I Am Not a Geared Powerlifter [Context Matters]

A few years ago, I posted a squat video on Youtube. Not the best source of intelligent commentary on good days, several comments stuck out to me. These users, with the best of intentions I’m sure, gave me what I can best describe as “internet powerlifter squat advice”, which I found confusing. I’m not a … Keep on reading &rarrow;

Raw Lifting and Linear Periodization

I’ve had to do a lot of thinking over the past couple of years as far as deciding what I want to do with myself as far as training and goals. I dabbled with powerlifting for years, but it wasn’t ever satisfying to me as a competitive sport. I like hitting big weights, and I even like competing from time to time. What I don’t like is how gear has become such an integral part of training and competing. Even in the IPF affiliates it’s gotten a bit wacky, and don’t get me started on the multi-ply feds.

This isn’t a swipe at geared powerlifting. If you enjoy it, then best of luck to you. But it’s not what I signed up for. The reason I lift weights is, for lack of a better phrase, because of “physical culture”. Bodybuilders back in the day actually had to lift weights in their contests. The earliest powerlifters trained more like what we think of as bodybuilding today. That’s the old idea of physical culture: that you develop both strength and the physique with well-rounded weight training.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Raw Lifting and Linear Periodization

Observations on Bulgarian-inspired strength training

If you like this article, you might also be interested in my book Squat Every Day which covers this subject in much more detail. Get your copy here. As I’ve alluded to in the past few posts and many of my Twitter updates, I’ve been experimenting with high-frequency training in a half-hearted manner for the … Keep on reading &rarrow;

A Defense of Round-backed Deadlifting

Roundbackers Unite!

Most of us know the Deadlift as an exercise that works the lower back, along with its effects on the glutes, hamstrings, traps/mid-back, and just about everything else.

Nearly everyone stresses the importance of keeping the lower back extended or at least neutral while deadlifting, or doing any other movement for that matter – that is, keeping your back arched or, better, flat. Stuart McGill, one of the foremost experts on the spine, considers that neutral spine position to be both the strongest (from the standpoint of minimizing damage) and thus the healthiest.

Accordingly the deadlift is taught with a flat lumbar spine. The rationale is to protect and stabilize the spine – which is the role of both the spinal erectors, the numerous abdominal muscles, and most everything else in the trunk. This is good advice, in general. However, there’s reason to question the notion that you must never let your back round under any circumstances.

Keep on reading &rarrow;A Defense of Round-backed Deadlifting

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.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Training with Supportive Gear

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.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Book Review: The Reactive Training Manual

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.

Keep on reading &rarrow;High Volume Training: What’s the story? Part 2

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).

Keep on reading &rarrow;High Volume Training: What’s the story?