Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Legends of Weightlifting - One of the Biggest Lifts in History - Kurlovich

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A little inspiration from one of my favorites.

Olympic champion (1988 and 1992);
Senior world champion (1987, 1989, 1991 and 1994);

Set twelve world records during his career.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dangerous Lifts?

Here is some commentary from Sean Waxman, a successful coach from Southern California. My comments are in blue.

Olympic lifting bashers will proclaim the Clean and Snatch dangerous but have no problem with a box squat! Explain to me how sitting on a box while compressing ones spine from both ends and relaxing the hip-flexors is perfectly safe while... the Olympic lifts are dangerous? I'm not sure I understand this line of reasoning. While I agree with Sean and personally do not use the Box Squat (I don't like the feeling my spine gets between a heavy weight and an immovable object) I suppose it can be executed safely with proper equipment, coaching, and technique. Greg Shepard, founder of Bigger, Faster, Stronger (BFS) teaches it as a very controlled exercise to be done with weights not in excess of about 100 lb.(45 kg) or so above the athletes best full squat. However in reality, I seldom see them performed in this manner. In many weight rooms the box squat is an excuse for wannabe squatters to load way in excess of what they can squat and bounce up for reps.Again I think of Meg Ritchie's quote "There are no dangerous lifts, just dangerous coaches"
How Can Anybody Say This Is Safer Than A Power Clean!

While I agree, this is most certainly dangerous...


The fact is, Olympic Weightlifting is the safest form of resistance training (Hamill, B. Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 8(1):53-57. 1994). Coaches who proclaim otherwise DO NOT KNOW HOW TO COACH THE LIFTS PROPERLY.
I cannot agree more. The lifts are not dangerous when performed properly. But what passes for the lifts in most weightrooms is certainly an injury waiting to happen.
I see very few coaches who take the time to teach first. They are usually too much in a hurry to load up the bar. "We don't have time to teach technique, we need to get strong!!" It's like being to busy chopping to sharpen the axe.
As much as we like to pretend to be civilized, we're all still members of tribal units. We still divide the world up into "us" and "them." "They" want to come here and steal "our" cattle, take "our" land, and enslave "our" people. Everyone does it. We're still just as tribal as our pre-historic ancestors were. Only now we have instituted laws so that we don't take up clubs and bash each other's brains in. Really? I guess I better put my club away then. lolCoaches who are part of the "Westside/Powerlifting" tribe will always extoll the value and saftey of the Box Squat and other training means over the Snatch and Clean for athletic development. Anyone who has watched the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster knows that the Westside lifters are powered by more than just "conjugate training" methods. Applying this type of training to drug tested athletes in other more athletic sports is pretty iffy. While coaches who are members of the "Olympic Lifting" tribe will zealously defend the Olympic lifts as the best and safest method for athletic development.

Tribal warfare changes when one tribe develops better weaponry then the other. Olympic Weightlifting has the ultimate weapon...Its called SCIENCE!
The trouble here in the U.S.A. is that much of what passes for science in the area of resistance training is garbage. University PE classes working out for 12-14 weeks does not shed much light on heavy training by high level athletes. Having said that, I agree with Sean that Weightlifting, correctly implemented, is backed up by plenty of evidence, empirical and otherwise.So the next time somebody wants to argue Olympic Weightlifting is not safe, tell them that they shouldn't bring a club to a gun fight!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Too Much Muscle?

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Here is an article I really like. I saw it on the T-Nation site. Glenn Pendlay is a successful coach who has developed some great lifters from the junior to elite levels and also has developed a following training athletes in a variety of sports. I really like his approach. We have featured some of his stuff in earlier posts also. The article is somewhat lengthy, but worth the effort to read. I find it very applicable to throwers. In fact, I think it further validates the compatibility and synergism of lifting and throwing. I will highlight what I think are the most important points in red and make a few comments in blue.

Too Much Muscle
The Glenn Pendlay Secret
by Chris Shugart – 2/08/2011

Glenn Pendlay, noted Olympic weightlifting coach, has a problem: His athletes are building too much muscle, too fast.
The weightlifters are growing right out of their weight classes... while losing body fat.
They're not training for hypertrophy, but they're gaining muscle much faster than people who are. People like you.
And they're doing it by not training like bodybuilders.
Do you feel sorry for Pendlay and his "problem?" We don't either. So when Christian Thibaudeau, Tim Patterson, and I called him, we didn't tell him we were sorry to hear about his little accidental hypertrophy issue. Nope, we interrogatedhim about it.
We wanted to know how his athletes were training. We wanted to hack his system and pass that info on to you. This is what we learned.

