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  1. #91
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    • wichita falls texas december seminar 2020
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    On a hot summer night some time in the 1970’s, my father and two colleagues stepped out of the 21 Club after a few drinks. They were not far down 52nd St. from their offices at Black Rock, the headquarters for the CBS Television Network, where they had completed a grueling ‘upfront’ season. This was the brief but intense round of negotiations in which advertisers and the networks hammered out massive contracts for the upcoming Fall, Winter, and Spring television season. Hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake.
    Things had gone well enough to warrant a trip to 21. When they came out, their luck held: a fire engine was trying to push down a street full of cars, making slow progress despite the lights, siren, and blaring horn.
    The three looked at one another. Why bother with a cab, they agreed, so they stepped across the sidewalk and on to the back bumper of the fire truck, where normally a firefighter or two would be stationed.
    The truck was soon moving, and once it made the turn onto 5th Avenue, it took off screaming downtown. The drinks at 21, the deals done in the weeks preceding, and of course the formative experiences of liberating Europe or the Pacific when they were college age made this nothing more than a casual lark. Nonchalantly, they each held a crossbar on the back of the truck with one hand and a briefcase with the other as city blocks flew past.

    I owe my existence to this ‘MAD MEN’ era, this Golden Age of Excess. In 1963, my mother, a Broadcast Supervisor (equivalent to a Vice President) at an ad agency, was apparently a pretty tough broad, which, if you think about it, in that day and age she probably had to be. However, she was swept off her feet by a newly divorced sales exec at a presentation one morning. 18 months later, I was their first child.

    Mom (and if you’ve ever seen MAD MEN you’d agree she was no dummy) kept Dad on a pretty short leash, according to the old family friend who told the story above in a book about the advertising business. That night on the fire engine, as soon as my Dad recognized landmarks near Grand Central Terminal, he hopped off so he could catch a train home. ‘Gentlemen, I’ll see you in the A.M.’
    ’So long, Skip. See you tomorrow.’ They sailed off under the lights and siren.

    What does it mean to know one’s heritage? It’s understanding how you got where you are, of course, but it runs a little more deeply. The narratives of your family’s history help form a sense of identity. They give you some clues about the customs or mindset you’ve taken for granted all your life.
    My sister took on the challenge of publishing a definitive family history, rummaging through an attic full of letters and albums, interviewing relatives, and tracking down connections on ancestry websites. One ancestor, from a New Jersey branch of the family, crossed the Delaware with Washington on Christmas Night, 1776 and took part in the raid that surprised Hessian troops quartered in Trenton.
    A lot of us were pretty ordinary Irish folk who came across after the famine. My grandmother’s mother, on the other hand, was from a wealthy family who owned a number of mills in Ireland. She was due to marry well - but she absolutely hated her stepmother and the path being plotted for her, so one morning she secretly made her way down to the waterfront and booked an immediate passage to America. She never saw her family again.
    It’s tempting, though not entirely scientific, to see family traits in these stories: ‘Oh, so that’s how Mom got that way . . . ‘ Still, heritage does raise some interesting questions: Can we claim any real connection to predecessors we’ve never met? How far back are we allowed to go in saying that a certain person or moment in history helped create who we are?
    That Revolutionary War soldier might be a little far removed, but I’ve been astonished to discover a far more recent connection that feels pretty real.

