Sunday, September 28, 2014


I have been rereading one of my all time favorite books, About Three Bricks Shy of a Load,  by Roy Blount Jr. This is an inside look at the 1973 Pittsburgh Steelers. No way could a reporter have the access the Blount did back then. Get this- after practice and before the nightly meetings, the players would race down to a bar a few blocks away and drink as many beers as they could before the meetings. And the coaches knew about it and it was no big deal. Just like today, right?

Oh my god, it would be the biggest scandal in the world, although it may pale in comparison to the headlines from today. Blount has an easy to read , self effacing writing style that makes you want to keep turning the pages. Joe Greene, Bradshaw, Stallworth, Bleir, Harris; they are all in this book and young. It's early in their careers. It's a look back at a time when the game was simpler and players were more humble and less important to the "image" of the league. In other words, they were characters. This is a great book.

DVD Preview
"Total Annihilation,
Only the Strong Survive"
Branch Warren
Johnny Jackson


I love training videos. Ever since Pumping Iron I have attempted to find inspiration in what others do in their training .  The Ironmind videos of the Bulgarians were some of my favorites. Training in a hall with broken windows and shoes with holes in them. I have a bunch of DVDS's. I usually buy the "Battle for the Olympia" DVD's. Although there is no battle, it's their training. These are always pretty cool. Lots of diet stuff and some good training. I had some of Nasser El Sonbaty videos and Levrone's and of course, Yates. And a bunch of weightlifting Training Hall tapes. Dymas squatting, Botev squatting. And Botev squatting 720 in China with no belt ,  just some sweat pants. And they all lifted weights so nonchalantly. Meaning no bravado. Just get up, do it and on to the next set.

I have watched Johnny Jackson and Branch Warren train on film before. MuscularDevelopmentcom. has a series of them training on website. So I actually preordered Total Annihilation when I heard about it. Why do I like these guys so much? Because they train hard, man. They tear up the weights something fierce. And you know what else? They train different then anyone else trains. They train with a bunch of rep speed. And what most people would define as sloppy. And they are huge as hell, and pretty much thicker and denser that anyone else out there. So something is working. Yes, I know that they are on drugs. Everyone know that they are on them. And I don't care, it's their business and choice. What I do like is the unbridled intensity. So I get the DVD and it doesn't work on the TV. But when I put it in the computer, it works. Who knows? I didn't feel like sending it back, so I just watched it on my computer. It's good, nothing fancy, some home stuff with both of them, and some crazy training.  In Metroplex Gym in Texas, loud music, body part after body part, all out training. These guys go nuts when they train. Not with yelling and screaming, but with exercise after exercise with full effort. No talking at all, just getting after it. I definitely recommend this DVD for training inspiration.

It always peaks my interest about how people train for hypertrophy and what works the best. Slow reps? Lots of reps? Lots of volume? Going to failure? Sloppy form? Precise form? Frequent training? What the DVD shows with these two is that they are covering all bases. Do every damn exercise in the gym and see what happens. With them , its worked for sure.

 I have  noticed over the years a lack of "baseline respect" for authority figures from our youth. A little while back I had to get into it with some punk speeding down my street on his motorcycle and and he actually thought that it was okay to fly down the street while my kids where outside playing. I pointed out to him the error of his ways, but his initial attitude was of  a snot nose punk who was gonna tell this old man off.

And I learned a long time ago to address everyone older than me as "sir" or "coach". None of this first name crap. I can always tell when a kid is from the South because they usually don't act entitled, they act with manners and respect. I'm just saying, I can tell right away. And they usually look you in the eye when they speak to you.

Haha! I couldn't imagine calling my high school or college coaches by their first name. Coach Dailey? My junior college position coach? I can not even think about him being anything but Coach Dailey to me. Hey Mike! Nah, wouldn't happen. Hell, I wouldn't want it to happen. I knew that at 19, I knew nothing at all, and my coaches were there to teach me, not be my friend. I was scared of them, not physically, but they were the coaches and I was the player and that was that. I never even asked coaches, "How was your day today?" Dailey would have turned his head to the side like my Labrador's and said, "What's your angle, son?" You see, most of my coaches were all around good dudes, but it was different back then. What was it? There was a distinct seperation between coaches and players, and not one of the players felt entitled to a darn thing.

