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What is Strong Enough?

I love strength.

Anyone who has read this blog can probably pick up on that pretty quickly. I think being and strong as humanly possible is cool and something that I strive for because, well, why not?

Put my bias aside for a moment. What if you don’t care about being Norse god strong? What if you have other goals but want to be in pretty good shape; look good, feel good, perform (generally) well. How strong do you need to be in order to accomplish that? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I believe I have come to some pretty solid numbers. There wouldn’t be much you couldn’t do day to day if anyone were to accomplish these numbers and maintain them for the majority of their adult life. Without further ado:

  • Deadlift: 1.5 – 2 times bodyweight for 1 rep
  • Squat to BELOW PARALLEL*: at least bodyweight for 1 rep
  • Push ups: at least 5 chest to floor, straight as a board reps; 2 reps if your are a woman
  • Farmers Carry: at least 30% of bodyweight in each hand
  • Bench Press: 75% of bodyweight for 1 rep
  • Press: 50% of bodyweight
  • Chin up: 3 – 5 reps if you’re a man and the ability to hold chin above the bar and lower under control if you are a woman

Certainly these numbers would not impress anyone on InstaTube. That’s not the goal. These simply represent the minimum standard we should all try to maintain for the majority of our lives (16 – 80ish). All of these numbers can be reached with minimal weekly time commitment, no more than 3 hours per week, and are within the grasp of anyone willing to do the work to get there. The amount of muscle you will carry from this amount of strength will be enough to keep anyone independent as the age. I suspect that it will also help prevent many of the diseases of modernity that plague so many in the western world.

Can’t hit these numbers? Looks like you have some work to do.

Life long health

Life long health

* this is key as we age. The ability to stand from a position below 90% is severely lacking in most elderly that don’t have to poop in that position.


Don’t Try To Ride Two Horses With One Ass

Working in a gen-pop gym exposes me to many interesting sights. By interesting I mean idiotic. The issue with all of this jack-assery is largely that it prevents people making real solid progress in their training.

One of the biggest issues I see is people trying to do too much at once or, as crusty old southerns might say, trying to ride two horses with one ass. In other words, they sacrifice quality for quantity and/or “efficiency.” A perfect example of this is the person you see bench pressing while doing flutter kicks or leg lifts.

The idea is obviously to get some extra ab work in while gettin’ your pecs all jacked up. In reality you’ve accomplished neither of those goals. The stability you sacrifice to do the ab work will severely limit the amount of weight you can bench press while the bench motion will limit the depth of abdominal contraction you can get. A better option would be to superset your bench and ab work. The time spent will be nearly the same but the results for both movements will be much greater.

We all tend to get carried away and it’s useful from time to time to take a step back and analyze your own training. You might just find that you’ve got one too many horses to asses.



The Fappening: Good For Society?

In case anyone isn’t familiar with the massive online community that is Reddit, the Fappening was the thread dedicated to the many hundreds of leaked photos from hacked celebrity iCloud accounts. The big name to come out of this has been Jennifer Lawrence. She has fought very hard to prevent people from seeing her naked ass.

I don’t condone hacking and stealing the private images of a person, even if they are huge celebrities that we all want to see naked. That’s a shitty thing to do. Despite that, I think, in a way, it’s good that it happened.

What, what, what!?!?!? How can I say that?

Simple: we get to see these (mostly? only?) women in the raw and, often, fully nude. This is good for more than just 14 – 65 year old men to wank to.

Women can see them too.

Too many women have body image and self esteem issues because they don’t look like so and so celebrity and have a little wrinkles around their eyes or carry a bit of extra fat around their belly button or some such nonsense. Guess what?


Even those who are models.Take away the make up, the lights, the photoshop and you see that nearly all of these women have bodies that are pretty normal, even average.

Front Squats

I love front squats. They don’t get enough respect. People are enamored with back squats because you can use so much more weight and feed your ego by doing ugly half reps. Not so with front squats. If the weight is too heavy you’ll lose it in the rack position right away. If you have any squat technique weaknesses they become magnified many times over when you  front squat.

Front squats also beat you up much less than back squats, certainly less than low bar squats. This allows you to train at a much higher frequency if you so choose which, of course, means I do.

