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 



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Black Iron Avoidance

 Recently I met three  guys who wanted to learn about training and being a strength coach. They also wanted to get bigger and stronger.  Two of them did Hatfield's 80 day program which is a NEVER fail program to get bigger and stronger.

Hatfield is a genius. His programs are amazing.

Anyway, the third did some kind of waffling back and forth between internet programs and some kind of phases of programming that had names that I never heard of in my life. Naming this and that and you need to do this to be explosive and this to be quick and this and this. Hmmm .

He needed to spend time doing one thing: getting stronger. He's weak, man! And he never made any appreciable progress while the others got much bigger and stronger. You could see the difference in their physiques in just a few weeks. The other guy? Same physique, same strength, same everything.

Everything is easier when you are strong. But people will go to any lengths to "avoid the Black Iron", as Marty Gallagher says.

Fess up. You dread the ringing in your ears and quivering legs of a killer squat workout.  You love the thought of some bosu ball pushups and some burpees and such. Fine, that's your bag.

But if you are strong in the basics; the squat, press, deadlift, bench press and the bent over row, then that type of training is not a problem for you.

However, the burpee bosu ball crowd can not squat 475x17 at 185 (as Rob Wagner did raw when he was in his 20's) no matter how many of those silly little workouts that they perform. It doesn't transfer over. If you love that stuff, great. But don't say that it is the end all be all of health and fitness and all that is holy in the soft ass world that you love to dwell in. It may be your world, but it isn't the most effective world for anything.  You feel wonderful! You aren't sore at all! You should walk around sore after a training session, dummy.

And being strong in the basics? That is true strength, and it is strength that transfers over into LIFE, what you need to be able to do to hack it day in and day out.  But most folks? That effective training protocol is what most avoid because, well, hell, I do not know why they avoid it. I have to think that they just can't hack the pain. That they can not turn that wonderful pain into pleasure. Because those feelings are true pleasure.

Ah, maybe it is better just to  forget it. Like my buddy Jimmy Anderson always says, "It don't matter.". Meaning that you can't change the way people really are, deep down inside. You either embrace the pain or avoid it. Simple as that.

Friday, August 8, 2014


I spent some time with some friends yesterday. Rob Wagner (former IPF Gold Medal winner in the squat,  winner of a bunch of national championships, world records, former boss of mine) met me at my house and after I killed some wasps with a fervor that had to be seen to be believed, we set out to Iron World writer extraordinare Marty Gallagher's mountain lair about three hours away in Pennsylvania.  Marty has been a friend of mine and mentor for quite awhile now. I reckon I am one of his "boys" as he describes a group that he advises, bails out (not me), checks deadlift form of, tells amazing stories of his days at Weider to, and generally enthralls us with the super secrets of the subculture known as the world of weights and weirdo's.

Anyway, the three hour trip was spent discussing training, training, and more training. Wagner is the most knowledgeable strength coach that I know, so I picked his brain on everything from the benefits of Sheiko to the proper application of Plyo's for football players. Unlike trips that I have been on involve many females and small children, we did not stop on our way to use the bathroom. We just motored on and held it in. 

One interesting story that I relived with Wagner was the time that he won the USAPL Nationals and didn't call a soul on the telephone to tell them. The man is absolutely incapable of braggadocio for any reason. Quite the opposite of some lifters these days who think that the world revolves around them and that people actually care what weights they lift in the bench, squat, and deadlift.

Passing through Mennonite country was interesting. We only saw the women, driving tractors, in the fields, jumping on trampolines. Yes, trampolines.  That scene was like the Twilight Zone. 

Beautiful country, with corn and soybean growing and deer in the fields.

Marty met us at the front door of his one hundred and thirty year old wonderful house and gave us a tour. Then we hopped into his jeep for a ride in the country, on a search for fresh baked bread. Trout streams, and more corn. Stone walls and barns immaculately maintained. Red-Tail Hawks and Groundhogs. The farm where Marty buys his bread was a Mennonite farm and the prices were amazingly low, different than what I am used to.  Back through the country we went. Wagner later related to me that being in the back of the jeep, he could not hear one word that Marty and I were saying and that he was getting sick to his stomach as Marty was hitting those rolling hills at top speed. In my mind, I pictured him in the back, slightly leaving his seat as we rolled along.

We returned to the house where Marty began cooking and Wagner and I were sent on a beverage run. Upon return, we were joined by Marty's buddy Matt from Maryland . What a great guy. Of course more training discussion ensued. And then Marty began serving course after course of amazing food: A stew with lamb shank and ham, roasted asparagus, biscuits, Spaghetti with homemade meatballs and gravy. And a fried chicken cutlet that was amazing.   Oh yes, we also discussed Hemingway, Faulkner and by the way,  is volume training really that important?

