I got an interesting comment over on the article I wrote for Nia Shanks this week.
And while the commenter could have refrained from being snippy, there was a valid question underneath it.
“What’s the Point of writing an article about how ‘women are best at weighting’? How is that any different than saying women make good secretaries?”
So, because the topic of gender is one I’m honestly really into, and because blabbing is kinda my thing, I wrote a very long winded response.
Here it is:
1) While I am always in favor of constructive criticism, sarcasm and random rudeness are a bit silly and out of place. We’re just talking about weightlifting here, no saving people from life-threatening situations.
2) As per the underlying question: what’s the point? I have a few answers to that as well.
The first is cultural, and I think the most important. Writing an article like this that promotes the idea that women might (not in any way “proven”) be – on average – more inclined toward the sport of weightlifting is NOT even remotely like saying that Men make better math teachers, or women make better secretaries.
Why? Because those arguments were designed to keep people in their place, and to avoid branching out. More specifically, to justify a sexist attitudes toward women in the workplace.
My argument is a direct counter to the prevailing myths about women that are still very much alive and well in the culture.
To say, “you know, women make good secretaries because they can multi-task better than men,” may or may not be true … but it only helps to confirm prejudices that people of older generations were rather prone to already. (Thankfully this is changing dramatically. fixed? no. But, people in the Gen X and younger crowd are substantially less overtly sexist than the generations preceding them)
I’d argue that MOST women in the united states don’t feel like lifting weights is a very “female” thing to do … let alone compete in a sport of weightlifting.
Nia’s blog is so popular, in part (though by no means exclusively), because she is the very personification of what people mistakenly believe to be a real oxymoron: A lean, attractive, relatively small woman … who is strong as shit.
That is not in any way a true oxymoron. Those things are not incongruous. But, the culture beleives that they are. So, Nia’s a novelty.
As are all of the women I’m discussing in weightlifting.
When we’re in our sphere of the 1% of people who know and love lifting heavy shit we can so easily forget just how un-obvious it is to most people outside our sphere that women who lift competitively are, in fact, rarely “beefy” and bodybuilder-like.
This very much includes Young women.
They are clueless on this front. And we should be encouraging young girls to lift weights as much as we can.
This is one good way to do it. And the response I’ve gotten from women so far has been rather positive, in part, because they get that on an intuitive level. Many of them went through the same “epiphany” transition, themselves.
There’s a second reason I wrote it, however. Because theoretical conversations are NOT simply elevator background noise. They are the driver of future understanding and experimentally backed results.
Science of all kinds starts with Hypothesis that have to be tested.
I outlined a Hypothesis that could be tested. I gave my reasons for believing what my projected outcome would be. And now, others could set up experiments to see if any of this rings true.
I’m a guy who got a math degree for a reason. I like to think about shit that may or may not have any serious practical value in the short term. Usefulness isn’t the only reason we should discuss something.
Interest is enough.
I’m not opposed to a serious look at the differences between Men and Women. It is sexist to pretend that biology doesn’t have consequences. Pretending thing aren’t true because we’re all “equal” is a kind of cop-out that previous generations were a little more prone too. (I actually understand why, from a political position … but at some point, science is science and shouldn’t be driven by political correctness.)
There ARE real biological differences between the AVERAGE woman and the average man (where “average” is defined as I did above).
What we don’t have a clue about is just how much of a role those underlying differences play in the shaping of what people DO in their lives vs Phenotype-changing cultural and environmental stuff.
I think it’s too fascinating a topic to let go of.
As I said in my post, Great male and female lifters (athletes of any kind) are more alike than they are different. And they are more alike than like the general population of any sex.
But … that doesn’t mean that it can’t be true that a larger proportion of women will be nearer to this type than the proportion of men in the general public.
I find that to be a perfectly valid question.
Especially since I’m in the business of promoting the sport to a wider range of people … It matters to know if my efforts will pay off better if I focus a larger amount of my time promoting it to the ladies.
Market research can’t be underestimated.
I know I got a bit “ranty” there. That wasn’t my intention … maybe it wasn’t yours either. But, hopefully I was able to clarify why I felt compelled to write something like this, and why I really do think it’s important.
