Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cristi's Deadlift Day

Cristi Bartlett is finishing up her training cycle for the USAPL Raw Nationals. Yesterday she worked up to 485 for 2 sets of 1 rep, and then did 445x5. Also she did 245 for 5 sets of 3 after her deadlift. Bent rows are killer for deadlift assistance. She has had a very productive training cycle, I will publish her training after her meet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Adapt, The Bell Rung

I was on vacation in July and went to a great gym, The Firm, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to train. I did my workout and then noticed that they had one of those "BOB" punching bags that look like a man. Dude, I love that thing! Better than a heavy bag, good training tool. Bad news is that I ordered one and punched it every day, 7 days a week.

By doing it, I know that I screwed something up in my neck. Left arm numb. Two world renowned surgeons tell me that I bulged/herniated a disk in my neck. So what? MRI? Eventually. But the training was great. And guess what? It happens. You get banged up.

The only way that you won't have a surgery or ten is by sitting on the couch or never doing anything athletic.You are gonna get hurt.

 If you were an athlete, especially a decent one, especially one who played football, in the 80's or before and worth his/her weight in salt you pushed it and pushed it beyond what everyone says these days is right and you really don't expect anybody these days to understand. You break fingers and hands and get concussions and it was a badge of honor to get out there and play through it. Right? Hmmm. Back then it was right. Now, lots of safety measures. Better for the kids/players in the long run, no question. Thats the PC reaction to it all.

You see, I know that everything that happens to me injury wise is because of football. I played 14 years. I loved football more than life. We did drills where we were supposed to hit our heads together over and over again, "USE YOUR FACE" was the mantra that I always heard.  You sat on your knees across from a partner and when the coach said GO you shot out and hit your heads together. Over and over. I loved that drill. And it worked. Lead with your face and then lock out. You are more powerful like that, you can strike a blow that will decimate your opponent. In fact, I scouted for Arena Football a bunch of years back and we were scouting a major college team and the linebackers where catching blocks with their hands and they were getting pushed all over the place.The head coach of the Arena team said, "They need to lead with their heads". And he was right. Punish with the bowling ball on your head and then lock out. Works every time. Good for you? Of course not. Awful for you. You forget stuff and you can't find your car (Bill Romonowski) as you age. But it was the game.

You ever been hit by a dude who has a little more than you on that play? Or has the right angle? And his head hits you and you see a bunch of stars? If you played high school or college football you have felt it. And guess what? It feels good. You get a hit on your head and it makes you nuts. Bring it on! In fact my Father used to tell me to play like I have been hit in the head. You know, play like a wild man.You make a tackle and the back of your head hits the ground or you lead face first and you make a tackle and you get up and sod is stuck on your face mask and you are walking a little funny and the planetarium is sparkling in your head and it fires you up, man. I tackled Marion Butts multiple times in a bowl game. He probably took a few brain cells from my brain. But Marion Butts!

Bad for you? Of course it is bad for you. But I started playing football in 1976 and I don't remember a year  when I didn't get my bell rung a few times a season. Coaches encouraged it, and I don't blame them. It's what they went through also, and it was what was most effective. And it is hilarious that the NFL is legislating the game with the head hits. If you are an offensive or defensive lineman, you are hitting with your head multiple times each play. Not the big hit once in awhile, but every play. Legislate that and the game disappears. It isn't even brought up.

Damn, off on a tangent.

So anyway, my neck is messed up. So I searched for exercises that don't make me go numb. Db Bench? Nope. Safety squats? Nope. How about deadlifts? Feel good. Do tons of reps and sets with 315...sets of 10 and 20. Sore as hell and happy that I lifted. So you make due, you adapt. You do what you must do in order to keep training and to feel like you can contribute, that you aren't one of the masses with visors on and Big Mac's on their plates and a curl bar at their house that clothes hang on. You never want to be one of those guys who almost played football or lacrosse or wrestling. Or boxing. Or MMA. Risk in all. Chance of greatness in all. What am I saying? I am not saying a thing, just telling my story, just my story. Wouldn't change it for the world. I'll take the chance of old age and being crippled. Messed up? Maybe in some folk's minds. But if you ever played at a decently high level, you wouldn't change it for the world. Your mind set is /was different. I have a friend who goes through it. Head all messed up, multiple  concussions, depression, headaches. Ask him if he'd change anything and the answer is no. That is crazy to most of the population. And get it straight- it is bad for you, crazy, messed up, ludicrous. It's just different and tough for most to "get".

