Saturday, October 30, 2010

Strength and Power = LIFE

I always wonder what it would be like to be a 'normal' person. The kind of person that is not on this relentless pursuit for gaining the most strength and power possible. The kind of person who doesn't even think twice about missing a training session for that movie their friends or significant other wanted to see. The kind of person that parties every weekend and is too hungover the next morning to get their ass in the gym.

These people are not ruled by the inner-struggles of lifters. If you are a serious lifter, you know of the inner-struggles I speak of. I'm talking about the struggles of balancing a well-rounded training and nutrition program with the 'normal' activities of life. This is especially hard for the younger lifters, who seem to always have those few friends trying to enable behaviors inappropriate for making progress. For example, deciding not to attend a party with your friends because you have a heavy session the following morning. Choosing not to eat ice cream with your friends because you might have a meet in a week and you are close to weight.

These inner-struggles are what make being a lifter hard sometimes. But, now that I've thought about it, I'd rather not be a mediocre, 'normal' person. I'd rather spend most of my time in the gym making myself better. I'm getting stronger everyday and have no problem staying out of normal activities of people my age. Train hard, train smart!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Delay Your Feedings

I've recently been trying a different approach with my own diet. I used to eat as the present knowledge of proper dieting would have all of us do. That is, eat many small, healthy meals spread throughout the day. This was fine and I have been doing this for many years, but I was ignorant to a different approach that may be much better for all intensive purposes. This different approach is called intermittent fasting.

I started researching this idea about a month ago. One of my friends has been following this eating method for quite some time and has been smashing personal records in the gym to go along with a hard-earned physique. I thought it would be worth giving a try, and I have been following it for about 3-4 weeks now. I have noticed that my body fat has dropped some despite the fact that I have not lost any weight. Also, I do not train to lose body fat; I train to gain strength and power for weightlifting competitions. This is a good thing...I might have gained some muscle!

One of the reasons I like this way of eating so much more is because I am not preoccupied by what my next meal will be or when I will have it. Also, when I eat, I eat big. I may on;y have two meals some days, but they are large enough to satisfy my hunger and hold me through the fasting state. Don't take my word for it...listen to the experts and try it out for yourself to see if you like it! It has worked well for me, so I will continue to use intermittent fasting.

You might be asking yourself, "what is this intermittent fasting all about"? I cannot explain all the technical physiological and psychological responses behind it, so I will just refer you to some very good articles from a first-hand source. Just click below for some background information on intermittent fasting.

A very good interview with Martin Berkhan, who is one of the most knowledgeable sources on intermittent fasting.

An article on the myths of fasting by Martin on his website, Lean Gains.

Alan Aragon's objective look at intermittent fasting.

Another article on intermittent fasting.

There are a few books that are worth looking into on this subject as well.

- Eat Stop Eat: Expanded Edition
- The Warrior Diet
- Martin Berkhan is coming out with a book (if it's not already out) that I suggest reading because of his practical and applied knowledge on the subject

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Little Science Never Hurt

Here is an excellent video detailing the specifics of weightlifting. This is a great source for lifters, or anyone interested in learning more about how the Olympic lifts are performed. Pay close attention!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Interview with a Friend

I recently did a short interview with my close friend, Paul Schmid, on excuses in training. This interview was originally posted on his website,, where I sometimes write guest articles. Paul's views are very similar to mine in that we both want to see the outdoors community become more active to better their overall lives and outdoor experiences. Check out the interview HERE.

Get Your Mind RIGHT!

Just yesterday I competed at a weightlifting meet held at Synergy Sports and Performance in Toledo, OH. This was nothing new for me, having competed for the last 3+ years. I did my own thing, listening to my ipod, relaxing, and waiting to start my warm-ups. I realized, watching the lifters that were new to the sport, just how important the psychological aspect of the sport of weightlifting comes into play. It takes a lot to clear your mind before/during a lift. This is especially true in competition. Nerves and adrenalin are set on high as friends, family, coaches, and teammates may be there to watch.

I watched as one younger, very strong lifter muscled through his lifts with raw strength and aggression. This is, by no means, a bad approach to lift, but only if it can be controlled. This control must be shown with technical application. If aggression is not controlled, technique fades very quickly. When attempting maximum weights for the Snatch and Clean and Jerk, strength, power, and technique are all relied on heavily. If one of these components takes a back seat, the attempt will most likely be missed.

