Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Enough Mayo

"You can't make chicken salad out of chicken s#!t."

The above statement is definitely words of wisdom by P.J. Striet.   Another oldie but goodie is "you are what you eat", and a favorite of mine from Dan Martin is, "garbage in, garbage out". Hey, there are probably dozens of these you can refer to but the truth of the matter is you need to eat nutritiously to reach your true physique/strength potential. Of course, there will be some exceptions to the rule, but for the most part these statements will hold true.  Obviously, there are some genetic freaks that can eat Taco Bell and “have their cake and eat it too” and still obtain a ripped physique. However, everyone has an Achilles heel and these people have their own genetic weaknesses to deal with. Although their physiques are not negatively altered, that does not mean that they aren’t being detrimental to their health.

I knew a guy in college who was shredded and could eat crap and responded well to any training program. His name was Peter Helton.  Peter was also naturally super strong.  He was 175 pounds and 5'7" of solid rock.  Within a few months of powerlifting, he was doing over 400lbs easily in the high bar squat with just a belt.  Peter knew only one way to squat.  And, that was as low as possible.  In fact, I had to tell him to not go so low because we had planned on him competing in a contest.  Peter could eat anything and not gain an ounce of bodyfat.  He had defined abs at all times no matter what he ate in the dorm cafeteria.  Peter ended up just missing a 600 pound squat and deadlifted 585 in his very first powerlifting contest.  I believe that was his first and last contest.  Peter had his weaknesses though.  His arms were hard to develop.  His calves were non existent.  Both were glaring weaknesses of a body most would point to and cry "genetic freak."  Discipline for working out consistently was a glaring weakness.  This will be the downfall of ANYONE regardless of their genetic potential.  I touched base with Peter recently (I found him through the magic of Google) and sure enough he never reached his potential in the Iron Game.  He was not even lifting anymore.  He had his weaknesses, just like everyone else - regardless of genetics.  He had a key weakness that would sabotage anyone's game plan in the Iron Game regardless of genetics.  He never stuck with it and persisted and stayed dedicated.

You must have discipline in your eating and training to maximize YOUR potential.  Some people THINK they have it when they really don't.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

When was the last time you missed a training session?

Could you go for 2 months straight without eating sweets or junk food?

Could you go a week without eating junk food?

Are you constantly changing your routine to "make gains"?

Do you go on a "diet" at various times?

Do you come off a "diet" at various times?

Do you make excuses for your lack of gains (to yourself and others)?

Do you constantly compare yourself to others?

Do you consider what others are doing in their training more than assessing what you are doing wrong in your training?

Do you need to be "motivated" at times to train?

Do you think you can make chicken salad out of chicken s#!t?

Here's a challenge until next time.  Cut out all sugar and processed sugar for ONE week.  Make sure you read the labels because processed food is notorious for sugars galore.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How To Transform Your Physique #90

Once again, I made a prediction and it came true. There is a thread on the GripBoard under the Strength and Power  sub-forum on one-arm dumbbell rowing.  Various videos are posted there of people performing the exercise.  Some of them have literally huge weights with the weights often exceeding 200lbs.  I watched the videos and just had to comment.  I tried to be diplomatic about it because I figured I would be accused of being....drum exercise cop.  I even mentioned it myself so people would not get all up in arms.  Remember, the EGO plays a big part in strength training. And, some tend to be very fragile. I got over this a long time ago both as an individual and realizing people aren't going to react in a positive manner in general when providing any feedback.  Here is the video that prompted me to give some feedback:

As you can see, there range-of-motion (ROM) is pretty small.  It's more of a shoulder hump than a row.  You should strive for a proper range of motion on every exercise and not just rows.  Shortening the range of motion is another method of what I call "false gains".  I have used this term in the past as long time Cyberpump! readers know.  People cut the ROM as they add weight.  Squats is one of the most abused for false gains.  A common abused term in macho land is Ass to the Grass (ATG).  In reality, most are FAR from ATG squats.  In fact, I've seen a LOT of lifters not even half squat a weight and they take credit for "parallel".

Here is a video with what I would consider ATG squat depth.  Keep in mind, the bouncing, etc. is not something I would recommend to anyone. I am just showing you the video for the depth of the squat:

Rows is another.  In the bench press, it's harder to do because everyone knows you "must" touch the chest.  What happens in the bench press is the bounce or hump up with the hips off the bench.  These are two techniques for "false gains" in the bench.  In curls some common technique of "false gains" are cutting the range of motion at the bottom, leaning back with the body and rocking (for machines), or just plain power cleaning the curls (dumbbell or barbell curls) instead of actually curling the weight in strict form.