 I don't expect most folks to understand. It is a different mindset,  And that mindset, good or bad, is the reason for the separation from the "I wish I was" to the "I was."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It Is Amazing

What is new in your training?

Always interested in how people train. 

My assistant Stephen Brindle, of Believing' Stephen' Christian Rap Fame (The word is that I wouldn't have hired him if I knew about the rap thing. No comment. But he is a hell of a coach). 

Anyway, that boy has been on Sheiko forever. And he is consistent, man. He is dedicated. There he is, bench set up, squat rack set up, going back and forth, yelling that everything is "real light". And sometimes he has his buddy Tim with him, but most of the time, it is just Stephen.  All alone, happy to just be training.  He doesn't have a spot except on heavy benches. He doesn't care who watches him. He has a goal to be stronger and bigger and he loves to train, and you can see that he loves it.

Now, I expect that from him, I really do.  I have seen it from him.

But today, I was thinking, who does that, day after day, 500 pound squats, 600 pound deadlifts, day after day? Few and far between ( Disclaimer: I know your cousin/brother/sister/ uncle/ and YOU are stronger and more dedicated! But let's move on. And these are legit, only a belt, USAPL squats, not your gym lift).

And he slogs away. When I first met him, he was a scrawny 190 something dude. That was , I guess, 6 years a ago? Maybe 5. Anyway, now he is 225 pounds and he isn't fat. And he did it with some supreme dedication. I think that when I think of him, I think-no genetics, just hard work. The man gained 35 pounds in a few years. That's pretty good stuff. And you can do it too. He looks totally different now. And you can do it too. Yup.

Oh yeah- he gets in his protein, but he eats cheesesteaks and drinks milk and really just eats regular other than the protein.

So as I was pondering Stephen, I thought- Programs make some difference, but it is the DEDICATION that really matters. I know that you are smart enough to see that dedication is big and important, without the capitals. Bill Starr told me to stop doing that, capitalizing the big points. But I really want to tell you this- it is the dedication, the getting it done, day after day, no matter what! Sick kids, sick Uncle, sick cat. Take that time for yourself and train. And don't miss the training. Because - see the big ass picture here-you will put together years upon years of this dedication and you will be a totally different person, or should I say it this way- you will be the person that you wanted to be when you first picked up a barbell. 

And, really, what else is there? Come on. Lifting weights is the greatest thing ever. Being big and strong is amazing.  Even a little bit bigger and stronger is amazing, makes you feel like Thor or some other god. You walk out of the gym with a good pump, especially when you first start training and you can't believe how good all of this feels. Your arms are like balloons and your chest feels like Arnold's at the'74 Olympia.

And do not let anyone tell you that it isn't. Lifting weights being amazing , that is. And if they do tell you, if you are already in it, deep in it,  been bitten by the bug, the cliched' Iron Bug, you will not listen anyway. You are past all of that. You have it. And it is deep inside you 

And it just really feels right to be stronger. Man or woman. You look and feel different than normal people. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Stories, Don't Be Common

One can find inspiration from anybody, anytime and sometimes it happens all of a sudden and by surprise.

Henry Rollins wrote in one of his books that he will go a long way to hear a good story, and I am the same way.

Just the other day, I was talking to a friend of mine, a pretty well known surgeon at one of the best hospitals in the world. I walked into the room and he was talking about Randy White.

Yes, my idol growing up was a friend and lifting partner of the good doctor. And he had stories of Randy's farm and his brother and man, it was great.

