My last few years have been tumultuous, to say the least. After setting a world record in powerlifting, I got walking pneumonia after setting a gym record in the only Crossfit workout I have ever done, the following year I tore my bicep, then re-tore it the year after. Disaffected with chasing my own tail in strength sports and prone to partying far too much, I got into a crazy relationship the insane, Hunter S. Thompson-worthy details of which will remain unpublished until I write a memoir. That relationship and year were spent watching horror movies, guzzling vodka and training infrequently. After that relationship went up in flames, I set fire to the rest of my life and ended up spending half a year in jail for a DUI.
I've always joked that I live in a goddamned cartoon, but I seriously don't live a normal life, unless you're Robert Downey Jr or Hunter S. Thompson. No matter my love of the extreme, even I can admit you can overdo things, and I did. A couple of years ago I penned a couple of articles detailing the ways in which drinking can help strength athletes, but what I didn't really detail was the fact that you have to keep the tiger by the tail, as it were, and I got bitten a lot. It happens. In any event, I learned a hell of a lot over the last two years, and I am about to impart that knowledge to you. Life doesn't always come out chicken and waffles- even when succeeding is easy, because if you're a psychopath who lives by mottoes like "moderation is mediocrity; extremity is excellence", you certainly can still find a way to lose. The key, however, is learning from your losses so you can turn them into future victories, so learn from mine so you can avoid turning your life into a massive dumpster fire in order to glean some facts from life about strength training that should be obtainable without self-destruction.
Someone in antiquity posed for this, in a place where cows were rare, supplements didn't exist, and the only weights were whatever was handy. And he's bigger than all of us... but tragically hung like a baby.
You can do a lot more with a lot less.
I know I own a supplement company, but my ultimate aim is to help people kick ass and look good doing it, not pander to weaklings and dupe them into buying stuff. I'm not about selling stuff. I'm about results. Like many people, I've long been under the impression you needed everything in place to succeed in strength- sleep had to be ten hours a day to digest the 500 grams of protein you stuffed into your stomach after two sessions of heavy weights a day. Like clockwork. I knew from my research that people managed to get stupidly jacked pre-refrigeration and supplements, but I figured I was just genetically cursed and required all the advantages of the modern era. I was stupid.
Gnolls are the only apex predators that could wipe us out. Luckily, they're fictional.
If you claim to be a hardgainer, feel free to message me and I'll come to your house and hang a beating on you that you will not live long enough to never forget for being retarded. This is not hyperbole. If you're not big and strong, it's because you don't want to be. As I've stated many, many times, people are supposed to be jacked and strong. It's our state in nature. That and our massive brains is the reason we're apex predators and have dominated this planet. You're not genetically cursed- you're mentally screwed up. Thousands of years of programming have rendered you physically impotent. You've been sold a lie that claims you're a sheep and not a wolf, even though humans and dogs are the only two predators on the planet that cooperate. That is significant. If we are sheepdogs as posited in American Sniper, we're only sheepdogs because we pity the weak, in spite of the fact that the weak are beneath contempt and killing our species. You need to recognize these facts.
There's a better chance that you can fly than there is that you could take a neanderthal in a fistfight.
Prehistoric people moved stones we can only dream of budging. Ancient Olympic athletes performed feats of strength that seem positively superhuman. None of these guys had more than some ephedra and goat meat in their blood, and they rocked out like real life members of Gwar daily, because humans are born to win. We wiped out the physically and possibly mentally superior neanderthals, exterminated every bit of megafauna on Earth, and then went on to conquer everything but our own innate hatred of ourselves.
Does that mean you should be one of those assholes who eschews all supplements and will cram your limp penis in the ear of anyone at the gym who will sit still long enough to you to wrestle its flaccid form into that tiny hole and harangue them about how you refuse to even drink coffee before you train and you still can do such-and-thus unimpressive thing? I wouldn't, because everyone in every gym despises that asshole, and because you're just making an easy thing harder than it needs to be. Even cavemen used ephedra, khat, coffee, coca leaves, or whatever local stimulant they had handy, and they did so because they knew it improved their performance and made them better human beings. Moreover, if they'd had protein powder back in the day, I guarantee they'd have used it, because real lifters have been all over protein powder since the stuff was invented, even when it was basically undrinkable. So, if you get into a jam and can't afford protein powder for a while, or you can't get into a paid gym for a couple of weeks, know that it is not the end of the world- just nut up and sally forth. If you can afford it, however, you might as well enjoy the benefits of living in the technological age.
Have you ever seen your "super mega br00tal hardcore" gym this packed? Me neither.
You can do more with less.
I spent five of my seven months in jail doing nothing more than weird, self-invented TRX style movements with a sheet, wall sits, and ballistic incline pushups. I'm sure the TRX people have a whole book detailing the same things I figured out on my own, but my point is that I lived on summer sausage, ramen noodles, and as many milks per day as I could buy off my fellow inmates, and I left jail with a 365 bench, easily Pendlay rowing 365 for triples, and jump squatting 405, weighing a slightly puffy 205. How? Boredom, hatred, and what I would consider not terribly hard work. What I did was A LOT of work. A lot of what I would consider to be very, very easy work.
