Your Monthly Moment of Zen #20

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Zen Quote of the Month:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell

This Month in the World of Weightlifting:

Lon Kilgore, Michael Hartman, and Justin Lascek have published a new book, FIT.  I’ve already grabbed my copy, have you?

Fitness is hard. Very hard. Everyone knows it is, but everyone is also willing to risk time and money on the mythology of easy fitness. If anyone, ANYONE, tells you that there is an “EASY” way to fitness, they just want your money.

Michael Hartman outlines the first week of a  4-week Power Clean program.  Do this one this week, and follow along to a PR!

Outlined below is 1st week of a 4-week program that will be used by several lifters as they prepare for this meet.  This Power Clean Program is designed to maximize the ability in the power clean (clean) over the next month while also addressing the snatch and jerk in a somewhat lesser extent.  Keep in mind this is just a snapshot of what will be occurring in the gym over the next month, day to day changes are very likely based on the needs of individual lifters.

PDX Weightlifting and Black Box FW had another online contest this month.  This time, Front Squats!

Here’s our video – Notice my man Peter trying for the 150k front squat many many many times!

And here’s the video from Black Box FW – Notice that their equipment is much prettier than ours!

PDX Weightlifting has a few new T-Shirts:  This one is of my wife killing a Front Squat dead.  Yep, my wife kicks ass!


Pat Mendes has a write up on Charles Poliquin’s website.

Mendes’ basic workout plan is to do the classical lifts up to specific weights in the morning, followed by some higher-volume squats. In the late afternoon session Mendes usually goes as heavy as possible on several lifts, often dropping down and doing doubles based upon those results. I’ve been at two of these afternoon sessions, and I saw Mendes try a half-dozen attempts at a limit snatch before reluctantly slipping off a few kilos to finish off with some solid successes. And this type of training – hard, heavy and fast! – is repeated day in, day out.

Want specifics?  Here you go …

Pat Mendes is profiled in this video and article.  While there’s a few mistakes in the article, overall it’s pretty solid.  Pat gives you the basics of what it takes to be a champion, including this workout schedule!

Here is a typical weekday in the life of Henderson’s Pat Mendes, the reigning USA National Weightlifting champion in the super heavyweight (231 pounds and over) class:

• 7 a.m. — Wake up.
• 7:30 a.m. — Eat breakfast (six eggs, two slices of whole wheat toast, a bowl of Cheerios with 2 percent milk and a banana)
9-11 a.m. — Train (stretch, 30 minutes of snatch, 30 minutes of clean and jerk, 30 minutes of squats with 650-700 pounds)
• 11:15 a.m. — Have a snack (32-ounce homemade protein shake with strawberries, blueberries, banana, all-natural peanut butter, 30 grams of protein powder, 8 ounces of 2 percent milk and 8 ounces of orange juice)
• 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. — Take a nap.
• 1:30 p.m. — Lunch (usually leftovers from the previous night’s dinner)
3-6 p.m. — Train (stretch, one hour of snatch, one hour of clean and jerk, 30 minutes of squats with 650-700 pounds, 30 minutes of deadlifts to waist with 550 pounds)
• 6 p.m. — Drink a Rockin’ Refuel protein shake (32 ounces, 1,000 calories)
• 7 p.m. — Dinner (favorite is beef stir fry with vegetables over Jasmine rice or, if he’s cooking, a whole premade pizza)
• 10 p.m. — Go to bed
Note: Workouts cut to two hours on Saturdays and one hour on Sundays, but diet remains the same.

Mendes is definitely not on the Paleo Diet …

Charles Poliquin on His best tips to Increase Your Front Squat.

The back squat is universally accepted as the single best exercises for total body strength and has been given the title “The King of Exercises.” Even so, when my colleagues ask me what is the best way to assess an athlete’s lower body strength, my answer is the front squat. And I have five good reasons.

He also answers a bunch of questions, including this one:

My arms are too big, and my shoulders are too tight. What can I do?

He gives you some possible solutions (which you’ll have to read in the article), but keep in mind these are temporary.  Sometimes I hear potential lifters make this argument as to why they have a crappy rack position.  “I’m just too muscular, man!  Can’t I just back squat?”

Kendrick Farris is buffer than you, and his rack position is just fine.  Super heavies ALL have massive arms and they can rack the bar.  I don’t care how awesome you think you look in a tank top, if you can’t rack a front squat properly, you are too inflexible and too immobile.  Fix those problems, because they ARE problems.