He told about Randy bench pressing one time and getting stuck with over 400 pounds and rolling the bar down his stomach onto the floor. Stories of Randy fighting and his girlfriend and some great stuff.

Stories rule the world, and Harry Crew is one of the best story tellers ever.

How does one measure coolness? Where I grew up in Maryland it was a big deal not to be common. Common is somebody that does things to others that just simply aren't cool.

Common-showing a lack of taste and refinement; vulgar.
synonyms: uncouth, vulgar, coarse, rough, boorish, unladylike, ungentlemanly, ill-bred, uncivilized, unrefined, unsophisticated;

Like saying that you are gonna be somewhere and not showing up because you decided to go see your girlfriend instead and not letting your friend know. That is common. Or not getting your Mother a card on Mother's Day. Or taking a handicapped spot.  Or , like what just happened to a friend of mine: His ex wife called him to tell him about a guy she was dating. Common as hell.

I think that I first heard the term when I was down at the creek behind my house with my sister's boyfriend and a friend of his.  I was in the third grade. They were in the sixth grade. The boyfriend was smoking Marlboro Lights. The white pack. Want one? Sure. Okay, don't get your spit all over it, okay? Gotcha, I answer, and I take a big old drag. Hand it back. MAN! You got it all wet. That is COMMON man! Yeah, I guess so. Third grade.

Not being common is being true to your word, sticking up for family and friends, never talking junk to your friends, giving people their space, not taking advantage of kindness, giving a killer spot when lifting, being on time, not drinking the last beer, showing up when you say you are gonna show up, not taking the last slice of pizza, leaving 20% (at least) on a tip ( you will when you have been a waiter/waitress/busboy) etc...

One time when I was a graduate assistant coach, the other graduate assistants and I were charged with replacing the turf on the game field. It was summer, and it was hot, but we loved the work. We would get out there, I think that there were 3 of us, and one would run the sod cutter and and then we would all shovel up the turf, put it in a four wheeler and dump it in the woods. A few weeks of work at least. What's common about that story? Well, we were working 60 plus hours a week, getting paid for 19 hours, and nobody ever complained. Made 4.75 an hour. Yep, our choice to be there. The common part is that not one, no, not ONE full time coach came out to help and in addition, they would go to lunch and SNEAK out the back door instead of offering us the chance to go with them. That, my friends, is common. Stuff like that makes me wanna throttle some folks. WHY CAN"T YOU JUST BE COOL??? People like that are everywhere.

OOOH! I know! How about when you train somebody for free forever and your birthday comes and goes and Christmas comes and goes and never a card, or a bottle of beer or a card or nothin. Never mind the holidays, how about never a thank you? Common. Or not realizing when somebody is hurting bad and being there for them and just thinking of yourself.

Beyond common would be police officers getting shot and the President not going to any funerals. Yup. Ya know, when you are sitting around with friends and a name comes up, and you say about the person, what a jerk, why is he like that, what's his problem? Ah, dude, he's just common. And everyone shakes their head like, damn right, that is the answer. Like he can not help it, he does not get it, just a common dude.

So the moral? Listen to great stories, go far for a good story and never, ever, ever, be common.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Training Solves It All

I have been a little ....conflicted, lets say, about writing lately. Maybe what I write is taken the wrong way or that it smacks of sappiness for some or it is not enough about training or...but then I figured that if it helps one person, one person out there needing a voice to tell them that it is alright or that its gonna work out, or just take ACTION and you can do it also. SO, really, if this stuff is not your cup of tea, simply do not read it. Or start your own blog. That is it. Put yourself out there. Or simply live your life hiding behind the keyboard like a coward. Either way, this stuff is for the few hardy souls who test themselves with life, who are out there in the arena, pushing when they don't feel like it, pushing when the avalanche of life is coming down on them, those who lie awake at night, trying to sleep, but worried about all that life has thrown at them. 

And they keep glancing at the alarm clock. Shit! Its 1 am , now 2 am , 3 am....they take a sleeping pill or slam down a few shots of whiskey to help, and then around 4 am or something close to it, they drift off, only to have the alarm ring at 6am. 

