen or taken part in a grinder deadlift has see the common 7-8second agonizing single. When youperform deadstop deadlifts with a weight you can do for 5 reps (for the sake ofargument), none of these reps are going to last longer than 1-2 seconds, andthus your body learns how to strain for this long when it comes todeadlifting. When placed in a situationwhere it needs to take 7 seconds to get from floor to lockout, it is in foreignterritory. When you perform a touch andgo set for the same amount of reps, you in turn are maintaining tension for5-10 seconds, meaning that your body is able to handle this sort of tension andknows how to remain tight. Though theweight you will be using during the deadlift will be heavier in competitioncompared to your touch and go training lifts (and this can be addressed withROM progression training, which I can discuss at a later time), the time youare straining will be equal.
Though some may make the counter argument that deadstop deads get you stronger since you get better at breaking off the floor, andanything you can break off the floor for a working set you can definitely do incompetition, I would argue that since touch and go deads are less taxing andmake it easier to recover between training, your strength will increase at afaster rate (due to less needed deloads/resets/time off), and you will eitherat least meet or surpass the deadstop crowd, and be less burnt out/injury proneas you do. With breaking off the floorbeing the most stressful and taxing part of the lift, it is going to be thepart most prone to causing injury as you fatigue toward the end of the set andexperienced form deviation.
To tie the straps back in, definitely use them with touchand go. The bar is going to be off thefloor for a LONG time, don’t let your grip ruin your workout.
3:Use a Belt as Soon as You Have Good Form
“Belts are cheating/not raw/make your coreweaker/should only be used once you are advanced/cause bad form”
Belts seem to be mystical to those who have neverworn them/only wore the crappy giant tapered belts offered for use at theirlocal commercial gym. They both addhundreds of pounds to your total while completely removing your core from thelift, and are cheating even if you aren’t competing (which is comical giventhat any actual form of lifting competition allows for belts).
Here is the real scoop on belts: they artificiallysimulate having a larger core and allow you to lift heavier poundages than youcould without one. If your goal is toget stronger, you should wear a belt, because then you can lift more than youcould without it. No, it’s not likepowerlifting gear, because you aren’t storing energy in the material andgetting some sort of stretch reflex out of it (which is greatly simplifyingpowerlifting gear to the point of being pretty much wrong, but that’s anotherarticle entirely), it simply gives you something for your stomach to braceagainst, which gives you a stronger core for a lift. Despite how perfect of a specimen PaulAnderson was for squatting (google him if you don’t know the name, he was quitepossibly the strongest man to ever live), many people do not desire to have awaist like his to support heavy weights on.
Just like straps, squats do not actively make yourcore weaker. If you went from squatting300lbs with a belt to 400lbs with a belt, your core definitely got strongerduring that time. Additionally, youshould be hammering the core anyway with some basic training. This doesn’t mean ab ripper X or the perfectsit up or whatever gimmicky crap is being pushed at 3am, just do some saxonside bends or weighted roman chair sit ups or something. If you don’t feel embarrassed doing it in thegym in front of people, it’s probably bad ass enough to be a decent abexercise.
There is no reason to wait to use a belt once youhave form dialed in. A belt should not be used as artificial form. If you can’t keep an arch to save your life,figure that out first, and then use a belt to supplement your lifting. But once you have form down, belt up and gobig. In many cases, a belt will helpyour form as you will learn how to effectively expand your belly to it’s maxand keep your arch in order to maximize the benefit of the belt.
You will get stronger by wearing the belt, as youwill force the rest of your body to handle heavier weights by bypassing theweakest link in the chain, much like how straps will help you become a betterpuller by not forcing you to rely on your grip to dictate your workout.
4:Barbell Rows Just Plain Suck
“Arnold did barbell rows in Pumping Iron, and theywere big in the golden age of bodybuilding. They build big, powerful lats and a thick back.”
The first half of the above quote is absolutelytrue. The second part is only true ifyou can do them right. I surmise thatmany people will be unable to do these right, and it’s due to the sheerterrible mechanical position you are required to take when you perform a barbellrow.