Testosterone Nation: Your athletes, whether they're Olympic lifters or football players getting ready for the NFL Combine, are known for putting on muscle very quickly. But you're not a hypertrophy coach per se.
Glenn Pendlay: I'm not a bodybuilding coach. I coach high-level athletes. For me, it's never been about how you look but about how much you lift or how fast you run or how high you jump. Still, I've often had trouble keeping an athlete down in his weight class.
Anybody can "bulk up." Eat a ton of food, drink a bunch of milk, do your major exercises like squats and bench presses and rows and deadlifts and military presses... it's just not that hard to gain 20 pounds with at least some of it being muscle. Most people that "can't" do it have simply not done the program correctly.
Of course, done that way you don't end up looking good naked. And you usually don't end up running faster, jumping higher, or having the ability to close the cushion in the first five yards off the line if you're a football receiver. What we do, the way we train, seems to increase lean body mass, decrease body fat, and definitely adds to your ability to run and jump and do athletic things.
If you're trying to get someone to be as good as they can be in the 94 kilo class – where 207 pounds is the most they can weigh – the object is to get them as strong as possible within that weight class. That means being very lean because the more body fat you have the less muscle you can carry and still be in the weight class. And it means making any muscle that is added very functional: muscle that adds to performance and not just to the bicep measurement.
T NATION: It's a little frustrating to hear that a lot of athletes build very muscular and lean bodies without ever "bodybuilding" in the traditional sense of the word. Train for performance, look like a bodybuilder, or at least a drug-free bodybuilder.

Pendlay: If you look at the physiques of a lot of the guys I coach, whether they're weightlifters or in the NFL, they're not professional bodybuilders, but they possess the physiques that would be looked at as ideal by nine out of ten people who don't want to use drugs. They just want to look good with their shirts off.
Look at the average running back in the NFL – he has a very muscular, very lean, functional physique. Most people will see that physique as more realistic. They don't want to do the drugs necessary to look like a pro-bodybuilder.
In fact, they'd preferto look like the running back rather than a pro-bodybuilder. Ninety-nine percent of people want to look like Jon North or T.J. Ward.
Last year when we did T.J.'s Combine prep, he gained 20 pounds of lean body mass. That guy looks scary without his shirt, just densely muscular and lean.

Methods & Metabolism
T NATION: Okay, let's get to it. How are these guys gaining muscle so quickly?
Pendlay: When weightlifters start doing a ton of extra workouts that are concentric-only, they have a problem: they grow out of their weight class. And that's with lean muscle, not fat.
We do very frequent training. We have a certain number of workouts per week that are very high intensity. We have only a couple of workouts per week that involve heavy eccentric loading, something like squatting.
We do very frequent, very high intensity, concentric loading. We do it for weightlifters, we do it for professional athletes, we do it for guys getting ready for the NFL Combine... we do it for everybody.
You get stronger and you gain lean body mass without gaining fat. You train like that, that often, then it's actually difficult to gain fat; your metabolism is going like a furnace.
T NATION: You've talked in our forums about how this is related to hormones. Can you elaborate?
Pendlay: The research I did getting my master's degree was all hormonal based. I'm always looking at how training influences the hormonal response, and, if you get it right, how hormonal response influences the results you get from training. That made a huge impact on how I've designed my training philosophy.
The whole-body type of workout, where you're doing big, stressful exercises, stimulates a powerful hormonal response. That's one of the reasons why people who aren't on drugs get the most benefits from a completely different training style than those who are on drugs.
Someone who's on drugs already has all the testosterone his system can handle. Someone who's not on drugs needs to train in a way that stimulates his body's production of hormones.
T NATION: That makes sense.
Pendlay: If you're a pro-bodybuilder who's taking the things that pro-bodybuilders take, then you don't have to train the same way or worry about the same things as your average 25-year old guy who wants to build muscle and isn't going to take drugs to do it. Those are two completely different systems of training.
What we're talking about is doing things that stimulate the whole body more. You're not doing isolation work; you're not coming in and doing curls and blasting your biceps once a week with 20 sets. Instead you're doing big exercises, leaning towards a whole-body workout.
Not everyone needs to do a whole-body workout, but they certainly don't need to do chest one day, biceps the next, etc. Whole-body workouts or upper/lower splits are the answer.
You're training more frequently, and as you get into better shape your goal is to start including "extra" workouts where you do very explosive, fast movements and, generally, concentric-only movements.