All the problems are still there, all the worries are too, but you know that relief is just one workout away. SO you push snooze, and then get damn mad at yourself for doing it. You remind yourself that although things are bad, there are others out there who are worse off. There are others who would kill for a roof over their heads or for a nice warm bed, or to have people who love them. The kids in the mountains where the coal companies raped the land and then left , playing in the creek down the way that is polluted with chemicals. The  city kid who has no feelings about love or kindness because all that he has seen is cruelty. The kid whose Marine father was murdered in Tennessee and everybody just sweeps it under the rug. The kid who walks out of the doctor with a diagnosis of a terminal disease, not sure just what it all means, but one thing that he is sure of is that life right now feels a little different, and his parents are looking at him a little strangely,  and all the nurses and doctors are super nice , even more than usual, and MAN!, can't this just happen to someone else right now? Why me? 

And that alarm rings at 6am and you steel yourself to get up. You think that you have problems? 

Get up, coward. 

And you remind yourself of WILL OVER HOPE, and you think of all the fighting men from this country who have endured great hardship and still persevered and you say to yourself,

 And I can't get my ass up to train? So you get up.

You slug down 3 cups of coffee and then you let the dogs out in the backyard and you see how happy they are and you think, live your life like a dog. No worry, no thoughts of the future, no holding grudges, no hard feelings. No thoughts of death or disease. Feel sick? Slow it down for a few days, let the body take care of it. Feel energetic? Romp and play and live it up. Eat when hungry , find a human who loves you above all else. Then one day? One day it is over, but you lived it as well and hard and one hundred percent as you could live it.

Down to the basement to squat. You turn on the light, just a small lamp in the corner. You turn on some Judas Priest, old Judas Priest. Load 135 on the squat bar and crank out 20 reps. Your knees and hips sound like Rice Krispie's but you know that after the first set, a few beads of sweat will appear and your body will start to feel warm, so you persevere. Next is 225x10. It feels great and you put 2 more 45's on the bar. 315x8, 365x8 405x8. All deep. No belt, no wraps. 

Nobody watching you, nobody cheering you on. It is you and all you and that is what it is all about. No trophies or Workout Of The Day. Who needs that? You just need you and this therapy that someone invented long ago that you are damn thankful for.

 This a purge, a cleansing, and the weight doesn't matter and the sleep doesn't matter and what anybody in the world says or does does not matter, all that matters is the moment, or even the moments where you and only you are fighting the demons, fighting the weight, and pushing through no matter what, showing yourself that you have what it takes to endeavor to persevere no matter what  is going on in this fleeting thing that we call life. And you rack that last set and sit down and the dogs come over to you and they love on you and all of a sudden, you know, you just know, that you can handle whatever lies ahead.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Divorce is a bitch. You know anyone that is divorced? Bet that you do. Kids get pulled all around, mental anguish, bad feelings , good times, bad times, all of that and more. It messes up everyone, it just ain't the kids, it is everyone way on down the line: grandparents, friends, uncles and aunts and more and more .

My oldest son just flew home to his mother, my first wife.

and it sucks, choked up at the gate while he walks all by himself with his head down, disappearing. Walking until I can not see him anymore. Helpless feeling, strangers all around, those strange faces, nobody understands, want to drink whiskey until I no longer remember, but I can not, gotta take care of other kids, dogs, drive to home, two hours away. All the emotions bubbling to the surface, hate, pain, anger, sadness. Man the hell up and move on. Fight on, think of the other options. There are none but to fight it.

Out of my way, no it's okay, I  didn't mean it. Hug the wife, kids and dogs. Look into everyone's eyes to judge the love. It is there. They do not know what you are doing, and that is fine, it is all in your head, and your head is spinning and heavy and needs relief. Guess what?