When you learn about the most effective way to do adeadlift, one of the key points is to drag the bar up your body. The closer the bar is to your body, thestronger you are. In fact, one can liftso much more with a trap bar lift because the weight isn’t even in front of thelifter, but instead to the side. Now,lets completely violate this principle in order to try to develop some strengthin the lats. Have a bar well out infront of you to the point that you have to bend over at the waist, causing yourtorso to be parallel to the floor. Now,pick the weight up until it runs into your chest or gut. Are you starting to notice the issue here?
In an ideal world, where God gave us all titaniumspines and calibrated cyborg legs, the barbell row would be an amazinglift. You can move far more with abarbell than you can with a dumbbell, the range of motion is very full, and theangle is perfect to hit the lats in a way that parallel the angle you willassume when pulling the bar apart for a bench. But in reality, what tends to happen is either the torso becomes almosttotally upright as soon as the pull starts (because your body is much smarterthan you are, and will naturally assuming a posture that is better suited forthe task at hand versus the alien position you are attempting to make itconform to), the torso remains in place and the lower back compresses andstrains to the point of injury, the legs and lower back take over the pull atthe start, meaning that, if you are lucky, the lats maybe get engaged in thelast 1/16 of the movement, or you bypass all of this by using a weight so lightthat you could DB row more. This is oneof those lifts that is great in theory but blows up in execution, much like theChallenger.
Don’t get me wrong, there are numerous people outthere that can build amazing backs with the barbell row, and I applaud thosepeople, but for the average, some sort of supported row will go much further inthe goal of size and strength. Dumbbellrows, chest supported rows, machine t-bar rows (or even the old school ones),etc, all can do just as well as the barbell row. If you have been banging your head againstthe wall for years with BB rows, don’t be afraid to try something else and seewhat it does for you. The only rows I dothese days are dumbbell rows, and as of this writing I recently hit 200lbs for10 sets of 10 reps per arm. You can getplenty big and strong with these.
5:Beginner Lifters Should Focus on Strength, Not Power
“Beginner lifters need to do power/explosive/speedtraining/Olympic lifts so that they can get fast/explosive along with strong.”
Anyone who played football in high school remembersterrible power/hang cleans being forced down the throats of uncoordinatedawkward kids still trying to figure out puberty. These usually took the place of deadlifts inthe big 3, and if you were really fortunate, you did some trap bar lifts too(but still never a straight bar deadlift).
What is a beginner? Someone who is completely untrained in lifting. You can make these people do ANYTHING andthey will get stronger, bigger, faster and leaner. That being said, how does power trainingwork? You take a low percentage of one’smax and move it at a very fast rate. Inmany cases, this is around 40-60% if you are looking at the dynamic effort alaWestside Barbell, but most other sources of power training use similarpercentages. Olympic lifts are theexception here, simply because the nature of the movement necessitates thatwhatever you are using is the heaviest weight you can use. You cannot clean and jerk what you candeadlift, simply because you have to move the weight fast to get it from floorto chest, and a 7 second deadlift just plain is not getting there.
Well, if a beginner is weak on a lift,realistically, how much weight can they move for a power exercise? If someone can only press the bar, what arethey supposed to do for a power exercise? Press half of a bar? Press pinkdumbbells as fast as possible? Andfurthermore, since they’re going to be rapidly acquiring strength by nature ofsimply becoming more proficient with the lift, who is to say what is even 60%of their max? This is just silly, andnot even the controversial part here.
More strength is more power, especially for a newlifter. Who can deadlift 300lb faster: atrainee who has a 400lb deadlift, or a trainee who has a 200lb deadlift? A novice trainee who dedicates themselves tobuilding their maximal strength will develop other athletic qualities, toinclude their power and stamina (for an explanation on how exactly this works,read Mark Rippetoe’s “Practical Programming for Strength Training). Their maximal strength is the aspect thattheir other athletic qualities will be based upon. Since they will be engaged in a period ofrapid strength gains in the initial phases of their training, a trainingsession dedicated to power is one that could be better invested onstrength. Once they have exhausted theirbeginner gains, then they can start to diversify, but having someone who can’teven squat a plate engage in power training is just pointless.
6:People Should Spend Less Time Foam Rolling/Doing Mobility Work
Like many great men before me, I see something herethat I don’t understand, so I am lashing out against it with anger and fearrather than understanding. As such, Idon’t have a quote to counter argue here, as I don’t even know the intellectualargument here. Let me just give mythoughts.