Having said that, each lifter will have his/her own superstitions or nuances in their preparation before an attempt. Some may say a specific cue, while others may just give a grunt or keep a calm face. Whatever it may be, they must feel as though they are set and ready for the attempt. In my opinion, this is where the psychological state of the lifter is the most important. If they miss something in their normal preparation for an attempt, this alone may ruin their chances of completing the lift. Most likely because they will immediately know they skipped a part of their ritual and cannot redo it. This also is the time that the mind must be cleared of all thoughts and environmental stimuli.

Back to the younger lifter I mentioned. He did well in the meet, but nearly dropped a jerk on his head. His approach to the bar is simple...the more anger, the better the attempt. However, this angry approach was not controlled. Again, if he can learn to control his approach to the bar and keep his mind right, his technique will stay consistent and his lifts will improve markedly.

In essence, this post is just to inform those who are not aware of how much PSYCHOLOGICAL STRENGTH is involved in weightlifting. It is not always the strongest, most powerful lifter who wins their weight class. Some may fold under the pressure, while the lifters with the 'controlled mind' will come out on top.

Here are my Snatch and Clean and Jerk 3rd attempts from the meet...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wise Words from a Wise Man

Recently I was having trouble with my training and looked to a friend for some advice. Actually, it was more than simple advice, but a re-evaluation of my training all together. He helped me realize that I was including too much into the amount of time I trained. In other words, for what I was doing, I could have turned it into a 5 day/wk program. Instead, I was doing a 4 day/wk program.

Many times you will read about quality over is no exception to the rule. The older an athlete gets, the less they should actually train. When I say less, I mean less total volume or time spent in training. I do not mean that they lose focus from training. On the contrary, they actually should be more focused because the intensity of training will be increased markedly. This is due to the decrease in volume.

So, when looking to start a new training cycle, pay attention to the quality of the exercises you will be performing. Are they worth the time you put in to complete them? Do they give you that "bang for your buck"?

Focus on the big exercises (Olympic lifts, the big 3, lunges, presses, etc.) for the bulk of your program and you can't go wrong. Keep your volume in check and don't go too long without a deload. If you follow these simple, wise points, progress should be right around the corner.

One last thing...don't leave out your 'core' training. This should be trained directly. Yes, you do activate the trunk musculature when doing lifts such as squats and deadlifts, but it can be stimulated even more so by direct training. I recommend training the abs and low back with moderate to heavy weight for low to moderate repetitions.

Here is that friend who gave me the advice...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Come, All Ye Faithful

Training is NOT a hobby. It is NOT a way for me to get away from other problems. It IS oxygen. It IS life. You may be reading this thinking I am insane, but it is true. At least for this very moment in my life. I'm sure my priorities will be changing very soon, and I'm okay with that. I will be finishing my Master's degree in May and my career will come first. Although, my career as a strength and conditioning coach is STRONGLY correlated to training, wouldn't you say? Ha!

This blog is dedicated to the faithful that live and breathe training. Those that never miss a beat. Those that can relate to everything I have said and am about to say. It is not an easy thing to do, but someone has to do it! Train, that is, especially those of us that train day in, day out; week after week. Those that fight through the physical and psychological discourse of the low periods of a hard, heavy training cycle...only to take a short deload before beginning another training cycle.

You might live the life of a lifter if...

1) you are so beat up that you have to take some ibuprofen just to get through a training session

2) you have to use icy hot, or an equivalent, to get through a session

3) you think about your next training cycle more often than you think about...well, anything else

4) you think about how awesome it would be to just put 5lbs more on your lifts, while "normal" people think adding five pounds is not hard (we know what five pounds more could do for us)

5) you have been training so long that you can not stand to take more than a few days off before hitting it hard again

6) you absolutely HATE deloads, but know how important they are to progress

7) you've trained through several injuries and continued to make progress without getting checked out, while a "normal" person would have stopped training all-together

8) you plan to 'bloat' before a heavy training session

9) you constantly visualize yourself performing big lifts

And the list goes on....

Please, feel free to add yours to the list.