Sarah Robles has a new Facebook Fan Page.  Given that Sarah is one of this countries greatest lifters and is a cool rockin’ bloggin’ lady, you really have no choice but to LIKE it.

Glenn Pendlay on the relationship of Nietzsche to Weightlifting.  My own favorite Nietzsche quote is this:

“There are heights of the soul from which even tragedy ceases to look tragic.”

Reaching for those heights is a noble goal, though not an easy one.

Donny Shankle encourages you to know your way around the kitchen.

David Rogerson writes a guest post at Weightlifting Epiphanies on Nutrition for Weightlifters.

Jon North and Donny Shankle have some kind of a conversation fueled by energy drinks and weightlifting fatigue.  There’s a beat poetry quality here …

Adam Stoffa on Increasing Longevity Through Exercise.  Relevant to those of us in strength sports:

(4) Elite power athletes may survive longer, similar to, or shorter than the general population depending on type of sport and substance use.

Which led to a follow up question:

(3) Does the negative impact of performance enhancing substances mask positive results with regards to elite power athletes?  (It would be interesting to compare the impact of performance enhancing substances across all three groups of elite athletes…you’d want to cross-reference with various substances…chronicle interaction effects between substances…total research nightmare)

Research nightmare, yes.  But, fascinating!

DRUG RANT!  The drug issue in all sports will always be there.  But, the fact remains that we just don’t know the long term effects of the various things athletes put in their bodies.  No clue.  We’d need studies to be long term.  We need them to isolate the different drugs effects when used alone vs together, and in what combinations; and deal with the issue of dose – eg, coffee is great but you CAN overdose and die on caffeine.

I’ve been of the mind that it isn’t so much the steroids but all the other crap that is really hurting these folks long term.  Now, I say this implying steroid doses that are lowish like what The Govenator and his crew were taking, or the doses you see in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (maybe a bit higher).  That is, bumping a mans T levels up to about what they would be for a 18 year old Quarter Back.  I hope the fact that TRT is becoming more common will mean that longer term studies on men taking in exogenous testosterone become more detailed and robust.

For FEMALE athletes, by the way, the steroids would likely cause more serious long term negative effects.  High testosterone in a man is normal, in a woman it is not.

NOTE: I am NOT advising you start taking steroids because Nick said it was OK.  I am not saying that.  I’m suggesting that the steroid use is probably the least of these athletes problems.  The number of other drugs in their systems (especially for endurance athletes who are probably the worst offenders) is staggering.  At least Testosterone and Growth Hormone are normal and supposed to be high in a man (again, for women it is different).

Al Heinemann on his own Bulgarian Experiment with his athletes:

I have definitely been seeing both immediate and medium-term benefits. The mental strength has gone way up as the athletes gain confidence in fighting with big weights. Performances have gone up very nicely. Even when plateaus are reached the lifters are often routinely handling weights that were personal records a month earlier.

Dutch Lowy on dealing with those Bumps in the Road in training.

Coffee is profiled at the Oatmeal.  Specifically the 15 things you gotta know about coffee.

Mike Robertson on the Overhead Press.  If you have a hard time putting the bar over the back of your head correctly during the jerk, or even the snatch, READ THIS.  His discussion about T-spine mobility/stability applies to YOU.  Great drills and exercises in here that may make the difference.

Cedric Unholz on Athletic Development Training Theory.  This is a collection of many of his growing thought on Coaching Theory.  There are some solid gems, here.

Sean Waxman on the 3 Cardinal Sins you might be making in your quest to be stronger.

Sean Waxman has a cool training video up:

Kirksman of is starting a project to document his time training under a Chinese coach.  It’s been very fascinating so far!  Here’s part 1 and part 2, and Part 3 and Part 4.

A quote from part 4 that is similar to my own approach:

Here’s the general idea of percentages;

  • Always work to a daily 100% single in squats, snatch, CNJ. Then do work anywhere between 85-95% for reps. 85%-3 reps and above, 90%-3 reps, 95% 2-3 reps. 85% is usually for technique work, so don’t stay there too long in the set when your technique feels good.
  • Pulls are at least 110% higher than classic lifts up to 140%. Anything higher means your technique is retarded, so go fix it. No it doesn’t mean you’re super strong. It means you can’t use your power.

Hell if anything, just let the reps determine the weight. Perfect form, all the time. 1st rep, 3rd rep, 8th rep, 10th rep, whatever. It has to look the same as the first rep.

That last point is hard to make happen – and that is the POINT.  Try try try to do every rep as perfectly as you can.  In the trying, you are succeeding.

