Welcome to my first article of the new year, as well as my latest history lesson! Today we will be discussing the one and only Bill Kazmaier. There’s so man y aspects of Bill that I can get into, because that fact of the matter is he’s done it all. Anything you can think of to make a name for yourself using your body, he’s done it. Here’s a brief resume of the man:
Top ranking Powerlifter within his first year in the Amateur Athletic Commision (AAU) in 1978, with 782lb squat, a 534lb bench press, and 804lb deadlift. He won his first IPF World Championship a year later with a total of 2,292lbs. He won his second IPF Championship in November 1983, just months after winning his first United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) National Powerlifting Championship in July.
World’s Strongest Man competitor, who won third place at the 1979 World’s Strongest Man competition by deadlifting a 2,555lb car. In the next three years he won first place three years in a row, a record that still has yet to be broken. HIs 1982 win came along with a 1,055lb Silver Dollar Deadlift.
Pro Wrestler, having worked over the years in the WWF, Stampede Wrestling, Continental Championship Wrestling and WCW, where he received his biggest exposure. He also wrestling briefly in New Japan Pro Wrestling and Fighting Network Rings.
That’s just the short list, meaning I left some things out as to not lose focus on what I really want to cover. While Bill undoubtedly spent most of his sports career as a Strongman competitor, he is considered to be one of the best benchers of all time, benching 633lbs in the 1980 IPF World Championships with an injury brought on from missing a 887lb Squat attempt. He then went on to bench 661.4lbs at the USPF West Georgia Open Powerlifting Championships on January 31, 1981.
One of the reasons I chose to focus on Bill’s Bench training, as someone who’s always trying to increase his own bench numbers, is because he had such a massive, barrel shaped chest, and the fact is he was freakishly strong. But what intrigued me, though it wasn’t too surprising, was how incredibly high in volume his routine actually was. It was very similar to that of Doug Young’s, of which I covered just a few months ago.
I had recently become interested in a more high volume approach to my own workouts as my body finally had enough of training in 5/3/1 style for two years straight and had just begun using Brandon Lilly’s Cube Method. In the middle of my research I found a manual written by Bill, which I’ll leave the link to at the bottom of this article, discussing everything from technique, to mindset, to how to train specifically to improve your bench numbers. Here’s a brief run through on some details:
The frequency here is medium, in that in this four day routine two days are set up just to work on the Bench Press, and the other two days focusing on the rest of the upper body. Frequency especially when it comes to training is very necessary. The chest is not as big as the legs and back are, and should be worked on more than the other muscles.
The routine is very high in volume. With two days specifically aimed at bench work and it’s variations, and two days focused on the upper body, it’s important to know that both aspects of this routine have a set light day and heavy day, which is important. You can use the heavy days to focus on strength, and the light days to focus on endurance and muscle building. Each day also consists of five exercises, with the number of sets and reps varying depending on if it’s a heavy or light day.
As someone who only now is understanding the importance of extra stimulation for particular muscles, especially if you’ve hit a plateau, this approach is great for training the muscles in one direction while letting them recover from another direction. So you’d train for strength one day, and then you’d train for hypertrophy a few days later. It’s also a great way to train weak points you may have in the Bench Press itself. This is exactly what Brandon Lilly stresses in the Cube Method.
Speaking of Brandon Lilly, the key to improvement in any big lift, as any proven professional will tell you, you need to chose your accessory work to be specific to the move itself. It should emulate your chosen lift as much as possible. One key example that I will use here is the way Lat Pulldowns are addressed in this manual. Unlike a traditional Lat Pulldown, where you’d pull the bar to the top of your chest while sitting as straight as you can and looking up, you’d now lean back as much as you can and pull the bar down to the bottom of your chest, as if you’re pulling the bar down in a bench press. The idea is to squeeze the lats, emulating the descent in the first portion of the Bench Press. I actually first heard of this just a few months ago through Brandon, causing me to suspect that he might’ve taken inspiration from Bill.
Here are the two days set up for Bench Press and for upper body/accessory work:
Competition style Bench Press
Wide Grip Bench Press
Narrow Grip Bench Press
Front Deltoid Raise
Lying Tricep Extention (perform two warmups before main work)
Seated Hammer Curl
Wide Grip Pulldowns To The Chest
Here’s the entire program, lasting 10 weeks, in which you can either perform a mock meet to test your max or you’ll perform in an actual meet. This too is also a goal in the Cube Method, as that program too lasts just ten weeks. Make sure to follow me on YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr. Thanks for reading!
Welcome to my first of what will hopefully be many nutrition based articles! If you’d rather watch instead of read, you can by clicking here:
If you’re reading this then chances are you’re looking for extra size and strength. There’s also a chance that some of you might not be taking in enough calories in the day for that to happen. In order to be able to train in a manner so efficient that you can increase your strength you must be in a caloric surplus. In simply terms, a caloric surplus, is when eating more calories than you burn. A good example given by StraightHealth.com, is if you’ve eaten 3,000 calories and burned 2,500 calories, then you created a surplus or excess of an extra 500. And depending on your lifestyle those extra 500 calories will either be used as energy to build more muscle or it’ll simply be stored as fat. The link to the article can be found below.
But there’s an issue for those of us who work the kind of jobs where it may be impossible to eat small meals every few hours. If you’re like me an you work in the education system, there’s no time to eat in a way that’s taught to us by just about everyone and everything in the fitness industry. For me personally, I literally have a good five hour gap between the start of my work day and my lunch break; and if I don’t take enough calories I will get hungry before the third hour. And yes, in my line of work, this makes it very difficult to function in such a high stress environment.
