Tuesday, April 22, 2014

All I Can Do Is Write About It

I am sitting here thinking about what to write about . I want to write about so many things and then I think, ah, forget it. Nobody wants to know about that stuff.

I'm thinking about cool people versus people who just don't get it. How when a crisis situation comes up one always finds out who is really there for you. What, about 3-4 people? Yep, everyone else is just in it for themselves. That's okay, just smile, nod your head and move on. Hang out with dogs. That's better anyway. Smartest thing humans ever did, domesticating wolves. There is no lying in dogs.

 I'm thinking about people who don't do their jobs right, whether its pumping gas or being a doctor. You know, they just don't freakin care.  No pride. Ah, whatever. And how people steal my book even though it is only ten bucks. Nice.

I am thinking about Ronnie Van Zant and what a cool dude he really was and how some of his songs were just killer stuff.  A poet, he was. People I hang out with that are in their twenties and thirties haven't even heard of him.

I am thinking about this perplexing email I received from this lady one time ripping into me , calling me all sorts of names. I had written her an email trying to fire her up to do great things in the weight room, and she had seriously gotten it all wrong and made an ass of herself. It reminds me exactly of this girl I used to train who had never had a coach or played sports and when I exhorted her with  C'MON! before she squatted, she thought that I was actually yelling at her, being negative. Same type of thing.  I feel sorry for her, she is so out of it.

Thinking about cheesy damn people. Oh, man, you are so cheesy. Ugh, just lift. Yeah, I know, you are doing a mudfunruncrosstrainjudo thing  and you were the one who thought of everything and you did this in high school and you used to do this and your knee injury and you are this and your wife is that and you you you you and that ugh, I am not listening and to tell you the truth I really am thinking about my dogs and I just like my dogs and please just lift.

I was thinking of this friend of mine who I really admire because even though he has a great job that he loves, he never changes who he is, not for a minute. He is in his forties and he throws down in a second if needed. He is not scared of any man. He got in a street fight a few years back and I asked him, "Aren't you afraid of losing your job?" and he said, "Steel, I will never have anything hanging over my head." Just matter of fact, it's the way that he is, the way that he decided to live his life, maybe because he grew up so crappy or saw his brother die or his dad waste away or because he got jumped constantly when he was a kid and had to defend himself, I don't know. But I find that attitude of his pretty admirable.

I am thinking about the book that I was gonna write about diet and and getting motivated and then I am thinking that what is really needed is for people to just man up a little and learn to be hungry. That the secret is to be hungry and eat protein and fat and vegetables .  Not many want it to be simple. Ah, it just irritates me even writing it. Eat what you want, look how you want, who really cares? You decide to do it, great. If not, rock on. Diet, don't diet, smoke, don't smoke, drink don't drink. It is your responsibility, and only yours. You need someone to tell you what's right? probably not. You have it in you already.  I was talking to someone about diet and they interrupted me and said, "Coach, I know what to eat, I just don't do it. "At least he was honest.

I am thinking about how you put someone on a program and then they add stuff to it and then they wonder why they don't get strong. Follow it. Or don't. Yes, Dr. Squat wrote the program. Yes he squatted 1014 pounds. Yes, you should add extra days in so you get weaker. He actually meant to put
in those extra days, he just forgot.

I am thinking about Cody Lundin for some reason. I think that other than the braids, he pretty much has a badass life. A really badass life.

Monday, April 21, 2014

It Worked For Me

I study training stuff all of the time.  I enjoy it. When I think about it, pretty much all I do when I am at work or for three to four hours on my own is read about training, or talk about training or watch videos of people training.

  And yes, there are lots of programs out there. After awhile, if I hadn't been doing this forever, I could see how it gets so confusing to folks just starting out.

 So what did I do when I first began in the Iron Game?


 I did Heavy Duty (Mike Mentzer), Arnold's High Volume, Hatfield stuff, Sheiko, 70"s powerlifting(One heavy set), Yates, and on and on.

And I competed. Powerlifting and bodybuilding. When you are training for something, you better find what works for you, and fast. No question, no question at all, you must compete to really find what your body needs and what is most effective for you. It accelerates your learning and gives more meaning to everything that you do in training.

Here is what I found out works for me:

Sheiko/Hatfield type of volume is super when trying to get strong.  A foundation, and a good one , is built with that type of volume. Not beginning level Sheiko, but Master's level or Sergey Mor's cycle. I am sure that I botched his name, but that stuff works. You are training in the 80-90% range so often that it becomes nothing after awhile. Even 70% seems like a waste of time. You can just go right to 80% without even thinking about it. And Mor had test days in there also. Maxing in the middle of a cycle? Yep, and it works. You do so many sets that the simple act of setting up with a 85-90% squat becomes rote. And those multiple sets get you bigger also, along with the assistance work. Cycle that in with a few months of random heavy ass doubles and singles and going for rep records just for the hell of it and you will be a beast.