Of course, in junior college we took our uniforms home with us, had no weight room and no training table, no scholarships and the coaches were getting paid next to nothing. No off season program,no inseason program. No running workouts, no strength coach, no post workout chocolate milk. No inspirational speakers. No music during practice. I don't know how we did it, how we won so many games without all of that stuff.  You had to really want to be there. And we still played in a big bowl game even without all the bells and whistle's that everyone has today.

And the weights? We just got together and trained. Some in basements, some in Gold's Gym in Wheaton. We really had a team that liked to lift weights. All the basics. Everyone squatted, behind the neck press, bent over rows, some deadlifts, dips, lat pulls, curls. No stretching or any dynamic warmup. Definitely no pilates, yoga, P90X, Insanity....basically whatever Arnold and Kaz and Mike Webster and Randy White and the University of Maryland did in the weightroom, we copied.

 It was actually good to get away from everybody and train alone or with some friends and then go back in August refreshed and chomping at the bit. You wanna play? Be strong and in shape. And if you don't you will be on the bench. Simple. But those days are gone and all in all, I guess that it really doesn't help to rail against it all. It just is. And all you can do is try to control the tiny little circle in which you reside.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thoughts on the Squat

The squat is the ultimate exercise.

Heard that one before? Maybe not so much any more. In the 1980's, when Dr. Squat and Tom Platz reigned supreme, the squat was the way to go for not just big legs, but for overall growth.  Supposedly the squat was so hard that it forced you to grow all over.

I figured it out the other day. Conservatively, I reckon that I have done over 49,000 squats over the years. That is a bunch of deep knee bends. I am sure that I screwed my math up somehow, as it has never been my strong suit. Let us put it this way, I have done a mess of them. I didn't feel super comfortable with the squat right away (the deadlift was always a " natural" movement for me), but kept at it. I made myself do tons of them because unlike today where gimmicks and gizmo's rule, you had to squat if you wanted to be any type of lifter. We didn't have bands or chains or wobble boards or balls or even squat suits. We did have wraps, but we didn't wear them until you were squatting a maximum. Wraps were big back then, it was just part of it, and there was no shame in "wrapping up", it made you feel cool actually, like the KAZ or something.

I remember in the ninth grade when I was on top of the world because I had done 225x10, 250x10, 275x10 in my friend's basement. I was so happy and when I was done my legs were shaky but it was so grand and a feeling of accomplishment. I ended up squatting some decent weight when I was older but I was just as excited after that training session as any of the ones in later years.

 And everybody was benching and the squat was , to me, more of a test of your guts and fortitude. And I never felt a connection with the bench. Do you have exercises like those? Where the exercise just doesn't feel natural to you? The bench was that way for me, and I would try too hard and my form would suffer and I'd get tendonitis and I'd say, screw it, I will just squat, squat, squat. And bent over rows. I'd squat and bent row and I guess that I would do some nose breakers or something. I always loved doing lots of reps because I loved that feeling of the burning of  the lungs and the quivering of the thighs. On some sets I would see my pulse in my eyes during the last few reps.

I remember one time my friend's and I did a hellacious rep workout with front squats. Right after that, I went down to the creek behind my house and caught a beautiful Brown Trout. The creek is about 200 yards straight down from the house. Well I was determined to get that trout up the hill and into my Dad's fish pond before it died. I was attempting to run up that hill but my legs were barely cooperating. I was yelling "Front squats!" to my friend as I was wobbling with the still breathing fish in my hand. I did make it eventually and so did the fish.

I tried the 20 rep squat program for awhile. That was okay. Great for development, not for strength. The best program that I did for squat strength was the Russian Squat Workout from Dr. Fred Hatfield's book, Power. There is plenty of volume, and the percentages are always 80% and above. You start to feel as though 80% is no big deal at all because you are in that range so much. Whereas traditional programs have you work up to one all out set, this one had you stay in the medium heavy zone constantly. I always responded better to that type of training, and went on to follow Sheiko's programs also with success. I recommend that type of volume for powerlifter or even athletes who are looking to smash some barriers in their squat.

What else about the squat?

Half squats are no good.

Pause squats are great.

The Safety Squat Bar is amazing. 