So here’s a recipe I began using at the start of the school year this past September. I found it over the summer while doing research for my Doug Young piece. The following ingredients have more than enough calories, protein, carbs and fat to help get you through a good portion of your day:
1 cup of oatmeal
1 scoop of chocolate protein powder of your choice
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 large banana
1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
1 heaping spoonful of nonfat Greek yogurt
1 cup of blueberries
1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
Note: If you don’t have or want to use chocolate protein powder, you can use vanilla protein powder and add a little raw honey into your shake for a deceptively sweet taste.
Poor the oatmeal into the blender and blend separately before adding any other ingredients. When adding the other ingredient, simply make sure you add the milk first so it can pass through the ground up oatmeal. I prefer to add the yogurt after this due to it’s thickness, since I find that if I add it last it makes closing the lid on my Ninja blender a pain. I will say this however, if you happen to get the texture just right, it’s almost like eating chocolate pudding….and I love pudding.
Here’s the tally up for the calories and macronutrients. Just note when you look at the nutritional facts for the milk that I drink Almond Milk since I’m lactose intolerant. Therefore the protein count will be less than in cow milk:
As you can see, this is a calorically dense shake that should last you a few hours if happen to not have lots of time to eat during the day. I also happen to eat a bagel with this, which adds an extra 288 calories alone, as well as an extra 10.3 grams of protein, 1.8 grams of fat and 58 grams of carbs.
About thirty people, maybe a little more, showed up in a torrential downpour on a Sunday morning to meet Powerlifter and Cube Method innovator Brandon Lilly at Savage City Strength in Hillsborough, NJ. All I can say was it was absolutely worth it. He covered a lot of ground, from lifting technique, to his updated views on particular Cube Method philosophies, the importance of training diversity, and even offered a book recommendation or two. But the single most important notion than Brandon stressed throughout the seminar, was that no matter what anyone tells you, it’s important to live a life outside of the gym. It’s something that was stressed by Brawn author Stuart McRobert more than twenty-five years ago. It’s ok to love something, but every one in a while you’re going to want to take some time to look at the world around you, especially if you have a family.
A Thoughtful Approach To Powerlifting
The title of this segment was actually his name for this seminar. As I said before, he covered a lot of ground and answered a lot of questions. I made three videos that are on my YouTube page now and here’s the link to that particular playlist:
As far as his words of wisdom are concerned, here are a few highlights from this seminar:
Don’t allow yourself to become specialized or obsolete
Don’t dismiss things that’ll make you better
Hydration is key, as is breathing
Cold therapy is beneficial for mental capacity
According to a recent Swedish study, a 2% drop in hydration can cause a 5 – 10% decrease in endurance as seen in runners
Sodium is key to optimal muscle contractions – this is based on a Stan Efferding video everyone and their mother has to have seen by now. Here’s the video if you haven’t:
Sleep is important for recovery
Dedication is everything – how you perform will determine how successful you are.
10 week mock meet cycles are recommended for novice lifters; they also should compete twice a year.
Constant use of one training method can lead to a decrease in results – this is actually quite true. There’s nothing wrong with training a specific program for a while, as it’s more effective than changing things up constantly to “confuse the muscles” into growing. But if you’re body’s tooo used to a particular protocol you will stagnate. I’m actually contemplating change my routine around as I’m writing this and for the same reasons.
Tribe by Sebastian Junger is an excellent book depicting the difference between the “look after number one” philosophy of most Americans and the community environment of other countries, using soldiers returning from war and struggling with multiple sources a stress as the book’s backdrop.
After a ten minute break he began observing our form on the three main lifts. My request for Brandon was to help me with my Bench Press arch, as I noticed that my ride side will stay nice and tight, while my left side loosens up. “Let me ask you this: how much rear delt work are you doing?”, he asked me without skipping a beat. Unfortunately the answer was nothing in over a year. Much like Jim Wendler, Brandon is a major advocate of training your rear delts and your lats not just during your workouts, but even during your warmups, as they decrease the chances of muscle imbalances and even increase performance in the big lifts.
For example: Gregg Valentino mentioned in a video years ago that he always starts his shoulder workouts with training rear delts, because not warming them up can greatly increase the chances of tearing a rotator cuff during pressing movements. Even Brandon told a story before looking at my form about the time he trained shoulders with bodybuilder Antoine Vaillant. They began the workout with Rear Delt Flyes, with Brandon only being able to keep up with Antoine up until he hit the 90lb point on the weight stack. Before moving on, Antoine told Brandon that it was how he started every workout.
Unfortunately I experienced another problem. While arched and waiting for Brandon to give me the cue to begin, both my forearms began to numb up. Once I began he noticed that, while my arch was fine, my left arm wasn’t as stable as my right, yet everything was fine when I benched with a flat back. He then recommend that, aside from working on my rear delts, I should stay away from a barbell for ten weeks. That might be hard! After the seminar ended, I spoke to Brandon, letting him know about the numbness in my arms and his suggestion was that it might be a pinched nerve. I actually think he’s right, as I’ve noticed my left arm going numb every night in my sleep.
This was the first of what I hope will be many more seminars to come. I love the sense of community that I felt during this. It was incredible, we were all there together, with one cause. That is what it’s like to be United In Strength!
Thanks for reading and please make to look out for more articles soon!
Thanks for dropping by! Here’s the video to go with this if you’d rather watch than read:
Originally released in 2014, The Crossfit TR Lite shoe was a joint project between powerlifter and Super Training Gym mogul Mark Bell, and Reebok. The idea of this new shoe was essentially to allow your feet more room for full use during lifts, whereas a shoe like the Chuck Taylor, which I wrote about in my last article, can tend to be a little to narrow for some lifters. If you’re pushing hard in your main compound lifts and are performing them correctly, you’re pushing down against the floor with your whole foot. Most lifters call this “splitting the ground”, or “pressing the ground away”. In essence, the Reebok Crossfit TR Lite was the first ever shoe made strictly for Powerlifting.