Bodybuilding? Keep the basics in there as your first exercise- the Press, Deadlift, Squat, Dumbell or Barbell bench. Behind the Neck Press also. Close Grip Bench press. Five to eight sets of three to eight reps. Heavy. That last set should feel like you are bleeding from your ears.

Then hit assistance work.  As heavy as you can go with decent form. And sometimes not decent form. Sometimes Branch Warren form. Sometimes squeeze the heck out of it.  At least ten to fifteen sets.  I like five sets of twelve to fifteen reps of three exercises. And work fast on assistance. Thirty seconds rest. No fooling around.  Almost to failure or to failure each set. And you can switch that up also- perform some drop sets, some forced reps, go up and down the rack. Why five sets? Because three is for cowards.  Just kidding. I just like focusing on three assistance exercises at five sets each.  I feel like I am stopping short at three sets. Just my quirk.

How many days a week? Especially if you are going to compete? You can train everyday. You will adjust eventually if you let your mind accept the fact that you can do it.  At least five days. If you feel that you aren't recovered, make sure that it isn't your mind getting weak. If you are sore, train anyway. Who said soreness makes you weak? Excuses are old as hell and I probably shouldn't address them, but there are just folks out there who like the idea of getting big and strong but the application is lost because of the commitment required.

It reminds me of my old buddy Todd who always asked me to go Smallmouth Bass fishing but when we finally went, he just wanted to get away from his wife and drink beer. He liked the idea of fishing.  But actually fish? Too much work.

Action is the key here.  Beginning the thing. And although I consider the aforementioned programs ideal, if you just lift heavy and hard consistently, you will make gains. No missed work outs and you will get there. You won't if you take time off because you can not make it to the gym.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You Have The Wrong Idea

I had a buddy. He had a health scare a few years back.

He used to squat, bench, deadlift. He was muscular,  he had boundless energy, and he was strong, even competing in powerlifting into his late 40's.

After the health scare? NOTHING! I guess someone told him that being strong wasn't good for you, that he would be healthier on the cardio machines and jabbering away while he did some machine benches. Squats??

Who needs them?

Too old for that stuff. Meanwhile, he went from a guy who was semi-formidable to a guy who couldn't protect his family or who wouldn't garner a second look from a passerby on a sidewalk.

Before he would roll up his sleeves and show off his arms. Now he just conforms to the crowd. Another hiding, scared sheep, walking in the pasture of a weak life.

There is nothing "healthy" about being weak and small.

You aren't healthier. You are not more "fit", whatever that means.

You are slowly disintegrating.

 Descending down...into the softness of endless elliptical sessions and your clothes hanging off of you.

Grab your manhood, put on some Black or Thrash Metal and place a bar upon your back.

I know that you won't. But I had to write about it.

Monday, April 14, 2014


He walked without fear
for the first time in many years.


the decision was made

to just


Mighty was his resolve.

He renamed himself.

He began to chant and

he vowed

To never be afraid again.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Real Work

I was online today looking at "Warhammers" by different companies. Basically these are rubber sledgehammers that you can use to get a workout in.

 Rubber sledgehammers. You put weight in them and swing them.

How about buying a real sledge and a grenade/splitter and cracking a stump? Or an axe and splitting some wood? I know not everyone can do that , I guess. Going to a gym is more, convenient. I reckon it's convenient.

I was just real fortunate to grow up with a hundred or so acres of woods behind my house in Maryland. Some of the land was owned by people, some by the Park System, some by the Army or Navy. They actually tested bombs back there, underground. One actually shattered a window in our house. "They" came by fast to replace it. Some "Area 51" things were going on back there we always assumed.

Anyway, there were always stumps to split with splitter/grenade and sledge and then wood to split with an axe. I had no idea that chopping all that wood would become a staple of so many workouts.
It was GPP or MPP or PPP or OPP . Who knows?

I just know that my Dad told me to do it and if he didn't, I enjoyed the hell out of doing it anyway, so I just did it. I wonder when he let me do it on my own? Seventh grade? Something like that, I guess. I loved surprising him by having a bunch of wood done when he got home. I'd leave it scattered in the yard, all split up so he could survey my work.

I have to admit that the best was when Dad had a few tons of dirt dropped off at the top of the hill at the road above our house, and I would have to wheelbarrow it down the hill, about 50 yards, into the backyard and spread it out to build up his garden.