When most people who aren’t already familiar with strength sports think of an Olympic weightlifter, they tend to imagine a huge fat dude with a hairy back holding a heavy bar over his balding head, screaming at the top of his lungs, his face red as tomato bisque, arms crawling with popped veins, and sweating like a stuck pig.
That view is totally correct … for about 0.0001% of weightlifters!
However, in reality, those guys make up an ironically small proportion of the total number of weightlifters out there. Most men who are into the sport of Olympic Weightlifting are actually quite lean and tend to be shorter than average height. (Like me!)
More importantly, right here in America, almost 50% of all Olympic weightlifters are women. These women are remarkably strong, fast, agile, flexible, mobile, and lean. (Super heavy women aren’t lean, but they make up for it by being even stronger! You’d be shocked by how flexible they are, too.)
In short, an Olympic weightlifting woman is the epitome of a Beautiful Badass!
“What we know is not much. What we don’t know is enormous.” – Pierre Simon de Laplace (French Astronomer and Mathematician)
Preliminary (Cool!) Stuff
I’m super uber excited! You know that I’ve been working on the 2nd edition of my book. I think I’ll be ready to release that by the middle of March, maybe late March. That’s a bit later than I’d hoped, but still rad.
What you don’t know is …
I’ve been working on something I’ve only hinted at, and it’s something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do. It’s something I’ll be releasing next week and I’m gonna tell you about it now:
One of the biggest problems that I hear from my readers – you – is that you …
don’t feel like you have enough consistent guidance in your training,
are not sure what routines to use for what purposes,
Ain’t sure which programs will work for you,
Don’t know which workout programs are the best for your goals,
Or which are worth trying at all!
There is a TON of information out there on the net.
Yes, it’s great that there are lots of resources (like this blog) out there. But, how do you sift through it all, make sense of it, and settle down on an actionable plan? (Do this, do that …)
One option for a beginner is to get my book. That’s a GREAT start. But it’s only the first 12 weeks or so of your training.
What do you do after that?
Here’s some good ( … No, Great!) news for you:
I am constantly experimenting on my lifters. They are my guinea pigs. Every single month, I test out new routines on them, gather data, learn, keep what works, discard what doesn’t, and keep tweaking stuff in order to really dial in the rapid rate of progress my lifters are becoming known for.
And with all that information, I’m creating a monthly journal called The Samurai Strength Nation: A Monthly Journal for Weightlifters where I detail exactly …
the programs we used in that month,
what worked, (maybe more importantly)
what didn’t work,
bonus material from upcoming book projects of mine,
The Best Part …
Your W.O.M. – Workout of the Month!
Every month, after I analyze everything we did, I’ll synthesize that down for you into a workout program that you can put into action right here, right now. It is the program I’d have my lifters do if I could do it over again.
Think about that for a second.
You’re actually getting a BETTER deal than the lifters, because you are benefiting from hindsight! The members of PDX are the first to test things out, so they also have to suffer through some stuff that just flat out doesn’t work. But, you’ll KNOW what didn’t work and can stick to what did.
What’s so exciting to me about this idea is that it allows us to have a bridge between the exercise scientist on the one end, and the brute practitioner on the other.
It’s taking seriously the idea of the Coach AS Scientist, a melding of the two. Yes, you lose a bit of deep scientific accuracy, but you gain a ton of practicality and actionable information. We need scientists, and we need practitioners. They each have mega-important roles to play.
But there is clearly a need for something in the middle. A way for YOU to be sure that the routine you’re about to do this next month actually makes sense.
And because my own lifters are primarily made up of people exactly like you and me – you know, real people, adults, with jobs, and kids – then the information is HIGHLY targeted and relevant to your needs.
The Nation Journal is a way for me to help you out in a BIG way without it breaking the bank on your end.
What I’m going to do is release this next week for a particularly low opening price (it’s actually going always be low priced, this is just even lower).
But, if you are a member of my email newsletter list, then you’ll get an additional 15% off of the already ridiculously low opening. (If you ARE already a member of my list, you’re cool. However, if you aren’t yet, sign up. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again!)