T NATION: What does your upper/lower split look like?
Pendlay: My favorite split is squatting and pressing on Monday and Thursday. Then, on Tuesday and Saturday, we pull. That includes variations of the snatch and clean, as well as pull-ups and rows.
T NATION: How often are your athletes training?
Pendlay: My best athletes are in the gym twice a day, every day, and every single workout they're working their hips, their backs, and their legs.
Regular people may not be able to always do that, but that's the ultimate expression of what I'm talking about. What the regular guy can do is build towards that. He can look at what these athletes do and copy it to the best of his ability in the time that he has in the day. (I would like to point out that throwing is a resistance exercise also, done a high speed. This needs to be considered when computing total volume and frequency)

The Best O-Lifts and the Push Press
T NATION: Okay, what's one lift the hypertrophy-focused guy needs to learn from the Olympic-lifting world?
Pendlay: Either cleans or snatches. Preferably both. If you can't do a full snatch, then do a power snatch. Do some sort of explosive pull, then drop the bar. If you can't drop the bar in your gym, then at least lower it in a way that you're not getting a huge eccentric load.
For upper body development, people should focus more on push presses, where the weight moves fast and explosively. I want people push-pressing every week.
There's also a ton of value for the average guy who wants to get more muscular to pull a sled or push a Prowler. Everyone who wants hypertrophy should emphasize those things more than they do now.
T NATION: Break down the push press for us. Why should the bodybuilder use it instead of, say, a military press?
Pendlay: The push press has more carryover to pressing in general – bench press etc. – than any other upper body exercise. Show me a guy who can push press a big weight and he's going to be able to excel at any other pressing movement, even if he's never done it before.
A big bench presser doesn't get that same carryover. I don't want to have 400-pound bench pressers who can't do anything else. The guy who can do heavy push presses doesn't have that problem. He's strong at everything. (I concur 100%)
And that can't be done with the strict military press either. It's too hard to get it moving. You have such a weak point at the start that it limits the amount of weight you can use.
With a push press, you can put 10 to 20% more weight over your head. You're forced to develop the ability to recruit those muscle fibers very quickly because you're pushing the bar off your shoulders with your legs and then your arms have to come into play, fast, so it doesn't stall. The ability to do that is very, very valuable.
Second, with the push press there's just a huge overload at the top. That last six inches at the top is like doing a partial. That has a powerful effect on the body.
T NATION: Wow, time to start push pressing more often! Give us the important points of how you want to see people push press.
Pendlay: They have to rack the bar correctly. Most people rest it on their clavicles, but what they need to do is shrug their shoulders up, putting their elbows slightly forward so the bar is resting on their deltoids. Then they have to stay on their heels and use and dip and drive.
After the leg drive, they have to push with their arms immediately, not pause for three seconds. Think rate of force production. It's also very important to end with the weight behind your head, not in front of it. At the very least, a vertical line dropped from the bar should pass behind the ears, and you should pause momentarily at the top, every rep.