Trips like these for me set my mind back in the right place. Getting away from the city and talking to folks who have been around the block longer than I have always make me want to learn more and study more. 

Wagner and I set off back for Jersey with full bellies and plenty to talk about on the ride. Of course I had to pound some coffee and a twenty ounce Diet Mountain Dew to counteract the carb coma that Marty had inflicted upon me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What Is /Isnt Important

Trying to figure out what I think is important in life.

Ok. My kids. I have three boys. And although  they drive me nuts at times, I love them dearly, would die for them, kill for them, without a second thought.

My wife. My Mom and Dad. The few friends that I have. Loyal friends who do not judge a damn thing. They listen. Family.

Those folks that really tell the truth . Not a half truth. The whole truth. You mess up? They tell you. And then you work on it. You get better.

My Dogs.

Pride in your heritage. Pride in where you came from.

Hunting and fishing.

Lifting weights. It is a release beyond a release. Something beyond special.

A great book.

A great movie.

Music that moves you.

What isn't important?

Worrying about what other people think about you. I have been around the most disloyal, backstabbingest people in the world in my life.

They should never take a space up in your head. Why? Because you can not change them no matter what you do. They are too dumb. And they only care about themselves. They all get it in the end, anyway.

Scared people and cowards.  Those living life kissing butt because they are so scared of losing their job. How can they live with themselves? They are gonna be on their death bed one day and they will have nothing to show for it but lipstick marks on someone else's rear end. Awful, just awful.  They should take their nervous ticks and move the hell on.

Politicians and taxes.

Suits and ties and all that is fake to impress. It ain't what you wear, man. It's actions or nothing.

Money that you haven't earned.

Those that think they are better than someone else because of their job or because of their  social status.  And you are on a power trip because.....? You are NOTHING. We all end up in a pine box or ashes in an urn. You are just a bug on the windshield of life.

And to conclude,  here is an awesome song by Danzig, posted on Facebook by Paul Waggener

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I have to write something to get the last column off of the page because it is depressing.

I am infatuated with the Safety Squat bar and the effectiveness of it for quad development and for less low back involvement. I have been using it for many, many months and it is outstanding. I purchased it from and recommend it highly.

I have seen everything work when it comes to diet, but most effective seems to be to lose it slowwwwwly, to have patience and then you will keep it off.

Just what purpose do TICKS serve in this world? To piss me off, to spread disease, to suck blood just for the hell of it? And there are more than ever it seems.

Pretty fascinated with time under tension and the effectiveness of short range of motion training for hypertrophy (see Jason Huh). If you notice, most of the top bodybuilders these days don't lock out a damn thing. I know, I know, drugs. Give it a break.

Yoga? Great! But for a football player? As an adjunct, sure, go for it, wonderful. But always ask: Does it get you stronger? More explosive? Are you so inflexible that you can not get into your stance? OH! It's easier than the ear ringing, blood vessel in the eyes popping set of squats or deadlifts that allow you to crush people. Just say that, and we will be fine. It's just honest. It is like distance running. If you never have trained, you will honestly believe that distance running helps you get in shape for football . It's better than nothing. HOWEVER----When you look at training, look at Good, Better, Best (Fred Hatfield) , and decide on what you would best be spending your time on to be GREAT. Or don't. Keep living in a false, social media contrived dream state.

New Judas Priest is out. It's good. It's Priest. Like Old Priest. It's worth buying. Halford can't quite reach the notes that he used to reach, but who cares. He still has tons of heart. Below is a clip from EXACTLY where I grew up and the parking lot before a Priest concert.  (copy and paste, I can't figure it out)

Influencing Hemingway is a very good book. Gone Feral is a very good book. Knockemstiff is still an amazing book.  I wish Donald Ray Pollock would come out with something new. He is an outstanding author.  Frank Bill is also outstanding.  Joe is a very good movie. It is disturbing because of the rabbit costume but it is real as hell.

Bodybuilders know more about nutrition than anyone else. They are in it, and usually years ahead of research.

I met someone VERY famous the other day. And just like some other famous people that I have met, he/she was very self absorbed. And hilarious because of the inflated ego. Least self absorbed celebrity/athlete that I have ever met? Randy White, hands down.

Keep training, keep getting it done, just grab the bar and go. Don't be fooled. Hard always wins.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Love More

My sister, Jane, passed away the other day.

My big sister. Three years older than me. She always took care of me, her baby brother.

My heart is beating out of my chest as I write this, but I'm gonna finish.

