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What’s your weak link?

Frank was a Barbell Man. Of all things one might discern from a glance, this was undeniable. Even the most ignorant 98 pound weakling could see that Frank had spent the majority of his life moving  iron and lifting heavy forks. He was a walking powerhouse that  weighed 260 if he weighed an ounce and had that look of indeterminate age that so many men of his disposition often have. If you had told me he was 30 I wouldn’t have been surprised any more than if you had said 50.

I had seen Frank around the gym since my first day there. It was hard to miss him, he had the kind of size that made it hard to breathe when he walked into a room from the sheer displacement of oxygen. Like most people there, I had never spoken to him because I assumed he was a jerk and probably kind of stupid. After all, his training was so simple. He’d do a few heavy sets of big lifts, usually around 5-8 reps, and leave. If he was really pushing it he’d hit 4-5 sets of 10 or 12 reps of a smaller exercise like curls or lateral raises.

Really, I was intimidated.

My first encounter with Frank happened by mistake. I was trying to Jerry-rig a Glute-ham raise out of the lat pulldown seat. I would fall so fast that I’d have concussed myself on the first rep if my arms hadn’t caught me and pushed off. In the middle of performing this circus act I fell right into Frank as he walked by.

“Whoa, careful big guy,” said Frank as he scooped me up like a feather and placed me on my feet.

“Sorry. Did I hurt you?”

“I think I’ll live. You know that works better if you face the other way.”

“Huh?” I said confused from the daze I was still in from falling into the brink wall that was Frank.

“The lat pulldown. Generally you face the other way and, you know, pulldown.”

“Oh. I was trying to do some Glute-ham raises. This set up isn’t ideal but this stupid gym doesn’t have a proper Glute-ham machine.”

Frank thought on this for a moment. “Well. Get after it.”

I went back to cursing the ill-equipped gym between each grotesque rep of raises while Frank headed to the squat rack. He had been working up and finally reached the weight that seemed to be his top set. It looked to be around 505 for 6 smooth reps. He racked the bar and wiped the beads of perspiration that had formed around his forehead. After a short sit to catch his breath, Frank came back my way.

“What’s that for anyway?”

“The glute-ham raise?” I asked, surprised that he didn’t know. “It’s to strengthen the butt and hamstrings. Probably one of the best movements around for that.”

“That’s not what I meant. The name kind of tells you what it does. I meant why are you doing that?”

“Oh I see. I’m trying to get my deadlift up and my hamstrings are my weak link holding that back. By doing this I can strengthen them and drive my deadlift up without getting over trained by it.”

“Hmm,” said Frank, nodding in thought as he went back to the squat rack and hit a few drop down sets of 8 at 430.

Later on, after I completed many rounds of “core” training, I ran into Frank in the locker room.

“I’m Frank by the way,” he said as he gripped my hand like a vice and shook it.

“Shane. Nice to meet you,” I replied, glad that my initial beliefs about Frank were turning out to be false.

“So you’re hamstrings are weak, huh?”

“Yeah. I think so. If I can get those stronger I know my deadlift will go up. I really want to hit three plates.”

“Three plates? You mean 315?”

“I’m so close. I hit 300 two weeks ago and I know if I can just strengthen my weaknesses I’ll hit 315, finally.”

Frank sat silently looking at his locker with a concerned look. He finished packing his bag and started heading for the door.

“You know, I don’t know much about weak links or Glute-ham raises but it seems to me, if you’re deadlifting 300 your weak link isn’t your hamstrings.”

“It isn’t?” I asked excitedly. This is the moment I had been waiting for. I was about to hear the golden ticket to help get my deadlift moving.

“Nope. At that weight, and I don’t want to sound like a dick, your weak link is that you’re weak. You aren’t strong enough to have a weak link because everything is weak. Anyway. Nice to meet you.” Frank turned and left.

I sat on the bench hunched over in the most defeated hangdog posture imaginable. I mustered myself and managed to finish packing up and leave the gym. For the next few days those words echoed around in my head. “…your weak link is that you’re weak. You aren’t strong enough to have a weak link because everything is weak.”

Quest to 3 Pounds Per Inch – Training Details

The last two posts I went over my new goal of trying to get to 3 pounds per inch of height, 215 pounds, and the dietary guidelines that I have created to reach that goal. This post will be the training program.

It’s nothing fancy. Simple periodization. I’m doing this because, as said in earlier posts, I haven’t given this it’s fair shake and it’s time that I do. This is my second cycle (for the squat anyway) and I added weight the first time around. I also can benefit from the volume since my goal is to add muscular weight.

I train 7 days per week. Why? Because I can and I want to and, frankly, I have no reason not to.