Gwen Sisto on Jerk Technique.


Lyle McDonald continues his wild ride of a series on why American’s Suck at Weightlifting:  Here’s part 12, you’ll have to follow the links to the others.  I know that many have felt that he’s doing far too much rambling, and why-God-why can’t he get to the point.  But, I don’t see it that way.  At heart, Lyle is (I can relate here) an essayist.  That means that when left to his own devices he’s just going to blab on and on and take multiple side roads in an effort to totally exhaust every little detail of a subject.  Yes, that means that he is prone to overdoing it, repeating himself, and being needlessly pedantic.  But, he will also cover a topic in total, which on the internet is very rare.

I like that he is very much a writer, proper.  When he gets going he is witty, sardonic, detailed, somewhat ridiculous, and fundamentally Lyle.  The man’s got a voice and he knows how to use it.

So, yes, I love this series.  I hope he drags it out to 30 or more parts.  Here’s an example:

The USA has a very hypocritical attitude towards many things.  A classic one is our attitudes towards violence versus say, sex.  Because while it’s ok to show unmitigated violence and destruction on TV, nudity of any sort is NOT allowed (you can show boobs overseas and some countries have naked news which is something the US by all rights should have invented because it’s AWESOME).  You can show two men beating the crap out of one another and nobody will blink; show two men kissing and the religious right will picket your network and shut you down.

The best recent example I can think of:  A few years back, during the Superbowl there was nationwide horror that Janet Jackson’s bustier was ‘accidentally’ torn by little Justin Timberlake and a nipple was seen on live television.  I mean the country lost it’s mind over this: a single nipple shown for about three tenths of a second.  And it did so during the half-time event of a sport where 22 steroid and amphetamine fueled monsters are literally trying to rip one another’s heads off.  In America, violence is ok but sex is not.

Here’s another political example so that people will call ME Un-American.  One of our presidents was famously caught doing something that all men in power have done; getting a little strange on the side.  He was prosecuted legally to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars. And for what?  For wanting to get his dick sucked.

In contrast, another of our presidents told a boldfaced lie to the American public (or did the WMD’s finally get found and I missed the memo) and about half the country rationalized it as ‘Doing what’s best for the country’.  Because it’s ok to kill brown people (especially if they have oil we need or start shit with us); violence is good and God approved.  But sex is evil; worse yet, sex outside of your God approved marriage must be punished in this country.

And another:

My coach once said that a good workout in speedskating was one in which you called out God’s name in pain.  And a great workout is one in which you ask that God take you from this world to make the suffering stop.  I wish he had been joking.  It’s that kind of sport.

And yet another:

Lance (Armstrong) was brash, outspoken and arrogant as hell.  He pissed everybody in Europe off but they couldn’t do anything but suck it up and take it because he was just too good.   And he did all of that with one ball while drinking Texas beer and banging Cheryl Crowe.  I can’t tell you what Europeans saw in Lance other than defeat; but what Americans saw was a one-balled countryman beating Frenchmen with two balls at their own game (and I’m only being mildly hyperbolic).

Ok, fine, I’’ll throw down another!  (… it’s not like there ain’t enough!)

When men run group rides, they turn it into a competition (because that’s what men do) and the newbies get embarrassed because they can’t keep up.  Or they get exhausted trying to keep up and it’s no fun.  When women run rides, they make sure it stays sane and everybody has a good time. There is a lesson in this for guys who complain about the lack of women in their sport and that lesson is this: stop being a macho dickhead to women who show up and they might hang around.

Strongman Super Series 2004.  Here’s the first of 4 vids:

Jim O’Malley has an interesting article on Sporting Form.  I very much agree with his insistence that your goal should be to not only GAIN good form on the Oly lifts, but then go through a long process of trying to cement that form in.  And, that just because you have good form today doesn’t mean you can’t lose it.  Further, your technique that served you well with sub-bodyweight snatches may need some refinement as you go above bodyweight, and on and on …

Sporting form acquired through this or that degree of sport training is an optimal state for a given stage of training. But, that which is optimal at one degree of sport mastery is not at another, higher degree.

However, I do have a problem with his admonishing of the so-called Bulgarian Method. (Bold is mine)

In my opinion, this excerpt form Laputin’s text presents a compelling argument against the so called (unfortunately I think) “Bulgarian” method of training. A more appropriate term would be training by brute force methods. However you wish to classify it, this training involves lifting submax to maximum weights in the classical exercises (90%+) in virtually every single training session. And more often than not, pulls well in excess of 125% of the maximum lifts and limit squats are added as well. These assistance movements frequently bear no resemblance at all to what the athlete can actually snatch or clean & jerk.

