Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More Dimas, the final installment.

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One of my all time favorites.

This is great stuff.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

What is Muscle Memory?

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Fred Lowe in the early 70's

This is a very interesting article that explains a lot about how training changes our muscles and how permanent these changes are.

What is Muscle Memory
 It’s long been known that retraining muscle is easier than the first time around, but what’s the real story behind “muscle memory?”
If you’ve spent any amount of time lifting weights, taken a break for a bit, and then started back up again, you probably noticed that you seemed to regain  strength and size much quicker than the first time around.
Well, this isn’t your mind playing tricks on you–the acceleration in progress is a scientifically verified phenomenon often referred to as “muscle memory,” but what is actually going on?
Neurological mechanisms can explain the rapid regain of strength, but not muscle size. Do muscle fibers have some sort of “memory” of their previous, more conditioned states? Or is something else responsible for these effects?
Let’s find out.
Muscles Cells Are Specially Equipped to Grow
The answer to the muscle memory enigma begins with an interesting fact about muscle cells themselves: they are quite large and one of the very few multinuclear cells in our bodies. That is, they don’t contain just one nucleus but many.
As you overload your muscles with resistance training, new nuclei are added to the muscle cells, which then allows them to grow larger in size. In fact, the number of nuclei within the muscle fibers is one of the most important conditions that regulates muscle size.
Now, if resistance training causes the body to add nuclei to the muscle fibers, which then allows them to grow larger, what happens to our muscles when we stop training for extended periods of time?
I mean…we know what happens in the mirror–we slowly shrivel up and, eventually, look like we don’t even lift–but what happens physiologically?
Well, the answer explains what “muscle memory” really is and how it works.
The Physiology of “Muscle Memory”
It was long believed that, after a having stopped training a muscle for a certain amount of time (“detraining,” as it’s known scientifically), the new muscle nuclei acquired during the training period were lost to apoptosis.
This accounted for the loss of size and strength that occurs during detraining and seemed to make good sense. We now know that’s wrong, though.
It turns out that while detraining clearly results in smaller, weaker muscles, the new nuclei added during the training period are retained for at least 3 months of inactivity. In fact, there’s evidence that these new nuclei are never  lost, meaning that resistance training induces permanent physiological changes in muscle fibers.
Simply put: the idea that nuclei are added to muscle fibers as a result of training and lost as a result of detraining is false. In reality, it goes more like this:
1.            Muscles are subjected to overload and new nuclei are acquired for the first time. Through further training and proper diet, these nuclei synthesize new muscle proteins and thus, the muscle fibers grow larger.
2.            Upon detraining, the muscle fibers are resistant to atrophy thanks to the increased amount of nuclei. If detraining continues for long enough, however, protein degradation rates exceed protein synthesis rates and the muscles shrink in size…but the nuclei aren’t lost.
3.            At some later time, when training is resumed, the muscles rapidly grow in size because the step of adding nuclei is “skipped”–they’re already there, ready to synthesize muscle proteins again, rapidly increasing muscle size.
This is the why retraining is easier than the first training performed by those with no previous training history, and is the physiology of “muscle memory.”
Muscle Memory is Our Best Friend
I find this research pretty encouraging. It’s nice to know that the work we’re putting in now will pay dividends for the rest of our lives.
In fact, scientists believe that “filling up” our muscles with as many nuclei as we can while we’re young can greatly benefit us as we age because a) building muscle gets harder in our later years and b) persistent muscle loss is one of the most serious health risks associated with aging.
Furthermore, while a couple weeks of detraining is enough to slightly reduce the size of your muscles, you can rest easy knowing that a little time off won’t set you back.

Even if life gets in the way and prevents you from training for weeks or even months, you’ll probably find it easier to get going again when you know that returning to your previous state of fitness will be much quicker than the first time. And if you’re able to sneak in a little gym time, you can maintain size and strength with two workouts–or even one–per week.

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And more recently....

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Best Sports Drink?

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Hydration is one of the keys to Max performance.