The pictures you’ll be seeing as I go over the specs are of my own pair of TR Lites. I bought them two years ago and I still use them today. Just remember something when buying shoes just for training; if you just use them for that your shoes can last a long time and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth regardless of the price. The shoes themselves are made of a very thin leather, with cotton inside. But there is leather. The tongue is made of mesh, which is very beneficial for ventilation, since this isn’t a shoes made out of canvas.
What you’re seeing here is a hi top shoe but I’m sure there were low tops available. But what you would wear clearly had to be of personal preference. I felt like the hi tops gave me more ankle support which I needed since I’m already flat footed. As you can see in the photo above, the toe area of the shoe is a little wide. It was the most important aspect of the shoe in terms of allowing the lifter to use his/her whole foot because you now had room to use to engage your toes. The one caveat to this would be that most lifters would find their standard shoe size to be too loose for their feet. Reebok even suggested on their own website that buyers would benefit from buying at least half a shoe size lower than they’re accustomed to. My general shoe size is 10.5, so therefore I ordered these in just a 10 and they fit me perfectly.
The sole is flat, much like Chucks. This perfect for Deadlifting, of course. Although, there is absolutely no reason why you couldn’t use these for any of the other lifts. In terms of squatting, not everyone prefers raised heel shoes, such as the Adidas Powerlifts. But again this is just preference. But the single most important component of the shoe, as seen above, is the sole itself. It’s a carbon rubber heel with “teeth”, designed to provide traction on the ground. Stable feet make for a safer lift. My former gym has a power rack with a diamond plated platform and my feet would slip a bit while preparing to Squat. Squatting in that rack with my Crossfit TR Lites made all the difference, as I noticed my feet were barely moving around at all, staying exactly where I placed them before I even unracked the bar to start.
What’s In A Name?
This right here is a very important question to ask in terms of business and marketing. Imagine for a moment that, as you’re about to release the next best thing, you and your marketing team are trying to figure out a name. You have to ask yourself if that name will resonate with the general public, or at least with your target audience. Unfortunately, appearances are everything too, especially with clothing, and especially with color. You need to have an appearance, especially with your target audience, that will appeal to everyone. So what happened to the Reebok Crossfit TR Lite and why was production stopped?
I think I’ll start with color schemes.
Now granted, some of the shoes shown here might be women’s shoes and that’s okay. But I personally am not a fan of bright colors. Some might be but there probably aren’t that many. Yes, the Crossfit TR Lite was in the first ever shoe made just for Powerlifters; but the colors schemes fit more along the lines of pricey basketball shoes. Jordans come to mind. Also, guys who would claim to be “a man’s man!”, would probably prefers a bigger selection of solid colors. The color of the pair I own is actually the shoe’s primary color, the color you’d see in the ads for it. But I have to be honest, if that color wasn’t available when I ordered it on Amazon, I don’t know if I would’ve given the other colors a chance. I myself prefer not just solid colors, but dark colors. I like black and most shades of blue, but nothing bright. Call me boring – I might agree!
This leads to the last reason this might failed. And the reason can be seem on the tongue of the shoe itself:
Unless you’re someone like me, who understood enough about the benefits of the shoe to ignore the name, you probably didn’t want to touch this with a ten foot pole. I clearly remember reading articles in Mark Bell’s Power Magazine, in which he referred to his own shoe as the “Power Shoe” as opposed to it’s branded name. In a case of Bad Marketing 101, Reebok decided to call it a Crossfit shoe. I can see the vision they were going for from a business sense. Reebok knew that Crossfit is in fact far more popular than Powerlifting, which even now is still somewhat considered a fringe sport; and as it stands, Reebok also sponsors the Crossfit Games every year.
It might’ve sounded good on paper, but let’s be real for a moment. First off, once Crossfit athletes found out what the shoe was really meant for they probably felt like it wouldn’t properly serve their needs. And, to be honest, most Powerlifters absolutely hate Crossfit. Unless they were someone like me, who read enough information about the Crossfit TR Lite to ignore the name and give the shoe a chance, they probably thumbed their noses at the idea of wearing any shoe with the word Crossfit on it. All of this brings me back to my original point of what exactly is in a name. Everything. I just had this discussion with my girlfriend, by the way. Putting the Crossfit label might’ve sounded like a great mainstream move on paper, but the brass at Reebok either were too out of touch to understand that the two cultures can’t seem to mesh at the moment, or they just refused to listen to Mark Bell’s input.
If you’d rather watch than read now you can! If not then proceed below.
Welcome to my first product review! Here I’ll discuss particular strength training oriented equipment that I’ve used in the past or even now. I’ll also include a brief backstory into the product in question as well as my personal opinion. Just remember that one guy’s opinion is not the end all be all and only you can truly judge for yourself.
With that out of the way we’re going to start things off with an all time classic, the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars. If you’re reading this right now, your age being irrelevant, you’ve seen these in your nearby Foot Locker. But instead of buying such a vintage looking shoe you instead bought the more expensive and way cooler looking Nike. I’m totally guilty of this as well. But what I didn’t know as a kid was that those vintage looking Converses were originally designed for Basketball use.
Created in 1901, the originally named Converse All-Star was one of the first shoes in the market specifically for Basketball, which was still it’s infancy as it was. Chuck Taylor, a high school Basketball player from Indiana began wearing them. Six years later he not only began working for Converse as a salesman, he also used his experience from wearing the All-Stars on the court to suggest to his bosses that changes be made to provide better functionally, including more flexibility and support, as well as a patch to support the ankle, hence the design you see today. The All-Star logo was added to the patch and not even decade later, Chuck’s name was added to the patch in his honor, thus renaming the shoe the Chuck Taylor All-Star.