Speed Kills

T NATION: Explosive training is making a comeback, so to speak, in hypertrophy training. Why exactly?
Pendlay: Explosive movements teach your muscles to "turn on." Everybody should do explosive movements!
If you get better at explosive movements then you're going to get more out of your other training. If you get better at jumping on a box then you're going to get more benefit from squatting because your nervous system is going to be tuned up to utilize every available motor unit.
If you can turn on an extra 10 or 20% of motor units when you're squatting, you're going to get more benefit out of it. The easiest form of explosive training is to just jump on a plyo box.
T NATION: Give us an example of explosive training.
Pendlay: I'm looking out my office window right now. I see football players doing explosive, clap-style push-ups. What we do is, we make two stacks of two 25 kilo bumper plates. They do a push-up explosively and land with their hands on the bumper plates, about five or six inches off the ground. From there they push up again and land back on the floor.
That type of exercise is a huge complement to bench-pressing if your goal is to have a bigger chest and shoulders.
I see some other guys doing a medicine ball drill where one kid is standing on a box and throwing a ten-pound ball at another kid who's lying on the floor. He throws the ball back up as fast as he can, no pause. Again, it's sort of a bench press movement.
Bench presses are slow and heavy. The push-up drill is faster since you're using only body weight. Then you have the med ball drill, which is light and fast. The lesson: You need to train at different speeds. From heavy, heavy, slow bench presses to throwing a ten-pound medicine ball as fast as you can.
Put all this together and what does it mean? It means that we get a guy who weighs 180 with a 30-inch vertical and pretty soon he weighs 200 with a 35-inch vertical... and he's leaner. If he's a football player then he's going to be able to push people off the line. A 500 pound bench press isn't going to do him much good if he's slow.
He's not only added muscle, he's ramped up his nervous system. It allows him to use the muscle he has more effectively. He doesn't just get bigger. He gets bigger and faster and stronger, all at the same time. (It would seem that throwing and lifting are an ideal combination)
T NATION: Train at different speeds. Got it. And you break that down into three speeds, basically?
Pendlay: Yes. The guy who's having trouble getting bigger and stronger and leaner is going into the gym and training one speed. What he needs to do is train at a variety of speeds: explosive, super explosive (medicine ball), medium-level plyos (body-weight box jumping), and alsodo squats and bench presses.
He'll look better and be a better athlete. In athletics, speed kills. The Olympic lifts are a big part of training at different speeds. (So is throwing various weighted implements)They're in between deadlifting and jumping.

The Rule and the Row
T NATION: Any general rule with the Olympic lifts for those of us not training under the watchful eye of a coach?
Pendlay: If you miss the lift three times, stop. No matter how good you feel. Three strikes and you're out. (I like this rule, no need to practice missing. Either drop the amount of weight, or come back another day)Also, use the Internet. There are a number of pretty good tutorials on how to learn the lifts.
T NATION: Not many coaches have exercises named after them. You do. What are Pendlay Rows?
Pendlay: Well, I didn't give them this name myself. Someone else started calling them that and it kind of got traction.
Basically, this came about because I advocated doing rows in such a way as to keep the back parallel or near parallel to the floor the whole lift, return the bar to the floor between each rep, and explosively attempt to flex the thorasic spine on each rep. Very different than a standard barbell row.
T NATION: Any final tips for the T NATION audience?
Pendlay: One way or another, you need to be able to explosively lift a bar and drop it.
And if you can figure out a way to train more frequently, then you'll get better results. Period. Olympic lifts either have no eccentric component or a very small eccentric component, so you can do them pretty damn often. And "pretty damn often" means better results.
Lastly, I've always said that people do too damn many exercises, and they don't concentrate on the ones they do correctly. Take just about any college strength program for football. You'd be better off if you randomly crossed out half the exercises, then spent your time doing the ones that are left correctly and with focus. (AMEN)
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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Oregon Strength and Conditioning

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A view of the facility at Oregon.

On the heels of our last post, more evidence that collegiate strength and conditioning coaches, at even the highest levels, often function on force of personality rather than knowledge. The idea that any hard work is good, is false and plainly, stupid. Coaches of less talented athletes have to develop effective programs, based on correct principles, and that improve players; not just "work them hard". It is an art and a science. Just yelling and motivating are not enough.

Oregon's Taggart takes blame for hospitalized players, strength coach suspended

A day after it was announced that three Oregon football players had been hospitalized following a series of strength and conditioning workouts, head coach Willie Taggart is absorbing responsibility.

Offensive linemen Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi along with tight end Cam McCormick were admitted to hospital following team workouts that were said to be gruelling in nature, and remained in fair condition.

Oregon released a statement in which Taggart put the blame for the situation squarely on his own shoulders.

"I have visited with the three young men involved in the incidents in the past few days and I have been in constant contact with their families, offering my sincere apologies," Taggart said. "As the head football coach, I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities and the safety of our students must come first."

In the statement, it was also announced that strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde has been suspended without pay for one month.

"I have addressed the issue with our strength and conditioning staff, and I fully support the actions taken today by the university," Taggart added. "I want to thank our medical staff and doctors for caring for all of our young men, and I want to apologize to the university, our students, alumni, and fans."

