Monday, November 24, 2014


Thinking about training. Thinking about age. Thinking that my mentor Rich Salke told me, "Jimmy, everyone has 20 hard years of training in them and then they start to break down". And I can't seem to find anyone for whom that doesn't ring true.

The only way that you wont get hurt is to sit on the couch.  But you'll die miserable on the damn thing. Nobody I know that pushed their bodies to the limit comes out unscathed. I'm talking high level fighting, lifting, bodybuilding. It's not about health when you are lifting or competing that hard and heavy.
Sign at doctor's office.
And so you switch it up, switch templates, programs, times that you train, and you still get banged up.

And you venture into your 40's and you actually have people ask you why you still squat and press and push.

And I am thinking,

What other choice is there? Sit around and wither away? Became a Lazy- Boy sitting critic? NO! Do not go so softly. Not training? Can't imagine it, can never ever  even see it. 

And getting hurt? It is gonna happen. Accept it and work on something else. You can do something, always just a little something. Pretty soon, just by attrition, the number of exercises you may be able to do gets smaller and smaller. Just focus on those and be happy that you are training. 

It is a sickness, I believe, this yearning to train with weights, and this addiction happens pretty much when one touches a weight for the first time. You know if it is right for you and if you feel this connection with the weights or not. When you feel the connection, it stays with you through every damn thing. But at its most addictive, other parts of life will suffer for sure. Because the

Workout Always Comes First

And there are not a whole lot of girlfriends or boyfriends and wives or husbands that get it . Social lives will suffer, mealtimes will suffer. (I did skip Thanksgiving dinner at my Mom's house, cancelling at the last minute, because of dieting. Ooooh she was pissed.) 

But, really. Get over it. They just do not understand, man..Its training and it sets up the day, it is therapy for the cluttered, messed up, foggy brain. 

You get done squatting until your body is shaking and , it's amazing, you either don't care about what was bothering you before, or you know how to fix it. It's a psychiatrist's office but with chalk and sweat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Getting Stronger

If you are struggling to get stronger, there are some ways to get your lifts moving again.

First off, you can not and will not always make progress in every lift all of the time. Everyone has problem lifts. For myself, it was always the bench press. For some reason, it was a lift that I didn't feel comfortable doing, maybe just because I wasn't good at it right away.

I eventually did 505 in competition, but it was a long road to get there.

Like most beginners, when I started struggling with the bench press, I did more and more until my biceps tendonitis was throbbing nonstop.

It wasn't until I met Kirk Karwoski and Rob Wagner that my bench press really started to improve. I learned to tuck my elbows in, how to properly set my rib cage, and how to drive with my legs. Those tips alone helped immensely. And instead of just working up to a heavy set of 3 or 5, I began training with Sheiko's bench program. It worked wonders for me because it forced me to improve on my technique in the 75%-85% zone without killing myself and my joints in the process. When you are constantly setting up and performing your lifts like Sheiko has you do, and never going to failure, but constantly greasing the groove with decently heavy weight, you don't have a choice but to improve. But I really had to put my ego in my pocket and accept the fact that my bench was gonna get weaker before it got stronger. When I first started tucking my elbows in and forcing them to stay there, my weights went down. Hell, my triceps were weak! But eventually, the weights slowly began to creep up and my triceps got stronger and bigger and no shoulder pain or tendonitis.

Patience, no ego, perfect form.

How else can you get your lifts moving again? You can gain weight. Read about Hugh Cassidy sometime. His quote was "Eat your way through sticking points." and for sure that works. If you pump the calories in you, and you do it consistently, you will get stronger. I did it before. I went from 240 to 280 and eventually to 312 in the span of a year. I got  a lot stronger but I felt like crap, My belly was huge and I couldn't breath and it was really no fun. The smarter way  would have been to just make sure that I was eating enough protein every single day no matter what, and do it consistently.

What else? Dedication. And really, it is what it all comes down to. Leave nothing to chance. If you want to get as strong as you can, you must put all other activities aside. Lift , eat, sleep. Gear every damn waking moment to getting stronger. Aerobics? Running? Nope. Anything else? Nope. Lift, eat, sleep. Zumba? C'mon. Now if your lifts are moving fine and right along and you are little Mister/Miss activity, great. But if you are struggling and you want to be super strong, then lift, eat , sleep. If you don't and you profess to wanting to get stronger, you really don't know what it takes.

