Sunday, May 17, 2015


Folks liked the Memories of Bill Starr. Marty Gallagher just posted a wonderful story about Coach Starr on  Check it out, Marty can write his ass off.

People like that stuff because it was before all the BS of today- Starr was cut and dried and did the basics and he was low carb and Willie Nelson and Miller High Life and worked for the love of it all and did what he said he would do and they just don't come around like that very often. He read ancient texts and eschewed anything modern because everything modern wasn't worth a crap anyway.  He did good mornings until you could look between your legs and dips as low as you could go. He lifted in a barn and sat back and listened when you talked and looked you in the eye and actually cared. Not concerned with money or fame and when I knew him, he didn't have much use for men who let anyone else run their lives and felt like a man should stand on his own. He put paintings outside of his front door and plants and I asked him, don't you worry that someone will steal them? And he didn't worry, just had faith in people, and nobody stole a thing from him.

When I look at my most popular articles, Kirk Karwoski's training routine always comes up. Looking for a secret? No secret. He loved lifting weights. Heavy. Squat and leave. Bench , close grip, machine laterals. Ez Curls, DB curls. Deads, shrugs. Bye. See you later. Time to drink beer. Get up and work the next day, eat tuna, potatoes, then lift. Repeat. Intensity personified. No chains, bands, phases, gurus, sled drags, prowler pushes. I love some of that stuff. But the point is, Kirk trained and trained HARD. Not to failure, never that. But hard and heavy. Ninety pound dumbbell curls, strict. Four hundred and fifty pound inclines. And he didn't care (in my opinion) if he got hurt in the gym because everyday in the gym was a competition, and he loved it . 640x8 , 800x5. Squats.  The 640x8 was without a belt, the 800x5 with just a belt. And he squatted deep. And deadlifted with a normal bar, and form was everything. Legit. And he was gonna win or die trying. He would never just compete just to compete, for a "bucket list" or some worthless modern, made up junk. Win. Win. All out to win.

It's like Arnold said one time- lots of mini champions around these days- but the Coan's and Kirk's and Estep's and Cash's were different. They were iconic and unquestionably different than anyone else. Stood apart. Charisma and sheer force of will. Because even though the totals of those guys may get overtaken, they still remain legends because folks know that they were/are legitimate, no frills, champions.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Memories of Bill Starr

Bill Starr passed away a few weeks back. For those of you unfamiliar with him, he was an Olympic lifter, an author, and a helluva coach. He had been everywhere as a coach: The University of Maryland, University of Hawaii, Johns Hopkins, and way back when, the Baltimore Colts.  He wrote for a bunch of magazines and he was an author. He wrote the end-all-be-all book of football training, The Strongest Shall Survive, among other books.

I didn't get to know him until about seven or eight years ago. My friend and current Drexel Head Lacrosse Coach Brian Voelker had been coached by Starr at Johns Hopkins when Voelker played lacrosse there. "Starrman" was what he called him, and he loved him as a coach. 

So Voelker says that he knows him and I got all excited with a YOU KNOW BILL STARR!!?? and he said that we would go visit after Starr got back in touch with him. Starr was a minimalist to say the least and he didn't have a cell phone.  He did have a phone, a landline phone, but it was hooked up to a fax most of the day.  What one needed to do was to fax Starr with a message and he would call you later on. 

The next day, Voelker came to see me. He called, he said. We are going down tomorrow. And off we went to Aberdeen, Maryland. Starr grew up in Havre de Grace, Maryland, on the upper Chesapeake Bay and was a country boy at heart and a farm boy when he was younger. He now lived in an apartment in Aberdeen, close by to where he grew up. We arrived and Starr and Voelker did some catching up while I took a look around the place. He had tons of paintings everywhere, ones he painted himself, and they were quite good.  He had plenty of books and magazines and yellow notebook pads (He did all his writing on them) and a television set with a VCR.  No DVD player, and no cable.  Three channels. Seinfeld was his favorite show.  A few tapes of Willie Nelson in concert sat on the VCR.  He was a huge Wille fan.  A worn out copy of Tao Te Ching sat next to his favorite chair.  That was his go-to book.