Following his suspension, another condition of Oderinde's punishment is that he will no longer report directly to Taggart, but rather to Andrew Murray, the director of performance and sports science at the university.

Irele Oderinde
University of Oregon has suspended football strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Alabama Strength and Conditioning

Scott usually has his mouth open.

A few days after the NCAA Football Championship game, I came across this article. We've done some posts on Scott Cochran on our site in the past and basically I have to say that I am not a fan of him or his methods. Of course my opinion doesn't have any impact on the fact that Alabama has won multiple titles and Scott has been listed as the highest paid S&C coach in the country making something like a half a million a year. His methods are apparently appreciated in Alabama. In my opinion, this is illustrative of the fact that many collegiate Strength and Conditioning coaches, especially those working with football, really have no clue on how to develop athletes. They are basically teaching fish to swim. Major college football in 2017 is highly specialized and players are recruited who have the specific abilities needed for their respective positions and programs. As long as the S&C coach doesn't injure them in training, almost anything they do will allow them to play at a high level. Collegiate football S&C coach is an extension of the head coach. As long as the head coach's philosophy is followed and the team is winning, the S&C coach looks great, regardless of how effective his program really is in developing athletes.

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday January 09, 2017

Scott Cochran has been Alabama’s head strength coach since Nick Saban arrived in 2007. It was after the second year that Cochran saw the culture change into what the Tide are today.

Alabama’s won four national titles under Saban, but Cochran said it didn’t start until the players set the expectations. Don't forget that Saban went 7-6 in his first year. Yeah, the players got better through recruiting, but Cochran saw the culture start from them in the summer workouts.

“We run in the summer, we do some thing that, if you look scientifically, it makes no sense. It’s just really difficult,” Cochran said on SiriusXM College Sports Nation. “For this month of June, I’m going to find out what your heart is. We’d do stadium runs early in the morning and then come back in the weight room when you can’t even walk down the stadium because your legs are sinking like a salt-shaker, and you walk in the door and we’re heavy back-squatting.

“I feel like the program changed when it went from me telling a player, ‘This is what we do,’ to where I saw Rolando McClain and Julio Jones slap a player and say, ‘No, no, no. This is what we do, and this is why we win. We’re going to do really heavy legs after a whole week of work and right after stadiums, too. So take that 315 off the bar and put another Cadillac on, because we’re going to go 405 for the second set.’ Just the mentality changed.”

The Tide go for No. 5 under Saban tonight at 8 p.m. ET against Clemson. Cochran also worked under Saban at LSU. Head coaches often say the strength coach is their most important hire. They set the tone and set the culture, working with players more than any of the other coaches.

Asked what message he’ll give the Tide, Cochran gave a little peek.

“I kind of had to go back and think about the mentality we used at LSU,” Cochran said. “Coach Saban used Muhammad Ali against Sonny Liston, fighting him a second time. My mentality is there, so you can take that and figure out what I’m going to do with it. That’s how I’m going to turn up the volume.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ric Flair 400 lb. Deadlift

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Ric Flair in his prime

I never considered "pro" wrestling as a sport, although I definitely know that some real athletes have been involved. In times past names like Bruno Sammartino and Ken Patera come to mind. Today John Cena is amazing among others. In reality it is really a performance activity and the "stars" are mainly just acting.This guy, Ric Flair, I always considered to be just an actor. But, I have to admit that this is quite impressive. More power to him.

Monday, January 9, 2017

How To Keep Your Brain Young: Exercise May Combat Cognitive Decline

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Yet another article giving evidence that the body is one piece and we can't separate mental processes from the physical. Exercise promotes total body health. Inactivity leads to mental deficiencies as well as physical problems.

By Kelsey Drain 
It’s a sad fact — aging and declining brain power go hand-in-hand. If you want to keep better tabs on where you last placed your car keys, you may want to consider taking up a sport or other form of aerobic exercise.

A new  study published in the journal  Medicine &Science in Sports & Exercise has found that  exercise may actually keep the brain young, and combat  cognitive decline. The research team found that older adults who practiced high amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had a 36 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment. Compared to those who did less exercise, they also had better memory and executive function.

To reach these conclusions, researchers asked 6,400 people aged 65 and older to sport an activity tracker for a week,  TIME reported. They also analyzed participants’ cognitive abilities through a series of tasks.