  • DAY 1 – Heavy Squat/Legs/Biceps
  • DAY 2 – Light Bench/Heavy Press/Triceps
  • DAY 3 – Light Deadlift/Back
  • DAY 4 – Light Squat/Legs/Biceps
  • DAY 5 – Heavy Bench/Light Press/Triceps
  • DAY 6 – Heavy Deadlift/Back
  • DAY 7 – Extra shoulder and triceps volume work work

The periodized cycle, which I am currently 4 weeks into, looks like this

Start each heavy day with an over-warm up 5,4,3,2,1,1,1 approach with the singles starting at around 85% and not going above 93-95% of current max.

SQUAT and DEADLIFT:

  1. 60 x8 then 3×10 @85% of top weight
  2. 65 x8 then 3×10 @85% of top weight
  3. 70 x5 then 3×8 @85% of top weight
  4. 75 x5 then 3×8 @85% of top weight
  5. 80 x5 then 3×8 @85% of top weight
  6. 85 x5 then 3×5 @85% of top weight
  7. 90 x3-5 then 3×5 @85% of top weight
  8. 95 x2-3 then 3×5 @85% of top weight
  9. Max Test

BENCH

Same percentages but 3 sets at the top weight. Same back off sets/reps.

This is pretty basic stuff and I’m far from reinventing the wheel here. The twist that I add to this is on the top set. I look at those listed reps as a minimum at that percent. So for the top set, or the first of the three top sets for bench, I go for a rep maximum, stopping shy of failure. Generally my goal is 1.5 to 2 times the amount of original reps. On “light days” I only do the minimum reps. If I am having a shitty day I only make sure I get the minimum reps and call it good.

My accessory work will vary somewhat but for bench I will do close grip and illegal wide grip bench, both for 3 sets of the weight and reps listed for back off work. Squats are the back off sets but with pauses. Heavy deadlifts  are the back offs from a platform.

Really you can see a lot of similarities with 5/3/1, LRB and Purposeful Primitive. I’m not ashamed to say that all three of these things were a big influence.

In addition to this I am conduction a little experiment and turning myself into something of a modern day Milo of Croton. Instead of a bull I am wearing a weight vest all day every day. At the moment it weighs 35 pounds. So far I can say that my traps are a bit tired, my feet hurt, food is not satiating and I fall asleep much faster than normal, much to my wife’s chagrin.

Another (bad?) Analogy

My sister is getting married in T-Minus 6 days and all of the craziness that will be this week started yesterday with my soon-to-be-brother-in-law’s bachelor party.

Before you go and picture some crazy Hangover 3 I should say that there wasn’t really any drinking involved. We were on the bay fishing from a boat (which is serious business if you don’t know) but I do have a slight hungover feeling. It’s a simple formula: 12 hours on a boat + sun + water = Shane red in the face…literally.

Part of my list of preparations for the wedding is to paint the living room. This will make the hordes of friends and family that will be traveling from afar and stopping by our place believe that we (by ‘we’ I mean Pim and myself) live in a fancy and classy apartment instead of one where we watch hoarders and tell ourselves at least we aren’t those people.

Before I can paint, however, I have to TSP the walls to remove the gloss from the previous paint job, thus allowing the new paint to adhere better. Now this step might seem tedious but the results it produces are highly superior to not doing it.
I consider the TSP part of the project to be the basic (and essential) first step in the painting process.

This is where the analogy comes in. Just like the painting, many people skip this first step when they tackle their fitness goals and go straight for the showy stuff before they are prepared for it.

If you can’t do one full proper push up do you think you have any place doing a bench press?

Maybe you’ve never worked out a day in your life but you decide to start without hiring a trainer or getting a knowledgeable friend to show you the ropes. Do you think going to the gym, with your copy of Muscle and Fitness’ latest pro-maker routine in hand, is a reasonable thing to do? I mean, how hard can the exercises they list really be and they show pictures if you’re confused. It’s like swimming. You may not know how to swim but you watched Michael Phelps win the Olympics so why not just jump in?

Take the time to do the necessary stuff first. It may not be flashy but it will make the showy stuff better.

Traffic Jams

This is my hell

I had the pleasure of spending a the Memorial Day weekend down in southern California visiting friends and family. It was tons of fun and I spent most of Saturday with my fiance banging out the details with our “wedding planner” (I put this in quotes because she isn’t really a wedding planner. She’s just the nicest person you will ever meet and is letting us use her beautiful house for the wedding) for our upcoming nuptials in August.

Good times were had by all…until the drive home. Generally when we go down to so-cal we drive; it’s a lot cheaper for two people than flying and the way I drive I can easily bang it out in 5 hours. As much as sitting in the car for 5 hours sucks, I can generally handle it pretty well. The home, however, took ten and a half hours! That’s 10.5 hours. Excruciating.