I see no benefit in training fronts for more than 5 reps and, when I get right down to it, rarely see a need to go that high. 1-3 reps is better. Lots of sets anywhere from 5 to 30. Yes, 30. Quit whining. Though 8 to 10 is more likely where I end up settling. I like to hit a few heavier singles @9(ish) and then drop down for many sets of 2 or 3 @7-8(ish).

They are also great for building strong abs.


Muscle Magazines

People love to hate on the “muscle rag” mags. I know I’ve spent my fair share of time ripping on the content of some of these magazines. I do, of course, agree that many of the cover claims are ridiculous. We’ve all seen the title such as this:


I understand why they do this, even if it is a bit disingenuous. Would you read a magazine with the title page proclaiming the truth, something akin to:


I probably wouldn’t pick up a copy. Despite my lack of interest in such a title, these are gains that wouldn’t disappoint me or most people past the beginner stages of strength and muscle development. It is these outrageous claims, stacked against the supposed “program of the pros” that will get you to the aforementioned goal, that most people lambaste, often stating that the magazines lead the young generation of new lifters astray and utterly cripple them into over-training with programs that only the most gassed up cheater steroid user could possibly handle.

I disagree. The program won’t deliver on it’s promise. No debate from me.

On the other hand, at least said young new lifter got started.

How many great iron athletes got started because of reading some muscle rag? How many guys have been motivated by the pictures of human mountains within the glossy pages? How many trainees DID find a program in a magazine that the stuck to and, lo and behold, DID make great gains?

I can’t speak for everyone but I know the latter certainly applies to me. Muscle and Fitness published a program written by Jim Stoppani and someone else who’s name escapes me. It was essentially a 12 week linear periodization program that had you training 6 days per week (gasp!) and hitting each muscle group 3 times per week (gasp! gasp!) on a 1. legs, back, biceps, calves 2. chest, shoulders, triceps, abs split where each of the three days used a different set/rep range, e.g. 3×12, 4×8, 5×5 or however it went. Each week you tried to add weight for each respective rep range. I started this program when I was 20 after 3 years of consistent (stupid) training. Though not advanced, or even intermediate, I was by no means a beginner at this point.

I didn’t over-train and die.

I didn’t need to take a bathtub full of PED’s to get through it.

I made some of the best strength and muscle gains as I have before or since.

Most importantly, I learned a TON and it lead me to seek out more advanced knowledge.

Yes, the magazines can lead some, or most, people astray. That’s fine. It’s better to lose the path for a time than to never start down it. Learn from the mistakes; progress and become better.

Though far from perfect, at the very least the magazines will tell you to squat.

I’m Judgmental

Planet Fitness is in the news again. Per usual they are guilty of judging someone who they feel doesn’t fit their view of the world. This isn’t going to be a rant, again, against the aforementioned gym chain. Instead it got me thinking about judgement. I realized that I am guilty of the very thing that Planet Fitness professes to be against:  I (and most hard training lifters) am very judgmental of people in the gym.

If you spend more time playing with your phone than training, I judge you.

If you are more concerned with finding the right channel on the “cardio cinema” than working hard, I judge you.

If you sacrifice proper movement patterns/range of motion so that you can use more weight, I judge you.

If you jump right into heavy weights without a proper warm up, I judge you. 

If you spend your time putting on a big show to attract attention to yourself, regardless of the weight you are lifting, I judge you.

This list could go on for quite some time. Anyone who has reached a decent level of strength and movement mastery will acknowledge that most of the time no one gives two shits about you or what you do in the gym.

In an effort to end this on a positive note I will give my opinion on how to truly create a judgment free zone:

  1. Work hard
  2. Leave your ego at the door
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

These three simple rules can help alleviate much of the stupidity that drives others to judge.

Success Builds Success

I hit the cold floor with a wet plop. I tried to focus my blurred vision to the sounds of metal rolling on metal coming from just above my head. Slowly, I gathered my senses and completed a mental inventory.

Arms? Still got ‘em.

Eyes? On the road to recovery.

Legs?….to be determined.

With an unsteady hand I reached to the bar and, with great effort, pulled myself upright into a seated position. At this same moment darkness filled my hazy eyes as a shadow descended upon the squat rack I was occupying.

“A little too heavy today, huh?”

“Hello Frank,” I said to to the shadow. “I guess so. I’m pretty pissed about it.”