It is life and it's a bitch just like most everything else in life, a total bitch. Good times interspersed with tons and tons of reality, what life is really about- death, disease, accidents, food and atmosphere poisoning you, life gets broken down and dies, pets die in your arms, you go to the doctor and get the worst news, you see your older relatives go from strong as hell to needing you for everything, or almost everything. And you feel bad for all the duties that you may have shirked because you were thinking about some girl in 8th grade while they needed your help.

 Looking past the bad times, ya gotta know, there is some good in there, but it is mostly good memories that you look back upon that delete the bad memories. You ever wonder if right now, right then, you are gonna remember this time? This great time with a sneaky suspicion, hell, not even a suspicion, a fact of life, that the great time that you are having is fleeting and here it comes-a bad time,  a black cloud hovering, bringing it on, like a tornado happening all of a sudden when you least expect it.

Well, expect it, it always comes. It's inevitable.

it's a freight train a coming round the bend. Red lights flashing, cross the tracks at your own peril.

What to do?

Savor the moment, that good moment, that great moment of love and hugs and all that is clear. Relish it, realize it and dive into it. It is all that you have.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Friend

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. He is a world famous strength coach. He is also a MD. The guy is smart. Really smart. He trains the most elite athletes in the world.  What is unique about him and what is most appealing to me about his makeup and philosophy is that he eschews all nonsense and goes with what works and throws all BS to the side. He does not waste one second of time on what might work regarding training. No time for that way of thinking. 

 I love to get him on the phone, because he validates a bunch of what I do but more importantly, his answers are to the point. Right to the point. He can expound on the sliding filament theory but he would rather talk mental toughness. Every time that I talk to him, I hang up the phone fired up to train.  

 So I called him because I was frustrated about gimmicks and visors and functional and collared shirts and talking shop and do you know this guy and what's the latest and chocolate milk and phasics and....and you know what he said to me?

"Sometimes it's as simple as, you have a weight on the ground, you pick it up. You have a weight on your back? Go down and stand up with it." Ah yes, the simplicity of the complicated that always comes back to the simplicity. Ground zero. And this is a guy who trains famous, zillionare athletes. They hang on his every word.

Because what he believes in, what he coaches, and mostly what he attributes the success of his athletes that he trains and is around every day is the mental toughness, the fortitude to get stuff done when others can not get it done or to get stuff done with an unshakeable belief that they will get it done. Programming is important, and coaching and rest and all of that. Yes, it plays a part. But in my friend's point of view, the guy who is shipwrecked and swims 10 plus miles to shore to survive is damn sure not concerned if he had his preworkout and peri workout and postworkout window of opportunity shake/meal/carbs/gycosupershake. The mental toughness and sheer will of resolve is what got him to shore. An isolated example? Yes, of course. But let us say that you use 50% of that drive and adrenaline and focus to get your training to super levels. Programming a ton of volume and weight and intensity will not matter much, because you will complete what ever is thrown your way. It's a mental toughness thing.

Also refreshing is the cut to the chase part of his programming.  Here is an example of what he faces on a daily basis- "So now, let's get this straight- you are never in an aerobic energy system in the sport that you play, but in order to get ready for your sport, you want to run five miles a day. Ok, makes sense. Have at it. But you will get slower, you won't be ready for a game and your chances of injury will increase." He makes his point.

And he believes that once you make a commitment, that is it. No backsliding. Supposed to have so much protein a day? Of course he gets it in. No cheat days? The mere word, cheat is silly. Why would he? Don't need it, made a commitment. He can have whatever he wants to eat, but he chooses to eat this way. Silly to even think about eating what isn't needed. Eight servings of veggies a day? Yep, every single day. Missed workout? Never. Too busy? Just an excuse. Got a cold? You will feel better when you get that training in. It's refreshing to be around him or to just talk to him. Slicing through the internet theories and the swole- til -you -die crowd with science, commonsense and brain power.