Poor mobility is like celiac disease: few peoplehave it, but many more people have self-diagnosed. And just like how everyone thinks they needto live a gluten free lifestyle now, everyone thinks they need to do mobilitywork. In reality, most people don’t evenknow what mobility is, could not give you a clear definition, and tend to lumpit together with flexibility training as one in the same.
Most of the people in desperate need of mobilitytraining are broken down athletes who have acquired such a large degree of scartissue from injury that in order to effectively move, they need to break itdown and get loose. Most of the peoplethat think they need mobility training are desk jockeys who have not engaged inanything physical for years. They don’tneed mobility training, they need to get mobile. Play a sport for a year or two and getmoving, and you will find that you’ve been granted the gift of new mobility,along with several other positive benefits such as improved conditioning,coordination, balance, strength, power, stamina, and general tenacity and the awarenessof the difference between pain and injury. There is no need for these people to engage in a 45 minute warm upbefore training as though they were some 1000lb squatter.
Returning to the celiac disease analogy, in manycases, I feel the presence of foam rollers has manufactured a need for foamrolling. Prior to the advent of foamrollers, whatever did lifters do to lift? Are we to believe that men like Paul Anderson and Bob Peoples were infact secretly finding rolls of foam to lay down on, or that instead they wereactually terribly immobile and that their feats of strength were camera tricksand editing? People have been traininghard and being strong for years before this came around, but now many feel likeyou simply cannot train without a foam roller in the gym bag.
Like I said, I cannot understand the need here. As I said in my above background, I playedmany sports as a (fat) kid, and I’m sure it helped grant me a basic athleticfoundation that made mobility work not necessary. That said, before you self-diagnose as beingone of the millions of sufferers of poor mobility, see if maybe you just needto try moving before you break out the foam roller.
7:Rehab By Doing What Got You Injured
“If you hurt your back, stay away fromsquats/deadlifts/anything involving the back”
I grew up in San Diego, CA. I never needed to warm up before I didanything. I was already warm. The first time I moved somewhere cold, Iwrecked my back. My wife had to dress mefor a week because I couldn’t bend down enough to put on my pants or tie myshoes. I stayed away from deadlifts for3 years, and got nothing out of it. Myback was still a wreck. Resting andstaying away from the movement did absolutely dick.
What finally helped was buying some patio pavers,setting them on the floor, and elevating the bar to just above the point whereI felt pain in the deadlift. I pulledfrom this height, and the next week removed a paver to increase the ROM andpull from there. I kept this up until Ieventually pulled from the floor. Doingthis got me from being stuck at a low 500s deadlift for 3 years to a 584lbdeadlift at my last meet.
At present, I am performing something similar withan injured hamstring (once again from training at cold temps. I train in my garage, and it gets to -30here). I have suspended chains in mypower rack to set the bar to a height above where the pain sets in and performsingle concentric squats. Each week, Iincrease the ROM. I intend to eventuallybring the weight down to a full squat height. At the same time, I am performing full ROM, light weight squats duringmy squat training along with on my non-lifting days as a means to continue torehab my hamstring.
Most doctors are going to tell you to avoid whatcaused you pain. That is because mostdoctors are terrified of getting sued, and one of the easiest ways to get youto avoid reinjuring yourself is to get you to quit performing physicalactivity. However, your body is asurvivor. You come from a long line oftough bastard survivors who lived long enough to pass on their genetics byspitting in the face of injury and adversity. You need to embrace your heritage. When your body gets hurt, give it some time off to figure out just howbad the damage is, and then get back in the gym and give it a reason toheal. Let it know that there will be nomore rest, and that it can either perform or die. You will be amazed with the results. Hit the part of the ROM you can train inwithout pain, and hit that part heavy. You will most likely be handling loads much heavier than you can for afull ROM due to the shorter distance, which will have great carryover inoverloading your body and prepping it for full ROM work. Additionally, work within the full ROM withlight weight just so you can maintain form and range of motion. This will help get some restorative blood tothe affected area and promote healing. It’s tempting to just quit lifting once hurt, but it’s not the end ofthe world, and as long as you keep pushing, your body will keep healing.
