Are you holding yourself back?

I’m currently reading Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt. It’s a short and easy to read book on some general marketing principles. The book is very easy to read, so I suggest you get it if you have any interest in marketing. Here’s a quote from the description:

What usually gets emphasised is selling, not marketing. This is a mistake, because selling focuses on the needs of the seller, whereas marketing concentrates on the needs of the buyer.

That made me think about dogmatic training principles. Are you stuck in your training? Do you keep hammering away at an exercise that you may enjoy or be really good at, but that’ll get you no closer to your goals?

I ran into a friend today at the gym and he told me he’d started doing floor presses and had great progress with them. We talked for a bit about making sure the exercise in question would make him good at his goals and not just good at the exercise.

I regularly see people doing weird little exercises that in essence does nothing except impact recovery negatively. This is particularly true for Crossfitters because they see a powerlifting, weightlifter or strength athlete promote an exercise and they want to do it. What they fail to realize is that it’s a very specialized exercise for someone specializing in a given sport.

The serious crossfittian should always aim to do as little as possible to get the desired effect. Simply because they’re already doing so many things.

What that means is that for a crossfitter doing a snatch balance probably isn’t the best way to spend your time – you’re probably better off practicing the full movement, working on whatever weakpoint you have, getting stronger or just straight up resting.

Take a step back and make sure you’re not married to any particular exercise or training dogma. Kill your darlings!

You’re taking it too far

I recently started working with a young and very passionate man. He’s already doing a nutrition program online with a popular internet guru and is doing really well diet-wise. He wanted to transition from mostly a fitness-type of machine-based workout to a strength-centered barbell routine.

Now this approach is something I can obviously relate to, and I also think it’s a very good idea to get some help with the lifts initially. What we’re gonna do together is establish a solid technical foundation for him to work on by himself and then follow-up regularly to see how it goes. The goal is for him to be able to train by himself as quickly and safely as possible.

So far so good.

Now he wants to do squats, bench press and deadlifts as that’s what he’s been told by the nutrition guy is the most efficient. But this is where it gets a bit funky. See the other day he told me he’d asked his (nutrition) coach if he should add in some pullups because he really wants a nice set of pipes. The reply he got was simply “no.”.

Now first of all, I understand the approach and how the internet works – if you tell the people you coach that “a couple of sets of curls” is ok, all of a sudden they’re doing Massive Arm Blast 6000 and telling the world it’s your program. I also understand that during a cut you’re not gonna get much (if any) growth and that your energy is best spent preserving the muscle you’ve got with compound exercises.

But (and this is a couple of big but(t)s)!!!

First of all: while the “big three” lifts are great, they’re not set in stone. Variation is a good thing for most people. Also completely avoiding pulling exercises (vertical or horizontal) is not something I’d recommend.

And (and this is probably the most important point): if your goal is big arms – you have to train your arms. While the fundamental compound exercises are great for developing overall strength and muscle, I’m a live example of what happens if you don’t train your arms directly. I’m currently 184cm and 100kg (6″1, 220) with ~40cm (15 3/4″) guns. While it’s not pathetic in any way, it far from stellar. I very rarely train my pipes.

So while I agree that simplicity is definitely the way to go, I would almost always include six different types of exercises in a program (variations of: horizontal push/pull, vertical push/pull, squat and deadlift).

And, the most important point of this post? If you want to be good at something – you gotta train it. You wont grow huge pipes without specific arm work unless you’re a mutant.

Train to build more than muscle

We understand the world by making generalizations. That is why racism has been such a big thing throughout the history of mankind and why we still to this day put people in little boxes that fit our view of the world. You may think a certain way about people with or without tattoos, about fat people, people with big arms and small legs or something completely different.

We (the general we, not you and I obviously, we’re better than that :p) stigmatize people who are different from ourselves and lifters in general are supposed to be (as they so elegantly put it in Jersey Shore) gorilla juiceheads.