No surprise here. I've always preferred water over anything else. It quenches thirst better than any flavored products and it's free. What's not to like? Try drinking more water and see how much better you feel.

FRIDAY, April 14, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Water is a better bet than sports drinks for young athletes, sports medicine specialists say.

Most youngsters don't exert themselves at an intensity or duration that requires the extra sugar and salt contained in sports drinks, said Dr. Matthew Silvis. He is director of primary care sports medicine at Penn State Health Medical Center.

"Sports drinks can replenish some of what you lost during exercise, but you really need to be exercising for more than 45 minutes to an hour before you would consider that," Silvis said.

"Many of our kids are not doing enough to warrant it," he added in a university news release.

Also, giving children sports drinks with extra sugar puts them at risk for weight gain and tooth decay, Silvis and his colleagues noted.

Dr. Katie Gloyer is a primary care sports medicine physician at Penn State Medical Group, in State College. She agreed that "kids and adolescents really should not be using these drinks. Water is the best method of hydration."

Energy drinks that contain caffeine or other stimulants are also ill-advised for children, the physicians said. These beverages can boost blood pressure, cause heart palpitations and heart rhythm disorders, headaches and upset stomach.

Some kids may also feel jittery or nervous after downing an energy drink, the experts added.

Coaches and parents should provide water to make sure children are properly hydrated during exercise, the doctors said.

"If they are playing 30- or 45-minute halves, they should have a water break, and maybe add fresh orange slices or a granola bar to add a bit of sugar and/or protein at an appropriate level," Silvis said.

After exercise, whole or low-fat chocolate milk works just as well -- if not better -- than recovery drinks. "Chocolate milk has the perfect combination of fat, proteins and carbohydrates that you want to get back into your system," Silvis added.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on sports and energy drinks.

SOURCE: Penn State, news release, April 6, 2017

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Obesity Isn't Cheap

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Any resemblance to our president is purely unintentional.

This an article that I saw this week. This is serious and self-inflicted. As the article states, the costs are both individual and to our society and they are high. Let's stay active and raise our children to enjoy physical activity and good food. This can be fixed.

Obesity has become a serious health problem in the United States (US): nearly 35% of Americans have obesity. Obesity is not just a problem of “girth control”; it is now considered a chronic disease by the American Medical Association, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American College of Endocrinology, The Endocrine Society, the Obesity Society, the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  It is, in fact, a national epidemic according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And it is not just a weight problem: it can have serious effects on a person’s physical, metabolic and psychological health. 
Overweight and Obesity Defined
Overweight and obesity are defined by the body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing the weight (in kilograms) by the square of the height (in meters). A BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2indicates that an individual has overweight; a BMI of 30 kg/m2, or more indicates that a person has obesity. People with a BMI greater than 40 kg/m2are considered to have stage 3 obesity, and at one time were said to have “morbid obesity”. However, BMI is not a perfect measurement; it does not distinguish lean mass from fat mass, nor does it take into account racial or ethnic differences.
Other factors to be considered include waist and neck circumference, overall fitness, and lifestyle. And importantly, the concept that patients may develop “sick fat”, or adipose tissue disease (adiposopathy), as introduced into the medical literature by Dr. Harold Bays, now makes it a treatment goal to return adipose tissue function to normal.
In children, obesity is assessed differently. Since a child’s body composition varies as he or she ages, it is measured as an age- and sex-specific percentile for BMI. In children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years, a BMI at or above the 85th, but lower than the 95th, percentile indicates overweight; a child with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile is considered to have obesity.
How Prevalent Is the Problem?
Obesity is widespread, according to the CDC. Using data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database, the CDC reported that more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of US adults have obesity.
As of 2013, according to the CDC, not one state had an obesity prevalence of less than 20%—and the national goal is 15%. The lowest rates (20-25%) were in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, Utah, Vermont, and Washington, DC. The highest (35% or higher) were in Mississippi and West Virginia. Regionally, the South had the highest prevalence (30.2%), while the West had the lowest (24.9%).
One independent study of metropolitan areas in the United States revealed that the Provo-Orem, UT area had the lowest incidence of obesity (on a score of 1 to 100, with 1 being the lowest) and the Shreveport-Bossier City, LA area had the highest. The New York metropolitan area is in the middle, with a score of 54.
At the greatest risk for obesity are Hispanics and non-Hispanic black women (30.7% and 41.9%, respectively). Obesity is more prevalent in middle-aged adults, aged 40 to 59 years (39.5%) than in those aged 20 to 39 years (30.3%), or those aged 60 years or older (35.4%). Women with higher incomes are less likely to have obesity than those with lower incomes. Although no correlation has been found between obesity and education in men, women with college degrees are less likely to have obesity than those with less education.
What Is the Impact of Obesity on Society?
Obesity has taken a toll on health care costs across the country—estimated between $147 billion and $210 billion in direct and indirect health care costs, as of 2010.
•             Medical costs for individuals with obesity were calculated to be $1429 higher in 2006 than for those of normal weight.
•             Lifetime medical costs for a 10-year-old child with obesity are staggering: about $19,000 compared with a child of normal weight.
•             When multiplied by the number of 10-year-olds with obesity in America, lifetime health care expenses are estimated to be $14 billion.
In the Workplace
In the workplace, decreased productivity and increased absenteeism due to overweight and obesity is a huge economic burden on our society. Absenteeism related to obesity costs an estimated $4.3 billion per year, and lower productivity on the job costs $506 per employee with obesity each year. The greater an individual’s BMI, the higher the number of sick days and medical claims—and a worker’s medical costs also increase with obesity. In addition, employees with obesity have higher workers’ compensation claims.
Costs More than Financial
If the incidence of obesity continues to climb, combined health care costs associated with treating obesity-related diseases could rise by $48 billion to $66 billion per year by 2030; the loss in productivity could total between $390 billion and $580 billion per year.
The cost is more than just financial, however. Obesity can lead to early mortality and increased susceptibility to other diseases, and can have an incalculable impact on quality of life, as well as on the family.
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I see this too often.