After a half hour or so, we went downstairs and got into Voelker's car and Starr took us on a tour of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, complete with the spot where the British Soldiers landed during the War of 1812.  Starr actually wrote a novel with the war of 1812 as a backdrop, so he knew a whole bunch about it.  And we are driving and then he tells me that he used to work for Weider back when Arnold first came to this country.  And he told me one story where Arnold was tired of not being paid by Weider so he said screw it and went to the airport to head back to Austria.  Weider raced to the airport to intercept his biggest cash cow, and the rest is history.  And then he told us stories of Franco and some pro wrestlers that were famous back then.

We get back to his apartment and walk over to a restaurant that was in the bottom of a Ramada Inn. I swear, I have had cream of crab soup all of my life, and this soup was the best that I have ever had. Starr drank Miller High Life exclusively, three to four a day.  He had a few that night. He ate a burger and skipped the bun. I was peppering him with questions the whole time. He actually worked with the Baltimore Colt's when Unitas was there. Unitas. Unitas. Anyway, he told me that when Unitas tore his Achilles Tendon that he rehabbed himself. How did he do it? He began by walking. Then he started jogging.  Then when that felt good, he started running. Made sense to Starr. Unitas also told him, along with Earl Morrall, that if they were younger players, that they would have lifted weights. But they felt like that at their age it was too late for them to start. 

He told me a story about Mike Curtis, the All-Pro linebacker. Curtis came up to him and told him that he was going to strict press 300 pounds. His best at the time was 250. So Starr says, you sure? And he says, I'M GONNA PRESS 300 POUNDS. So he puts it on the bar and misses. And then, and Starr said he had never seen anything like it, Curtis gets stark raving crazy fired up and on the second try, gets it, presses 300 pounds. And Curtis wouldn't lift if Starr's girlfriend was in the gym, no women when he was lifting. So Starr had to ask her to leave. We also talked about Maryland and how tough those guys were in the 70's when he was there, and how he lived in the dorm and the head coach wanted him to cut his hair. Starr said that he would have cut his hair in a second, but only if he got paid a little more money. And then he told stories about the players at Hawaii and how some of them would come to the workouts under the influence of a particular herb and he had to figure out a way for them to get the most out of the workouts when they were in that particular state. 

From what I could glean from our conversations,  I don't know if he ever made any money at any of the places that he coached. He loved it and would do just about anything to coach; drive a shitty car, work crazy hours, live in the dorm. I am telling you, money and material things did not mean a damn thing to this man.  He lived for the people that he coached, he kept tabs on them, he followed them in the papers if they were coaching. If you wrote him a letter asking for training advice, he became your pen pal and personal trainer. He was a good man. One of those guys that you meet that makes you think, I can learn things from this man, I can get better by just taking him in, by being around him. 

The next time that I saw him, I brought my assistant at the time, Brett Crossland, to meet him.  I, of course, faxed him first and then he called me and Brett and I headed down. When we got there, Starr asked us if we wanted something to eat. He had some soft shell crabs that he wanted to cook us. I know those as a delicacy, a true Marylander loves these things. You eat the whole crab, guts and all, and legs and arms and lungs. They are amazing. And they also aren't cheap. So Starr starts cooking and then he brings it out and serves us. Man, they were delicious. Now Brett being from cattle country Texas had no idea about a soft shell crab and once he bit into it, and I explained that it was the whole crab, he was backing away pretty quickly in his head. And then he committed the mortal sin that is just not done: He left some of the soft shell on the plate. I was telling him to finish it, motioning to him, mouthing the word, FINISH IT! And he was shaking his head, uh-uh and I was like YES and he was like NO and then Starr came in and saw Brett's plate and asked if something was wrong with the crab and I said, Brett just doesn't know how good he has it, Coach. And we left it at that.

Then I say, Coach, Brett doesn't like the high pull as a clean assistance exercise, and Starr, who loved the high pull, says, what ?and Brett explains how it teaches bad habits like bending your arms and not bringing your hips through. So Starr says, come into the bedroom. We get in there and there are magazines and papers and articles piled up, but there is also a weight set, an olympic bar with 45's on each side. So Starr starts instructing Brett on the high pull and Brett starts to do it and he's not doing it to Starr's satisfaction and then Starr says, FASTER! and PULL IT OVER YOUR F*%KING HEAD! and Brett says, but Coach I will hit the ceiling and Starr says, I DON'T GIVE A SHIT, DO IT! And Brett does it and sure enough, he puts those plates right into the ceiling, leaving two bumper plate indentations. 