OK … I need to stop blabbing about this. Clearly I’m very enthusiastic about this stuff! On with the show …
This Week in the World of Weightlifting
Michael Hartman and Nick Horton have started a new Vidcast Series called Weightlifting Academy with the expressed goal of inspiring 10,000 new people to get involved in weightlifting in the year 2012. We very much need your help in this, and we’ll let you know exactly how you’ll be able to help us as time goes on.
Olympic weightlifting is such cool stuff it would be a cryin’ shame not to evangelize to the people about it! Here’s our handsome faces with eyebrows raised – ‘cause we’re sophisticated like that!
Cal Strength Lifters in their last competition before nationals.
Brandon and I will be at nationals this year for Brandon’s first ever time there. He’s only 1 1/2 years into his training, so his goal is just to have a great time and learn the ropes. But, we’re both really excited to see all the best lifters in the country do their thing, and watch the Olympic trials.
And YES, I will be documenting a bunch of it and putting stuff up here and on the Youtube channel while I’m there. So make sure you stay up to date!
If you choose to go this route, you will not be taken seriously by your peers, as any coach with an appreciation for science will be able to pick you apart. But you will develop one hell of a following.
To be honest, I’ve committed at least 8 of these acts myself. Most of my esteemed colleagues are guilty of several of them as well. The trick is to not commit every single one of them, to have integrity, and to balance marketing and self-promotion with good information and valuable products.
Of those things on his list, I found these rather funny:
11. See Things in Black and White – Gurus don’t see things in shades of gray. Things are either black, or they are white. There is no in-between.
12. Don’t Train Many People – If you train a bunch of folks you might realize that your claims aren’t legit, and this is not good for your confidence. It doesn’t matter if you’re right; all that matters is whether you appear right. Training people takes precious time away that could be spent on marketing endeavors.
16. Don’t Reply on Social Media – Take the time to create a blog, a Facebook page, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, and a Youtube account, but don’t reply to any of your fans. You need to appear busy, like you’re training Olympians around the clock. Don’t be bothered by pedestrians!
25. Create a Cult – People long to be part of a group and receive attention. Eventually your army will be large enough to transform into a cult. Create a hierarchy system and use mind control tactics. You do not want to encourage free-thinking as this could backfire on you. You need to intimidate and brain-wash your followers. Use fear tactics and make sure your underlings know that the second they rise up and formulate thoughts of their own they’ll be ousted from the club.
It’s far too easy for these trainers to lose sight of the whole damned point: To Help People!
No, it may not be fun to do, but if you have any struggles with food, or just want to improve your food-relationship, I highly suggest you take the time to identify your personal eating triggers.
What emotions trigger you to eat, even if you’re not physically hungry?
Is there a time of day that makes you more prone to poor food choices or overeating?
Do you have any domino foods? A domino food can be described as a food that you start eating and can’t stop. Think of it as the potato chip expression, “bet you can’t eat just one.” Please keep in mind domino foods aren’t just items like potato chips, cookies, or junk food; they can also be natural foods. As an example, I used to have problems with things like almonds – I wouldn’t eat a small handful; I would almost eat an entire bag.
Darren Barnes historical … squatting 150k at a much much lower bodyweight than you!
For the past few months I’ve just been eating anything that I’ve wanted, loosely tracking calories and macros, but for the most part not really caring how much I ate – lots of ice cream, steak, ribs, fruit, pasta and the occasional Cinnabon.
Training has been whenever I’ve felt like it – sometimes 1x a week, but usually 2x with a couple of challengesthrow in for fun. Simply put I’ve been maintaining my results with as little time as necessary, but today marks the the day that I finally get off my butt cheeks and decide to actually get moving towards my own personal Sexification goals for several reasons.