 Freakin' cancer is an awful, awful thing. And seeing what it does to a person, slowly crushing them, is tough to take.  At one point, the cancer was gone, and then it came back and even Johns Hopkins eventually said, hey, there is nothing else that we can do. How about that? What would you do? What would anybody do? What would my 81 year old parent's do?

You wanna fight?

You can fight. But then fluid is filling up your lungs daily and your body is betraying you and you can not breath, it is this fluid choking you, sucking the life out of you. My dad spent days and nights just draining that fluid out of her lungs. His daughter, right in front of his eyes. Every day. Suck out a little more fluid: 200 cc, 400cc, 600 cc. Yep. And you know, you just know what is really happening. It is something that you try to deny but it is right there.

What can I do? I ask. And he says, nothing, it is what I signed up for.

And I say, what about a hospital?  And he says, Jim, she is my daughter, I can not leave her.  I signed up for this. And then she calls to him late at night because she can't breath, and he is there for her as  he as always been. He is her father, her rock, all that she has ever really depended on when things got real bad. And she hasn't made much sense recently but she did right then, when she said that she needed to go the hospital. And he calls 911 and they get there fast. And then there is the ambulance ride and the hospital. And they work on her and work on her but it isn't gonna happen. And then they say, hey, should we keep trying? And then the 81 year old dad says no, but he says to her- Jane, I love you and your mother loves you and Jim loves you and the kids love you. And dad hopes that she heard him. And then that is that.

And I get the phone call late that night and I hear my dad's voice and I feel his pain and I go into my mom's room and tell her. We were on vacation and my dad stayed back with my sister. I wake her and she says okay, and then she packs her things and I carry her suitcase out the car and then she drives two and a half hours back over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at daybreak because that is just what she does, what she signed up for as a mother. So strong. Their attitude has always been so let's get it done, this is what this brings, this life. And they both have been through being kids during World War II and my grandfather getting torpedoed during the war and heart disease and friends dying and sick grandkids and plenty of deaths and tragedies and guess what? You have to move and keep moving.

What else can you do? What is your other choice?

I don't know what else you can do. I just know that there are very few carefree times in life, and very few people that you truly, really love and care about. And I know that you should appreciate them more and hug them more and forgive them more and look them in their eyes more and just listen more. Because the bad times come and they keep coming no matter what and they are interspersed with some very few great times. But those great times? Cherish every second.

Focus intently on them and hold those times real tight. I think that it takes some sitting back and breathing real deep and asking, okay, what is important? Who is important? And here is my life and here is what I love and need to love even more.  I don't know. I really don't know.

Just keep moving and loving and grit your teeth over and over the bad times. Bite down on your mouthpiece and stand up yet again on weakened legs and shake your fist at the cruelty and the injustice and the lack of fairness and then accept it and then? Love even harder.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Keep Going

I know that one of my faults is that I don't understand those that aren't motivated to train.

 It has been such a huge part of my life (since 1979) that it is literally like brushing my teeth for me.

 Oh, it's Monday? It's squat day. It is as simple as that, and it just goes on, year after year. I can be feeling like death warmed over and I will train.  And I am nothing special. I had some decent numbers in my best lifts in competition (820 squat 505 bench 740 deadlift), but I was not even remotely strong when I started out. My friends were stronger than me on the high school football team. I just liked it more than them, and I never stopped training. 

I was and still am consistent as hell. Meaning that I'm gonna go to the gym and I am gonna do something. Low back screwed up? Set a new record in dips. Shoulder throbbing? Time to deadlift. And its not hard to figure out. Focus on what you can do and it will all come around. Surgery? Surgeries?  Who cares? It will happen to you if you train over the years. But in the meantime, your quality of life will be so much greater by training. 

 I guess that my urge is some type of an obsession. It's this weird feeling that gnaws at me in the back of my head somewhere that will not let me enjoy anything else unless I have exercised. It's like someone is tapping me on my shoulder saying, train, train, train. 

Do I always feel like training? Nope. But it is past the point of wanting to, it is needing to train. If I do not train, I feel useless and  soft,  and not in touch with a damn thing. Then I am just there, and I become one of the many. When you train hard, you are one of the few. I have just kept at it. I do not always love it. I woke up today and I did the bike for thirty minutes and then I did ten sets of triceps and ten sets of biceps. I got a great pump and halfway through the workout I started to feel fantastic. But at the beginning? I forced myself, and because I have been training so long, I knew that feeling would come. 