Everyday, he lifted in his bedroom and then went for a walk.  A forty five minute walk. And on his way he stopped by the Goodwill store to see if they had any good books. He woke up at two pm everyday, and stayed up all hours of the night. You knew not to stop by before two and you knew to bring some Miller's if you came by. 

The last time that I saw him, I was coming back from a rough visit with my sister. She was in Johns Hopkins at the time, suffering with cancer. I needed a boost and I decided to go see Coach.  I got off at the Aberdeen exit and went into the Seven- Eleven that is up the road a bit from his place and purchased a twelve of Miller High Life and headed to the apartment. It was great to see him and he was cordial as always and understanding. His hip was messed up pretty badly, I don't think that he was able to go for his daily walks. He was in some pain. But he didn't complain, he just listened to me. 

It's strange when your mentors start to go. It happens, and this weird feeling of being sort of alone washes over you and it is definitely a feeling of despair, and then you reach for the phone to ask them some advice or a question about training or about life and then your hand stops short and it hits you. I can't do that, you think.  

I don't know. Maybe the right way to look at it is to be grateful for the conversations that made you see things differently and the advice that rang so true and of course, the cream of crab soup, and  to be thankful to have someone that special for even a little bit of time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Natural Position

If you are trying to get your squats up,  either have a day with super high volume like 7x3 at 85% or 10x3 at 85% or 10x4 at 80% OR  squat twice a week or even more, but split up the volume for the week- like :

Monday- 80% 7x2
Tuesday- 80x3 80 3x2
Wednesday-75 5x2(easy)
Thursday - off
Friday- 70x3 75x3 80 5x4

That would be a killer week and workouts like these will kickstart you squat in even a few weeks. I like the 4 day better. The bar feels like an old friend when you squat that often. And just stay within the 75% to 85% range and manipulate the volume in those ranges. You could actually do the same workout for 4 weeks and then be ready to max. Even though you haven't been to 90%, your max will go up. It really is the magic of high volume. Right before you max, do a week like this:

Tuesday- 70% 3x2
Friday or Saturday- Max

Pretty much perfect

So crush the volume and take it away. Works like a charm.

Ever seen "All The Right Moves"? I was thinking about today. Movie from like 1983, starring Tom Cruise before the big time. And the girl from Red Dawn, Leah Thompson . I saw it on the night that I got my letter jacket and saw the movie at a theatre in Laurel, Maryland. I loved it. About the Ampipe Bulldogs. I love the part where Salvucci is being arrested and he is yelling to Craig T. Nelson, "Help me coach, help me coach!" and then he says something like, "You aren't a god, you are just a football coach!" or maybe Tom Cruise says that line. Anyway, it was a great movie for a high school player wearing his new letter jacket.

One of my worst memories of Laurel and seeing a movie was when my football buddies and I tried to sneak through the woods to watch an adult movie at Sidney Lust's drive in. The security there flattened all of our tires and were shooting something at us while we were freaking out. One of our friend's dads came and got us after we walked to a pay phone to call him for a ride and he gets out of the car and says. "I hope you guys can play football because you sure are stupid." At least my parents never found out.

If you are interested in reading about an American hero, check out What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now? by Richard Ben Cramer. Very good! Man can write. I think it was 9.99 on Kindle and its only 128 pages but it's worth it. Hell, good writing is priceless.

And check out this short story, very good-

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Better Back Then, Part 2

I was speaking with someone a few years older than me the other day and he was laughing derisively about how "this generation thinks that their opinion counts", and the fact that struggling is a thing of the past with the 30 and under crowd. He is much older than me, and he was telling stories of being broke and working and how utterly happy he was when he got his first job coaching. He had 10 teams to train and he was paid a pauper's wage and when his boss told him how many teams that he was in charge of, he said, "Thank you!", and got to work. And then after years of coaching he got sick of it all and moved way , way out into the country where he didn't have to  deal with the "Political BS and the spoiled rotten entitled of today." He was going off. I told him to relax, that sometimes folks just don't get it. And I said that he was painting the whole generation with a pretty wide brush. And then he said, "I know, but damn it's fun to rant once in awhile." And we left it at that, and we started talking about squatting and country music. Real country: Whitey Morgan, Waylon, Willie, George Jones, Old Hank Jr., some Hank 3. Hell, what else is there to talk about? 