Speed in the descent is one of the keys to a big squat(for most).

You have to give up your low back sometimes to squat a big weight. No it isn't good for your back, but you are competing and anytime you are attempting to go beyond, it's not about health.

You have to stay with the lean to keep the bar over the middle of your foot.

Hatfield said, "Glide, glide, glide, bounce." Think about that when you are squatting.

Sometimes you still may be sore for a week after a good squat workout. Wear it as a badge of honor. Then go squat again.

Monday, September 8, 2014


I know that I need to write a new column, so I am sitting here, and I am just writing.

I am looking forward to Benjamin Whitmer's new book, Cry Father. He is a tremendous talent and the author of one of my favorite books, Pike. It's coming out next week. I will order it on day one. I will go broke buying books. It is a disease. 

Training is a funny thing. It is not for all people. It is my observation that most people do not understand that sometimes you will be very, very, sore. It does not mean that you are injured. It means that you haven't done a damn thing in life that requires tough, tough work. But that's okay. Quit because you are sore. More room at the squat rack.

I never had a pacifier. My mom thought that they were gross. I stuffed a blanket in my mouth instead.  I Just felt like sharing that fact. Maybe because I just washed 20 pacifiers in between pulls of Budweiser. Yes, watching the kids by myself again.

Been listening to KIX, baby! From Maryland, the hair metal band with the feel good tunes from hell! New album out. So I have an eclectic mix- Southern rock, Death/Black/ Thrash Metal, Hair metal. Alas, still no rap. Alas, never, ever any rap.

The best squat program? No, the best overall program to get an intermediate Big and Strong? NEVER fails- Hatfield's 80 day program. It is amazing. Look it up.

Ray Donovan is the show on TV with the most potential to be a great show. But his wife? She is ruining the show. She is so nuts, so garish, so over the top, that I forward through her every scene. How about a little cunning, or a little less anger and more intelligence? Nope, just off the wall wackiness. Damn! And her look.  She is tough to take. She looks like a camel smoking/Killer Weed smoking girl from Adelphi in the 70's.

Joe Rogan has the best podcast around. 

I love when I tell people that I have frozen ducks and pigeon in my freezer so that I can play fetch with my dogs. Priceless looks of "what did he just say?"

I went to look at some land the other day. It was 10 acres. Supposed to be a hunters paradise. It was not. It was bunch of vegetation and a few deer tracks. But, it did have a building on it that had LUCIFER WAS HERE, 666, LUCIFER WAS HERE, GET OUT, spray painted on the inside. Now, if you were trying to sell it, wouldn't you paint over that particular message?

Also, a Water Moccasin appeared at one point. I am not a fan. The sighting had my son James trying to climb up my head at any sound in the bushes thereafter. I mean, he was clinging to me something fierce. 

Are you training? Is your life not so great? Is stuff going so badly/poorly that you can not seem to get through a day without doubting yourself or just feeling like crap?  Feel like anytime that you want to get started that the road just seems to difficult, too arduous, too long of a haul to just make a little progress? 

You are not, definitely not, alone.  Breath deep, take the step, go to the gym. Or just do 10 pushups. Or just 5 pushups. Or just 1 pushup. And tomorrow, do 2 pushups. And just keep going. You will find that you will feel better about yourself, and problems will not seem so big and your improvement will let you know beyond any doubt that you can accomplish things with a little action and dedication and consistency. How bad could it be? Don't change anything right now but your training habits. Change those first. Train. Pushups, freehand squats.  Lift weights. Walk or ride a bike. Then worry about diet later. Right now, just train.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Slow Southern Steel (Documentary)

This is a kick ass movie that I went to see a few years ago, and I have been waiting for it to be released ever since. If you are into Southern heavy music, check it out.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kids and Dogs and Dogs and Kids

This week I have been in charge, solely, of my two year old, Maximus . My wife has been away. Max? He is freakin' nuts. He is certifiable. He makes me wanna come home and drink Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA as fast as I can before I face him. Nah, I would never do that. Not me.

Pure evil! Just Kidding. My boy, Max

I'm old, and he is nuts. He is two. I'm forty six. I already have two boys who are thirteen and eight. The rest of my friends who are my age have kids who are in college. One friend has a granddaughter.

I have a two year old.