So, with all of that being said, why use Basketball specific shoes to lift?
Here are two different views of a Chuck Taylor. As you can see the most important aspect about it is the sole is essentially flat. It may seem like nothing important at first. But upon reading up on them on Stronglifts I realized something as I had begun to take my lifting technique more seriously in late 2009: in order to properly perform most major, multi-joint moves – especially the Squat and Deadlift – you must be flat on the ground and you must remain stable. Perform those two moves alone in any cross trainer sneaker with a cushy sole and you will tip forward, which could be very disasterous if you’re someone who squats 315 or more.
As I’m writing this I actually remember the first time I saw a powerlifter wearing a pair of Chucks during my time in Bally Total Fitness. I actually spotted him as he squatted 405 and I took note how perfectly stable and solid he remained throughout the lift, not wobbling once. So what else makes Chucks so convenient? Unlike most gyms of yesteryear, you won’t come across many gyms today that’ll let you train barefoot and it’s easy to see why. Therefore, with a pair of Chucks, you can easily emulate the experience of training barefoot yet still having a layer of protection. You now are able to use your whole foot to push against the ground. There’s one more really important thing to understand about Chucks: they’re dirt cheap.
Here’s a photo of former Mr. Universe Ken Waller squatting barefoot.
I bought my first and only pair of Chuck’s in January 2010 – for just $50! – after having not trained in about three months. As I performed my first set of squats with just the bar for ten reps I felt different, not because I was away for a bit, but because I finally had traction. Only problem now was that I realized how weak I really was. It was while in Chucks that I first started to get real strength gains, finally being forced to use my whole body to stabilize myself. It was with Chucks that I first deadlifted more than 200lbs. I used the same Chucks for over five years until I purchased my current training shoes.
Like any product, even the Chuck Taylor All-Stars have a drawback or two, however.
As seen above, Chucks are pretty narrow, which can prove uncomfortable for anyone with wide feet. It’s a bit tight against my toes, which made it frustrating during my squat sessions. Also, at least accodoring to Stronglifts founder Medhi Hadim, “But the sole is made of rubber so it compresses a little.” But it’s nothing to worry about.
It’s often said that you get what you pay for, and let me tell you; for just $50 at most you’re getting a very simple, yet extremely versatile and effective training shoe that could last you years, so long as you take care of them. I recommend this shoe particularly for beginner and intermediate lifters, although even more advanced lifters surely can use them too if they want.
Welcome to the first of what I hope to be many articles on some of my favorite strength related athletes. But not only will I obviously speak of their accomplishments, but I will also add some insight into aspects of their training routines that were crucial to their success and how it might even benefit you and your goals.
The subject of today’s article is none other than the Lone Star State’s own Doug Young. By the time I discovered the late Doug Young in the spring of 2009, I had already begun research into the type of training that wound up steering my interests away from Bodybuilding and more into Powerlifting. So since I just happened to be online I just type in “powerlifting” on YouTube and I found clips of the 1977 IPF World Championships held Perth, Australia and televised on NBC Sports with commentary by Powerlifting coach Terry Todd and a very young Bryant Gumbel.
Doug Young didn’t come to the platform for his first lift until about the 1:30 mark in the video. He’d apparently already accomplished a lot in a span of a few years, having won 1st place for Team USA the last two years in a row with respective totals of 2,000 and 2,005. But the big story here was that as this big behemoth with this intense, intimidating look on his face approached the Squat rack, he’d apparently dropped thirty pounds in just seven days in order to make the 242lb weight class. You have to think about the major possibility of strength loss with something that dangerous. He began growling to psyche himself up and to hear it was to believe it because that growl was frightening! He successfully hit a 699lb Squat attempt before bending over in pain. He had broken three ribs.
He had miraculously gone on to actually win first place again with a 545lb Bench Press and a 710lb Deadlift, even after fainting from the pain twice. However, what intrigued me about Doug Young, equally as much as the fact that he apparently was a man’s man, was what I heard him say in an interview about his training. He mentioned that in between Powerlifting training days he actually performed Bodybuilding style training, saying that he thought it was just as important to look “pretty” as it was to be strong. What he was talking about is known today as Power Bodybuilding, or Powerbuilding for short. Power Bodybuilding, in essence, is overloading a targeted major muscle (ex:chest, legs, back, etc.) with heavy weights, low rep ranges and relatively long rest periods, breaking down the Type 1 (fast twitch) muscle fibers to strengthen it, and then with light weights, high rep ranges and shorter rest periods to stimulate growth by breaking down the Type 2 (slow twitch) muscle fibers.
Doug’s Chest Training
According to Starting Strength author Mark Rippetoe, Doug Young was more known for his Bench Press throughout his lifting career, having Benched 612lbs in 1978 with just a t-shirt on, in the 275lbs weight class, making him the first person under 300lbs bodyweight to hit that kind of number. Doug’s training, as evidenced by the NBC Sports interview segments, were very high volume, which is more akin to Bodybuilding, as alluded to earlier. In short he started his routine with Bench Press, warming up with singles until he made his targeted weight for two sets of singles, followed by two high rep dropsets. After that he’d go on to perform multiple isolation moves for the shoulders, triceps and lats such as Front Delt Raises, Lat Pulldowns, Cable Flyes, Tricep Press and even One Arm Concentration Curls for up to six sets of six reps. Very high volume.
He used a routine containing all these moves to increase his Bench Press by 235lbs within an eight month period. The big key to this kind of routine was that Doug performed this three times a week, only Squatting every tenth day and Deadlifting every fifteenth day.