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Better choices can make a real difference

Thursday, April 13, 2017

7 Reasons Morning Exercise is Best

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I doubt you'll see many elite lifters who train in the early morning

I have been an early morning trainer since the late 70's as it fits my lifestyle the best. In my opinion it's not so important when you workout as it is that you find time somehow, whenever you can. But, here is a nice article that gives some good reasons to start your day with exercise, if you can.

7 Reasons Morning Exercise is Best

1. Enhance Your Metabolism
Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumptions (EPOC) is a buzz word in the fitness industry. Basically it means that your body burns more calories after your workout, even when you’re sitting at a desk or driving in your car. One study showed that participants burned an extra 190 calories in the 14 hours  after exercise when compared to those who didn’t exercise at all!

The purple section of the graph shows how oxygen consumption (and calorie-burning) takes time to return to normal after your workout.
This works perfectly with a morning exercise routine. Get up, get moving, pump up your metabolism and then start eating. Whenever you eat your body can do 1 of 3 things with the calories you take in.
1.            It can use it as a source of energy
2.            It can use it to replenish your body
3.            It can store it for later (i.e. fat!)
What do you think happens when you eat after exercise? Yup – you are replenishing your body. What happens when you eat later in the day while your metabolism is still rocking from your morning workout? You guessed it – you are replenishing your body and providing calories to meet your higher metabolic needs. You do not get this benefit when you exercise later in the day.
2. Cultivate Some Consistency
Working out in the morning ensures that you don’t interrupt your workout schedule with other daily items that can seem more pressing. For example, if you exercise in the evening you run the risk of being late from work, feeling overloaded with errands that must be done, or saddled with other unexpected to-do items. There goes your workout.

Other times you may simply feel too tired to exercise by the end of a long day. But, in the morning there is nothing to distract you from getting down to business. Exercise will be your first priority and it will get done.
3. Improve Your Physical and Mental Energy
Engaging in morning workouts is your all-natural cup of coffee. Wake up your body and prepare your mind.
Movement can be a tremendous source of energy, something many of need when we start our day. But beyond that, morning exercise has been shown to improve focus and mental abilities all day long. Not only will you feel awake and have more energy after your workout, but your mind will be ready to take on whatever tasks you have lined up that day.
Some research has measured the effectiveness of exercise to “wake up” the mind, and the results show that it does a better job than coffee!