    My e-mail exchange with Coach continued over Christmas, and as the topics grew more wide ranging, he mentioned that at Notre Dame he trained in Father Lange’s Gym.
    That’s important, a slumbering brain cell of mine suddenly remembered. I had seen something about it once, probably in my CrossFit days, in a feature about weightlifting coach Mike Burgener. I Googled.
    ‘Holy Cow!’ I wrote Coach. ‘You trained there? What a place.’
    Father Lange’s Gym is the stuff of legend, starting with the barrel-chested priest and strongman Bernard Lange himself, who was once considered one of the strongest men in the world and remained probably the most formidable customer on campus well into old age. His physical strength was matched only by his outsized personality. This was a man who kept a pick-axe near the campus pond in order to chop through the ice for his morning swims. As these stories invariably go, he was slender and weak as a young man, but by sheer will power he beefed himself up to a rock-solid 260 pounds at five-foot-eight. In 1923, the world record for the bench press was 400 pounds. ‘Let’s see you do that,’ Lange was challenged, and he knocked out 11 reps with a great laugh. He was still good for a 600 pound deadlift at age 65.
    Father Lange built his first gym in an old natatorium on campus and filled it with all manner of weights and equipment, much of which was homemade in the workshop he kept at one end. This became his domain, the temple for his true calling, forging young men out of iron. He was no one to be trifled with; those who violated decorum were physically flung out the door. The operation was run with an iron fist, but Lange touched generations of young men with his lessons on discipline, hard work, and exceeding expectations. My coach quarter-squatted 1080 pounds for a triple as Lange looked on, and his proudest moment ever at Notre Dame was earning his Fr. Lange jacket, the patch from which he still has today.

    That spirit carried over to the dusty basement at my prep school, where Coach similarly set up shop. His first gym was in an ancient coal bin; subsequent upgrades moved him around the cavernous underground beneath the massive mansion in which the school was founded. The castle-thick stone walls, bent bars, and rusty weights were fitting for what we were doing. As beginners, we had to work our way up from humble beginnings; as we all got more dangerous, it was the only place that could handle us.
    I’ve written in the past about how Coach would preside over everything from the hard work and big lifts to the Hell raising and comedy that could erupt in an instant. In fact, by today’s standards, some of the things that were done and said and the way we smashed around that basement would end all of our careers.
    We did a pretty good job at behaving ourselves all day long in school. I think Coach knew somehow that indulging our wilder sides was just as important.
    Father Lange used to bellow, ‘They ought to cut the Pope’s balls off!’ or ‘What South Bend needs is more whorehouses!’ every so often, just in case everyone was taking things too seriously.

    I’m one generation removed from Father Lange’s Gym, I said to Coach. That can-do spirit, the overcoming the limitations of one’s surroundings, being hell-bent on goals, and figuring out how to claw my way to reach them came from somewhere. I learned it in high school, but the tools came from further back than that.
    At the very least, Lange’s story inspires, but I’d like to think that some reflex that’s second nature, some inclination I have to bear down and get it done comes from that old gym at Notre Dame.

    Father Lange's Gym
    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 1/1/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps Tom: 390 JC: 155
    2. Press: 3 sets of 6 reps Tom: 162.5 6, 6, 5 JC: 85
    3. Deadlift: 1 set of 8 reps Tom: 460 JC: 220

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups; 4 with 67 lb kb
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#6 - 10) 190, (#9 - 13 -12-) 162.5, (#13 - 16) 215
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 312.5 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 8 reps Tom: 240 JC: 107.5
    3. Isotonic-Isometrics SQUAT 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#10 - 16) 335, (#15 - 22 [top]) 395, (#21 - #3 upper holes) 515
    4. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 185 - 225 JC: 95+
    5. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    6. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 350 JC: 140
    2. Press: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 147.5 JC: 77.5
    3. Isotonic-Isometrics DEADLIFT 3 sets of 1 six-second hold; [blue mats and 2”x4’’’s]
    Holes (black beams - #6) 410, (#6 - #1 close holes) 450, (#10 top - #5 close holes) 585 GREEN FLYWHEELS!
    JC: Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps 167.5

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 10) 240, (#8 - 13) 280, (#12 - 16) 365
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    row 6000 meters

  2. #92
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    Family and friends have been visiting over the past 10 days, so I’ve not had time to let my mind wander. The sets of six reps with 390 in the squat were very tough; we’ll see how 395 goes. The significance here is that my load increases from week to week have now dropped to five pounds instead of 10. However, this is an improvement over last Spring’s best 5’s, with 385.