I will cap it here for now. Keep in mind, these are my opinions,thoughts, observations and personal experiences. When I started writing this, I spoke explicitlyabout how damaging dogma can be in training, and that is why I am not mandatingthese thoughts to anyone. Take what youread here, mull it over, and think about if any of it applies to you. If so, I am glad I could help. If not, think about what are some of thethings that you “knew” when you started, and what you know now.
Training Log: Entry 1272
(3) Mat Pulls 545
Notes: Couldn't get a decent set up, bar kept drifting out causing me to overcompesnate and start with my shins too close. Hope to recover another rep on my path to the floor, but if not, still an acceptable cycle.
SSB Squat 205+chains
Falllouts w/chains+5lbs and 10 second hold on last rep
Training Log: Entry 1270
(18) Chain Suspended Concentric Squat
Notes: This was a real ball buster this week. Definitely liking how this is shaping up. Quad was bugging me a little at the start.
Notes: Upping the weight as I get closer to the meet. Time to speed up rehab. I need to spend more time warming up, it seems to help break up whatever is in my hamstring. I might consider something like 100 reps of the bar on non-training days.
Neck Harness w/50
Training Log: Entry 1267
(4) Mat Pulls 545
Notes: KB swings have been great. My hips start driving earlier and earlier into the pull, saving my back a ton. My lockout is garbage though, too much hitching. I haven't been locking out any of my squats as a means for hamstring rehab, and I think it's starting to show. Meet is 1 Dec, so after this cycle, nothing but fully locked squats. Should slow down hypertrophy and improve lockout.
SSB squats 200+chains
Blast strap fallouts 2chains+5lbs
5x10 w/10 second hold final rep
Notes: Threaded a 5lb plate through the chains. Looks like the ghost of Jacob Marley.
Training Log: Entry 1265
Notes: Probably had a 5th ugly one, but was very happy with this. Strength is returning rapidly, real deloads and rest have been key. On track to crush all my records.
Bench w/3 sets of chains 180
Chin ups w/10lbs
Training Log: Entry 1264
(21) Chain suspended concentric squats
1x635 w/30 second hold
Notes: This movement is awesome. Concentric only means no loading on my hamstring. Can really blast away with weight and set up well with the chains. I am about 7 links of chain away from competition depth, so I'm just going to ROM progress down.
Neck harness 50
Training Log: Entry 1262
Notes: Strength has come back. Proper deloads and rest during the week seems to be the key. Happy to be back in action.
DB rows 200
Notes: Volume is starting to wear me down, makes this training day take forever. May cut to 10x8 or even 10x6.
FG swiss bar Press 145
Training Log: Entry 1261
(5) Mat Pulls 545
Notes: Bar flew off the ground today, despite falling forward onto my feet with every warmup set. KB swing tabata are paying off, developing some explosiveness and mastering the hip hinge.
SSB Squats 195+chains
Blast strap fallouts 2 chains w/10 second hold final rep
Training Log: Entry 1258
(4) Box squat 455
Notes: Took the weight down and lowered the height for more reps. Need to start taking myself out of my comfort zone with my hamstring as potential meet days approach. Honestly thought I would have more in me.
Notes: Need to do this more regularly.
Notes: Bodyweight WM after 4x10, not terrible.
Neck harness 50
Training Log: Entry 1255
(6) Mat pulls 545
Notes: Felt terrible going into these and thought for sure the weight wasn't going to budge, but it flew up. Think I've just been moving too slow on the initial breaking off the floor, as this time I tried to rip it off the ground. Also, I'm remembering how to use hip drive now. Drive the hips BEFORE the knees are locked out, and then lock the knees once the hips are forward.
SSB squats 190+chains
Blast strap fallouts 2 chains w/10 second pause on last rep
Training Log: Entry 1254
Notes: Feeling stronger again. Probably had one more as a horrible rep, but no reason to do that.
Bench 175+3 chains
Notes: Advancing too quickly, might have to wave the weight down. Final sets were a ball buster.
Vertical pulls were a mess, stick with me here.
V handle chins
FG Pull ups
V handle chins
Notes: Wanting to start something new, and the v handle works great. Might boil these down to 10x10 and then start adding weight. Feels nice on the elbows.