“I really thought I had it. I want it so bad I can taste it.” Frank reached down and pulled me to a

standing position.

“How many reps did you get?”

“None. That’s why I’m mad! I really thought I would be good for it.”

“Well…” said Frank while walking toward the locker room. I stripped the bar of the weight I had been using and continued on half-assedly with my training, distracted by my anguish from failing.

By the time I had finished my training Frank had made his way to the platform and gotten a start at deadlifts. He was in the middle of completing an effortless 8th rep with 455 when I walked past.

“Try using some real weight why dontcha?” I said jokingly in a weak effort to hide jealousy and dismay that my pull was yet to hit 3 plates for a single. Frank chuckled patiently.

“Warm ups are important.”

“Sure. Anyway, have a good one.” I said turning to go.

“How has your training been going lately?” asked Frank while he loaded another 50 pounds on the bar.

“Haha. You saw.”

“I don’t mean just today. In general. What have you been doing? How was your training leading up to today?”

“I guess it hasn’t been that bad. That’s why I tried the 225 today. I was sure I would get it. I got 215 last week and it didn’t feel that hard. I mean, I got it.” I said sitting on a bench fully prepared to talk more about myself.

“Hold that thought.” Frank set up at the bar and pulled 6 smooth reps. “Whew. So you got 215. How many reps?”

“Well…just one.”

“Just one?”

“Yeah. I was going for a max effort.”

“You certainly did that. If I’m following you, last week you did 215 for a max effort single and so, this week, you tried 10 pounds more?”

“Right.” Fifty more pounds added to the bar.

“I might just be an idiot but what makes you think you got ten pounds stronger in a week?”

“Because!” I replied indignantly. “Because…well…why not?”

“I have to wonder what in your training in the last 7 days makes you think you got 5% stronger…just because you wanted to?” Four reps. Now it’s starting to look like work. “I’m no expert, but in my experience success builds success. You need to achieve a lower level of success before you can expect to achieve a higher one.”

“Okay,” I said pretending to understand.

“Take these deadlifts for example. I just did 4 reps with this weight, right? Do you think if I added 10 pounds I could get it?”

“Of course! 10 pounds is nothing for you!”

“Okay, using your situation, what if I added 5% to this weight? Could I get it then?”

“I would say so. You just did 4 reps with it!”

“What if I had done 1 and, let’s say it looked as difficult as the 4th rep did?”

I sat and thought about this for a moment as it started to dawn on me where this line of reasoning was headed. “I suppose it would be a lot less likely.”

“Right. I know, since I succeeded with this weight, I am good for heavier; even if I don’t try it. That’s what ‘success builds success’ means.”

Frank added some weight to the bar and I headed for the locker room. As I changed I could feel the ground shaking slightly and heard three muffled thuds coming from somewhere beyond the walls.

Get The Most Out Of The Least

I recently had one of the eager new faces at the gym ask me for advice on how to get big arms. Triceps specifically. It seemed that this young man wanted shirt splitting guns and deduced, rightly, that the triceps are the most essential muscle for this goal. He proceeded to take me through his routine that consisted of 10 or so variations of extensions with cables and dumbbells, kick backs, pressdowns, supersets, drops sets, forced, rep and so on. Despite the many exercises and instructions in this program, there was not one single mention of some heavy pressing, benching or dipping.  I soon learned that this young man did no close grip benching and had never tried a dip in his life. His “pr” on push ups was a measly 11.

Mr. Kettlebell himself, Pavel Tsatsouline, once stated that in Russian gyms trainees are not allowed to do any other triceps movement until they can close grip 225 for 10 reps. Though I’m sure, like much of Pavel’s stuff, this is hyperbole, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea. Using our example above, what would be a better use of time: training as listed or working to close grip bench at least bodyweight for 1 easy rep?

Though I hate to get lumped into the “all you ever need is the the big 3 (or 4)” crowd I think someone just starting out would be smart to do so, whether the goal is strength or aesthetics.