We sat in 5 hours of traffic that, if moving at all, was less than 10 miles per hour. Luckily I did get some benefit from sitting there trying my hardest not to go all D-Fens Foster on the world.

 

F***ing merge!!

The cause of this traffic was that the left lane of the I-5 freeway was closed some 10 miles ahead. That’s how much notice they gave us. 10 miles. Apparently that isn’t enough for many people. Whereas I promptly got over at the first opportunity, many of the drivers decided to wait until the very last second, 5 miles down the road, when there was no choice but to merge.

I understand the thought process of the people who wait until the last second. They think that they will fly by all of the other traffic and just jump in at the end. The problem is it doesn’t work like that. Instead, you just get 2 lanes a cars backed up for 20 miles or more and moving at a snails pace. Despite this, people still wait until the very last second to merge. They may get to the end a little faster than me (maybe 4 or 5 cars which, we all know, really makes the difference) because I didn’t wait to get over. Great for them but they really are missing the big picture. What should have been a minor slow down became miles and miles of stopped traffic so, even though they got ahead of me, they still sat in traffic for 4 hours!

I know this has been a (very) long analogy but I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned. What you think might be a short cut could actually be you slowing you down. You may think that freebasing fat burners in the bathroom at work all day is going to make you ripped but it won’t make up for the 3 nights a week that they go out and have 5 beers with nachos. You can take every supplement and/or steroid under the sun but you won’t get to jacked city if you’re lifting like a grandma.


You can train like this grandma

Do the things your supposed to do. Do them right and you will get there faster than if you try to cheat around them.

 

Lift something heavy

Heavy

At the risk of sounding like a bro-trainer, I wish people would just shut up and lift something heavy. I’ll be the first to acknowledge the importance of science when it comes to optimal training results but way too many people take it too far. They are overly concerned with relatively unimportant things. To put it another way, they are majoring in the minor stuff.

My advice to these people and everyone else: Stop being a pussy.

You’re not going to over train by lifting 5 days a week. All of the muscle on your body isn’t going to melt away if you don’t have a post workout shake consisting of the perfect ratio of fast digesting carbs to protein within 15 minutes of lifting. You can lift twice a day. You can do an insane amount of volume if that’s what you want. In the end, none of it matters as much as just doing the damn thing.

The human body is an amazing piece of machinery. It can handle a lot more than we think it can but, if you keep being a pussy, how will you ever know what you are capable of? This last fall I did a program that had me deadlifting 3 days per week (above 80% each time) for a pretty high volume each session. I did this in the morning and did my usual lifts in the afternoon. Was it hard? Damn right it was. But I didn’t die, I didn’t over train and, lo and behold, I put 25 pounds on my deadlift in 6 weeks. I’ll take that any day of the week.

Even this kid knows how to get a good workout

Maybe some of the things you want to try won’t work. Maybe it will be too much for your body. Fine. Take a deload and try again. You’ll be stronger than ever. Maybe you think you just don’t have time to get to the gym. Think again. Fill a duffel bag with some dirt and lift it in as many different ways as you can think of. Pick up a big rock. Push your car.

Losers and pussies always make excuses or put off until the future. Winners figure out a way to make it happen.

It’s Your Fault

This Just In: It's your fault

There is a growing trend in the mainstream media lately that I find very disturbing. I’m sure you’ve seen it too; in the newspaper, on TV, billboards and magazine ads. If you’ve been living under a rock in blissful ignorance for the past year or so, allow me to fill you in.

Bad genetics, it seems, are everywhere and spreading like the plague. At least, that’s becoming the all too common belief among Americas. Here’s a little hard truth for you:

IT’S YOUR FAULT!

That’s right. It’s your fault, not your genetics. Not your mom. Not your dad. Not your ancestors. Just you (unless you’re ugly. That is genetics. Blame your parents and become a comedian).

Do genetics play a role in our bodies functions like metabolism? Of course, I’m not for a moment saying that is doesn’t. What it doesn’t do, unless you’re one of the .1 percent of the population with a true genetic disorder (you’re not), is make you the size of a Sumo wrestler.

This kids genetics REFUSE to let him stop eating Tim's Cascade Chips

Now, genetics can predispose you to being overweight and storing fat in unsightly areas like the stomach or, on the flip side, make it hard to gain weight/put on muscle. All that means is you will have to work harder than other people. Welcome to life, it’s not always easy.

Overweight? Eat less, eat better, exercise more and get at least 7 hours of sleep. Underweight and just can’t seem to put on any muscle? Eat. More than you do now. Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.

To sum:

  • Exercise more
  • Make better food choices
  • Eat less (or more if you are trying to gain weight)
  • Exercise more

Simple formula. If you follow it, you just might be surprised at just how good your “bad” genetics really are.