Every Sunday I’ll be updating with pictures and talking about what I’m doing training wise, what I’m eating, my calorie intake and how I’m varying it and pretty much anything else that I think will be helpful.
afternoon mostly clean and jerk stuff, 4-5 exercises
Monday is concentrated on high blocks
Wednesday on blocks below the knee
Friday from floor
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
mostly lighter stuff
more of the power versions of the lifts, where the other days are more of the full versions
Squats 3 days per week
Add to this an early morning session each day which is mostly calesthenics, like pushups situps pullups and stuff
That’s a pretty standard looking template, actually. Many of the primary programs being used by a lot of coaches look a heck of a lot like that. Yes, they will vary in detail, maybe no Saturday workout, maybe no mornings, but very similar.
What I particularly like about this kind of template is that it is easy to scale DOWN. Just do a modified version of the afternoon M/W/F sessions and you have a good routine that almost anyone can fit into their busy lives. (More snatching in the evening, for instance.)
After my discharge from the military in 1983, I started to go to college back in 1984 then started revisiting my interest in bodybuilding and weight training. I worked out in the college gym and decided to pursue a degree in something health and fitness related since I was exercising on a regular basis and also became interested in bodybuilding and competing. I won several trophies during that stint which ended in 2002 winning 1st place in the Cleveland Bodybuilding Championships and placing 4th in the Master’s Class in the same competition.
I always love hearing how people got their start with the barbell.
Josh Gilbert of Average Broz gym Front Squats 180k. Josh is a really funny kid by the way. Had a good time jibin’ him when I was down in Vegas in January.
FINALLY … K-Star Smashes Pat Mendes! This is both funny and instructive, my favorite!
You spoke, and I listened. The series, “Your Monday Moment of Zen” in which I splatter together a bunch of links to cool stuff and my own musings on any topic under the sun was far more popular than I’d thought.
I’d started them as a weekly thing, then I tried to shift them over to a monthly thing because I thought I’d be able to fill them up a little better that way. I was wrong. Switching to a monthly version made them totally unruly.
Not only was it nearly impossible to manage all that material over the course of a month, it became unmanageable to read! People were telling me it was taking them over a week to get through it all.
Now … they were saying this in a positive tone, as a way of complimenting me on collecting such a cool list of stuff. But in practice that implies most people just couldn’t work their way through that much stuff at once.
The beast finally got away from me as I was finishing up the writing of my book.
What is cool is the shear number of emails I’ve been getting over the last few months from long-time readers asking me where the in Hell M.M.Z went!?
So, I’m bringing this series back in its original form. A weekly wrap up of what I’ve been reading, watching, thinking about, and anything else that comes to mind.
Sometimes you get things right the first time, and it’s best not to muddy them up too much!
Zen Quote of the Week
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” — Ancient Zen Saying
This Week in the World of Weightlifting
I’ll start with some jazz that’s going on in my own sphere then branch out.
Let me tell you, 2012 is going to be a BIG year here at the Iron Samurai. You’ve been hearing me hint about some cool projects in the works for some time now, and those projects are starting to come into fruition.
One of the biggest being the project Michael Hartman and I are putting together. It’s got a number of phases, the first of which is coming out this month. (Keep an eye out!)
In fact, February is the starting place for a good many of these projects, and I’ve been CRAZY busy. Seriously, I’m working my tail off to get this stuff done because I’m so excited about it all. (If you can’t tell, I love what I do for a living!)
Nick Horton and Peter Curcio have started a new Podcast called High Octane Body. It’s a podcast primarily focussed on fat loss. Peter (Who’s weightlifting name is Petarski – he’s the guy in the image above) is one of my closest friends, business partners, and the guy who I run my fat loss programs with when I’m in the offline world. We’ve totally revamped our programs and are really excited about what’s going on.
We want to bring our approach outside the walls of the gym. A Podcast is a great way to do that.
I know it isn’t normal for a weightlifting coach to also really enjoy coaching people for fat loss. But, I am anything but normal! I love that when you help someone who really does need to lose a lot of weight, learn to workout correctly, dial in some basics of diet, that you are making a true life changing difference.
It could literally save their life.
Obesity is a serious issue we’re all facing. We may or may not be overweight ourselves. But we all love a lot of people who are, and who need us to help guide them.