I would argue that there are a number of points in that paragraph (I bolded them) that are debatable, false, or at least missing the point of The Bulgarian Method.  I disagree that the method is best described as a Brute Force Method (he meant this in the mathematical sense NOT in the colloquial sense), as that implies that technique is not of the highest priority.  That is the reverse of the truth.

The Bulgarian Method (in part) is based on a technique-centric philosophy: that you miss lifts (most of the time) because you screwed up something technically, not because you are too weak in some particular way or another.  AND, that the technical requirements of lifting at 90%+ are something that have to be practiced at those weights regularly if one is to improve there.  Being great at technique with 80% of your max isn’t enough.  IT IS a prerequisite.  But, after that, you have to start practicing what it takes to lift over 90%, and at maximum.  And you must practice this a lot.

Pulls are very rarely used by most Bulgarian clubs and coaches.  There are exceptions (Average Broz being a big one), but they aren’t seen as often as the paragraph implies for the very reasons that O’Malley mentions – it is hard to have heavy pulls look exactly like the lifts themselves, and that causes technique problems down the road if you aren’t careful. (More importantly, The Bulgarian Method generally wouldn’t have pulls simply because they aren’t the full lifts.  It is a highly sport specific method, and tends to utilize other exercises only begrudgingly.)

On that note, one should always beware of confusing the Theory with the Practice.  Any particular Bulgarian-influenced coach will choose to do some things and not others.  But, the underlying theory of the method is very general, has never been totally agreed upon, and is probably better left that way.  (I say this despite my own attempts at formulating the method as a working theory!)

Jim Moser on Bulgarian Training.  Moser is very much a proponent of this method.  But, don’t take my word for it!

There are many rumors about how the maestro Abadjiev came up with the idea that weightlifters could train everyday all day long like other athletes. My favorite is that he got the initial idea from our own Harlem Globetrotters. He was simply amazed and fascinated at watching the Harlem Globetrotters practice. He was intrigued that they were in such phenomenal shape. He could not believe they could literally run up and down the court all day and night with the same drive and intensity in the evening as they had in the morning. Then they would show up early the next morning and do it all over again with the same intensity as the day before. If it made sense for other athletes, why not weightlifters?

I think we should officially rename The Bulgarian Method, “The Globetrotter Method”.  Who’s with me?

Nick Horton on how to read and do the daily WOD’s on PDX Weightlifting’s site. Given that we are a “Globetrotting” club ourselves, I felt the need to clarify some things that I think at-home lifters may find useful.

Many new lifters make the mistake of believing that the routines they read on paper (or online) are exactly what is done in the gym.  This is never the case.  The best reason to have a coach is so that he/she can make course corrections as needed.  If I’m in the gym, and I see one of my lifters doing far worse than I’d hoped, I will ditch the written workout and focus on the problem at hand.

Similarly, every once in a while, when a lifter looks good for a new PR, but the workout didn’t call for it, I’ll have them max out anyway.  Many PR’s in my club happen on days we didn’t plan it.  You want to make sure that there IS a plan in place, and that you largely follow it.  But, don’t be dogmatic about it.  There is a balance to be found.

Which leads me to …

Nick Horton on Intermittent Fasting, The Vodka Diet, OR How I Got Skinny For My Wedding Like a Real Man.

Call me girly, but I had no intentions of being fat at my wedding.  Unfortunately, with only a few months to go, that was exactly the situation I was facing.  I needed to take drastic measures, measures most will find insane.  And, because of my experimental personality, I took them!  Lo and behold, it worked!  I dropped a total of 25 pounds, and I’m now leaner than I’ve been in over 3 years.  What was my solution?  Drink more Vodka and Mocha’s; eat more Burgers and Bacon; and pay as little attention to detail as possible!

Alan Aragon on Clean Eating:

In 1997, a general physician named Steven Bratman coined the term orthorexia nervosa [21], which he defines as, “an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food.” It reminds me of the counterproductive dietary perfectionism I’ve seen among many athletes, trainers, and coaches. One of the fundamental pitfalls of dichotomizing foods as good or bad, or clean or dirty, is that it can form a destructive relationship with food. This isn’t just an empty claim; it’s been seen in research. Smith and colleagues found that flexible dieting was associated with the absence of overeating, lower bodyweight, and the absence of depression and anxiety [22]. They also found that a strict all-or-nothing approach to dieting was associated with overeating and increased bodyweight. Similarly, Stewart and colleagues found that rigid dieting was associated with symptoms of an eating disorder, mood disturbances, and anxiety [23]. Flexible dieting was not highly correlated with these qualities. Although these are observational study designs with self-reported data, anyone who spends enough time among fitness buffs knows that these findings are not off the mark.