Jumping online when I got out, I was highly amused to see all of these self-important missives on Facebook about the importance of quality work and the pointlessness of high volume training. I damn near quit Facebook over it, in fact, because my feed was nothing but assholes who barely look like they lift pontificating about what does and what doesn't work when they've won nothing but jack and shit (and jack left town) and boring goddamned videos of non-prs. I don't know what in the hell goes through people's minds when they post these goddamned things, but let me set the record straight: NO ONE GIVES A RAT'S ASS ABOUT YOUR THIRD LACKLUSTER SET OF BENCH. NO ONE. NOT YOUR MOM, NOT YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER, AND DEFINITELY NOT ME. For the love of all stop signs in the galaxy, let the madness end.
In any event, I can tell you from personal experience that 4-6 hours a day of low impact, sort-of-bodyweight stuff adds up, and it's this little crap that can fill the gaps in your minimalist training routine to get your strength levels to the point that someone might actually give a good goddamn about your training videos. Before you fly off the handle and suggest that I only train light and do rep work now, notice that is not the point of my missive here- it's that TONS of light stuff can backfill brutally heavy training and bring up your strength far more quickly than heavy training alone. I keep an orange Elite FTS resistance band hanging up on my porch so I can do high rep sets of rows, curls, overhead press and the like whenever I want, and I am 100% certain it works... if for no other reason than Bruce Lee was about that life. According to his wife, Linda:
"Bruce was forever pumping a dumbbell which he kept in the house. He had the unique ability to do several things at once. It wasn't at all unusual for me to find him watching a boxing match on TV, while simultaneously performing full side splits, reading a book in one hand and pumping the dumbbell up and down with the other. Bruce was a big believer in forearm training to improve his gripping and punching power. He was a forearm fanatic, if ever anyone came out with a new forearm course, Bruce would have to get it."
And Chuck Norris, the only person on the planet who can kick a man in the back of the face, had this to say about Lee's incessant training:
"I remember visiting the Lee household and seeing Bruce bouncing his little boy, Brandon, on his abdomen while simultaneously performing leg raises and dumbbell flyes."
So maybe get some resistance bands and a pullup bar and add some random light lifting to your day when you can. Unless, of course, you prefer to be fat and weak, in which case you should just carry on doing what you're doing.
This gets me to me next point, which is:
Being strong is ridiculously, embarrassingly easy.
Honestly, it is. I was always the littlest kid in school- they wanted to keep me from going to first grade because they thought I was too small for elementary school. I busted my ass to make the state traveling team for soccer, and fought my ass off for every position I ever earned on a varsity team. I'm neither a gifted athlete nor was I born preternaturally strong, but I was born with a hatred of losing. A deep, abiding, all encompassing hatred of losing, and that is what drives me. There's no brass ring for setting records or winning competitions that you can hold up at the end of your life and validate your existence, but you can break your ass to win at life so that at the end of your life you have no ragrets. Not even one letter.
Ahhhh, eat my ass.
Being strong is ridiculously easy. Really, really easy. It doesn't require math, it doesn't need cameras and fancy equipment, and it doesn't require a team or a coach. It's human vs. iron, and so long as you refuse to lose, you will win the war. And I mean, refuse to lose- all of the positivity crap, hand-holding fitspo nonsense in the world will not make you strong- refusing to believe you are weak will make you strong. Depending on what scientist you ask, we're 50-75% stronger than we act- there are just mental blocks in place to prevent us from utilizing strength that might cripple us. I might have thought that was a load of crap save for the fact that I've always owned dogs, and I know dogs cannot leave anything in the tank when they're excited.
Do not ever, ever own a dog mixed with a dachshund. They're mean for no reason... but what would you expect for a dog breed bred to kill badgers?
Our dog growing up was this horrible asshole of a dachshund-lab mix named Tana, who hated it when people went in the pool and thought it was her sworn duty to announce to the world that someone was in peril of drowning by scampering around the pool and screaming at the top of her lungs at whoever was touching the water. When my sister had her 16th birthday party, Tana went berserk for something akin to 8 hours, running full tilt around the pool and occasionally falling in, and never paused once for a break. She spent the next 2 weeks bedridden unless we picked her up and carried her to water, food, or grass to use the bathroom, because as the vet diagnosed she'd basically pulled every muscle in her body. He actually suggested we put her down. All because she was so scared of swimming she thought it was her sworn duty to humanity to announce anytime a person was submerged in water- she had no physical limits to this duty. Humans brains have a block that prevents us from over-exerting ourselves except in times of extreme need, but you can train it to pipe down so you can be superman more often- it is simply a matter of will.
If we were all werewolves, strength competitions would not even exist- they'd consist of nothing but corpses crushed under terrific weights, maimed and mangled people, and shattered records.
Canines are superior to humans in about every conceivable way. I lack the breadth of vocabulary to explain exactly how true this is, but it is true. Nevermind the fact that canines are more loyal and caring than a human being could ever be, but they lack the psychological restraints that humans have. They're not designed for sprinting for ten hours straight, but they're prepared to do it if that's what they think is right. You think you need the perfect program, or diet, or lifestyle, or genetics? Hell no. You need strength of character, force of will, and a focused mind. That's it. No calculators, no spreadsheets, no training journals, no videos... none of the extraneous crap people have come to believe is magical but is in reality just a distraction from their goal. And if you think I'm wrong, feel free to rock out and then show me how you used incremental loading with percentages of your daily max to lift the 315 lb oddly shaped rock Bybon lifted over his head with one hand 2,700 years before the invention of whatever training program is trending on Facebook these days.
So there you have a portion of the random knowledge I've gleaned from living like a lunatic the last couple of years, and there is more to come shortly. In the meantime- go forth and be a badass. You've got no one to blame but yourself if you don't.