I’ve said this before: You and I are part of the 1% of people in the first world who honestly do LOVE to lift weights and exercise. We sometimes falsely accuse other people of simply being lazy. But, I think the issue goes deeper than that. So many people will wake up one day after 20+ years of inactivity to find themselves so far down a hole of ill-health that they have no idea where to start. It is a huge emotional bind they find themselves in. The only way to help to guide them out of it is to approach them with a sense of compassion and understanding that is far too lacking by many of the 1%, in my opinion.
Besides, it doesn’t hurt my mission to make Olympic lifting “Mainstream” by getting out there and evangelizing to people who may not have ever even heard of a snatch … at least not THAT kind of snatch!!
JC Deen and Roger Lawson II have started their own podcast. In their first episode they go over their own back stories and how and why they got into fitness training in the first place.
JC Deen and Roger Lawson II are featured in an article at Forbes outlining the new breed of online fitness coaches. Given that I’m a part of that crowd, it spoke to me.
JC exists at the vanguard of a new generation of trainers who have sprung up online – willing to help both experienced lifters and those that don’t have a clue what a barbell is, let alone how to bench, squat or deadlift. In the past, one would only be able to side with a trainer in an established gym and hope they’d know what they were doing (and actually want you to succeed).
I’m a HUGE new-media freak, as is rather obvious to you, LOL. And the reason is because it allows us to reach out to a massive community of like-minded people we’d never have met without the internet and social media.
I obviously believe in in-person coaching, and I love it. (I DO own a gym!) But, I also STRONGLY believe in giving people options and access. The net allows us all to connect and build community in a way unheard of just a few decades ago.
Yes, we ARE allowing people to compete in both and attain a super total. Grueling? Yes. Awesome? Super Yes!
Chris Duffin, my friend and coach of Elite Performance Center (above) here in Portland – a kick-ass Powerlifting gym – has started a new blog, and has an interesting piece on the Gift of Average Genetics.
So what exactly is the gift of average genetics? The gift is you always have to work for every inch of progress you have made. You learned early on about incremental gains and hard work. From the first time in the gym or on the sporting field you had to work, sweat, bleed, and then do it all again just to make some measly progress. The same progress that some gifted natural athlete had just walking on the field. These small gains however are consistent and build upon each other. This is a basic psychological system that rewards your hard work, sweat, and blood. With this reward mechanism you stay at it year after year.
I can tell you, the laziest people I’ve ever met are very often those with the greatest talent. It’s the Tortoise and the Hair problem …
If you grow up your whole life beating everyone around you without having to work very hard, then you often never learn HOW to be disciplined.
Now, of course, the very few people who combine great genes with great motivation and work ethic will be the Donny Shankle’s of the world. Speaking of …
Donny Shankle Rips the head off of a Goddamned Lion:
Chris Duffin. Check out this video of him killing 495 pounds … on the one-arm deadlift! 1 rep? 2 reps? Nope. 5 reps! (By the way, Chris is otherwise known as the Kabuki Warrior … The Iron Samurai and the Kabuki Warrior, eh? Portland breads a funny brand of strength athlete!)
Bret Contreras has created a new challenge he calls The Sexy Challenge which is a complex of 5 exercise that you do (mostly) back-to-back for max reps. Like me, he’s a big lover of what I call the “big three” of lower body training: Front Squats + Romanian Deadlifts + Hip Thrusts. So those make up the first three. The 4th and 5th exercises are the Incline Bench and Chin Up.
Bret kicked ass on the RDL’s. I think I can smoke him on the Front Squats, LOL. But, that’s the only exercise I’m super confident in. (I’m getting very close to a double body weight front squat, btw – which only requires that I get 5 kilos less than my old max when I was bigger. 5 kilos to go!)
Here’s my plan: I’m going to finish each weeks workout with The Sexy Challenge (or some close cousin) on Fridays for the next 4 weeks. Given that the exercises are ones I’m doing anyway, it just is a matter of going for reps rather than maxing out.
At least one of those Fridays, I’d like to get 100 reps and be able to call myself “Dead Sexy”
You should join me!
Rob Addel Snatches 170k. If you think this man looks impressive on video, I can tell you he looks twice as large in person! (See my write up our time at Average Broz gym for the Las Vegas Open last month.)