Looking back, I feel like Power Bodybuilding is slowly becoming more prevalent today, with Powerlifters such as Dan Green who not only are strong, but undoubtedly look the part with physiques that look more aesthetic than almost any competitive Bodybuilder not named Dexter Jackson! I think programs such as Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 are also a major part of this movement, with multiple low and high rep ranges per muscle group to stimulate growth, strengthen the muscle, as well as even condition the body because now more and more athletes and lifters are finally aware that strength and even conditioning go hand in hand when it comes to staying in shape. Big muscles, strong muscles, and little fat.
Here’s Doug Young’s 699lb Squat from the IPF World Championships:
Hardcore gyms. Things such as the internet, YouTube, and other forms of social media are known to get lots of flack, sometimes for very good reasons. Heck, before I made the decision to become a personal trainer I had shunned social media alone for more than two years! But upon my return to it, along with the start of my Instagram account, I remembered just how easy it was to search for non-commercial, no nonsense, serious gyms run by and for serious lifters who actually want to be strong and even work as hard as it takes to get there. That’s the problem with hardcore gyms; it’s not that they just don’t exist anymore, you just have to dig deep to find them.
It was around the beginning this year that I was first contacted by Savage City Strength, if memory serves me correct. I received a comment on one of my pictures and I was told this new gym was opening up soon and I should come see it. Based on the pictures I saw at that time I was able to see three squat racks and a squat stand under construction. I looked forward to seeing how things progressed based on that alone.
Over time I saw through Instagram all the gear that came in as the gym opened up, including atlas stones, tires for flipping, kegs, as well as several videos of some really strong deadlifts. Just a few weeks ago I knew I desperately needed help with my deadlift form so I contacted Shawn, the owner of Savage City Strength, and I finally made the near hour drive to Hillsborough this past Monday for help, as well as to take a tour.
Upon walking in I finally saw exactly just how much work Shawn put in to the gym.
Walking in I not only saw powerlifting related equipment; I came across a 350lb tire, various kegs and even a sledgehammer for all of your Strongman and conditioning needs. For those of you unaware, what you see in the bottom picture is a yoke. You place either your traps or your scapula under the top bar as if you were preparing to perform a squat, lift it up as if you were lifting a bar off a rack, a walk with it. This is a staple of Strongman competitions as well as a great option for conditioning work.
What you see on the top right is called a Reverse Hyper Extension. Invented decades ago by Westside Barbell’s own Louie Simmons, he created it as a therapeutic means of opening up the muscles in the lower back after an injury he sustained. It has since become a staple for most powerlifters alone, as a means of active recovery and can pretty much be found in most specialty gyms. The top part of the station is bigger than it looks, since you rest your entire upper body on it and hold on to the handles. I look forward to the day I can finally pull off Tire Deadlifts. In fact I’ve made a few sketches inspired by the main picture to this site and the plates on the bar are usually replaced by two monster truck size tires per side. Benni Magnusson style!
Also, available for members is an in-house Brazilian Jujitsu dojo, run by Mike Lazarte who also makes a cameo in my video. One things that was brought up, that most of the general public no longer seems to understand is that strength and sports skills actually go hand in hand. In sports, especially one that involves fighting, the overall goal is longevity. If you don’t take care of your body in the right way to maintain your strength, your shelf life will most likely be about five years before you’re forced to give it up because of an injury that could’ve been avoided.
In our conversation, which I’ll leave the link to at the end of this, Shawn and I spoke about a lot a things before working on my Sumo Deadlift, including his love of all things strength sports, having competed in five Strongman competitions, a few Powerlifting meets and revealed to me his intentions to competed in the Highland Games next year. He calls himself a “strength enthusiast”, and it’s easy to see. He has used the gym a base to hold multiple Strongman events for charity over the last few months, including one for the Wounded Warriors Project. The gym will also host the Strongman Summer Blowout on August 27th, with the proceeds going to benefit the Special Olympics.
Upon beginning my workout Shawn told me that the main problem he saw in the video I tagged him in was that I wasn’t sitting low enough, which actually might explain why my hip flexors were in so much pain afterwards. So we started off light, with reps of 5, then to triples, then to singles, until I completely burned out at 365lbs for a single. Very disappointing, being that the goal was to get me into the 400’s. The next move was to lower the weight to 200lbs and Shawn placed 60lb resistance bands on both sides of the platform to work on my explosiveness and hip mobility. This assistance work that followed was 3 sets of 40lb Kettlebell Swings for ten reps, which were surprisingly easy for me.
The Sumo Deadlift workout:
135lbs – 1 x 5
185lbs – 1 x 5
225lbs – 1 x 3
275lbs – 1 x 3
315lbs – 1 x 3
335lbs – single
365lbs – a failed attempt, followed by a single, followed by one last failed attempt
200lbs + resistance bands – ten singles
40bs – 3 x 10, 10, 10
The Swings will most likely replaced Hanging Knee Raises as my assistance exercise from here on in.
Savage City Strength is everything you’d want in a serious, hardcore gym. It caters to all serious styles of strength related sports, holds enough diversity to branch outside and introduce the community to a fantastic, cerebral style of self defense. If you live anywhere in Central Jersey, and want all of this, run by someone with a passion and understanding of what we stand for, and all at an alarmingly low price, do yourself a favor and visit Savage City Strength today.