    It’s been about 10 degrees in the garage for the last few weeks, which makes grabbing the deadlift bar with bare hands a little shocking, so 8 reps were 8 cycles of grabbing the bar, lifting up, and letting down for 10 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of plunging my hands deep into my pockets, seeking any heat my groin could spare.

    As my old coach described it, I’ll be soon ‘running into some walls,’ in the 10-8-6-4 progression. That’s very true, especially in the press and squat. I’m still on 8’s in the deadlift and bench press, so how I’ll handle these uneven arrivals is bit up in the air. I can pretty easily extend the progression in the press by standing up once more and doing some 2.0’s instead of strict presses. By contrast, I don’t want to fool around with the squats. I’ll go through 6’s and 4’s and then hit some maxes on their schedule, not mine.
    Does that make squats more important than presses? How will maxing with some lifts and training with others go? Do I really want to do that? Stay tuned.

    Finally, I had a chance to train a young neighbor the other day. He’s 15 and dying to beef up and get strong for football, but while his school has a fantastic weight room, with racks and platforms as far as the eye can see in the pictures he’s shown me, the program he’s on is absolutely dopey.
    Dopey programs have been the subject of discussion on Rip’s forum a number of times. This case would not seem to be so much the result of mule-headed, uninformed football coaches imposing their will. Rather, it appears to be a fancy, integrated training ’system’ full of silly exercises yet deemed safe by the lawyers and insurance salesmen who are underwriting such a huge operation.
    The gym often handles 90 athletes at a time, and I’ve spotted a very important lower back fault in how the kid moves. He’s had pain that’s been an absolute mystery to both him and his doctor, and the one coach in the room with 90 kids - and the insurance company covers this? - has never noticed this problem, let alone provided proper instruction.
    The solution that’s just popped into your head might not be so easy. Stay tuned here as well.

    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 1/8/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps Tom: 395 JC: 155
    2. Press: 3 sets of 4 reps Tom: 165 6, 6, 5 JC: 85
    3. Deadlift: 1 set of 8 reps Tom: 470 JC: 220

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups; 4 with 67 lb kb
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#6 - 9 drop) 195, (#9 - 13) 162.5, (#13 - 16) 220
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 315 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 6-8 reps Tom: 245 JC: 107.5
    3. Isotonic-Isometrics SQUAT 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#10 - 16) 335, (#15 - 22 [top]) 395, (#21 - #3 upper holes) 525
    4. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 185 - 225 JC: 95+
    5. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    6. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 355 JC: 140
    2. Press: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 150 JC: 77.5
    3. Isotonic-Isometrics DEADLIFT 3 sets of 1 six-second hold; [blue mats and 2”x4’’’s]
    Holes (black beams - #6) 415, (#6 - #1 close holes) 460, (#10 top - #5 close holes) 595
    JC: Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps 167.5

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 9) 240, (#8 - 13) 280, (#12 - 16) 365
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    row 6000 meters

  3. #93
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    It’s a little sooner than I had imagined, but the walls are closing in. The walls ending my 10-8-6-4 progression, which my coach predicted would be along in ‘about four weeks,’ are going to roll in right on time, or even earlier. This week, my 395 pound squats came in sets of 4. 165-pound seated presses went 4, 4, 3. Bench Presses went 7, 7, 6, with 245. The deadlifts did not go at all Monday, probably because the squats took everything out of me.

    This is a slightly premature implosion, especially since I was just going on about how great this routine is. Still, in the interest of journalistic objectivity, I’ll spell out what’s happening:

    1. The end is fast approaching, mainly in the squats at this point. I’ll try 400 for 4’s next week, but if those slow fourth reps in each 395 set are any indication, it’s going to be a battle.
    I switched to seated presses a few weeks ago, to cut down on any pinches in my lower back while grinding out strict reps. Strict (seated) reps with 165 is absolutely new strength territory for me. Last Spring, my best 2.0 Press sets of 5 were with 175, and I would think seated 165’s would translate to 2.0 175’s and beyond.
    That’s the plan, by the way, to push ahead with 2.0 standing sets.
    The rack work will become seated, especially in the interests of safety and consistency in the upper ranges. These might have to become partial presses instead of isometrics holds, due to limitations with the rack, though I’m studying my options.