  • Comp Bench: 235 x5 @7.5, 245 2×3 @8, 205 2×8 @ 8, 205 x11 @10
  • Deadlifts: up to 500 x1 @8.5, 455 3×3 @8.5-9.5 I felt awful today going into the session and this reflected that feeling
  • Close Grip Bench: 225 4×6


  • Squat: 405 x1 @8.5 (yuck), 385 5×2 @ 7.5 – 8.5
  • Overhead press
  • Squat: 315 8×6 @ 8


  • 14′ Deadlift: 525 x1 @9, 500 5×2 @ 8-9? these are 2 inches lower than I’ve done in the past and SUCK. The bar hits me in a real dead zone and getting the bar moving is torturous
  • Close Grip Bench: 225 x8 @9, 225 x5 @8.5….ah WTF….load drop 215 5×5 @8 – 9
  • Deficit Deads: 365 3×8 @8, 8.5, 9



  • Front Squat: 335 x1 @8.5, 285 4×4 @8
  • Incline Press: 205 x8 @9, x6 @8, x6 @8.5, x4 @9


  • Pin Squats: 315 x6 @7, 340 6×4 @8-9? another movement that is hard to judge
  • Neutral Grip Bench: 90 x8 @7.5, x8 @ 8, x8 @9
  • Hack Squat: up to 3 plates per side 2×15 @9 I can’t high bar at the moment due to a minor injury
  • Leg Curls: bunch of sets working my way up to 120 2×12

The #1 Gym Sin

I’ve seen a lot of lists describing the so called “sins” one may be guilty of perpetrating in the gym. Generally I hate them. Usually they are a waste of time and include stupid things about what you wear to the gym and curling in the squat rack. I could give a fuck about any of that. I’m only concerned about getting better.

The #1 “sin” many people find themselves guilty of is simply EGO.

Ego will prevent you from making any real progress, make you look like a douche bag and, very probably, result in injuries. I don’t want this to be mistaken for confidence. Confidence is stepping up to push yourself within your means in an intelligent way. Ego is loading the bench up with hundreds of pounds over what you are capable of and doing 1 inch arm bends.

Most of the stupid shit you see in the gym, from terrible push ups to quarter squats, is because of ego. Don’t let yours hold you back from making real progress.


  • Front Squats: up to 325 x1@7.5, 285 6×3 @7.5-8.5
  • Incline Press: up to 200 x8 @9, x6 @8, x6 @9
  • Pin Squats (9th pin from bottom): 295 5×5 @7?
  • Neutral Grip DB Press: 75′s x12,12,10
  • Close Stance High Bar Squats: 225 x15 @8.5, x15 @10
  • Kaz Press on Smith Machine: 4×10 90

Still trying to get used to the Fronts. I find them pretty uncomfortable for anything over 1 rep so I’m staying light and just building the volume for a while. Judging my RPE for pin squats is tough in a way similar to higher rep deadlifts. It’s really just very tiring cardiovascularly (is that a word?) because of the time under tension.

Everything else is there just to get some higher reps/volume while I’m trying to build some muscle for this part of the training cycle. 15 reps on squats sucks!

The rest of this weeks training


  • Comp Grip Bench (reverse grip): 252 x2 @8, 265 2×1 @8, 240 x4 @8, x4 @8, x4 @8, x6 @9
  • Comp deadlift (conventional): worked up to 485 x1 @7 440 6×3 @8-9
  • Close Grip Bench: 215 x8 @8, x8 @8.5, x8 @10


  • Comp Squat: up to 405 x2 @ 7.5, 365 x4 @ 8, x4 @8, x4 @ 9
  • Overhead press x a fuck ton
  • Comp Squat: 300 3×8 @ 7-8


  • 6 inch block pull: 515 x5 @9, x3 @7.5 (callus almost ripped), x3 @8, x3 @9
  • Close Grip Bench: 225 4×6 @8
  • 3.5 inch deficit pulls: 350 3×8 @7-8


I also do various assistance work for back, biceps, shoulders etc. on Tuesdays and Thursdays but none of that is very interesting and mostly in place for structural balance.

Overall, just 1 week down, I am liking this style of training. I feel that my recovery is much improved. Before I would stubbornly try to stick to whatever was written on paper for that day, whether I would was capable of achieving it that day or not. The biggest issue that I am facing is judging the RPE of higher rep sets for some of the big movements. For example, the 8 rep sets of deficit deads are very difficult to judge because they are incredibly taxing on my cardio, almost more so than muscular. I’m sure I will figure it all out in time.