When my first Labrador, Dutch, was a puppy, he ran up and down and up and down the hill each time I used the wheelbarrow, and by the time I was finishing up, he lay belly down in the dirt garden , exhausted. The dirt was cool on his belly.  And he had enough. Maybe that is next!? The workout of shovel and dirt.  Fake dirt and a shovel made of rubber. Folks are already using wheelbarrows filled with weight.

I think that the best way to do all of this stuff is to actually do it. Find some stumps and split 'em.  Use an axe with a finishing purpose. It seems much more rewarding than hitting a tire. That actually just made me giggle. It is a sign of society being one more step away from stuff being real.  Thank Odin for my Father and real work.

When the wood is split, you can use it. Burn it, stack it or build something with it.

I have been doing a bunch of kettle bell swings, everyday. I like them, they make my back feel great. But the real reason is because it reminds me of doing work in the yard in Maryland. But, really, it is not the same. Being outside and seeing the work done and working and working on a stump and then driving that sledge into the splitter, deep into it and cracking it in two is much more rewarding. That is work.

And you don't have to put a name to it. You just do it and relish the sweat and the burning of your forearms  and lungs and  you wonder why everyone doesn't really do the work. It is much more rewarding.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ask Cristi, Ask Steel

It's out of focus but still pretty good...


This is a column from 2013, but I got a lot of positive feedback when it was published so I decided to repost it.. It may speak to you.
Today is the day

You feel bad about yourself. Too much of everything bad: Junk food, alcohol, staying up late.

You realize that you can't get away with what you used to get away with when you were 18 years old, when you could eat everything and stay in shape.

Or you just have lost your focus and you need a kick in the butt, something to get you going. But you need it to be simple. And you don't have much time to get it done.

I am here to tell you that now is the time. Not tomorrow morning, not Monday, not after that special occasion or holiday. There will always be a special occasion, always an excuse to cheat on your diet or not get your workout in for the day.

You don't need a special class or a dvd that promises you the world or a guru to help you or specialized equipment.

You may need a good pair of walking shoes, and you need a barbell and some dumbbells, a squat rack and a bench. If you have a recumbent bike, great. If not, you can just walk.

The plan here is to just do a little each day, nothing that takes longer than an hour at the most. Sometimes you can get away with a half hour. You definitely have the time for that, a half hour.

Lets start with the cardio portion first. Walk fast for a half hour 6 days a week, or ride a bike or walk on a treadmill or the elliptical or something similar. Try to do it as soon as you wake up in the morning. Slug down a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso (or 2) and just get going. If you are out walking, put on an audiobook or some thrash metal or any other type of music that motivates you to move. Just work up a sweat, don't kill yourself. Just start, just start, just start. Slow at first. And then when that caffeine kicks in and the sweat breaks, you will get going just fine. And if the half hour is too much, get in 15 minutes minimum, 2x a day. That is not complicated, right?

For the lifting? Three days a week.

You must perform these exercises once a week, 5 sets per exercise, 6-12 reps.

squats or leg press or front squats
bench or incline bench press or dumbell bench press
bent over rows or one arm rows
pushups or dips
deadlifts or trap bar deadlifts
lat pulls or chinups
pushdowns or triceps extensions

So if you are running short on time because had a meeting that ran over, and you have to pick your kid up from daycare by 6 and its 5:25, walk into the gym and squat and leave.

Then on Saturday morning when you have 45 minutes , pick more exercises and take more time.

How about the weight? You can go up in weight each set, or you can pick a weight and stay at that weight for all of the sets. It is up to you. It is important that you up the intensity, that you progress in weight. Even if it is 5 pounds every other week, the weight must increase some.

Also, there should be no fooling around. Many folks say that they don't have time but they end up talking instead of training. Force yourself to focus on the task at hand. Everything can wait. You must be in deep concentration. Once you do that a few times, you will look upon others with disdain because of their lack of commitment. This is one of the most important things I can leave you with: Focus, focus, focus for just that short period of time.

Diet? Nothing magical here. If you are trying to lose weight fast, lower carb is the best way, but for most it isn't the easiest way. If you can handle it, go the Atkins way. If you can't, and I want you to be honest with yourself here, then eat with some basic rules in mind.

1. Eat your bodyweight in grams of protein each day(chicken, beef, turkey, fish)
2. Eat 3 servings of veggies each day minimum
3. Eat a small serving of "clean" carbs at every meal(rice, potato, sweet potato, grits, fibrous fruits, etc)
4. Never let 4 hours go by without eating

Don't say that you don't have time to prepare the food. Throw some rice in the microwave and buy a few pounds of turkey, a rotisserie chicken and some apples and you are set for a few days.

