I started this series last year on my birthday and might as well keep it up, as it seems to be an appropriate way to reflect upon shit I've learned in the previous year without any real structure or guide. This year was pretty fucking crazy for me, as it's still odd to think of myself as a powerlifter, nevermind as a world record holding powerlifter. In any event, here are some things I've learned on the road to breakin' fools while their bitches drool.
- You can learn shit from bodybuilders. They're much maligned, and often for good reason, but they're not entirely retarded individuals. One would think I'd have learned this already, what with the fact tht I've cited examples like Marvin Eder and Chuck Sipes in the past, but it wasn't until I really tried to get my bench moving that it occurred to me that bodybuilders are the best proof of my contention that high frequency is critical for steady progress. After all, we've all seen countless "bodybuilders" with massive upper bodies and no legs, and we all know they train the same muscle groups two to four times a week. When I started examining the problems with my bench, it occurred to me that the "bodybuilders", not the strength athletes, are the by far and away the best benchers in any gym. Garrett Griffin's a great example of a current bodybuilder/bencher. If you want a decent bench, you're going to have to train the fuck out of your chest and arms just like the bodybuilders in your gym. If you don't, you're probably going to make an ass of yourself when you hit a meet. That's not to say that I'll be adopting a bodypart split (ever again), but if you've got a lagging bodypart, utilizing the techniques of a bodybuilder who's got that bodypart in spades might not be the worst idea you've ever had. If nothing else, it'll be better than deloading to the bar after getting terrible advice from redditors about your shitbox squat.
- More is generally better. In line with the above, it seems the more frequently I train, and the more frequently I train the powerlifts or permutations thereof, the better I get. At this point, I bottom position squat, jump squat, and partial squat once each per week, bench at least twice a week, and shrug twice a week. I've never been stronger, never looked better, and never felt better just walking around. Thee are pretty few exceptions to the rule that "he who rules does more", and if you look at guys like Platz, Belaev, Young, and Gant, you see that doing more seems to be the way to go. Ronnie Coleman, the most successful bodybuilder of all time, trained 6 days a week for the majority of his adult life, and it paid the fuck off. Bust your ass in the gym and the gods will confer upon you greatness. Skimp and you'll suck harder than a meth-head in an oral gangbang.
You don't get legs like that with a 5x5 program. Did I mention Platz squatted 635 for 8, ass to the floor, and 350 for 52, at a bodyweight of around 212? Again, you can learn shit from bodybuilders.
- Sleep is easily as essential as training and dieting. Every time I hear that my style of training "broke" someone, my response is always to ask how much sleep they got. The answer's always some bullshit about how busy the person is, yadda yadda. If you're not going to sleep, your training is going to suck. plain and simple. There is no fucking way around it. I've blogged about sleep before and how to improve it- get at least eight hours of sleep and make sure it's quality. If you're not going to get eight hours of sleep or more on the regular, accept you're going to suck and shut the fuck up about it already.
Sometimes you have to go that extra mile.
- You're almost never not going to be injured or hurt. This is perhaps the hardest thing for people to accept and understand, but they need to figure out, in a fucking hurry. If you're training hard and heavy with the goal of lifting something awesome, something is always going to hurt. Whether it's your wrists, elbows, knees, hamstring, or even something ridiculous like a serratus muscle, one bodypart or another is always going to be giving you some bullshit. The elite athletes train in spite of or around those injuries. Sometimes they get worse, sometimes they get better, and sometimes they just get supplanted by another recalcitrant bodypart. Any way you cut it, something's always going to be bothering you. Suck it the fuck up and keep going. If it's an intense pain or a chronic pain for weeks, treat it like you would any other injury and rest the are until it the intensity of the pain is markedly diminished or until you're frustrated enough to risk a real injury to train through the pain. Bear in mind that minor injuries often precipitate major ones, however. Before he tore his bicep, Dorian Yates had a shitload of niggling pains in that arm for months. He trained through and tore the ever-loving shit out of his bicep as a result. Thus, it's up to you to decide if you're hurt or injured and either soldier on or take time off.
If you're gonna make an omelette, you're gonna have to break a couple biceps.
- Most of us should overhead press more often. Because big shoulders look awesome and bigger shoulders look awesomer. The bigger my traps and shoulders get, the more insane the comments I get about my physique, when the rest of it's more or less unchanged. Additionally, having a badass overhead press is probably more impressive than anything else. Igor Lakunin, Russian world champion, trains twice a da, for 2 to 4 hours a session, and puts weight overhead at almost every session.
- Bottom position squats are fucking key. I credit these with the ease with which I get out of the hole, no matter what the weight is on the bar. Try them and see- they're brutal, but they're worth it.
- Every single setback you encounter in your life will become a boon if you approach it aggressively and positively. This runs the gamut from work to relationships to lifting, and it's always true. When I've found myself injured in the gym, I altered my technique and training to allow me to continue training hard, and my lifts have always improved as a result. Sitting around moping like Eeyore off his meds is going to result in nothing more than continued failure and misery. If you hit a wall in life, figure out a way to go over or through it without stopping to consider the wall's existence. You can figure out how it got there after you get past it. The important thing it to continue to progress to avoid stalling altogether and then backsliding.
- Getting older sucks subjectively, but is pretty fucking awesome objectively. As you get older, you should get better, not worse. I've personally never looked better, been stronger, fucked harder, or been more erudite and articulate than I am now. There's no reason you should give ground to age. For those of you who bitch when you get out of bed in the morning, you're fucking doing it wrong.
Grab life by the throat and fuck it into submission. Anything less is undignified.