Nia Shanks on 3 different types of Intermittent Fasting (IF).  She wants you to keep in mind:

And, please, don’t think you have to “convert” to intermittent fasting just because it’s potentially the next big thing. Intermittent fasting works, no doubt about it, but I still suggest you do whatever works for you and your lifestyle. Whether that means eating 5-6 small meals per day or adopting a form of intermittent fasting – just do what works for you.

Nia Shanks interviews Tony Gentilcore.  They are also planning a deadlifting contest between the two of them. I think she can take him!

Bret Contreras on the 50 Commandments of Commercial Gym Etiquette.  You’d think that #4 would be blatantly obvious, but it isn’t:

Thou shalt not bump into a lifter or their barbell while they’re exercising

As many of you know, our club started in a commercial gym before we got our own place.  I can’t tell you how often someone would walk right on the platform WHILE one of us was lifting!  Never walk into another mans snatch … that’s all I’m sayin’. Dangerous!!

Bret Contreras gets a review article of his published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal called, “To Crunch or Not to Crunch:  An Evidence-Based Examination of Spinal Flexion Exercises, Their Potential Risks, and Their Applicability to Program Design.”  In case you have been too freaked out to use crunches when training your abs:

Taking all factors into account, it would seem that dynamic spinal flexion exercises provide a favorable risk to reward ratio provided that trainees have no existing spinal injuries or associated contraindications, such as disc herniation, disc prolapse, and/or flexion intolerance. However, several caveats need to be taken into consideration to maximize spinal health.

Quarter-Life Crisis.  25 is the new 50?  Yes, according to researchers at the University of Greenwich.  It certainly was for me.  At 25, I felt old, worn out, and like I’d missed too many opportunities in life.  Now, at 33, I feel young, energetic, and that my whole life is ahead of me.  (Of course, in my case, some of that has to do with my decades long struggle with depression, that I’ve finally gotten a handle on.)

JC Deen expounds on his own Quarter-Life Crisis here in How Extreme Focus Can Change Your Life.  It’s an article he wrote a few months ago (isn’t it odd how we act like that was a decade ago in the blog world!), but if you haven’t read it yet, I’ll bet you find that you relate.  I know I did!

JC Deen has created a nice Primer on Calorie Counting.  If you’re someone who is need of counting your calories by is freaked out about the process, this might help.

Galina Ivanova Denzel has some great solutions for those of you bored with your current breakfast regimens. Here’s the tasty photo:

High Fives are SO Gay … Andrew Sullivan posts that the development of the High Five, that canonically “manly” symbol, had an ironically “gayer” history than one would expect.  We can thank Glenn Burke, the Dodger’s baseball player who came out in 1982, for the invention.

Burke’s friend Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim argues: “The high five liberated everybody. It gave you permission to enjoy your high points.” And not just in sports but at your kid’s spelling bee or your office after a killer PowerPoint presentation. In this interpretation, Burke didn’t just add a bit of flair to baseball — he uncorked a repressed longing for personal expression and connection in all of American society.

I thought this was a cool fact.  Makes me want to high-five some homophobic “Bro’s”.

Rudolf Plukfelder, many time world champion and world record holder from the 1950’s and 60’s is interviewed at Lift Up. Next time you start to complain about how “bad” your life is, keep this guy (and the so many others like him) in mind:

Like all Soviet Germans, I was deported to Siberia.  Our family was deported on September 29th, 1941.  My father and brother were shot to death on November 5th.

Arnav Sarkar on the 5 Myths of Strength Training for the Martial Arts.  I’ve had a number of conversations recently with some strength coaches who specialize with Athletes in the Martial Arts, and these 5 myths held true with them.  On the myth that lifting weights and getting stronger automatically means that you will get heavier and pop out of your weight class:

To give an example take a look at Olympic weightlifters. Yes those skinny, ripped guys who lift double or more than their own bodyweight. These guys too compete in weight categories, and cannot afford to move up to heavier weight classes since that will put them at a disadvantage. Yet these guys lift weights as part of their job.

Finally, Derrick Johnson invites you into his Kingdom:

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