Training with Supportive Gear

For the longest time, I’ve been against most people lifting with any kind of supportive equipment. Maybe against is too strong a word, because I do see a value in some situations. My beef with it is that people with no real business wearing gear end up wearing the most of it.

I’m not really talking about powerlifters here. They’ve got their reasons, and not all of it is the latest trend of gear-whoring (which is why we see squats and benches shooting through the roof since around 2000, while the DL has gone up maybe 50 lbs in 30 years).

No, the quintessential example here is Gym Curl Guy. This guy is in every gym. He’s the one walking around with a leather belt on; if he ever actually touches a weight, he’s doing something like concentration curls.

I have to wonder what this guy is protecting. Since this is also the same guy that will try to tell you that deadlifting will wreck your back, well…you know. It’s an old football injury from high school, surely. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s never bothered actually strengthening the core or anything.

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A Closer Look at Cortisol & Bodybuilding

Every bodybuilder knows that cortisol is bad. Cortisol is one of those nasty catabolic hormones, and catabolism is bad. At least that’s the logic. Cortisol is a hormone found in your body, in a class of compound called glucocorticoids. It gets its name from the fact that it’s produced in the cortex (outer layer) of … Read more

Asimov: The Relativity of Wrong

I was recently reminded of one of my favorite articles.

It’s by Isaac Asimov, one of my favorite authors. Mr. Asimov died back in 1992, but occasionally one of his gems will resurface and I’m reminded again why I enjoy his work so much.

This article, titled The Relativity of Wrong, was written to demonstrate a crucial, but still poorly understood, facet of science: the idea that a statement or idea can be less wrong than another. What, you might ask, does this have to do with strength training?

As it turns out, it has plenty to do with it. More specifically, it has plenty to do with the volumes of information (and misinformation) that pervade the industry, and the poor (if any) reasoning ability that comes along with this. Since my schtick in this game involves using principles of logic and critical thinking to tear down idiocy, it’s very relevant.

Mr. Asimov’s frustration and subsequent rebuttal are in many ways parallel to what goes on in the fitness industry.

It’s unfortunate that the mindset that he, and others of his kind, so actively try to discourage is so rampant. It’s not just in the fitness industry; you see this all over. When you can’t even teach science in schools because of superstitious traditions, you’ve got a problem.

With the levels of bro-science and general anti-intellectualism at all time highs, I feel the need to occasionally interject things such as this in order to help chip away at some of the ignorant thinking.

Enjoy.

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Book Review: The Reactive Training Manual

I don’t tend to buy a lot of fitness/sports/strength-related products. Don’t get me wrong, I have a shelf full of books and a hard drive full of documents – I love reading about all this stuff.

What I mean is that in terms of the sheer amount of products out there, and what I tend to see people actually shelling out money for, I don’t buy a lot of things.

It’s just not common for me to see something that interests me enough to bother with. Even the stuff that looks interesting can turn out to be lukewarm, worth a read but not worth the cost. So it goes.

That said, if it’s on the right subject I’ll still get worked up. When I first read that Mike was putting this together, I got excited.

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Using Feedback to Manage Your Training

If you’re familiar with my rantings on the forums, and understand anything about my philosophy, you’ll understand that I’m pretty much anti-program.

This doesn’t mean that I’m against the idea of you having a plan. It means I’m against pre-made off-the-shelf solutions. I don’t think that the secret to your success lies in the latest workout from a magazine, and certainly not in the new e-book that costs $70 for 10 pages of information you already know.

Let’s face it: there’s really nothing new under the sun. What you see in any program is going to simply be someone’s take on the same handful of rules.

Not all pre-made programs are bad, per se. The problem isn’t that. The issue boils down to one simple thing: the stronger you get, the more that progress is determined by things that aren’t written down on the page.

What do I mean by that?

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High Volume Training: What’s the story? Part 2

In the last segment , I went over the concept of high-volume/high-frequency training.

To summarize briefly, high volume weight training as used by bodybuilders isn’t very productive; but a high volume of work used by strength athletes can be of benefit.

Why doesn’t it work so well for bodybuilders? Bro-ish bodybuilders use high volume because they’re after a pump. In their mind, the pump is more important than anything else; more important than progression, weight on the bar, or tension-time.

Since those concepts are the responsible factor behind muscle hypertrophy (aka, bigger muscles), these are what you should work on. Something like 5 sets of 5, or 3-4 sets of 10, or something along those lines will go a lot farther towards getting a muscle bigger than doing 10 variations of the same exercise for 5 sets of 12 each.

The story changes for a strength athlete. When you have an exercise that you want to improve, it makes sense to train it often. The nervous system likes repetition. If you’re a powerlifter, you want to get good at the squat, bench press, and deadlift. If you’re an Olympic weightlifter, you want to improve the clean & jerk and the snatch.

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High Volume Training: What’s the story?

When we discuss weight training, one of the key things we talk about is the volume of work done. Volume can mean different things to different people.

To Mike Mentzer and the HIT gang, volume was the number of sets done. Most bodybuilders still think in these terms; the number of sets per body part.

To athletes and strength coaches, volume takes on a different meaning. In this circle, volume is generally measured as the number of barbell lifts done (NL), or as the tonnage of a workout (sets * reps * weight used).

Volume is also manipulated by the frequency of workouts. If you lift once a week, you’ll have less volume than someone lifting three times a week, all things equal (note that this isn’t always the case; you can take the workload of a single workout and spread it across multiple sessions).

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