A quick stint of exercise has been shown more effective than a cup of coffee in promoting cognitive abilities.
4. Develop Strong Self-Discipline
I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that waking up early in the morning to exercise enhances your personal discipline. Just like any habit, developing the discipline to get up and exercise in the morning only gets easier with time.
Perhaps more importantly, this discipline is likely to spill over into other areas of your life. After all, if you’re going to such lengths to exercise each morning, pairing that work with healthier eating, as an example, only makes sense.
5. Get Better Sleep
Waking up early in the morning to exercise will in turn help you sleep better. Your body will enjoy a healthy sense of fatigue at the end of the day and will be ready to sleep. Say goodbye to the tossing and turning that comes when your body is restless!
I’m not making this up either. A recent study had participants exercise at 7am, 1pm, or 7pm 3 days per week. Guess who got the deepest, longest sleeps? Yeah – it was those who were doing the 7am workout sessions!
Morning exercise not only improves the length of sleep you will enjoy, but also your quality of sleep by promoting deeper sleep cycles.
Evening exercise can actually have the opposite effect. Exercise is a form of stress, and your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones including adrenaline. Would you take a shot of adrenaline and then expect to fall asleep soon after? (I didn’t think so)
6. Reach Your Fitness Goals
As mentioned earlier, waking up early in the morning to exercise places a high priority on physical fitness. Whether you are aware of it or not, committing to something (in this case morning exercise) that requires sacrifice (in this case sleeping in) creates a compelling argument in your mind that says, “it better be worth it!”
Nobody wants to wake up early every morning to exercise if they aren’t going to see results. The sacrifice required will subconsciously prompt you to work harder, look for other ways to support your exercise results, and help you commit to the process over a longer period of time (hopefully for life!). A goal-oriented mindset is fostered by the sacrificial habit of morning exercise.
7. Love Your Life
Do I even need to argue this one? You have created a strong habit of morning exercise, your metabolism is flowing, your body is looking and feeling better, you’re sleeping well at night, and your mind is as sharp as ever. Are you enjoying your new life yet?
Exercise has been touted as a cure for just about anything that ails you. Frequent colds? Exercise. Poor digestion? Exercise. Feel depressed? Exercise.
Exercise is a trigger that release endorphins, our built-in happiness drug. Here is an excellent video that highlights a few of the ways that establishing your regular exercise routine will make your life more enjoyable.

So, while it might not seem enjoyable to get out of the bed to exercise, you can be sure that it is worth it. Aside from all the benefits that come with being healthier, your brain is literally going to its “happy place” when you exercise. Why not start your day off that way?

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Training whenever you can is the best time

Monday, April 10, 2017


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C J Cummings is an athlete who lets his results do the talking.

A great essay here from Greg Everett. It applies to lifting, athletics, and life in general. It will be interesting to see how an insecure narcissistic draft dodger does as Commander and Chief.

by Greg Everett
Confusion abounds these days on... well, everything it seems. But in particular, it seems decreasingly common for people to be able to distinguish between telling the world what you are and actually being it.

Mental and physical toughness are traits I value very much not just in weightlifters, but in people generally; unsurprisingly, something I can't stand is people acting tough while actually being weak, whiny attention-seekers.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of toughness is the lack of compulsion to receive recognition for it - you just are it, and the rest of the world can notice if they want, or they can go take a powder. In either case, you possess the same mindset and do the same things day to day.

Being tough means doing what you need to do and... that's it. There's no telling the world about it, and there's no crying about the world not giving you credit for how tough you think you are. If you even think for a moment about that recognition, chances are you're not as tough as you think you are.
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So does Lydia Valentin

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Learning to do a Full Squat Snatch or Clean

Most beginners start with "power" lifts.