So what am I saying? Just train and keep training and you will feel great somedays and like crap somedays but no matter what, you must keep at it, no excuses, just train, you must, through pain and divorces and deaths and hospital visits, you must keep going. Take that time for yourself. And never let anyone tell you that it is stupid or that you are selfish . Because it is for you- being strong and in shape- and it has become part of you. It doesn't matter if not one damn person in the world understands it. They do not have to. It is what you must do to stay whole and grounded. Keep going.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


In 1989, I dropped out of school. College that is. Yes, I went back and finished, started coaching, got my Master's Degree, all that stuff.

But back then? I was done playing football in college in North Carolina and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  So I dropped 50 pounds and lifted and ran everyday. I ate rice, tuna and wheat bread. I guess that one could say that I was depressed. Without football in my life, I really felt as though I had nothing. I had been playing since I was in the third grade and that means that when I finished, I had been playing it for 14 years. It was my life, simple as that.  And what was fall without football? I had no idea, I could never remember one without football. All year, every year, I had lived it. And now? A huge void.

So I went back to Maryland.  I had been away at school for awhile, had been on a full scholarship and now I had dropped out and wasted a semester that was paid for by the school. My parents were not happy. I was not seen as the prodigal son returning. The first thing I did was hook up with my buddy, Chris. Chris had dropped out of his school also. These days he is a big wig at some computer company, but back then? We were two lost souls together. Chris and I were best friends in junior college and had kept in touch. He had been home for awhile and was working at a golf course. He got me a job there and we commenced to riding tractors and cutting the rough and hanging out with guys who were making their living at the place. I actually liked it.  I mean I really liked it.  It was summertime and we would get to the course just as the sun was coming up and  we would start cutting and the dew would still be on the course and I actually saw a pheasant one morning.

I think that we got off at like 2pm everyday. After that, we went right to the gym. I was 21 years old,  I was making a little money and I was outdoors all day. Not too bad. And we had a great gym to go to after busting our ass at work.

What was the name of the gym? Ah yes, Iron Works. It was in an industrial park in Beltsville, Maryand, The owner, Neil, had been a thrower at the University of Florida and was a really great guy. He made his own equipment, had a Rottweiller in the gym, and took no shit whatsoever. The fee was 25 dollars a month. No joining fee or contracts or anything. And no air conditioning. I know it ain't Alabama, but the summers get pretty hot in parts of Maryland, so Neil would roll up the outside door and let the breeze come in. After workouts, Chris and I would sit outside and eat.  Those workouts were great.

I was coming off of my bodybuilding/weight loss foray, but Chris had discovered powerlifting and was going full force. He was weighing 225 and close gripping 415 and squatting  585 deep as hell and pulling over 600. And he had some legendary intensity. He would find a random guy in the gym before he was going to perform a big lift and start getting nuts. So let's say that he was getting ready to bench press 385x3 and he needed some extra motivation. He would already be frothing at the mouth, by the way. Anyway, he would start saying, " JIM! That guy is talking shit about me!" and I would look around, dumbfounded. Nobody was even glancing in our direction. "Who? Who is talking about you?" "That guy at the front desk!" So I looked at the guy at the front desk, talking to Neil. He wasn't looking at us at all, let alone talking about Chris. But Chris was all fired up. "I'm gonna freaking kill him!" And then I would realize what Chris was doing, getting himself fired up,  and then he would say "1,2,3, UP!" and I would give him a lift off and he would crush his set. It was a pretty unique way to get fired up, but for him, it worked. It really worked. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Chris would eat 8 bowls of Raisin Bran for breakfast. Eight bowls. I don't know why he decided on eight bowls, but damn it, he was gonna get those eight bowls in every morning.

As the summer went on, we kept up our schedule. Work, lift, eat. I was getting strong and putting on some good weight.

But one day when Chris and I were weed wacking around a sand trap, the boss came by. The man was an ass, basically. Anyway, we always weed wacked and then cleaned the grass out of the sand trap. We had a system. But the boss man had just pulled up before we had cleaned the sand trap. " I told you! No grass in the sand trap!" Chris tried to explain, but the boss was not listening. "F#%ck this!" Chris yelled, "We are outta here!"  "Alright", I said. I felt a lot of loyalty to Chris. After all he had gotten me the job and was teaching me so much about training. So we left the job, even though I really didn't want to leave.

 But you know what? The best thing about leaving the job at the golf course was that it forced me to face some tough choices. Did I want to go finish school and coach or did I want to work  jobs like the golf course the rest of my life? I actually loved the feeling at the end of the day of really working for a living, but I had wasted so much time and money on school and doing poorly that I decided that the best thing for me to do was to go back.

So I loaded my bag on a bus in DC and took off back to North Carolina. I started coaching then, first as a volunteer and I also finished college. I am glad that I made the choice to go back.

I will however, always look back fondly on the summer of '89.

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.