Common Sense and Lifting
by Marc Bartley
Nowadays, mostly because of the Internet and pure laziness, most things are done on perception, not reality based. I can talk on these because I have had my fair share of both. The Internet is a great tool for helping us live our lives but people are constantly on and if you want a opinion of any sort it is out there. The Internet makes the Rumor Mill look like Kindergarten. And just like children, everybody then takes sides or jumps ship on a moment’s notice to be cool kinda like a bad high school movie. This leads to my other issue-laziness. Laziness, is a by product of perception. If you perceive something to be a certain way, your effort will be based on that perception. What does this have to do with lifting? Well, everything. I am not a expert at anything, but I am a guy who has tried a lot of things in the lifting world and can say that I am just a fly skimming the surface of a endless pond.
The first thing is form and technique. Logic would say these are the fundamentals of lifting, right. What makes sense to me is to watch the guys with the most perfect looking form or kinematic flow as I call it. It really is just human movement after all. All systems operate perfectly and the lift(s) looks almost completely effortless and graceful. This is perfect form. This is the only thing I think about before a lift, as long as I can hold the butterflies down. If I take my mind off of the perfect lift, then I miss all the details I have concentrated on for so long in practice. I say practice because that’s what gym lifting is-only practice. If you are a “gym lifter” and all your lifts happen in the gym and you suck at meets or don’t go because you won’t get a trophy then you are missing the whole point of lifting-overcoming your biggest enemy in life which is yourself. If you can get past this dude, you can do anything you want in life. For example, there is a dude at my gym who is a lifetime gym lifter. He has trained with us from time to time but never really listens or watches and half-ass learns. He is too busy talking about us behind our backs or whoever instead of getting better and doing it himself. He could lift some amazing things but has his own perception or ego you might say of what strong is and how you get to it. He blames drugs, gear, whatever he can besides the truth. THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS TO GETTING STRONG, ONLY TIME AND EFFORT. Additionally, the people he surrounds himself with are too sub par with no real goals or any of the same aspirations of getting stronger or better-Jabroni might be a good term here. A few adjustments here and there and some time could yield big results for this man. This is desire and ego (I want, I want , I want, like a baby) without the form and technique and hard work. Every person walking can increase their performance and strength by 10-20% simply by changing and learning proper form and technique. I enjoy watching people try their hearts out to lift big weights. It gives me a thrill or self satisfaction like a child learning to walk and the father grinning from ear to ear. When this guy lifts at the gym, I purposely avoid him. In his head, he thinks he can lift with me on a certain level and he could given the right training on his skills, but that is HIS perception and his reality of things which is far from the truth and will always be that way until he faces his own perception of things.
Find someone who is stronger than you and your fragile ego and do threes things- Spot, load and listen!! Then, you apply these things to your skill work and work and work and work. (I repeat myself a lot but all dudes have ADD so this is okay) Your form flaws will show your weaknesses. These weaknesses then have to be attacked with a vengence. Is this making COMMON SENSE to you yet? You can memorize and regurgitate information from the internet and publications all day long but if you are not applying it somehow to your training, then it is a waste of time!