Here is an article by Greg Everett that addresses an issue that beginners and those who coach them deal with. How to catch the bar in a low squat position. The only way I know to teach beginners to do the "full" lifts is to perform a power snatch or clean followed by an overhead squat or front squat as the case may be. Greg's analysis here is spot on.

How to Fix Powering More Than You Squat
 Greg Everett

The topic of power snatches and power cleans has always generated what I’ve found to be fascinating questions and ideas… and by fascinating, I mean bewildering. For example, people wondering aloud why competitive lifters would ever squat completely in the lifts since it’s so much easier just to power it; or simply the never-ending argument about the value of the power variations.
 Inside the weightlifting community, one thing has always been understood—the power variations of the snatch and clean will allow the athlete to lift less weight than the full variations. In recent years, with the huge and sudden influx of athletes into the sport through non-traditional avenues (e.g. CrossFit®), this basic premise is not always so clearly understood, and more importantly, it’s increasingly often violated.
 In other words, more and more athletes are running into the problem of being able to power snatch or power clean more weight than they can snatch or clean, and most are recognizing this is a problem needing to be corrected to improve their performance. Let’s figure out some straightforward ways to fix this.
 There are a number of possible reasons for this to happen, and they can be different for the snatch and clean with a given athlete. Figuring out the source of the problem will allow you to determine the most effective corrections, although a shotgun approach using the following recommendations can certainly work if you’re not sure.
 The most general and basic reason this occurs is simply that the athlete performs the power variations far more than the full variations. Thankfully, the solution is pretty simple—quit powering so much and squat. Stop doing power snatches and power cleans completely. If you need some kind of variation that limits intensity and has similar characteristics like requiring aggressive extension, quick change of direction, and a forceful turnover, use high-hang or high block variations of the full lifts where you would otherwise use powers. Any lift you inadvertently power, squat it—ideally before you even stand up, just sit into a full squat, but if you do stand before you catch yourself, do an overhead or front squat once you figure it out. Consider it punitive as well as remedial.
 Fear or discomfort in a deep receiving position is probably the next most common cause. I won’t argue that receiving a snatch or clean in a power position is a lot less scary and more comfortable than in a deep squat, but no one cares about your feelings, only how much you lift. First and foremost, make sure you’re squatting enough—both in terms of frequency and weight. If your best front squat is only a few kilos over your best power clean, guess what—you’re not going to be cleaning more than you power clean anytime soon. If you can’t sit into a deep and stable overhead squat with as much as you power snatch, same issue.
 For the clean, you not only need a strong front squat in terms of weight, but also in terms of posture and stability. You need a good bottom position with an upright trunk, and the trunk stability to withstand a good pounding. For the snatch, strength will arguably take a back seat to stability. You can be “strong” overhead, but if you can’t hold the bar still or get it in the right place, it won’t matter much. Start with developing an overhead squat that exceeds your best snatch and power snatch and that you can hold in the bottom for 3 seconds without dying. Once that’s established, start working more on stability with snatch balances—build your snatch balance up until you can confidently exceed your best snatch and power snatch. Create a nice comfortable margin so that you always know you can support any weight overhead that you’re trying to snatch.
 Fear of pulling under is also a big issue. This can be caused by the previous problem, i.e. you won’t let yourself pull under because being under the bar means certain death, but it can also be fear of the movement under the bar itself. If you’re weak in the pull, or even just slow despite being fairly strong, often your brain will shut the operation down for fear of committing to a process it’s unsure it can complete in order to avoid the danger of an incomplete third pull. If the pull is weak, strengthen it—more pulling variations, especially pulls and deadlifts off of a riser. If the pull under is the problem, use the tall snatch/clean, snatch/clean from power position, and/or high-hang or high block snatch/clean to help develop the physical attributes of the third pull, but also to accumulate more exposure to the movement in order to improve confidence—make it routine.
 Limited mobility will play into this issue as well. Obviously receiving in a power position requires a lot less mobility than a full squat, so for some of you, this may be something that requires a lot more time to correct. However, you can use the same basic approach—the more time you spend in the squat receiving positions, the more mobile you’ll become (be smart and avoid hurting yourself, please). Stretch your face off every day instead of spending that time searching for a mobility shortcut that doesn’t exist.

