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.

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.