According to TIME, previous studies have also shown that exercise lowers an older person’s risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and  obesity.

For example,  Alzheimer’s Disease and Age-Related Memory Loss (ARML) are two kinds of cognitive decline that are associated with aging, but these two conditions operate very differently.

Alzheimer's disease can be prevented, "and also to some degree, you might be able to reverse it,” neuropsychiatrist and Nobel Prize recipient Eric Kandel said in a recent  video for Big Think. Exercise may play a role in both.

Source: Zhu W, Wadley VG, Howard VJ, Hutto B, Blair SN, Hooker SP. Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Cognitive Function in Older Adults.  Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2016.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

7 Things Successful Lifters Do


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The Chinese lifters know how to be successful.

Here is a great article that appeared recently on the T-Nation.com website. It is authored by Charles Staley who has been a prolific writer for several decades now. He always writes about reality when it comes to training. This is worth sharing with my students, as so many are prone to buy into commercialized propaganda. Real results come from hard, smart, and consistent work over a long period of time. There are no shortcuts.

The 7 Fundamental Tools

When it comes to getting bigger and stronger, we've pretty much known what to do for decades now. Sure, there are occasional advances in training science, recovery methods, and nutritional tactics, but the vast majority of what we'll ever learn is already known.

A lack of progress is much more likely due to a poor grasp of fundamentals than missing the boat on some new periodization approach. What you need is better critical thinking. Here are 7 tools for better decision-making and decisive action in the gym.

1 – Successful Lifters Focus On Principles, Not Methods

The best way to keep your eye on the target and avoid getting sidetracked by the minutia is to focus on principles rather than methods that derive from those principles. Remember, "Methods are many, but principles are few." Fortunately, there are only a few principles you need to apply:


The stimulus that you provide via training must match the adaptation you hope to develop.

If you're a powerlifter or have primarily strength goals, most of your training should be heavy, low-rep (1-5) work on the squat, bench, and deadlift, and perhaps some additional extra work on close variations of the exercises you hope to get stronger in.

If you're a physique athlete, you need to focus mostly on lower intensity weights for higher (8-15) reps on a wide variety of exercises, at least most of the time. If you're interested in both strength and muscle, alternate between these two methods in successive 4-6 week phases.

If how you're training varies significantly from these parameters, it isn't optimal for your goals.

Progressive Overload

The adaptive challenges you present to your body in the form of workouts must be continuously increased, or your adaptations will stop. No one ever got big or strong by accident. You must continuously force the issue. Whenever possible, gradually add weight, reps, and/or sets. Any of those three approaches is valid.

If your training numbers cease to improve, it's either because you're training too hard or not hard enough. Ask your coach or training partner(s) which scenario is most likely in your case, and then make the appropriate adjustments.

Individual Response

Keep in mind that human similarities greatly outweigh the differences between individuals. In other words, think twice before you conclude that you're a special snowflake who needs some sort of exotic approach in order to succeed. You probably don't, and even if you do, that's not the most logical starting point anyway.

2 – They Avoid Binary Thinking

No single program, method, or exercise is definitively "good" or "bad," in much the same way that there are no good or bad foods without respect to dose or total dietary content.

Think of everything as a tool, and the utility of that tool depends entirely on context. For example, if you can squat with a super-upright position with lots of knee flexion, squats are a good quad-training tool for you. If you can't, hack squats are a better option.

If pushdowns don't cause pain, they're a good triceps builder. If they hurt, they're not. If you're planning to compete in the sport of weightlifting, snatches and clean & jerks are "good" exercises. If you're an MMA fighter looking to build strength and muscle, there are better choices. And so on and so forth.

The goal dictates the tool, never the other way around.

3 – They Reject Novelty

I once attended a lecture by multi-Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates. As the crowd anxiously anticipated learning Dorian's secrets, he began his talk:

"Well, for my first exercise, let's say it's squats, I usually start with the bar for maybe 12-15 reps. Then I go to 135 for 10-12. Then 225 for 8-10 reps. Then 315 for another 8-10. Then I'll move to my working weight of 405, where I'll do 3-4 really hard sets of 8-10 reps. Then I move on to my second exercise."

I'm paraphrasing Dorian's comments here, but suffice it to say that his talk was completely devoid of the secret tricks the audience really wanted. Instead, the man with arguably the best physique of all time "let the audience down" by truthfully sharing what he really did to build his body.