Hey there! Been a short while since I last wrote in here, work got in the way. But now that I’m free for the next two months I hope to get a few more of these in. So lately I’ve been reflecting on my journey from novice wannabe bodybuilder to wanting to be as big as possible to becoming a budding competitive powerlifter. There were so many bumps in the road, and fourteen years is a long time to get anything right, especially when you are your own worst enemy. I’ve been thinking lately about what I’ve done wrong and how I could’ve done things differently to get to where I am now even sooner. So here before you are a few things I wish I knew so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
3. Listen To Your Body
This is a bit of a hard one because some of you out there reading this might not know what to look for and most problems are bound to vary based on the person. That being said, this goes out to those with undiagnosed conditions or those that are new to training. Regardless of the goals of you, the reader, there is a major difference between an amateur just starting out and a professional. The professional knows his body. The professional has taken the time over a good amount of years figured out what exercises, how many sets and rep schemes work for him. He’s also taken the time if he’s gotten hurt to figure out how and why he got hurt, as well as come up with a plan to make sure he never makes that mistake again.
This is called a Subjective Evaluation and if done right it will work in your favor. When you evaluate yourself subjectively, the results are endless because the primary source of feedback is yourself and your inner thoughts. That’s what differentiates this style of evaluation from an Objective Evaluation, in which the primary feedback source is someone else. That person’s response to you is absolute because they just know what they see. They can’t read the constant flow of thoughts in your mind or physically feel the changes in your body like you can. You can bench press 315lbs for just one rep right now and struggle to the point that you think you’re not going to make it. But as far as your spotter is concerned, he might tell you that from his point of view that your execution was perfect.
This is what makes Subjectivity so unique. You’re in charge of everything. Is the weight too heavy? Is it too light? Do you feel the movement? Are you short of breath after a set? During it? Do you feel pain – by which I mean joint pain, not muscle soreness? Did you make sure that the right weights are set up on both sides of the bar? One great thing you can do for yourself is, if you’re already tracking your progress, be sure to write down anything usual that might occur during your training session, so that way you can take steps to prevent it from happening next time. I made this mistake so many times during my time training in Bally Total Fitness. Not long before I finally started learning how to program my lifts I would just go in their with a very broad plan and I’d wing it from there. It’s not productive at all when you Cable Row 70lbs for 3 sets of 10 one week and then you’re doing it again the next week because you completely forgot that you already rowed that weight just last week. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me.
Which brings me to one last thing before I go to number 2 on the list. No matter what see in the gym, no matter what your hero’s do in magazines or online, lift only weights you can handle. There’s a fine line between what you see and the truth. And even bodybuilders will tell you that while they may be lifting heavy weights for photo shoots, it’s not usually the way they train at all. If they trained at their heaviest all the time, wouldn’t they injure themselves just as frequently? Also, you must understand that what works for them does not work for you. Just because there are videos of Ronnie Coleman dumbbell bench pressing 210lbs doesn’t mean you’ll be able to. He was able to hit ten reps. Could you? Never lift for ego. Never lift to impress anyone and never perform an exercise at a certain weight if you don’t feel the exercise affecting the desired bodyparts in the right way. Regardless of your goals you still want to feel the eccentric movement of a lift and you still want to feel the contractions, especially if your goal is bodybuilding. This finally brings me to number 2 on the list.
2. Learn How To Program
This was one of my biggest problems for years and I wish every day that I could turn back time to 2003 and start over again with the knowledge I have now. If you are truly serious about improving your body you must have a strategy. Oh sure, I might’ve known to split my days by bodyparts but I had no clue as to how to arrange the amount of sets required, how many reps to do, how long to rest in between sets, or even the appropriate exercises to suit my goals. Forget any of that – I was too intimidated by barbells for years to understand that all I had to do was perform for basic, compound lifts to get as strong as I wanted to be!
I really wish I could go back and truly research the right ways to get strong as well as take the time to break down anything that might’ve gone over my head. My father had written out a whole beginner’s workout just for me but the concept of performing a full body workout three times a week just terrified me. Funny enough, Bodybuilding.com had just been created the same year I began training, yet I was completely unaware of it’s existence until five years later. YouTube was still two years away and I never thought to just do anything online research.
But if there’s one important piece of advice I can give it’s this. You must stick to the basics if you truly want strength and size. No matter your gender, or goals, no fad routine or BOSU ball exercise will compare to barbell movements such like the Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift and Overhead Press. I’ll probably discuss this all another time, but as I mentioned earlier these are all compound, multijoint movements that don’t “just” train the targeted area, but they also indirectly train the surrounding ones as well. as a quick example, since I just performed the Overhead Press this morning: Yes, the move is meant to train your shoulders, but you also need your triceps to help push the bar over your head as well as keep your abs nice and tight to keep yourself stable. You do those things correctly then how could they also not be positively affected? I’ll say right now that I’ve probably gotten more triceps growth from doing multiple pressing sets than an isolation move like a triceps pushdown every time.
1. Never Fear Your Fellow Gym Goers!
You probably have heard quite a bit that the clientele in most gyms isn’t quite favorable. It could be those knuckleheaded Planet Fitness commercials for one thing. You know the ones!
It could also be articles you read in magazines and even online, virtually demonizing serious lifters in the same way a politically biased news channel will go ahead and demonize a politician on the opposing party, saying we’re loud, arrogant, hogging the weights and judgmental..as if that Planet Fitness commercial isn’t judgmental at all. Right?
To say I was apprehensive about entering a gym for the first time in April 2003 would be a major understatement. Just a month and a half away from turning nineteen and I was virtually bone thin. I very rarely did anything active at that point, I didn’t know a thing about eating right, and I stayed out or at least up late a lot (like most college kids!). To exacerbate matters, I was under serious depression, still reeling from my first girlfriend breaking up with me months earlier and I was in fear. Lots of it. It had been nearly a year since I left high school hell and I had yet to fully comprehend that, for the most part, college was a completely different animal.