    2. I remember now: these routines always end in despair and lost opportunities, like love affairs gone wrong. I haven’t done a 10-8-6-4 progression since high school. I’d just about be in tears as the 4’s died away, especially if other kids kept going. ‘That’s it? No fair!’

    3. As each exercise’s rep progression ends, it becomes time to extend the trend as far as possible, in the form of maximum singles. I’ll begin pyramids that go 4-2-1-1 (with a deloaded, cool down set of 4 or 5 afterward). If I plan well, Coach says, pyramids could last a month.

    4. The deadlift rack work has to change. The top range weights were getting dangerous - as in 585 last week. Coach sounded the alarm when he realized the isometric holds had gone way above 500.
    [This is a thought for another day, a secret, a slight bomb to drop this early on, but it would appear that the partial lifts discussed in STARTING STRENGTH are the modern day derivations of old rack work.]

    People who have followed this blog will want the bottom line: this dual progression of conventional reps and isotonic-isometrics . . . . does it work?

    Pro: The good news is that I’ve sailed right into the limits I had reached last Spring, before my move. I’ve even edged past them here and there. Hopefully I’ll be able to edge the singles a bit past where they were.

    Con: Once the weights got heavy, my rate of increase absolutely crashed. I expected better.
    I was hitting new and amazing rep counts all the way up the ladder, 335 for 10’s, 365 and 375 for 8’s, but really, 8’s with 375 should mean something better than hard 4’s with 395.
    Yes, 385 for 6’s and 395 for 4’s are new accomplishments, but I’ve done 415 for 3’s.

    Squats seem to be suffering the most. In the bench press, sets of 10 with 225 and 230 had me giddy. They felt like push-ups. Just now, are 7, 7, and 6 with 245 proportional to that? I guess so - but I figured that the weeks of training between 230 and 245 would have pushed my numbers a little further along than that.

    Could the crash be a function of time, a long term fatigue catching up to me? My coach would probably feel this way.

    The bottom line remains: those promising high rep counts don’t seem to be accurate predictions of my performance with heavy weights. All that work doesn’t seem to have pushed my performance ahead quite as far as I imagined.

    It’s a little soon for any deep analysis. I have as much as another month to chalk up successes. My coach has been the voice of calm as the bullets fly all around me, shooting everything off the walls. ‘Reload,’ he’s saying. ‘This is how the pyramids are going to go. Stay cool.’
    He’ll also remind me, ‘Yeah, well, you’re not 16 anymore.’

    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 1/15/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps Tom: 400 JC: 155
    2. Press: 3 sets of 4-5 (2.0) reps Tom: 167.5 JC: 85
    3. Deadlift: 1 set of 8 reps Tom: 470 second session JC: 220

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics and partial PRESSES
    Holes (#8 hooks - 9) standing iso-iso 200;
    seated partials (# 1 top range ) 155x 3-5 (#4 top range) 185x 3-5
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 320 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 6 reps Tom: 250 JC: 107.5
    3. Isotonic-Isometrics SQUAT 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#10 - 16) 320, (#15 - 22 [top]) 395, (#21 - #3 upper holes) 525
    4. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 185 - 225 JC: 95+
    5. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    6. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 360 JC: 140
    2. Press: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 150 JC: 77.5
    3. Halting DEADLIFT and Rack Pulls [blue mats and 2”x4’’’s]
    Halting Deadlift (black beams - above knee) 345x 5, Rack Pulls (#8 - top) 405x 5
    JC: Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps 167.5

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 10) 240, (#8 - 13) 285, (#12 - 16) 370
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    swim 1 mile
    Last edited by Nunedog; 01-12-2018 at 09:39 AM.