I posted this video in response:

Just ignore that the guys have no shirts, etc. :) Watch the one guy do one-arm rows in the video.  I would consider this using much better form than the previous video. :)  Your back should be straight and neutral by the way.  Arching it per say is not necessary as the guy states. I also do not agree with the use of a belt or going for any big "stretch" in the bottom.  

When all is said and done, people are more likely to go for the lack of form and "false gains".  That is just a fact and I realize it.  But, that doesn't mean all is loss and I am going to stop providing the feedback such as what I did on the forum and writing this article!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Role of Genetics

I haven't really talked much about the role that genetics play in strength training.  A big reason is because a lot of people think I am being negative when I talk about genetics and that I am somehow putting a damper on their goals. That could not be further from the truth.  I am going to be honest though and not blow smoke up anyone's behind about what I believe are realistic goals.  First, it is great to have goals.  Yes, you can have what are called  stretch goals too.  But, I do not believe your stretch goals should not be your only goals.  I have posted on message forums many times in the past about unrealistic goals and again the response is that I am being "negative".   So, here's my take on genetics using the bench press as an example.

A person states that they want to bench 400 pounds as a goal.  I then ask them their stats.  The first items I look at is their body size.  Are they 6'6" and 200lbs?  Are they 5'6" and 150lbs?  My first thought on these two would be skepticism right out the gate, but I need more data.  The next item I would ask is how long have they been training and what is their current bench press max.  The first guy has super long levers and is obviously thin.  The second guy might have good levers, but a double bodyweight bench is 300lbs.  And, that would be a very good lift (we are of course talking RAW here).  So, 400 might be a stretch when 450 is triple bodyweight!  The next item I would ask is how long have they been training and what is their current max.  So, there is the reach the 400 level, you better reach the 300 level fairly quickly without any special routines, etc.  If both of these lifters tell me they have been training for 3 years and they are yet to hit 300, then my take is 400 is a pipe dream.  It is just not realistic.  I am assuming in these examples both are natural lifters and over 21 by the way.  So, my statement that the goal is unrealistic would get a response that I was being negative.

I have watched a lot of lifters on YouTube.  Recently, I saw a lifter bench 655 raw with a very strict pause.  So, I decided to give my theory a little test.  I hypothesized (you'll have to take my word for it!), that he had hit the 400 level of the bench with great ease.  Probably the 500 level as well.  So, I decided to message him via the YouTube Message system.  First, here is his 655 lift.  His name is Ben Brand by the way.

I asked him what role genetics had played in his benching ability. Here is what he wrote below in response. Note how easy he made it to 400 and when!  He was only a high school senior and did it in 2 months!  At 14, he punched up a 315 with what appeared to be little to no training!

I have always had a good bench. I do believe genetics has a lot to do with it. My father was a bodybuilder and when I was young I always remember his arms looked like bowling balls. My mom’s side of the family they were all stocky big men. Every one of my uncles on that side were all state football players and very good athletes. So I've been blessed with some good genetics. I can remember when I was around 14 my dad would take me to wrestling practice early at the high school in my town and the weight room would be open. One day he said let’s see how much you can bench. I did 315. I never really stuck with weight lifting in high school though until my senior year there was a bench meet at the school. I trained for about 2 months for it and I made 405. I didn't get into powerlifting though until I was 20 and didn't really progress in strength from when I did 405. I think I did my first 500 when I was 25 and my first 600 was when I was 29. Ever since I started powerlifting seriously I've trained really hard to get where I am but I do believe genetics have played a big part in it.

You will note he had to obviously work hard, but if I had known him back when he did the 400, and he said his goal was 500, I would have said it would almost be a lock as a goal. I would not have ruled out 600 either as a goal. Heck, he was a high school kid and reached 400 in 2 months for goodness sakes!

Be happy with your genetics.  Everyone has their strengths and it might not be super strength. BUT, you can significantly improve yourself and get a lot stronger through training.  Be happy with that.  Be real with yourself with respect to goals.  Work hard and work consistently.  Slow and steady will definitely win the race when it comes to building strength to your genetic limits.  Do not look for short cuts. There aren't any.  And, performance enhancing drugs aren't a short cut either.  They won't make up for lack of genetics.