Needless to say, I had lots of anxiety upon walking in for the first time and I did very little, making sure I was in no one’s way. That’s no way for anyone to train. But that was just day one. Nut something strange slowly started to happen as time went on. The more I showed my face at the gym, and the more I tried different things, the more random people started to approach me and kindly offer advice on how to perform my exercises better, as well as why they were more effective with the tweaks they were showing me. I’m open to anyone giving me advice so long as I can sense they mean well; but this was happening every time someone came up to me.
It opened up my eyes to the world outside of what I knew and was seemly conditioned to accept. Within months I found myself being approached by someone in the gym who just happened to know that I played drums and asked me to audition for his band. Even after it didn’t work out between us I still managed to become gym buddies with him and his other friend. When that friend saw me struggling with all my might with preacher cable curls he immediately commented in his Barbados accent: “You have the heart. You have the desire. You should come here more often man!”. Around that same time I found myself talking with the woman who held on to ID cards at the front of the weight room. Fourteen years later she’s one of my best friends…and literally one of the only friends I have left. If you told me in 2003 that I’d meet one of my best friends in a place I figured for sure was filled with jerks my response wouldn’t be too kind.
In fourteen years I’ve only come across two people who were absolutely out of line in the gym. But small problems aside, I’ve come to learn over time that the gym promotes more of or at least as much of a sense of community as anywhere that caters to any other hobby or even workplace environment. I’ll talk about some of those people in detail in another article, but in short I’ve found that the ones who visually are the most intimidating are actually some of the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever come across in 33 years. Regardless of whether the gym in question was a hardcore gym or even a commercial gym, these guys are always willing to lend a hand and ready to offer any advice that could help you succeed.
So remember this, no matter what you read in magazines or online, no matter your social fears, don’t be afraid to accept or ask anyone for help. The cardinal sin for a serious lifter, regardless of his or her goals, is that they are so dedicated that they are that willing to sacrifice most of their lives just to improve on themselves. But never fear that. Spend a day or two with someone willing to take you under their wing and you might find their work ethic rubbing off on you!
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It’s been nearly two weeks since I competed in the RPS Jersey Rumble, and I regret having taken so long to write about it because I definitely have a lot to talk about here! It was a day of success, it was a day of reunions, it was a day of brotherhood. But to balance it out of course, it was the day I suffered my first defeats up on the platform. It was also a day in which I chose to take a major subjective look at myself to see how I could make sure this didn’t happen again…at least for a while, anyway.
So arrived at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Newark, NJ maybe half an hour before the weigh-ins began at 11am. I woke up that morning weighing approximately 175.2lbs, which was fine because I competed in the 181lb weight class for the first time, but after eating a big breakfast of four scrambled eggs, flank steak seasoned with garlic salt and an English muffin, I now weighed 179.8lbs, a good 2.2lbs before breaking the threshold into the next weigh class!
Since I was literally the first person to be weighed in I had a good hour to kill before my group, Session B, was to be given the rules. So I watched Session A, which was the women and juniors (under 18) and some of the women alone impressed me very much. I don’t know that women alone get enough credit for even attempting to lift in this style, let alone compete.
Since I can’t upload raw videos on here at the moment, here’s a still frame of one woman pulling 245lbs for her final attempt. That’s incredible. For those of you who might not know, women generally carry less muscle and more fat than men. Not only that, but I spoke to this woman for a few seconds after she was done and she told me that this was her first ever meet. It had me thinking of her potential, as 245 is a lot for most women, thinking that as long as she keeps working she’ll be hitting 300 in no time.
During this hour I ran into two absolutely incredible lifters that I met at last year’s Jersey Rumble, Eric Chase and PJ Santa Teresa. PJ, who trains at Garden State Barbell in South Jersey and won 1st place in the 198lb weight class for the Open Division last year, was now gunning for a 600lb Deadlift and a total that would get him out of the Amateur ranks and into the Pro ranks. He made me laugh when he said that after he hits Pro he’s going to give up Powerlifting. Yeah PJ, whatever you say bro. Eric, on the other hand, suffered an unfortunate mishap doing Leg Presses and injured his knees, prompting him to back out of Squatting and treat this as a “Push-Pull” meet. In a “Push-Pull” style meet you’re only Benching and Deadlifting.
Ah, my buddy the monolift. This thing looks so hardcore and I wish I could lift under it more often, especially as the weights get heavier. I also am absolutely in love with the 65lb bars they provide. The thickness is incredible. Once you put on of these on your scapula they’re not slipping off any time soon, believe me! After I drank my first bottle of C4 I began my squat warmups, working in with a few guys, which is always great when you’re using a monolift because you can lift while another guy unlocks and unlocks the hooks. If you’re in New Jersey and looking for a gym that provides such an awesome machine, you can try Skiba’s Gym in Carteret, Apollon Gym in Edison, and Strong And Shapely in Rutherford to name a few.
Having used the Powerlifting template for Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 for over a year I brought my squat up to 305lbs for a single a good week before the meet, making me feel confident about going a little a above my calculated 1RM of 315lbs for my final attempt. My opening and second attempts, 280lbs and 305lbs respectively, felt fast enough that I decided to go for 330lbs as my third attempt. Could I do it? As I’m waiting for the spotters to finish loading up the bar, I’m starring at it with a very Doug Young – like intensity. Compared to last year I was considerably more serious here; where I was intentionally aiming as low as I could last year, this was the meet were I was beginning to challenge myself. Much like Doug was notorious for doing I began psyching myself up by growling…although his growl was way more terrifying. I hear the command to squat and I felt just a little bit of struggle once I went down, “UUUPPPP!!!!” I yelled as loud as I could and I finished pushing that bar back up! Did I get it? All three green lights – and a new PR!!
330lb Squat – new meet PR!!!