  4. #94
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    Here’s a news summary from the past week, with a fairly major headline hidden within:

    The sets of 4 squats with 400 pounds went surprisingly well, the reps as crisp this week as they were awful with 395 a week before. Granted, the fourth reps each time were nice-and-steady grinds, but they all felt feasible, and I did not have that exhausting sense of my soul leaving my body with each rep, the way I do when I’m in over my head.
    I’m optimistic about 405 next, though I realize I shouldn’t think about it. I was pretty sure I’d be going down in flames with 400, so I didn’t care, which probably helped those early reps move as fast as they did.
    470 was good for 6 reps in the deadlift, and 250 went 6, 6, 5 in the bench.

    My young friend, the football player whose parents we know and whose lower back was not behaving properly, came back for a follow up visit, and his form is much improved. He deserves all the credit; in fact, it’s gratifying to see a kid go home, think about a problem, and solve it. If I did anything clever, it was to use his phone to take pictures of an ideal lumbar position as well as what was happening to him as he got into a deadlift or power clean position, so he’d have the pictures for reference. However, he’s the one who went and hit the Superman holds and practiced his movement in the mirror.
    Three weeks ago, he wanted to learn about the power clean, so equally mind-bending for him was the Rippetoe approach of winching the bar to just above knee level and then launching both body and bar with a jump. ‘Don’t worry,’ I assured him. ‘You’re not going to learn this in one day.’
    Wouldn’t you know it - he went and worked on that, too. Really, he likes doing snatches, and, he told me, his coach at school stopped to compliment him on his technique the other day.

    This was valuable because I discovered a couple of cues I can use . . . . in a new coaching gig I’ve just landed. Readers who have followed me for any length of time have heard me wish that I could start paying back the Gods of Iron. Nearly two weeks ago I was approached to be a parent volunteer for a ‘developmental sports program’ (just to keep things a little private for now.) I’ll teach both high school and college athletes.
    We don’t know anything about strength training, management told me.
    ‘No problem. What we should do is concentrate on a handful of basic movements,’ I said in familiar STARTING STRENGTH language. ‘This way we can create some steady, incremental progress. That’s the definition of training, which is a very different thing from just thrashing around and getting exercise . . . ‘
    This opportunity was a bolt from the blue. It is fortuitous bordering on miraculous. I can’t help but imagine that ol’ Father Lange enjoyed the blog post.

    The snowy streets have made Tuesday’s sled pulling a lot easier. Back in the days of lighter weights and higher reps, I described how fast I was swimming, rowing, and sled pulling. Now that the weights are heavy once more, things are not so fast. The swimming and rowing are all right, but Tuesday mornings, a day after all those heavy squats and deads, my hamstrings and glutes are not entirely pleased to be out dragging a sled around.
    A nice, snowy road makes all the difference. It only trims a minute off the the 16 it takes me to trek out to my turnaround point, but I’m not slanted over so much, driving against the weight. That hard wind coming off Lake Erie can sting, but if it brings snow and ice, I’m not complaining.

    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 1/22/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps Tom: 405 JC: 155
    2. Press: 3 sets of 4-5 (2.0) reps Tom: 170 JC: 85
    3. Deadlift: 1 set of 6 reps Tom: 480 second session JC: 220

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics and partial PRESSES
    Holes (#8 hooks - 9) standing iso-iso 205;
    seated partials (# 1 top range ) 155x 5 (#4 top range) 160x 3-5
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 325 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 5 reps Tom: 252.5 JC: 107.5
    3. Isotonic-Isometrics SQUAT 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#10 - 16) 320, (#15 - 22 [top]) 395, (#21 - #3 upper holes) 525
    4. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 185 - 225 JC: 95+
    5. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    6. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 365 JC: 140
    2. Press: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 152.5 JC: 77.5
    3. Halting DEADLIFT and Rack Pulls [blue mats and 2”x4’’’s]
    Halting Deadlift (black beams - above knee) 355x 5, Rack Pulls (#8 - top) 445x 5
    JC: Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps 167.5