The desire for novel information is perhaps the biggest cause of confusion (and hence, lack of progress) for most lifters. This phenomenon is present in all fields of human endeavor, not just training. That's because truth is often less palatable than "secrets."

There are two distinct phases that people go through. First is the "inspiration" phase where you're using a new training program or diet, and you've got confidence in this new approach because the article you read about it is by a guy who has a Ph.D. and/or is totally yoked.

And, frankly you're bored with what you've been doing, and the thought of doing anything new strikes you as much more appealing than the same old grind. So you're re-energized by that "new car smell," until that is, you do that new program long enough.

Now you're in the "perspiration" phase. The novelty has worn off and you're back to the same old routine. This desire for novelty, combined with an inability to stick with the same approach long enough to see a result, is why many people never get anywhere.

4 – They Distinguish Between Methods and Mechanisms

If you have a specific goal, seek out others who were successful in reaching that goal. Next, isolate the behaviors and/or methods that these people have in common, rather than what they did differently.

A great example of this is fat loss. If you look at 100 people who lost a significant amount of weight, perhaps some of them used Weight Watchers, others had bariatric surgery, some went low carb, while still others focused on eating "clean" foods.

At first glance this seems confusing, but if you dig a little deeper you realize that all these people found a way to consistently eat fewer calories long enough to achieve their weight loss.

In this example, there are various methods, but only a single mechanism. If you need to drop some fat and you're debating whether or not to go vegan or use intermittent fasting, for example, do some serious thinking about which method you're more likely to do consistently.

Does that mean that all weight-loss methods are equally effective? Certainly not, but a "less effective" method that you'll do is preferable to a more effective method that you won't (or can't) do.

Same with training goals. You might notice that some successful bodybuilders use bro-splits while others use a push/pull split. Some use lower reps, others high reps. Some use mostly free weights, others focus on machines. Some use forced reps, others don't.

If you focus on these various methods, however, you'll be blinded by the fog that prevents you from seeing the underlying mechanisms of success: brutally hard work for long periods of time.

5 – They Conduct a Cost/Benefit Analysis

Whenever you put your hands on a bar, there will always be a cost. Whether or not there's a benefit is an entirely different matter. So think like an accountant -- look at the benefits, but also consider the costs.

Case in point, T Nation contributor Dr. Brad Schoenfeld recently conducted a study where he compared the results of lifters who performed 3x10 (three sets of 10 reps) against another group who lifted 7x3 (seven sets of three reps). Both groups trained for 8 weeks.

Interestingly, both groups achieved roughly the same amount of muscular hypertrophy. Many took this to mean that they could start doing heavy triples for the purpose of muscle development. However, it must be considered that doing sets of 3 leads to a much longer, more psychologically (and orthopedically) taxing workout to get the same results than a faster, less daunting workout would generate.

In fact, Schoenfeld said that the 7x3 participants were basically running on fumes by the end of the study, and he speculates that if they were required to go another few weeks, they'd probably start dropping out.

Similarly, all techniques and methods have unique cost/benefit profiles that should be considered when making decisions about training.

6 - They Cultivate 80/20 Thinking

In the late 1800's Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto speculated that in nearly all systems, 80 percent of the outputs (results) come from 20 percent of the inputs. Weight training follows that equation. For example, in a workout where you perform 5 heavy sets of squats, the first 2 sets deliver roughly 80% of the benefit of doing all 5 sets.

So if you're deliberating about whether or not to hit the gym because you're short on time or energy, you now know how to make the best decision.

The 80/20 rule can be applied to any type of training decision, but it becomes especially handy when thinking about efficiency versus effectiveness. If you want a "100% result," you'll need to do much more (and harder) work than someone who's fine with an 80% result.

7 – They Embrace the Grind

Most mornings I walk to my local Starbucks. For the past several weeks, I've noticed a woman sitting at the same table every morning at 6 AM, and it's clear that she's working on a writing project of some type.

Is her secret the type of computer she uses? The venue? The time of day she writes? The specific drink she orders? While these factors might play a minor role, the real "secret" to any success she likely enjoys is the willingness to do focused work consistently every day, rain or shine.

I know very little about this woman, but I strongly suspect that she's successful, because I've seen her do what few are willing to do, which is put in the work, day after day, no matter what.