 Finally, implement some simple general corrections regardless of the source—eliminate power variations and perform the full lifts only; add a squat to any lift you accidentally power; hold all snatches in the bottom position for 3-5 seconds; add a front squat to any clean or clean & jerk set (e.g. clean + front squat, or clean + front squat + jerk).

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A "low" position at it's most extreme.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Clarence Kennedy

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Here is an article I saw recently about a very intriguing athlete from Ireland, Clarence Kennedy. He pretty much flies under the radar so far as publicity goes, He doesn't even compete much anymore, but does some amazing lifts as illustrated here.

The Irish weightlifter — variously known in internet circles as Harry Potter and Clark Kent, and the Irish Hulk — is known for his superhero levels of strength in the Olympic lifts (and his vegan diet), having performed snatches at 185kg (407.8lb) and clean & jerks at 220kg (485lb) as a 94kg class athlete.
Those are elite lifts — the world record in the snatch for the 94kg class is just three kilograms above Kennedy’s PR, though of course there are big differences between training and competition lifts — which is why it was both surprising and not surprising at all when he announced in a recent BarBend interview that he was interested in switching to powerlifting.

The reasoning he gave didn’t go much further than, and we’re quoting him here, “I’m pretty good at the squat, bench, and deadlift, so I figured why not!” But that’s a pretty darn good reason, and on Sunday he made a rare appearance at an unofficial powerlifting and weightlifting meet in Bray, Ireland.

Now weighing 106kg, Kennedy competed in both weightlifting and powerlifting, performing the snatch, clean & jerk, squat, bench, and deadlift.

Naturally, he came first on every single lift, winning the best pound for pound and overall lifter. (There were no weight classes at this unofficial meet.)

You can watch all of his lifts in the video below, which includes appearances by fellow vegan weightlifter David Nolan and competitor Eoin Murphy, whose squat Kennedy beat by just a single kilogram. (Though Kennedy was doing pause back squats, which he does in order to limit the weight he can use and thereby protect his knees to a degree.)
Kennedy snatched 160kg (352.7lb), clean & jerked 200kg (441lb), pause back squatted 281kg (620lb), benched 190kg (419lb), and deadlifted 320kg (705.5lb) with straps. None of these were personal records for Kennedy, but in a follow-up interview with BarBend, he noted that he isn’t training as often as he once did.
“I just did (the meet) casually, I’ve been training two to three times a week these days,” he said. (Earlier this year, he was lifting four out of every five days.) “My knee injury is bothering me, and mentally, I can’t handle high frequency training right now. I’ve been training hard for too long without a break.”

Kennedy has experienced knee tendinopathy in both knees and has required multiple surgeries, and he predicts more surgery in his future.

“I could’ve done a 170kg snatch and a 210kg clean & jerk, but I couldn’t have lifted much more weight in the other lifts,” he admitted. He also said he doesn’t see any more meets in the near future, and isn’t so sure he still wants to compete in powerlifting. (“I change my mind fast on things,” he says.)
Keen observers of his popular YouTube channel may have noticed that the Irish Clark Kent has gained some serious muscle over the past year, and now weighs in at 106kg. But despite the compliments he receive on his physique on YouTube and Reddit, Kennedy isn’t enjoying the extra mass.

“I hate being this heavy. Everyday life is hard at 106 kilos,” he admitted, bringing to mind similar comments made by German superheavyweight lifter Matthias Steiner. “It made my cleans a lot worse. I did get stronger though. I gained the weight on purpose, but it wasn’t a good idea, and it really messed with my mobility. At the moment I’m focusing on going down to between 98 and 100 kilograms. I felt best around the time I did 340 kilograms in the deadlift, and I was 100 kilograms at that point.”

Never revealing too much about himself, there’s no way to know if Kennedy will make any more appearances at meets — powerlifting or weightlifting, official or unofficial — but we’ll be the first to watch his video if he does.