Let’s talk volume ideas next. What’s the perfect volume? How do you determine this perfect volume if it exists? Can you make sense of it? When do you back off? When do you keep trying? There are a ton of other questions but these a couple off the top of my head to get started. There is NO book or program which will tell you exactly what to do. Nor should there be. The only thing there should be are guidelines. You follow a program or idea only to improve yourself, when that stops, the program is done. A example would be my old training partner, Don Thompson. He has always subscribed to the mentality that you have to do retarded volumes of training to get stronger. In the beginning, I was dumb to the whole idea of training so we did everything verbatim plus that Westside and Louie said. I have said this before but just to rehash this, we trained EVERYDAY on something and did the 10-14 workouts per week plus wheelbarrow three times a week and more sled trips than any Idairod dog sled team could ever do. This is no joke. Did I get strong, no but I did get in great shape. I did okay in competition but only to the extent that a beginner would get from starting out training. I got stronger on learning the skills, not the volume. Don got stronger on the fact that he believed the volume was making him stronger-in other words, he piles work on top of work instead of weeding through what works and what doesn‘t . He is also the type who thinks that if he stops training for one second or does something different he will become weak over night. Not gonna happen but that is the way some people think and that’s okay. He is strong his way but, it did not work for me. The second I stopped most of the extra work, my weight and strength began to shoot up. I do not believe in super high volume as you guys know already but I do believe you have to go through the ringer to figure this out-to a degree of sanity. Remember, Susan Powder, the crazy short haired lady from the 80s. Her slogan was,” Stop the Insanity” What she meant was the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and over but expecting a different outcome. This was said before her by someone else but the point is the same no matter what. UNLESS you do something different and experiment on your OWN level, you will do this. Some people just love to train and competition is just a pit-stop in between training. I am the opposite, I train just for the competition. The meet gives me that high, not training. The only thing either way should do is teach you lessons about life, it is NOT your life because in the end, nobody remembers what weights you lift, unless you write it in every article, they only remember what kind of person you were and the impressions you left on them-good and bad. I will take Rudy Ruttiger anyday over the Kaz or any champion like that. Yes, I said that.
That doesn’t mean nice guys finish last. I fight everyday for the extra pounds on my total. If my total wins the meet, that’s great too. I just want to improve my total which improves me and this is corny I know, but my goals are physical, mental and spiritual. I am saying nothing new about anything, only my version of the battle and its outcomes so far. When I started, I was like most people, stuck in the rat race (more like on the outside lane about to be put in the wall) and trying to fit in somewhere and be like everyone else. About halfway through the last nine or ten years, I realized and BELIEVED in myself. This is the best kind of LOGIC when you start to get OKAY with yourself-notice I said START to get OKAY.
What about learning and degrees and studies and academics? I have a couple of examples here to help explain this one. They are all great but where did they come from. They substantiate the trial and error we go through on a daily basis-at least in weight training for the most part. An example would be one of the kids that worked for me. He started coming to the gym in high school. When he went to college, we asked him to work for us. He did so for one summer and part of the fall. He trained with us and got decently strong (probably saved 3-5 years of training on his own) He did a strongman contest and power lifted with us for 6 months or so. He then promptly quit because of college, a new girlfriend and a attitude about menial work at the gym. What happened? He is a PT student and is very smart according to the professors. Why would you leave training with a bunch of guys who look out for you and support your training? I call it the Big Head Syndrome. This is where you read a couple of books, memorize some things and then vomit it back up on the test. After some time and the academic world brainwashing the common sense and sheer logic out of you, you then get your elitist boy scout badges and your attitude changes. Notice I didn’t say anything about the information in the books. The books aren’t the problem. This is what happened to our young friend. Now, he espouses big words and performs his fledgling illusionist act. Of course, he does not say this to me because I know the words and I know what it really is. Now, he sucks in training, has no motivation and has separated himself from the group. I can also vouch for BHS because when I was in college (a long time ago) I got this BHS and thought I was smarter then everyone including my parents, friends ,etc. I don’t knock anyone for improving themselves but sit back, evaluate your situation, ask questions and then make a decision-a good one. Why can’t you have your cake and eat it too. A year or two more training with us and this kid could have been light years ahead of all his peers and climb the ladder twice as fast. Now, he is just another face in the crowd fighting for the crumbs. Park the Big Head. There is always somebody smarter then you and besides it’s all a crap shoot anyhow. Nobody really knows. We just guess and see if it works, contrary to what the “docs” and “gurus” say.
Keep it simple, stupid. How many times have you heard this. I constantly see all these programs with all these percentages and numerous exercises. Let’s examine, sort of, some unwritten facts about the human body, training and the mental game.
Q: How many exercises does it take before you shut down?