And on the subject of the whole knowing -what -it takes -thing, it is not supposed to be easy to get stronger. Folks need to be told this.

You will be sore, you will be banged up, your head will feel like it will explode during squats and deadlifts, your belt will leave marks on you, you will have to wrap your groin and hamstrings sometimes, you will have to get massages (A.R.T. is imperative), you will have trouble getting out of the car after a heavy squat or deadlift day sometimes, you will have to decline invitations to stuff the night before a heavy training session, you will have to gear your life, or most of it to getting stronger. Not half assed either. If you sit down and ask yourself, Have I done everything that I could to succeed? To make my weights go up? Or did I skip a meal, did I stay out too late? Did I visualize myself dominating the weights? Did I do every, every, everything humanly possible to put myself in a position to get stronger? If you didn't, don't say a word, just fill in the gaps. And methinks that most of the time, the issue is dedication. You may think you are dedicated, but how bad do you want it? I have coached kids in the past who stated to me that they wanted to "get to the next level"  and then they skip exercises or don't do their mobility work, or half ass it when they think nobody is watching. The next level?  What does that take? Watch James Harrison of the Steeler's on his Instagram. The day after the game he is trap bar deadlifting 6 plates on either side! Do you think he is beat up and sore? Uh, yeah. Do you just like the idea of being strong, but you make excuses and skip sessions because you are a little "tight" or have other commitments? Do you constantly switch programs because you say that they "just don't work for me" but deep, deep down inside you really don't want to succeed that badly because , well, because it is no fun being so dedicated and uncomfortable all of the time.

Its like my friend who owns a farm. He is dedicated to that farm.  No matter how he feels, he has to do certain things. Check on the goats, feed the goats. Check on the chickens, feed the chickens. He has to do it everyday if he wants his animals to thrive.

I remember one time in high school and we were  between two-a-day practices in Maryland and we were eating lunch and one of the guys said, "I wish I was in Ocean City right now." And my buddy Billy Henson (who was an All Metropolitan player) said, " Not me, I am right where I want to be." And that has always stuck with me. Screw the beach, man! Billy had worked all year for this, and now he was right were he wanted to be.  His mind had left the beach long ago and he was so dedicated and he just immersed himself in the whole thing, never allowing his mind to drift elsewhere. And of course, with that mindset, he succeeded. And the important thing was that he put himself, because of his attitude and extreme dedication, in a position to succeed.

Just some ideas and thoughts here, nothing earth shattering. It is common sense, right? It all comes down to doing the little things, and doing them all of the time, that add up ,over the long haul,to getting you where you want to be strength -wise.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mirror Thoughts

It rings in my head
smiling, frowning, lunging for the ringing phone
Learning so much, soak it up like a sponge and then hope to forget it all
My god... the distant Warrior
simple plan
secrets and denial
If the greatest of all is mortal
has the end of the circle reconstructed itself?
round and round...
it all goes.
And the smoke leaves the hole that once held a deep heart
new, new, new
Feel the crunch of bone on bone
the euphoria of a death shot
the wilting of the halo
if one knows it all means nothing
I reckon we are truly all free
Define exactly the important parts of your disjointed machinery
Dark New Jersey streets
the fan whips my curtains and the leftover toys of a joyous summer of hugs and love
is gone along with the innocent voices and laughter. C'mon, it is the end of it is too much...
come back and be here every morning...I can't tolerate the pictures in my mind...
Why do the pictures never tell the story?
I have seen those sad eyes before
learn to say goodbye, amazing how the human being can adapt
to separation.
So sad for the forgotten one
We are all in different houses in different places crying the same lonely tears
Reconstructing the best times
But I picture the wires circling him
keeping him breathing
screaming my name above all others
Holding the soft hands in the middle of the night as they unknowingly sqeeze my fingers
by reflex.
gotta move, gotta keep moving
standing still makes my mind work overtime
dont think, just punch
dont think just roll and throw
Monsters under the bed, not just a child's scary nightmare
Monsters in my mind
demons in the web
that is my brain
look under there
It is my warrior calling
He has found me, I was right here the whole time
And then after the 5th hour
running to him, please dont cry so much, I cant get there any faster, churning legs, pumping arms, wait I am here, Your face is swollen, you will be fine, I will not let you NOT be fine
I will WILL it to happen, to make you better
My life is not mine
Put the cast on me
Put the scars on me
You don't even know you have them,that they exist
Each one represents my punishment
I would wear each one proudly
Float to me, scars of pain...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Stuff and Bench Press Program Ideas