It's inspirational in it's simplicity. And it's comforting to hear it. Because it's real and it's the basic premise that all of this training stuff was built upon many years ago: Mental strength, dedication and common sense.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Stuff, Part Whatever

What you know good? That's a Southern expression (Anybody still allowed to be Southern? Or is everybody offended by the term? Sorry, some of the best folks I know are from there and black or white, don't give a damn what anybody thinks about them up in Yankeeland (offensive)or the rest of the world) picked up from my time in North Carolina, South Carolina and Central Florida. Like, what's good in your life? Or, what is happening?

I would like to think that there is a literal meaning to it, like, Is there any good damn news these days? Not a whole lot if you look at the major news coming out of everywhere. And of course, you have our servicemen getting murdered and nary a mention of it from the powers that be and they died for what? And doesn't it piss you off? And what is being done? Whitney Houston type sadness among the masses? White House mandate for flags at half mast? No? That's just common sense, isn't it? But I thought that common sense meant that our servicemen carried guns, also. I had no idea! Gotta be me, all messed up with my thinking.

If it was up to the PEOPLE, I believe, everything would be okay. The government stirs stuff up and tells folks what they ought to think and then it masks the real issues and then people start squabbling amongst themselves and then a new law comes out that take away more and more of our freedoms for some reason and the debt continues and a lady in San Fransisco is murdered for no reason because the "system"failed. And where, oh were is the outrage? Any marches?  I guess that issue does not buy enough votes.

I probably look at it all too simply. And it keeps me up at night, and for what? Can anyone keep the big steamrolling machine from crushing us all? You think that anyone in BIG WHATEVER cares about you? Nah, only folks that care about you are right in your face, and even then, you better watch your back. If you have 2 or 3 folks that will never stab you in the back, you are batting 1000. And it makes my heart beat fast thinking about all of it, and for what? Don't matter at all. Just watch TMZ, eat Cheetos and listen to Kathie Lee. And read People. Now I will fit in.

All rolling along and the world topples like a domino game in Luchenbach , Texas.

Maybe I should just write about lifting weights. Okay! Work hard. Work basic. Don't fool yourself. Train legs. Train for life.  For life. I had a guy tell me the other day that his dog ran way from him and he was like, WHOA, I have forgotten how to run! He forgot one of the basic human needs! Escape, chase, evade by running.  So he began to run again. That is life training and realizing what you need to survive. I reckon if you are driving to the gym on a sunny day to ride the elliptical or walk/run on the treadmill, you really don't get the whole life training way of thinking.

What else? Train any way that you want to train. But there is stuff that works better than other stuff. Grimek, Starr, Bednarski, Reeves, Franco, etc, knew it. Might as well read it, learn from it. And Mccallum. He knew his stuff. Lots of sets to get strong in most cases. Grease the groove. Older lifters train everyday, but short and intense and frequent. And fun. And you may find that you are limited on what you can do because of injuries so just do what you can, and work it into the dirt. And have an open mind. I saw where a Canadian bodybuilder , a pro, uses the Prowler for fat loss. That is thinking outside the box and using science against dogma. Good. Break the mold.  AND put your arms down. Arnold never walked like that, because he didn't want to be seen as a fool. Ah, you probably don't even know that you are doing it.

What else?  Hunt, fish, shoot, play catch, chop wood, get a dog, kiss your dog, talk to your dog, live life like a dog, drink good whiskey with good friends, sit alone and let it all go, laugh at it all, turn off the cell phone, see the other view point, run just for the hell of it, get punched in the face and smile, train without saying a word, look but don't speak, buy a tomahawk and throw it against a tree, hug someone unexpectedly when you just have an inkling that they need it, ask someone about themselves and just let them talk, read Hemingway's short stories before they are banned, get a great knife, listen to METAL and the Highwaymen.

 And fish. And marvel at the silence of an evening, an evening alone, just before dusk, when you are fishing in a farm pond for bass. Can you just picture it? If you have never experienced it, get out there.  Because at those times, it isn't the size of your rims or the shoes you wear or the latest anything trend and it doesn't matter that your opinion is squashed among so many others. It is your time and just your time. It is simply the moment. And when you are there, when you are experiencing the special moments, it doesn't matter if the fish are biting or not.

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.