What? What is wrong? I am constantly asking him, questioning him.  Why are you crying?  You want milk? Just ask me, I will give you milk, you do not have to cry and scream to get milk. I want you to have it. I do not have a hidden agenda to not give you milk! It makes us both look good when you grow big and strong! Just say it, say that you want milk, and I will provide. I can not read your mind, or for that matter, understand you when you are screaming. You are garbling your words and I am getting furious. OH MILK!!! OK, here it is, Drink the F up!

And at one a.m. every night, he sits up and screams. I know this because my wife has a camera in his room. So I wait up, reading, and glancing at the monitor. Reading and glancing. If I go to sleep and he wakes me up, it just pisses me off. So I stay up.

And then, even though I have left his door open, he cries for me to come get him. YOUR DOOR IS OPEN!!!!  I yell it and he still cries, and then I furiously throw off the covers and go get him and bring him into bed and then he falls fast asleep. That BINKY making sucking noises.

Of course, the dogs, my wonderful Labradors , Bas(male) and Storm(female), hear my voice and begin to stir. My voice means retrieving, hunting, training.  They wanna go out. Now? Yes, now. It does not help that Storm is in heat, man.

Bas will not eat. Poor Bas. He is ten years old and a virgin.

 He circles the yard, sniffing and urinating, sniffing and urinating. And constantly attempting the "humptydump" as my eight year old calls it. The ACT. He is trying. Storm sits and looks up at me , pleading. PLEASE, Dad, get him off of me. But Bas is possessed!

He grabs her with a vice like grip. I yell and yell and go out in the yard in bare feet and grab him and try to separate them. But Bas is determined. Clinching and clinching like an exhausted heavyweight in the last round. I finally yell, RUN Storm!and she bolts inside and downstairs. I hold Bas at the top of the steps just for a brief minute so that Storm can have a drink of water in peace without Bas hunching on her like a madman.

And finally I get back to bed. Max is up at seven or so. He is quite demanding. MY JUICE! MY TV! I run to the kitchen to get his juice and turn the TV on at the same time. I do not want the dogs to get up yet, because then I will have Max screaming and the dogs whining and Bas panting and whining, moaning even. And then I think, just what is going on in the basement?

And Bas, crazy Bas, who never has an accident, ever, urinates all over the place this morning. On the vacuum, in his kennel, on my jacket. CRAZY SEX FIEND LOSES CONTROL OF HIS BODILY FUNCTIONS! And I had it all timed out, get James up, get Max dressed, dogs, Truck, put Archgoat on the radio, Daycare, Chick-Fil-A for James breakfast, then off to work.

But Bas has screwed up the itinerary.

The urine spray/puddle/lake that is everywhere causes me to yell at the top of my lungs. And yell and cuss just a little. Of course the eight year old thinks that he has done something wrong, like left a half eaten peach in the couch cushion( a sometime occurrence), so he asks, what is it??

 Oh, Bas pissed everywhere, I say. And he says, oh, OK! He is relieved. Meanwhile the urine is like a flooded creek. How could his bladder hold so much? So I grab paper towels and start mopping it up and then apply some spray disinfectant. But then I hear Max screaming for me. Fun! Oh, so fun. Max is fine, he is just two. He is two, I say, just two. He will get better.

I make it. I get him dropped off at day care. Bas had settled down before I left. He was exhausted. He is seventy years old and running and licking and hunching. That is hard work.

And then I get a free coffee at Chick-Fil-A and Archgoat is playing and then Thin Lizzy and I am thinking as I go off to work and over the Walt Whitman Bridge, I am thinking,  just what is so great about having kids and dogs? You just worry all the time about them, and they are always screwing something up. Oh! it must be the times in between the screwups that make it all worthwhile. The looks of love or the completion of some task that surprises you, freaks you out.  It is not an all the time thing, though. You get a Blam! of love and affection and a steady rain of WHY THE HECK? the other times. But me?

I keep having more kids and getting more dogs.  There must be something worthwhile about it. Gotta be.

 Either that or I have some type of sickness.

So then Dad said, "Get your own damn binky!" Can you believe that?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thoughts and a Turkey Leg

I just finished The Painter by Peter Heller. That's a good book. If you like books about men who believe in an eye for an eye but are also into the arts and fishing and the outdoors, then this is the type of book that you will like. And nothing mushy about it either. Meaning no weird lovey-dovey stuff. Weird to me , that is.