I was thinking about it the other day; If you can help it, don't take time off  from training. Do 15 minutes of something. Squat and leave, press and leave, deadlift and leave. "Getting back into it," is a pain and sometimes it never happens. I have a doctor friend who is as busy as anyone that I have ever known, travelling to Africa, writing grants, but he gets it done; short intense workouts. You have time, you big baby.

Everybody wants to "Go lighter and work on form." But the problem is that form is totally different with heavier weights. So the answer is to keep the reps low and the sets high in number. Do 10 sets of 3-5, not 3-5 sets of 10. And you can then train in the 75%-85% range and learn more effectively. In the Clean, do a bunch of singles. Everyone can squat perfectly straight up and down with 135, while doing it with 635 is a different matter.

Training with weights is damn fun. It's so rewarding. When someone gets really strong, no task is too much for them to undertake. Man, to be strong is what it is all about! Picking up stuff, carrying stuff, having confidence, elevating confidence, the feeling after a great work out, you just feel different. It is the best.

When trying to get your bench press up, it seems that alternating Marathon days with heavy days of doubles and triples and even sometimes singles works real well. So a typical Monday/Thursday would look like this here(in percentages)- Day 1- 60x5 70x4 75x4 80 2x3 85 2x2 80x3 75x4 70x5 65x8 60x10 55x12-15  Day 2- 80x2 85x2 90x1, and go back through that 3 times. Then you change up the % some, but just give it some variation- like this- Day 1- 60x6 65x6 70 2x4 75 3x4 80 5x2 70x7  Day 2- 85% 5x3. And you go to 90-95% every once in awhile, and then hit a new max in 6-8 weeks. I believe that if you have never done that type of routine, then you can hit a significantly new max in 4 weeks.

Also- on one of the days add close grips in for 75-80% for 6x4 or 4x6. On the other day, work up to a heavy triple or set of 5 on the barbell incline. Seated press or seated behind the neck press is great also, and a few sets of triceps extension and/or dips should round the program off nicely.

And don't forget to vary your training- it doesn't have to be exercise changes, but it should be intensity(percentages). Some days go in there and do 10x10 at 50-60% and some days go in there and do 20x2 at 80%.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Mind/Psyche


I have been weight training for many, many years. Thirty something years. So what? So I have seen a bunch of stuff in weight room during that time.

One thing that I have noticed, without fail, is that people who talk a whole bunch when they train with weights don't make as much progress as those who don't. No I am not talking about the people who are lifting weights discussing the next set or next exercise. I am talking about the guy doing pushdowns who is gabbing about his night on the town, or the new car he bought or something totally unrelated to training. And damn, he is talking during a set. Sacrilege. Arnold had it right about the mind muscle connection. And elite powerlifters surely can not get ready for a huge set whilst discussing the Cowboys vs. Redskins game.

Fired Up Or Not?

Have you ever wondered just how fired up or psyched up one needs to be for a particular sport or skill? I first learned of Joseph Oxendine from Fred Hatfield's excellent book, Power.

Basically Oxendine states that highly aroused athletes did better at "easy" tasks, and not getting too aroused was better for optimal success at complex tasks. So when squatting, get in a blind range, but when putting in golf stay relatively calm.

Oxendine (1970) suggests different levels of optimal arousal for different sports: 

1. [Slight arousal] Archery, bowling, basketball free throw, golf (putting) 

2. Baseball (pitching & batting), fencing, tennis, golf (driving) 

3. Basketball, boxing, high jump, gymnastics, soccer 

4. Running long jump, middle/long-distance running, swimming, judo 

5. [Extreme excitation] Rugby tackle & scrum, sprint, weight-lifting

Cool stuff, huh? Hatfield also talks about getting fired up too early. This can exhaust the athlete. Better to sit calmly and visualize yourself doing great things than getting tense and too excited too far out from the activity.

Not the fired up I was talking about

                                                               That's what I am talking about

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.

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.