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 9) 242.5, (#8 - 13) 290, (#12 - 16) 375
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    row 6000 meters

  5. #95
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    It’s been a bit of a surprise to find these high school and college kids as enthusiastic as they are about strength training. Very few in our group of 40 or so have experience, and this is pre-season training for another sport, but they all seem game; already I’ve seen some signs of real talent emerging.
    The gripe about young people, on social media, though I suppose people have always said this through the years, is that they lack grit; they can’t handle hardship. These kids are taking it head on. I suspect it’s because we’ve shown them a feasible way to do so.

    Having taught them the four basic movements, the back squat, press, bench press, and deadlift, I have them on a classic STARTING STRENGTH A-B-A, B-A-B schedule, with a few horizontal rowing ‘pull ups’ on ‘A’ days, classic chin ups, pull ups, or lat machine pulls on ‘B’ days, and some sit ups on each. They’re starting a linear progression, though I haven’t overwhelmed them with too much terminology. ‘Notch up the weights five pounds,’ I say at the beginning of every session. Since we started with empty bars, that’s pretty manageable for just about everybody.

    It takes a little creativity to get a large group to grasp important ideas, so the moment must be a participatory experience, not a lecture. The introduction that squats ‘enable the greatest amount of weight to be moved over the greatest distance with the greatest amount of muscle mass’ is not a bad attention-getter, but the drill with the praying hands and dropping into a squat position with one’s elbows pushing out against the knees is where the learning really starts.
    All the cues and the line of reasoning, stolen fair and square from STARTING STRENGTH, work fantastically. The kids really respond. I was slightly worried about a mob of smirking teenagers, but they drop right into their drills and warm ups. They take giant, rib stretching breaths to straighten their backbones, and without hesitation they hit the deck to arch like Superman or Superwoman, so they can feel how their lumbar arches must be locked into position.
    Other coaches have probably noticed this: they seem to learn best by watching one another lift.

    This is not to say there haven’t been some challenges. Some kids are pretty weak, though the larger issue is that they seem to lack kinesthetic sense, and certainly any experience moving under load. One girl simply didn’t know how to squat - with or without weight. She couldn’t drop her hips below a 45 degree angle. That was the end of her awareness of how far her body could change shape. I had to get her away from the rack, of course, doing CrossFit styled air squats and trusting herself to drop further and counterbalance with her upper body.
    Tall, fast growing teenage boys bend at the spine, not at the hips. A trained athlete, when they drop into a chair or a squat, or lean over to pick something up, keeps his or her pelvis in line with their backbone. The joint doing the rotating is at the hip and thighbone. These six foot tall 15-year-old boys, by contrast, especially when they’re standing, will keep their hips in line with their legs and bend - hideously, alarmingly - above the waist. More than once have I turned and gone wide eyed to see this happening on deadlifts, and I’ve had to dash over right away and talk them through things once more.

    Yes, some kids really are as weak as lambs, which can be striking if you’re not used to that sort of thing. One older girl is glam-skinny like a model, but these are mostly younger kids whose hormones don’t seem to have kicked in yet. For some of them I’ve had to put a light deadlift bar on the rack at thigh height. They take the bar off the rack and practice descending from the top, going down and then up through the motion. We’d do this for a set or two before starting reps from the ground. One girl couldn’t hack the 45 pound bar for presses, but once we did a round with a 25 pound bar and then 35, she grasped the balance at play. The 45 isn’t so bad now. This took place within minutes. Kinesthetic sense would seem to be mainly experience, knowing way forces want to move both the bar and the body.

    Everybody is diving right into the program. I’m pretty sure they see the approach as consistent and well thought out. They hear me harp on safety, problems can be solved pretty easily, and success appears pretty straightforward. I’m pretty lucky as well; they’re all good natured kids who get along and are willing to help one another.