If you screw up, just start again. It isn't the end of the world. Just hop back on and don't feel guilty about it. Eat a small junk meal once or twice a week. Try to control yourself when it comes to junk. After you eat it, you will realize that it wasn't that great anyway.

You can do it, tons of people have, and they are no better than you are, they don't have some magic that you don't have. If they can do it, you surely can do it. Why not you?

Commit. And keep me updated on your progress. You can and you will do it. Now.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Just Ramblin

I was thinking today about how life is never just smooth. How there is always something. Everyone has battles to face, problems to deal with, problems to solve.  A sunny day is usually followed by a cloudy one, so to speak.

 I was lying in bed with my son last night and we were watching an ESPN special on my Kindle about the Baltimore Colt's Marching Band. On how they stayed together even though there wasn't a football team. And folks are crying as they talked about the Colts and what they meant to the town. And how Baltimore was in mourning when all of that went down. Of course, it messed with my head, being from Maryland and all. And while watching the show, something just clicked in me, some kind of swelling of love for my sons, and I had a realization that my love for them is stronger than anything I can even describe. It's so strange because they are so vulnerable, and then I thought about how messed up the world is and how I don't want them to see any of the things that I have seen. And then I also thought that they will learn about life and how it is wonderful at times, but there are such bad times that sometimes, sometimes, you can not remember the good times.

Man! How a father just wants to smother them and never let them see the world. But you can't, you just have to take it day by day, minute by minute, hoping that they turn out alright.

 Can't think of the bad stuff or it will tear you up. I usually start to exercise and my mind clears, and then it stays that way for awhile. And then something comes on the news and man, there is such, I don't know, such, awfulness around. You just wanna squirrel away in woods somewhere and build a fortress or something. Fortify it against all that is evil and bad.


 You wonder about people, you wonder about the way people are, how they act, why they act a certain way. My god , sometimes you want to say to people, ok, speak the truth now, you know you are lying, I know you are lying, so SPEAK it, tell the truth about what you really want to say, right now, say the words.

Thats why the weights are true, they never lie to you. Henry Rollins wrote that one time, I believe. And my Labradors while they are working. The joy of seeing them retrieve a duck? True.

I could never be in sales. Lying, schmoozing, smiling that fake smile. Love fakeness.  The art of the fake.

Ugh. Shake hands, oh yes, I haven't seen you in so long! How are you? How was your vacation? Have a great weekend! How's the family? How's your training? Oh, You haven't been able to get to the gym? Oh, there are no gyms where you were staying. Were you in the Amazon?

 Ok, well, do your best, ok, yep, doing only cardio is great.  Yes, weak is good. Yes, I know lifting is tough and uncomfortable.  And you used to bench 485. Oh, it wasn't really 485, it was 405. Oh, it really wasn't 405, it was something that you always wanted to do, that benching of 405. And now that you only do kettle bells you know that you can bench 405. When is the last time that you benched? Oh, 5 years ago. Ok. Yes, I believe you. No, I'm listening. Sorry, I was picturing you benching 405. No, No, I know, you don't want to get too big and protein is bad for you and meat is bad for you and while you are talking I am pondering how, just how, I can exit from your presence. Yes, I know, you will start on Monday... Get jacked! Have I heard of that type of workout routine? No, I haven't. Oh, I am sure that's great for you. When are you starting? Oh, Monday, that's right. Why don't you just say that it hurts too much to squat ,deadlift and press? I know that's what you are thinking. And you know that I know. Ah, the charade. It is so wonderful to play it out. Oh, yes, you will get stiff and muscle bound! Of course you will. Yes, I know, honestly, you just don't have the time.Yes, too much pressure to get to the gym. Oh the pressure! That's a lot of pressure right there! Just like being a soldier or a cop or a surgeon. Gotta get back into it. Gotta get back into it. Yes I know you are on vacation so you need to eat and drink and gain 10 pounds! I know, I hate it when you get off of the plane and there is that mystery person who stuffs cake and daiquiris in your mouth.  And Easter is coming up and then that birthday party and then Memorial Day and then your sister is coming to town...right, start right after that, or the Monday after.

 You must not set yourself apart!  And yes,  all lifters are dumb and not well read, and deep down inside you sorta want to be strong but what if people , gasp, people in the gym are looking at you? That would be awful because when you are on your death bed, that is what you will be thinking about, that day in the gym when some guy in a wind suit was was watching you deadlift. That is it!

I know, I just. I just. I just don't understand. But I really don't want to.  Gonna just smile the fake smile, and moooove along.

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a year...it's for life. Whether its training or your family or your job...it 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.