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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.

My new training

Started a new training yesterday with the plan of hitting a few competitions here in the near future. I’m starting to heavily incorporate some of the Reactive Training Systems style of training, in particular the RPE scale as a determiner of work. The day broke down like this:

  • Front Squat: 285 6×2 @8
  • Incline Press: 185 x8 @7, 200 x8 @9, 190 x8 @9
  • Pin Squat: 275 5×5 @6-7
  • Neutral Grip DB Bench: 50×20 @7, 75×12 @8, 100 2×5 @8/9
  • Kaz Press in Smith Machine: 70 4×10 @6-7

It’s been a while since I’ve done front squats so I thought I’d start fairly easily into them. This next 3-4 weeks of training is going to be very volume focused so I plan on increasing the amount of reps per set each week, only adding weight if it starts to feel extremely easy, which it might since I haven’t done them in a while. Incline was fine. Nothing special just getting some reps. I’ve never done pin squats in this way so I intentionally went light and just tried to practice with the movement. Even at this light weight my quads were blowing up! I was surprised by this since I figured I’d feel this more in my hips like an Anderson squat. That wasn’t the case. I like them and will keep them in for a while, probably adding weight and decreasing reps per set…or not.


Over-the-hill? Spend more time on one leg

The importance of unilateral vs. bilateral training is been debated until the cows come home to get slaughtered, ground and cooked into delicious hamburgers. I’m not going to attempt to argue one way or the other today. If you want to put bone crushing weight on your back and squat until you have hemorrhoids the size of the Hindenburg then you should do so. It’s your life; live it however you like.

This is simply my anecdotal observation: the older you are, let’s say AARP subscribers and up, the more important it is that you spend a good portion of your training time doing single leg work.  For many of my older clients, even those with relatively strong squats and/or deadlifts, unloaded bodyweight training in the form of lunges and split squats will be quite challenging. 

Don’t mistake this to mean you should drop bilateral. Far from it. Rather, I view the benefits of unilateral training for those trees with a few rings on them to be best suited to hypertrophy and *shudder* “functional” training. As people age their balance gets markedly worse. This can be combated by being stronger. By training these muscles they will get stronger. Stronger muscles = better everything.

Do it.

It’s Simple Mathematics

Want to lose weight? Eat less and/or do more.

Want to gain weight? Eat more and/or do less.

For some reason this simple concept has gotten lost in the quagmire that is training and nutrition media. Everyone wants to focus on the minutia of eating strategies without accepting the reality that, whatever they want to accomplish, it takes nutritional effort to achieve their goals (make no mistake, eating to gain weight can be FAR more work than losing).

That’s not to say that there aren’t useful strategies to assist in gaining or losing weight. Of course there are. However, the key is to focus on the word assist. They can’t be the whole show.

Low carb diets are a great example of this. No one is arguing that they don’t work (at least I’m not…). Keeping insulin, the energy storage hormone, quiet is wonderful when you are trying to lose weight. Shifting into ketosis and, subsequently, into burning fat for energy instead of glucose, is incredible for fat burning. These two things are flashy and sound great but it’s important not to miss the big picture:

People eat less when they go on low carb diets. 

Research has confirmed many times over that people will naturally limit themselves to around 2400 calories per day while going low carb. And that’s at the high end. If they were following a traditional ketogenic diet protocol they would have to eat 186 grams of fat and 180 grams of protein to get 2400 calories.

Think this example disproves my argument because 2400 seems like a lot of calories? Who has the greatest success with low carb diets? Very fat people. If you’re a 5’6″ woman who weighs 250 pounds you didn’t get that way because of you’re eating 1300 calories but respond poorly to insulin. You may very well have  had insulin issues (and probably are diabetic now) but, in the end, you ate too damn much.

Personally, I am a fan of keeping calories as high as possible and increasing my activity to create a deficit and burn fat. I believe this helps keep muscle better than creating a deficit through eating alone. At some point, infallible though I may be, even I need to eat less to burn fat. To gain weight I still like to keep my training load fairly high and elect to simply eat more to make up for it. I will acknowledge that thanks to my metabolism I would be better served training less AND eating more but I like training.

If fat loss is your goal, most people are better served simply eating less than they currently do because, frankly, they are much too lazy to do the other option.

To sum:

Want to lose weight? Eat less and/or do more.

Want to gain weight? Eat more and/or do less.

Huge PR!

I squatted today. Saturday was the last squat session of a three week microcycle in a 9 week mesocycle. It was hard. I was supposed to be deloading until Thursday or Saturday this week but couldn’t wait.

So I squatted.

Just to loosen up.

No expectations.

405 x6…with room to spare.

This was a HUGE rep PR for me. Though I am excited at this PR, I knew that it would happen. All of my training for the last 9 weeks has been geared toward hitting at least 405 x5. This just goes to show the importance of making a smart plan and sticking to it.

Work hard within your realistic abilities and reap the reward.

Training 10/25-10/30

I need to be better about updating this more frequently. It gets absurd with even just a few days of not keeping it current.


  • Bench: bar x20, 140 x6, 170 x6, 185 5×6
  • Overhead Press: bar x10, 95 x6, 135 5×6
  • Upright Rows: 75 4×20

Tired today and cut it at that. Deadlifts and squats tomorrow so I want to keep my energy for that.


  • Squat: 285 4×3, 325 2×3, 365 x3, 405 3×2
  • CAT Squats: 365 4×3
  • Pause Squats: 325 2×6
  • Front Squats: 285 2×6
  • Snatch Grip Stiff Leg Deadlift (from deficit): 135 x8, 185 x8, 225 x8, 275 x6, 315 5×6
  • Chest Supported Rows: 4×10
  • BB Curls: 55 x10, 85 x5, 115 x10


  • Bench: bar x20, 140 x5 170 x4, 195 2×3, 225 6×3
  • DB Bench: 85 x8,8,6,6,6
  • Upright Rows: 125 4×12
  • BNP: 100 3×20
  • Pushdowns x a ton
  • Cable Curls: 90 x10, 130 x8, 170 x8, 80 x 15
  • Pulldowns: 6×20
  • Dips: 100 total


  • Deadlift: up to 455 x4
  • Block Pulls: 500 x1, 540 x3
  • Deadlift: 420 5×3
  • Deficit Dead: 380 x8
  • Squat: bar x20, 205 x5, 270 4×3, 310 x6, 350 x4, 390 5×2
  • CAT Squats: 350 3×4
  • Pause Squat: 310 3×6
  • Front Squat: 270 3×6

I was pretty much done by this point. This is an unusual amount of work/volume but I had to make up for not training Thursday. I was tired by the end, luckily this was the night of our Halloween party so I didn’t have time to think about how tired I was. I made doughnuts for the party and ate my fair share.


  • Bench: bar x20, 140 x8, 155 x7, 170 x6, 185 x5, 195 x4, 210 2×3, 225 2×2, 240 2×1, 225 2×2, 210 2×3, 195 x4, 185 x6, 170 x8, 155 x10, 140 x12


Took the day off.  I was feeling very beat up and needed the rest. I’m glad I took it.