If you have a very muscular physique, you’re obviously compensating for your lack of intelligence. Right?

Wrong.

See actually lifting and pursuing mastery in your profession has a lot in common. Not surprisingly some of the most successful lifters I know are also some of the smartest people I know. Because above anything else if you want to be a successful lifter, you must have (or develop) discipline. Above all else, you have got to be willing to be a little more than the guy next to you. A little more consistent, a little more hard-working a little better at saying no to cakes (or something completely different). “A little more” spread out over many areas equals a lot more.

While some may start lifting to “get ready for the beach” or something similar, you’re not gonna find many lifetime lifters that only see lifting as a means to an end. We enjoy the process. We love being in the gym. And we love being around people who share our passion for discipline.

We embrace the grind and we realize that it takes time to build a big house. In strength and in life, there are no quick fixes.

Strength training builds muscle, but it also builds character.

Next time you’re hiring somebody and you get a jacked applicant – know that this (most likely) a person with great discipline and work ethic – not a stupid meathead.

Shoe review: Reebok Powerlifter (or whatever it’s called)

I remember reading about this shoe a long time ago. I remember reading how Mark Bell had sold his soul to ‘bok. I also remember looking at pictures of a shoe with some promising features.

Fast forward about six months and Butcher’s Store get them in stock and I get to test a pair. That’s about two months ago and during that time, I’ve used them for all my deadlifting.

What is it and what does it do?

It’s a flat-soled high top shoe, that looks like a weird hybrid between a clown shoe and a Chuck Taylor. For someone with a wide foot like myself, the big toe box is great. Also the  is just perfect giving the shoe a tight fit. For me, this shoe fits very very well, though I have to mention it runs a little big in the sizes – order one size smaller than what you’d usually get.

It’s got very good traction and stability laterally which is great if you’re pulling sumo or squatting wide. I only use them for squats as my ankles are way too tight for flat shoe squatting.

It’s similar to Chuck’s in that it’s a flat-soled hightop, but pretty much everything else is different. If you’re comparing the two you obviously fall in one of two groups: either you haven’t tried the ‘bok on or you have something against CrossFit as a brand.

Personally I actually considered if I wanted to wear shoes that had “Crossfit” written all over them, but decided that NOT wearing a shoe because of the brand is about as silly as wearing a shoe because of the brand.

Reebok-Power-in-Blue

What’s the general usefulness of the shoe?

Meh. It’s a flat shoe like the Chuck, the Adidas Spezial or wrestling shoes. That’s great for a lot of things. It’s not good for squatting or weightlifting though.

If you’re just deadlifting a couple of times a week to get stronger you might as well wear socks. Unless the floor is cold or something like that. Wearing shoes is not gonna make a huge difference unless you’re pulling sumo (where you need a good grip on the floor).

Conclusion:

Though it looks a bit weird, I’ve grown to like the shoe a lot. Once I put them on, I feel like pulling big weights. They’re aggressive without being uncomfortable and they’re great for pulling. It’s not really a cheap shoe though, but considering the amount of money people put into ridiculous supplements, I’d go with this shoe any day of the week. After all, unless you molest them, they’re gonna last at the very least 5 years.

The verdict is that it’s a great pair of shoes for specific situations. If you’re able to squat without a raised heel, this would be an excellent multi-purpose training shoe.

New trainer, new approach

I know, it’s been a while. I’ve been pretty busy over the past couple of weeks, and it looks like it’s gonna stay like that. Yay. I’ve got good things coming my way soon.

Trainingwise I took a couple of weeks of very light training after the danish championships and decided to get a new trainer. For quite some time now, everyone I’ve programmed has progressed way better than myself.So I decided to skip the template-based 531 program I was doing and write my own program by hand.

Step one was to get myself out of my comfort zone by upping the reps and lowering the rests. I’m following a very basic full body split laid out like this:

A: Primary squat, volume bench, lower body assistance.

B: Deadlifts and presses.