And then I was talking to someone else, who, when they were just a little kid, got into an argument with their cousin, and went back to the house and got his BB gun. His Dad stopped him and asked where he was going. "Going to kill my cousin", he said. "Nah, you ain't gonna do that," said his dad. Then his dad said, "There are gonna be times in life when you will have to fight though, son. And let me tell you something: Once you start fighting, never take a backwards step." And when he was telling me that story, I thought that was an awesome axiom for life in general, too.

And I was thinking of my high school coach (We only had 2 coaches by the way), and how we weren't  allowed to have water during the games but that someone sold him on this this awful sugary slop that  I really can't describe that was supposed to "give you energy". It was some gruel that was like chunky, sugary oatmeal. It just made you more thirsty. In fact, I got  so thirsty that during a playoff game my junior year against Anne Arundel (Kirk Karwoski was on the Anne Arundel team), I saw that, in the stands, my girlfriend was drinking a Sprite and asked her to bring it down to me and hand it over the railing. Damn, that was a good Sprite.

And I was thinking about how during games in high school, my linebacker partner Billy Henson, an All Metropolitan player, would say, "I'm gonna blitz this play," and for me to cover for him and he usually made the play and the coaches never said a word if he didn't.  Man, Billy was a good player. We'd go around on Friday nights in his Chevette and "borrow" street signs and take them to his girlfriend's house off of Sellman Road and leave them in her front yard. Not sure why he thought that was something that she wanted, but he did it all of the time. Like a cat leaving a mouse as an offering at the front door or something.

And I was thinking about how we didn't know anything in high school about lifting and training so we had some Nebraska program where we added 5 pounds a week and everybody got pretty strong and then we would run a mile and some 40's and everybody got pretty fast, too. Then in the summer after training we would pile in Carlo's brother Luigi's Ford Escort with no shocks and we'd crank up Quiet Riot and we'd go to Carlo's house and his mom would feed us and we'd go to the pool. And we all worked at Adelphi Mobil pumping gas. Carlo and Rick worked during the week and I worked 13 hours on Saturday and we'd make 5 bucks a piece fixing flats for people.  How can you beat that? Training, eating, working and hanging out with your boys. Simple, fun times.

Whitey Morgan

Whitey Morgan. Got turned onto him from Frank Bill, bad ass author.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Better Back Then

I was just thinking about this:

When I was a kid, and played for Beltsville Boys Club in Beltsville, Maryland, our team sponsor was Phil's Bar and Grill. I think that I was 9 or 10 years old.

 And I think that we were what, 80 pounds? And Phil's sponsoring us was no big deal. No parents said a word. It was never brought up. Now? Oh man, it would be all over the news and the PC police would be going nuts and the end of the world be looming closer and closer because of the sponsorship.  MY GOD! What are they doing to our kids? 

And at practice the coaches used to send us over to the woods to go to the bathroom and they would yell, "If you shake it more than once you are playing with it!"

And Coach Miller used to say, "Men, there are two things in life that you want to avoid. The Army and wind sprints." He was a Marine, covered in old tattoos. Before tattoos were cool.

And he used to say, "Men, it's the day before the game. Have your mommas lock you in the closet and slide raw meat under the door to make you mean. And no bubble baths or loose women." My Dad would just laugh when I would relate what Coach said to us. No big deal.

I remember we would drive up to practice and the coaches of the teams would all be sitting around smoking, leaning on their trucks. They had all worked long days but they loved football, and they volunteered their time. No parents were ever at practice. My dad would sometimes sit in the car, but it was in the parking lot, a hundred yards away. It would have been embarrassing for your parents to be there. Your mom and dad have to watch you practice? 

And we would get to practice early and play "Maul Ball", and then the coaches would walk down the hill and we would begin practice. The smell of the grass! The hitting and being hit, the challenges! Getting your butt whooped and doing some whooping! That is life, man! It teaches you things. Man, it was great. 