A: Unless, you are a superhero, you have one to two major movements a training session before you shut down. Shutdown means motor recruitment and CNS fatigue. You can do auxiliary work but when the major work is done, you are done.
Q: Isn’t 1 to 5 reps strength and 6 to whatever for hypertrophy?
A: Do you even know what you just said? Thanks to every jackass health publication out there, you, the public are even more confused than 20 years ago. Both give you strength and both give you size. The first will develop more strength and more actual muscle development (i.e more muscle fibers) over time while the second will yield less strength gains and less dense muscle( i.e. more sarcoplasmic development which is collagen and other factors that are NOT muscle) To put this in a visual perspective, if you train for both, it’s like a full pack of cigarettes. All the cigarettes are packed tightly in the box and each cigarette is full to the brim with beautiful cancer causing tobacco. If you miss any part of the process, you will have less cigarettes in the box and more paper. Train them BOTH.
Q: I don’t know if I to compete as a power lifter so how would I still put on size and keep my abs?
A: Well stop reading and go the previous question. If you still don’t get it, stop reading this article and find a vaginal support group. I think they meet at all the Gold’s and great fitness centers across this great but rapidly declining country. I think they are all on My Space as well. I will repeat this: YOU HAVE TO TRAIN BOTH. Try to keep the, quote compound movements unquote, more like powerlfiting with the larger weights and smaller reps as this will stimulate the aforementioned muscle development and raise hormone production which is what we all want, right?
As far as the ab thing goes, most people are confused about it all. If you are serious about gaining a lot of muscle then you have to have to put on some size and I mean fat. You don’t have to be a sloppy bastard like me but you have to get some and keep it on. What I have found out is the body always fights for some type of homeostatis or equlibrium. If you stay too lean, it’s very hard for the body to add muscle with out pharmacuetical help. If you stay 10-15lbs over all the time, the body will do what I call relax ( a form of equilibrium), and add muscle relatively easily. Once your body catches up, you add 10-15 more lbs of fat again and the cycle continues. It’s a very simple process that is documented in studies all over the world. You will have to find them though.
Q: Should I deload?
A: As Jimmy Wendler, the Great Interrupter put it at a recent seminar, go away and lift for at least 5 years (maybe it was 10 years) and then ask this question, you haven‘t earned your right( not exact but you get the gist). My answer is if you feel like crap and keep missing lifts because you aren’t feelin’ it, then bag it and come back another day. The weights aren’t going anywhere. This is where most of the injuries come from. I guess if you still don’t get it, deload means my bones hurt and I would rather eat a bag of Oreos.
I know there are lots more questions but I just wanted to rattle off a few to get it started. A few other things I would like to address would start out with lighter worker or dynamic effort as so many people talk about but don’t really understand. What is this dynamic work? It’s just moving lighter weights as fast as you can. The idea is when you move these weights as fast as you can , the force( max lbs you can push) generated is similar to a all absolute max weight. This is hard to grasp and most of all-believe. Have faith in it, it has worked for the majority of people who try it. If you look closely at a lot of programs for various sports, there is some increment or hint at speed work. Don’t fret so much on perfect percentages, just keep the weights light enough to control form and produce adequate force. As mentioned earlier in this article, work on one thing each training session to enhance your skill level. For example, pushing out on the belt as you descend on the squat or tucking the elbows on the bench or head up on the deadlift. If you do this on each dynamic training session, you will master the lifts in a much shorter time frame then I did.
These are just a few observations I have seen over the years. Sometimes even the simplest things just have to be expressed before you have that moment where YOU get it. Most everybody gets it at different times and that’s just fine as long as you allow yourself to GET it. As a lifter or athlete, you will only learn one detail of a skill at a time. In those moments of pure disgust and hate for yourself because you keep missing the lift for this reason or that reason, step back , breathe and step back in with a different attitude. Go back to the perfect lift in your head. Work the details of that lift from start to finish. See yourself doing the perfect lift. Once you have done this, see yourself stepping to the next level where ever that may be but enjoy the moments as they come because they are far and few between