Look, I acknowledge that everyone would be better off if they never consumed sugar or fake sugar ever again, for the rest of their lives. I also believe we would all be healthier if we grew our own food in natural, optimal conditions and only consumed grass-fed meat, wild caught fish, free range poultry and eggs, raw dairy, and other free range meats. (Get resources for purchasing these items locally can be found here).
Adding to that, ideally everyone would get at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight every single day, and only drink water that cascaded down the peaks of the snowy Rocky Mountains, and lived in pollution-free areas. Trust me, I could go on and on about “ideal” situations, eating habits, and living environments.
But the truth is, it’s not realistic for most people to follow those guidelines every day for the rest of their life, and so I won’t suggest such a thing. And obviously, many of those suggestions aren’t the least bit practical for some individuals. Setting unrealistic goals leads to aggravation and unnecessary stress.
AMEN. I couldn’t agree with her more! One of the whole reasons Peter and I are starting our High Octane Body podcast is to promote the idea of chilling the frak out about this stuff. You don’t have to be perfect. Not even close. Just stick to a few basics and you’re golden. Overcomplicating this stuff is causing a lot of paralysis by analysis. That HAS to stop.
(By the way, I’m working on a guest post for Nia that you weightlifting ladies will definitely want to keep an eye out for. I’m writing it for (and in support of) you.)
Lu Xiaojun of China does some core work. I don’t recommend you follow his lead, but it does play into the joke we have in my club that the Chinese team has never met an exercise they didn’t like!
Adam Stoffa makes me want to buy a titanium spork. Yes, you read that correctly!
Doug is also a member of the brotherhood of titanium spork owners. This is the ultimate in high tech silver titanium-ware. Doug has his spork fastened with a tactical lanyard for extra security. Whether you’re at the kitchen table or sitting on the edge of a cliff, you don’t want to risk inadvertently dropping this kind of gear and losing it. Sure his spork helps him eat right, but boys and girls, if you want to grow up to be be big and strong like Doug don’t forget your daily dose of iron.
Rob Addel does a 272.5 kilo Back Squat – that’s 2.8 times his bodyweight.
Niam and my step dad used to hang out together actually because my step dad was on the Bulgarian national gymnastics team, they’re the same age, and they lived in the same basic complex. Pretty cool … I’m going to have to call in that favor at some point so that I can meet him!
Here’s a vid:
If you want the judges to be on your side, DON’T do this!
USA Weightlifting announces that we’ll have 5 female and 6 male lifters representing America at the Pan Am Games being held in Guadalajara, Mexico. Oct. 23-27.
WOMEN: Sarah Robles, Chioma Amaechi, Kelly Rexroad-Williams, Hilary Katzenmeier, Danica Rue (who is replacing Erin Wallace who is injured) with alternates Amanda Sandoval and Aimee Anaya Everett.
MEN: Kendrick Ferris, Chad Vaughn, Pat Mendes, Donny Shankle, Jared Fleming, Jon North, with alternates Zach Schluender and Zach Krych.
It’s gonna be a hell of a show!
USA Weightlifting announces that the Olympic Trials for London 2012 will be held at the Arnold in Columbus, Ohio. Our club is planning to bring a few lifters to the Arnold this year … if for no other reason than to watch this!
Muscle Driver Grand Prix! The first of its kind in the US. With up to $10,000 in prize money at EACH event, top Olympic Weightlifters in this country now have the opportunity to earn some money to offset their training expenses during the year.
Here’s the breakdown of prize money (winners for both Women and Men determined by Sinclair):
1st Place – $2000
2nd Place – $1200
3rd Place – $800
4th Place – $600
5th Place – $400
The fact is, most lifters in this country aren’t being funded in any way. There are a handful who are – those at the Olympic training center or at Cal Strength. But, many other lifters who are equally as talented are getting NO money at all. That makes training for upwards of 30 hours a week (not including all the recovery time) nearly impossible if they have to hold down a 40+ hour a week job on top of it. I really respect what Glenn Pendlay and Muscle Driver are trying to do for our athletes.