And practice would end after about an hour. I don't remember anyone getting hurt. Ever. We didn't have water bottles, or coolers full of water. There was no such thing. And it was hot, Maryland humid hot. Nobody ever said it was hot. Because it was fun.

 Actually, you didn't have something to drink until your Dad took you to High's Dairy Store for a Slush Puppy or 7-11 for a Slurpee. Cola flavored for me. Sometimes my Dad and I would go to Highs and buy a box of ice cream sandwiches and eat the whole damn box before we got to the house. It was around a mile, I reckon. We wolfed those things down.

Yeah, I know things have changed. But it was better back then.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Not like this ANYMORE!


Steve Maxwell has some great ideas about nutrition and living longer

Fred Hatfield still knows more than just about anyone in the strength and conditioning world. Much of it is common sense. Read about his Zig-Zag Diet sometime.

Jack London is always worth revisiting.

 Cabela's Wild boar sandwiches are amazing and the  Elk one's ain't far behind.

Shouldn't everything be closed on Veteran's Day?

Art15 Clothing has some of the best shirts and videos around. Not safe for work or kids, but funny.
Bunch of veterans who started a company and find humor in a whole bunch of things.

Hank III is an independent thinker/musician.

Hilarious when folks spend so much time putting down other programs. Like Crossfit or geared lifters vs. raw lifters. Its very important compared to ISIS and disease and our troops and trying to ban ammo and kids who are hungry and coal companies raping the land, and....yeah, but Crossfit/kettlebells/jogging is bad. It a workout, who gives a crap? At least they ain't sitting around eating cheese puffs.

Every great person I have known does not care what other people think.

Every great person I have known laughs a lot and doesn't take themselves too seriously.

Every great person that I have known don't care about their appearance. And they all look good. Weird. Maybe when they let the narcissism go and focus on running, lifting, and eating naturally, they just look good anyway.

Been around some teenagers lately. Wow, are they out of shape. I guess they aren't playing outside much.

I read an article about Kermit Washington(NBA) years ago, and he decided to work a whole bunch harder, lifting weights and training, after one day his training partner told him, "You ain't good enough to act cool."

I often wonder , when folks are making decisions about other folk's lives, do they ever think what it would be like in the other person's shoes? Ah, but it will come back on them eventually, it always does.

A family movie that's not a cartoon! Yes.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Everybody knows the "It is not the critic who counts..." from TR. But damn, if you read it through, it is damn good. Here ya go:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

Its true, so true. Even announcers who never played should not be allowed to comment. Be mute if you have never played a down in your life. If you have never strapped up and heard the cheers and crushed someones soul and had yours crushed and gotten up and done it all over again and again, do not say a word. 

Try this-Take a step out of your comfort zone, get on the platform, and compete, and don't fake it and bomb because of the pressure. Do it all the way. And long as the weight is respectable, you can give an opinion. And only if you are stronger that the one's who you are dissecting.

You critiquing an 800 pound squatter? Know that 800 is a lot different than the 405 that you squat. I don't give Kirk Karwoski advice and I would never critique one thing that he does program-wise. Why? Because he is stronger than me. And strength trumps it all.....and to get that strong and thick, his program must have worked and he did just the basics. You can't critique the basics. And he was as thick as anybody else, so those 1-2 assistance exercises worked well. So much for a bunch of bioscience demanding squeezing and light weight. Rather be more intense and be done in 30 than take 60 and go through the motions. 

Football, boxing , mma, stuff like that-hell, coaching! Coaching especially! I love when people criticize strength coaches,  especially personal trainers. If you are a strength coach at a college, you train hundreds of athlete's a week.You think that is learning at an advanced speed? You want to know how to program? Ask someone who does it all day long. 

And how about criticizing Saban or Meyer? Haha. Joke. Walk in their shoes. Just watch the game and be thankful that those guys are there and that you live through them.

That is a weird, common thing these days. Not a thing, rather a trend. Everybody criticizing, sitting back, writing comments, hiding behind the computer. That is this day and age, the way that all the cowards have a turn. The real Strong and the Heroes step out and step up.

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.