The cold hard truth about training success is that as long as your methods aren't totally asinine, consistent hard work is pretty much all you need to focus on.

Many successful strength and physique athletes do a lot of things that sports scientists would consider "wrong," but all of these guys work their asses off on a consistent basis. So if your goals revolve around some combination of getting bigger and stronger, there are only a small handful of things worth paying attention to:
•Get to the gym 3-5 days per week. Don't miss workouts. Even if it's a shitty day, show up anyway, and do the best you can. (Unless you already know better, assume you're lazy and need to work harder.)
•Select training methods and techniques that are widely used among lifters who have achieved the goals you're working toward. Then do those things.
•Work as hard as you can. Constantly strive to exceed previous best performances.
•Sleep, eat, and manage stress as needed to support the above points.
•Enlist social support to help ensure compliance.

Charles Staley is an accomplished strength coach who specializes in helping older athletes reclaim their physicality and vitality. At age 56, Charles is leaner than ever, injury free, and in his lifetime best shape. His PRs include a 400-pound squat, 510-pound deadlift, and a 17 chin-up max. 

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Man bench pressing 315 pounds dies after barbell slips

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Don't bench without spotters.
I always tell my students that while bench press is a relatively simple lift to master, it is the most dangerous lift in the weight room. Your body is between a hard bench and a barbell held over your face and neck. A slip is disastrous. These types of fatalities are reported every couple of years or so. I always tell my students to use spotters, collars, and a full grip on the bar.

DES MOINES — An Iowa State University student died earlier this week after a weightlifting accident at a gym in Ankeny, Iowa.

Kyle Thomson, 22, died Monday after a barbell he was lifting slipped from his hands and fell on his neck at Elite Edge Transformation Center. He was bench pressing 315 pounds at the time.

Thomson was taken to a Des Moines hospital, where he died, said Ankeny Fire Chief James Clack.

A statement from the gym said Thomson was lifting with a spotter.

A former co-worker of Thomson's said he will always remember Thomson's "light-up-the-room smile."

"Whenever he came around, it'd light you up because he always had a smile on his face," said Stephen Smith, who worked with Thomson at Lowe's in Ames. "He's just a very charismatic guy."

Elite Edge notified its members of Thomson's death on Facebook and said it would make grief counselors available for those who knew him or were present when the accident happened.

"As a small gym, we all know each other and develop friendships, which makes his passing more personal and painful," the post reads. "We would ask that you keep his family in your prayers."

“He enjoyed weightlifting. It was kind of one of his hobbies. He was transforming his body, getting into really good shape, trying to meet requirements to join the police force when he got out of Iowa State.”
Greg Schoon, physical education teacher and football coach at Des Moines East High School
Thomson, of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, was a senior at Iowa State University studying criminal justice. He would have graduated in May. He wanted to become a K9 handler, his obituary states.

Thomson graduated in 2012 from Des Moines East High School, a school district official confirmed. He played both baseball and football while at East and was a varsity football captain, said physical education teacher and football coach Greg Schoon.

Schoon also spoke fondly of Thomson, who he said was a great leader with “a good sense of humor.”

“He was kind of a quiet guy when he was around adults, but around the kids, he’d say stuff. He had pretty good timing on cracking jokes,” said Schoon. “He always had a big ol’ smile on his face, and you knew the wheels were spinning.”

Schoon assisted Thomson during summer football workouts while he was in high school, and said Thomson had always been dedicated to getting in shape.

“He enjoyed weightlifting,” Schoon said. “It was kind of one of his hobbies. He was transforming his body, getting into really good shape, trying to meet requirements to join the police force when he got out of Iowa State.”

Smith said Thomson was passionate about lifting weights and had recently lost a lot of weight. Thomson posted on Facebook in October that he completed the Elite Edge Transformation Center's "20-pound challenge," in which members work to lose 20 pounds in six weeks.

"I respected him for that," Smith said. "I still don’t believe it."

A 2010 study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found deaths from weightlifting are rare. The center reported that from 1990 to 2007, almost 1 million Americans were treated in emergency rooms for weight-training injuries. Less than 2% resulted in long-term hospitalization. Researchers estimated there were 114 deaths caused by weight-training injuries nationwide during that 18-year period.

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The bar is directly over the neck and face.