Also- Superjoint Ritual, my all time favorite band, is playing a reunion show at the Housecore Horror Festival in October. I can't go, but would LOVE to. I am hoping that they will tour.

                                                   The almighty Superjoint Ritual                     

I love it when people decide that enough is enough and then start training and eating right and you don't see them for awhile and then when you do, BAM! They are different looking. My buddy was getting a little heavy there for awhile and he started down that road where he was getting sloppy and then the next time that I saw him he looked totally different.

I asked him what he had been doing(transformation fascinates me) and he said that he was performing kettle bell swings and goblet squats for exercise and that for his diet he cut out the carbs except for 3-5 beers at night. Now, he isn't gonna get huge that way or all diced up, but man, he looks healthier, and he is a whole lot happier. And really, he doesn't know what the hell he is doing when it comes to training, meaning that he doesn't know how to program and his form is off, but, and this is  key here- He was/is consistent, and consistency can trump all that other stuff. Everyday, getting it done with diet and his swings and squats and it works. That's easy, right? And the 3-5 beers is pretty cool, meaning that you don't have to live like a monk to make some drastic changes.

What else? I can't express enough to people that you must train what you can train and that the important thing to do is to keep training, training, training. So if you have an injury, train around it, and also try to set goals with the new lifts. I don't care if it is a rep record for freakin' machine laterals, it gives you something to shoot for when you train.

Also, if you are dieting, and you screw up, just get back on the plan the very next meal. So if you have some cake, it doesn't mean that you get to say,  " Well, I blew it, I might as well eat a gallon of ice cream.". No, just get back on the very next meal. And starting tomorrow is always crap. Start right now.

Check out this picture below. It is of me when I was one.  The year was 1968.

No,  I did not post it to show how utterly adorable I was , I posted it to show that my parents were letting me eat a whole turkey leg. When I was one .

And so I asked my Dad, "Weren't you afraid that I would choke??" and he said, "Nah, you had teeth. You could bite and chew." Quite different than these days, huh? When everything is pureed for the kids and there are warning labels on everything and treats melt in their mouth and warning warning warning choking hazard. Hell, give that kid a sinewy turkey leg for lunch!

My assistant Stephen did 12 sets of 4 at 485(80%) in his deadlift today and then did 425 for 8 to finish. It's part of a program that I wrote awhile back. The cool thing was that he was so determined to finish and Cristi and I were encouraging him and he was pushing himself like crazy to get it done. He was drenched in sweat and covered in chalk. And after one set he started talking about the rituals that he has while training, like how the weights have to be tightened after each set even though they don't really need it, and the deadlift jack is placed in a certain spot every time.

And it got me thinking that I do that type of stuff also, and that I bet a bunch of people have their little rituals that get them going. I go through hat and shirt and bandanna phases. My Skinless black hat and my Down cutoff and Down bandanna are three clothing/accessory items that when worn, guarantee a good workout. I know that Yates had music to listen to and clothing that he wore for each different body part. It's cool and different and I guess that it smacks of superstition, but if it works, or even if you think that it works, then go for it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Awesome Squatter

I received this email from Mike Durham, a very strong man, who made some great progress using my squat program. The man is an awesome squatter. Check out the video.

Just wanted to update you and thank you again.  I ended up having to drop out of the meet due to family commitments.  Because of that I hadn't planned on maxing this week and was way off schedule for the squat program.  I ended up doing did a high volume deadlift session monday and the same for bench Wednesday.  I decided last night just to hit a heavy single to see what happened, but I wasnt expecting much since I wasn't fresh.  I ended up hitting 580 which is a 30 pound PR from when I started.  I have been stuck at 550 for three years and I am 40 years old so this isnt some newbie progress.

This program was hard and I feel that one of the biggest things that set it apart was all the practice you get squatting.  My form felt dialed in no matter how I was feeling for that session.  Your book of programs is an absolute steal compared to the books currently on the market.  Everything in there just works.  Simple percentages and hard work.  No follow up questions needed.  Thanks again for writing it and making it available.

Mike Durham 



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.