It was a great confidence booster, making me feel like I would experience the same amount of luck during the Bench and Deadlift portions. I’d sadly be wrong, for it was during the Bench Press that it all started going downhill. Due to circumstances beyond my control the strap for my shoulder bag broke recently, forcing me to carry it my the handle, which doesn’t seem like a big deal on paper. But the constant stress of weight on one side of your body does take it’s toll on your shoulder joints after a while, and sadly my shoulders were just wrecked going into this. I now know that I had what is called Bicep Tendinopathy. Medscape describes Bicep Tendinopathy as “pain and tenderness in the region of the biceps tendon. The biceps musculotendinous junction is particularly susceptible to overuse injuries, especially in individuals performing repetitive lifting activities.”
To make this part as painless for myself as possible, I was hoping to at least bench 180lbs as a final attempt, a twenty pound jump from last year. But after my first and second attempts of 150lbs and 160lbs, the pain had become too much and I decided that I’d rather take a small, incremental hop, as it were, than risk injuring myself before I could Deadlift. But sadly, I couldn’t even move a measly 170lbs off my chest, making this the first red lighted attempt of the night and my short career.
I was down, but I now had plenty of time to eat and rest before it was time for me to prepare for Deadlifts, where I was to face my biggest challenge yet, a 420lb Deadlift with a calculated 1RM of 405lbs. I made sure I took in Gatorade and a lot of sodium via Kirkland (The Costco brand) Beef Jerky and Kettle Potato Chips. I actually want to write an article on the benefits of sodium soon but in short, sodium is dependent upon but many important amino acids to even function, regulates muscle contraction functions and even replenishes electrolytes – just like Gatorade does.
The Deadlift portion of the meet started around 7:45pm, significantly earlier than last year, until I looked at the flight sheet and realized that there were at lot less people there just for benching. During last year’s rumble there were literally more people there for Benching both Raw and Geared than for any of the other lifts, meaning I sure as hell wasn’t leaving that night until around 11pm! My first two attempts were 355lbs and 385lbs, respectively. In fact the main picture for this post is of my 385lb pull. It seemed a tad more difficult but I still felt confident enough to pull 420lbs, so I asked for it as my final attempt. I made sure I had an ammonia cap ready for when I was called up. So many emotions swimming through me while I was waiting to be called; nervousness, excitement, fear – of injury!, anxiousness to just get it over with already.
So as my name was called I stood at the bar, my hair no longer pulled back, almost as if I was trying to channel Dan Green for all I knew, sniffing an ammonia cap, desperately hoping for the same effect it gave me last year. A few screams and deep breaths later I positioned myself and off I went!
See this moment right here? Right here is where I unexpectedly got stuck. I tried everything I could think of to will myself up, but in the end I found myself dropping the bar, a major no-no. Regardless of that however, it was my second red lighted attempt of the evening, and the end to my night. That fear and anxiety I felt earlier had now turned into depression…and then into a very intense anger. As I slammed my Inzer Forever belt on the floor all I wanted to do was walk out and go home. I was feeling violent. I trained so hard for this moment. How could have this happened? There is no way I alone could’ve messed this up!!
Until I took several deep breaths and asked my girlfriend to show me the video she made of the failed attempt and there it was, right in front of me. My hips shot up too early, before I even lifted the bar off the ground. That mistake right there is bound to undo anyone’s form and is a clear sign that I wasn’t tight enough. That was enough to humble me for the night and make me rethink my training for the future because there now was no question that I let my nervousness take away from my concentration.
But if there was one moment I won’t forget it was my reunion with Henri Skiba, who’s gym I mentioned earlier. A few posts ago I mentioned that it was Henri to told me over the phone that if I keep waiting to compete I never would. I caught him as he and I were both watching PJ hit a Deadlift meet PR of 550lbs. I reminded him of who I was and he seemed genuinely flattered after I told him that he’s one of the reasons I finally found the courage to sign up for a meet. Let this be a lesson to all of you, that sometimes all takes is someone nudging you to get the ball rolling, regardless of what you do in your life. The rest, however, is up to you. I hope to train with him again this summer when I have off from work.
So, where do I go from here? As of today, not including the day of the meet, I haven’t trained in three weeks and I will finally be going back tomorrow. I think the time off has been very beneficial to my physical well being; I bought a new Under Armour strap bag to carry to work, giving my shoulders much needed relief and a chance to heal up, my knees aren’t hurting any more, and I’ve had a chance to enjoy life a bit more. I’ve also had the chance to reevaluate my approach to training and I’ve decided that I must focus on my Deadlift technique if I want to lift heavier. One thing to remember is that strength is a skill, and therefore technique is everything. I clearly am able to rip more than 400lbs off the ground, but if my setup isn’t worked on then I shouldn’t expect to finish the movement any time soon. Also, for the sake of my chest and shoulders especially, I’m going to make my training more size focused. I still am going to train using 5/3/1, but the template I’ll be using is his much praised Boring But Big template, in which you follow your standard 5/3/1 sets with the same exercise at 40, 50, or 60% of your 1RM for 5×10, followed by assistance work for the opposing/antagonist muscle group, also for 5×10. It clearly gets more technical and I hope to discuss this more in another post when I can.
So to finish this of I want to reiterate something I mentioned in another post. So why did I choose Powerlifting? This particular night reminded me of exactly why. More that just training in a gym, more than bros just raining their chests and arms, Powerlifting, to me embodies the most important things in life, self-improvement, companionship and the brotherhood I had looking for virtually my whole life. When I feel let down by the rest of the world, all it takes is a barbell and friends cheering me on to bring me right back up.
My Stats for RPS Jersey Rumble 2017
Squat: 280, 305, 330
Bench Press: 150, 160, 170 (failed attempt)
Deadlift: 355, 385, 420 (failed attempt)
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