C: Secondary squat, primary bench, upper assistance.

Simple and basic.

I still time my rest periods and keep them at 60 seconds, but as of this week, I’ve switched from 5×10 squats and benches to 10×5. Over time I’ll work my way down to 10×3 before cycling back up to higher reps again.

Deadlift alternates between a single medium-high rep top set and med-high intensity singles for speed, followed up with some more volume from a deficit.

I keep the press in the 5-10 rep range for now, as I feel that’s where the money is. Assistance is primarily 1H overhead work.

The secondary squat-day uses different tempos to really focus on nailing the form. I’ve changed my stance a bit because of knee issues and the technical work is good for me.

On primary bench day, I work up to a heavy set of med-high reps and do some additional work with a figure-8 band. I follow that up with DB incline and dips. Everything with timed rests of course.

I’ve touched on this before, but I cannot say this enough. Cutting down on rest periods as well as really focusing on really nailing the assistance exercises is a huge ego-check, but I feel it’s for the better. I like lifting weights a lot and historically I’ve probably done way too much barbell-moving and way too little controlled training.

Onwards and upwards. Life is great!

Slow down

You’re probably rushing. You’re probably busy. You’re probably in a hurry to do something.

Or maybe you’re not? Maybe you’ve just convinced yourself that you’re all important and that you need to be all kinds of things. You really don’t and besides, what good is having all the treasures in the world, if you’re not present in the moment to notice them? If you’re always busy being busy, you’re probably rushing through life, missing half of it.

In lifting, a great way to focus on quality and mastery instead of quantity is to slow things down deliberately. Instead of always focusing on moving more weight faster, try to change your approach on a lift you’re struggling with for a period (4-6 weeks) – I guarantee you’ll see good results.

There are many ways of manipulating tempo, the most common ones being slow eccentrics and paused reps. While I’m a big fan of pausing, slowing the movement itself down is a better tool for improving the movement.

Applying a 3-4s down, 3-4s up tempo on one weekly squat session will dramatically improve your positional awareness throughout the movement and probably add some muscle mass as well. For the strength trainee I think the 2-6 rep range works very well.

A word of warning though, slow eccentrics is the best way to make yourself incredibly sore, so start out real easy and allow yourself to adapt to the new stimulus before you go nuts.

Stay strong friends.

<3

 

Control tempo to master movement

Must-read book on physical fitness

The sun’s out in beautiful Copenhagen and I’ve been hanging out with the baby and a good book. My wife works every other Saturday which means I’m at home with the baby. I pretty much always go for a long walk and as soon as Laura falls asleep, I sit down with a good book. Great way to spend a morning.

Recently I’ve had this puppy in my pack:
Fit is authored by Kilgore Hartman and Lascek – names you may or may not recognize, so I’ll give you a (very) brief bio on them.

Kilgore: Wrote Starting Strength and Practical Programming with Mark Rippetoe.

Hartman: is a doctor in Exercise Physiology

Lascek: Studied under Rippetoe and worked for him for a couple of years and runs 70sbig.com. Has written a small handful books.

These guys are not just random bums, they know which way is up on a barbell for sure.

What ties them all together in a way is their connection to Mark Rippetoe, though they’re very far from being mini-Rips. You’re not gonna find any “YNDTP” statements in this book, and you’re not gonna find any insults. These guys are very nice and the book is great and informative.

What really sets Fit apart is the parts on cardiovascular training and specifically multi-modal or cross training. This book has none of the “DO STARTING STRENGTH OR BE AN IDIOT”-bravado, but instead focusses on meeting the reader at a common ground. For most people, simply squatting, deadlifting and pressing all the time is not gonna get them to where they want. Most people want something that gets the heart beating a little faster now and then.

This books describes in a detailed but readable way how to implement different kinds of cardiovascular training or even (*gasp*) CrossFit into your training without killing your precious GAINZ.

I’d recommend it to anyone interested in strength, health and fitness. Check it out here: