It seems of late that people have gotten extremely busy complicating something that is extremely simple- getting big and strong. Idiots clad in day-glo spandex and in all manner of wraps, belts, and shoes populate every squat rack across the land, endlessly yammering on about their newest highly vaunted cookie-cutter online program, talking everyone’s goddamned ear off about the intricacies of their diets and generally doing nothing useful whatsoever. Resigned to mediocrity or sub-mediocrity, these vapid consumerists consider themselves an essential part of a community that they clearly misunderstand, because strength training is not about how much money you spend- it’s about how much
heart, balls, hate, aggression, and self-motivation you apply in direct opposition to gravity and mass. It’s not about allowing people you don’t know to dominate your bank account, because this community isn’t filled with sexy-ass Findommes (Finanacial Dominatrixes) talking crap to wimps to separate them from their money. Well, upon reflection I suppose it is, though the Findommes in strength sports are generally fat, hairy guys running gear companies that aren’t particularly aesthetically appealing. In any event, it doesn’t have to be that way- it can and is much, much simpler than a cursory examination of the conversations on any message board might otherwise indicate.
As we’ve seen in the previous installment of this series,
people in the distant past and in modern correctional facilities have
figured out ways to build massive amounts of muscle and strength without the benefits of modern technology, complicated programming, expensive gear or supplements, or really any of the things people today seem to think are indispensable. It was only with modern medicine, modern training facilities, the ability to do nothing but eat and train as a vocation, and modern convenience that Halfthor Bjornsson was able to break a thousand-year-old record set by legendary Viking Olm Storulfsson. carrying a 32-foot, 1,433 pound log two steps further than Storulfsson could before his back snapped and he died.
If that’s not significant to you, you must be busy in the back of the
gym eating paste while wearing your helmet and your bib backwards- never fear, though, because they have powerlifting in the Special Olympics to accommodate people of your intellectual caliber.
In my life I have had to do more with far less a couple of times, and
while these times were highly annoying, they taught me a great deal.
During most of these periods I had unfettered access to some
kind of gym, which should be first on your list of priorities. As I’ve
mentioned in past articles, you can do a hell of a lot with bodyweight
work, and I managed to maintain a 500lb squat in jail without weights simply by doing a metric buttload of CrossFit’s favorite “time-waster,” wall sits. I’ve read some hilariously misguided posts about the uselessness of wall sits on social media, but like anything else, if you go hard enough with them, you will see results. While in jail I would read while walking. I would walk 100 yards, do a two-minute wall sit, and repeat… for extended periods of time. Over the course of 7 months I was able to maintain a fairly lean 195 lbs. using nothing (for 5 of those months)- I got to lift 3x a week for two months) but dips, pullups, wall sits, a bunch of TRX-style movements, and following the diet I’m about to outline.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the food served in prisons is not sufficient to fuel training- it’s barely sufficient to sustain life. Certainly, moves can be made- I was trading all kinds of stuff to
get extra milks, extra turkey ham (which is vile, but it’s protein), and
extra trays. Even with that, I think the most protein I managed to get
in a day from jail food alone was 100 grams. As such, I started
supplementing with summer sausage and ramen noodles three times a day, on which I spent about $10 a day, and which netted me another 100 or so grams of protein more. Was it “quality protein”? Hell no, but I was still moving decent weight when I finally got access to the gym, and I held onto a tremendous amount of muscle.
The key, which might seem obvious but was hitherto mysterious to me because of my obsession with maintaining extremely low bodyfat year round, is to keep your calories high and your workload higher than Pauly Shore on vacation in Colombia.
When I’m not trapped in a concrete box, bored out of my goddamned mind, and extremely limited on my food choices, I tend to focus almost to the exclusion of everything else on protein, which will work to an extent and then fail to take you to the mountaintop of hugeness. Judging by the emails and IMs I get, many of you reading this fall into this trap- you focus entirely on getting 1.5-2g of protein per pound of bodyweight and think that’s all you need. After a year of eating 6 meals of 30-50g of protein a day and virtually nothing else, your bodyweight stalls out at 150 lbs, you wonder why you’re not getting stronger, and you message me with questions about why you can’t make any progress… but if you just took a second to look at your diet, you’d see that it’s barely sufficient for a 13 year old girl who goes to Gymboree three times a week.
This just in, guys- the only people making significant gains in 2000
calories a day are small children, burn victims, midgets, and people
suffering from wasting diseases. You might as well not even train if
your goal is to gain strength and mass on so few calories. In the day-glo, post-apocalyptic wasteland of the modern gym, you can look like Rictus Erectus among the wraps and straps and bands and matchy-matchy Lulu Lemon-clad Instagram superstars if you simply eat your face off and stick to nothing but heavy weights for a few months. Seriously- it’s never been easier to look like a goddamned monster in the gym than now due to the remarkably low standards pervading every gym on the planet, so now’s the time to buck the hell up and set off on your own journey to one day stalk through the crowds of “weight lifting” idiots in the gym like you’re a ultra-mega-pissed Jason Voorhees in a recently reopened Camp Crystal Lake.
So an example of a Viking who couldn’t be outlifted until a 400+
pound man mountain did it with every advantage of the modern
professional athlete. When he set that record, did it on an ancient
diet without the benefit of refrigeration (though storing meat in lake
water apparently keeps it from spoiling). That means it was not all that easy to get the nutrition you need to become super strong back in the day. Modern farming methods are mostly horrible, but they can churn out some calories like… well, like they’re calorie factories. Which they are. One benefit of factory farming that is super cheap, but most lifters never use is 80% lean beef. It’s cheap as hell but fattier than Honey Boo Boos awful mom. Fun fact though- if you cook and blot a pound of 80% lean ground beef you eliminate the need to buy the more expensive 90% lean ground beef.
“COOKING AND DRAINING GROUND BEEF SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCES FAT AND CALORIE CONTENT, AS SHOWN IN THE TABLE BELOW, WHICH COMPILES DATA FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE’S NUTRIENT DATABASE* AND IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY’S RESEARCH** PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION. DURING COOKING, BOTH MOISTURE AND FAT CONTENT DECREASE WITHIN THE MEAT. ON AVERAGE, 4 OUNCES OF LEAN RAW GROUND BEEF BECOMES 3 OUNCES (ABOUT 85 GRAMS) OF COOKED MEAT” (GARDEN-ROBINSON).
So, using this knowledge and $100-$150 a week, you can eat your face off, have a very well-rounded diet, and fuel your gains. As I’ve written at very great length, I despise bland foods. Thus, this staple for me in lean weeks when cash is crazy short, it the Mexican staple of beans and rich, with the addition of ground beef. You can change the flavors to suit your personal tastes, but this just gives you an idea of how cheaply you can eat big.
One last protip for channeling your inner Olm Storulfsson- ditch that crap about “ego lifting” and go nuts. Do you think he was whining
about how lifting for your ego did nothing for your strength or gains,
or do you think he got crazy strong by having drunken strongman
competitions every night? Somehow, I don’t think he was worried about his 7-rep max- he was worried about outlifting the other guys every goddamned day, just like the old German strongmen a few hundred years later.
Mello NK, Mendelson JH, Negus SS, Kelly M, Knudson I, Roth ME. The effects of cocaine on gonadal steroid hormones and LH in male and female rhesus monkeys. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2004 Nov;29(11):2024-34.