    So, that’s great. End of essay; though I just got an e-mail forwarded from one of the other coaches.
    From a parent, whose kid is just joining: “ . . . . We both feel it is too early for her to be lifting weights. We would like her to practice good form, but just lift the bar for now. We just feel she is still growing and a little young for the weights. . . . “

    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 1/29/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps Tom: 410 JC: 157.5
    2. Press: 3 sets of 4-5 (2.0) reps Tom: 172.5 JC: 87.5
    3. Deadlift: 1 set of 4 reps Tom: 490 second session JC: 220

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics and partial PRESSES
    Holes (#8 hooks - 9) standing iso-iso 210;
    seated partials (# 1 top range ) 160x 3-5 (#4 top range) 162.5x 3-5
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 327.5 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 5 reps Tom: 255 JC: 110
    3. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 185 - 225 JC: 95+
    4. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    5. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 370 JC: 142.5
    2. Press: 3 sets of 6 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 155 JC: 77.5
    3. Halting DEADLIFT and Rack Pulls [blue mats and 2”x4’’’s]
    Halting Deadlift (black beams - above knee) 360x 5, Rack Pulls (#8 - top) 450x 5
    JC: Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps 167.5

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 9) 245, (#8 - 13) 280, (#12 - 16) 355
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    swim 1 mile

  6. #96
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    A few weeks ago, I was expressing my frustration with the 10-8-6-4 progression and the isotonic-isometrics. ‘The walls are approaching,’ I was saying; ‘this is a slightly premature implosion,’ and I was disappointed that my work sets were not climbing to the extent that my earlier high-rep counts predicted.
    Well, to Hell with it, I figured. ‘These are like love affairs gone bad.’ You can’t always get what you want. I’ll move on to pyramids, get some maxes, and then draw some lessons from the experience.

    Only one problem has come up since that declaration: I’ve kept going.
    This week, I hit three sets of 4 reps with 410 in the squat. Weeks ago, 395 was horrible, which is why I figured the jig was up. A week later, 400 was a surprise. 405 was tough - and 410 was miraculous.
    These were some amazingly slow reps Monday. If someone came along and saw, say, reps 2 or 3 from each set, they’d figure it was a max single. I’d still plug along; the #4 reps in each case were probably four seconds long, but I got them. In fact, the last rep on the last set was so slow out of the hole that I figured I might as well listen to the song playing on the radio, since this was going to take a while.

    410 represents a personal record for 4’s, but grinds this long are a new accomplishment as well, and this is where some old friends showed up right when I needed them most: the isotonic-isometrics. That’s where I trained to hold position and drive mercilessly for blasts of six to eight seconds. That would explain how, even when the weight was barely going anywhere, I wouldn’t break or see any particular need to bail.
    I do think I’m done with 4’s, so I’m going into pyramids, though a lot happier than I would have been three weeks ago.

    When the rack work for the press started getting heavy, my coach explained that the bottom range does not have to go so high anymore. Instead of going from my collarbones to my eyebrows, I could stop just below my nose. In that lower range, he said, you’ll be able to boost a lot of weight.
    He was spot on. I should be handling more than I am, having just boosted 210 while feeling a ton still in the tank. The benefits, however, are beginning to show. In my conventional reps, I can really launch 172.5, 82% of 210, off my chest with a lot of speed. It’s flying as the bar passes my eyebrows, and the finishes are no problem. Sets of 5 with 172 or 175 is where I left off as Summer began and my 5-3-1 ended.

    The epic squats thrashed my deadlifts for the week. The best I could manage was 405 for 4, instead of 490. The bench presses were fine despite staying out to catch Blues Traveler at the House of Blues the night before.

    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 2/5/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps JC: 157.5
    Tom - pyramid 4-2-1-1-5: 365, 395, 420, 435, 325
    2. Press: 3 sets of 4-5 (2.0) reps Tom: 175 JC: 87.5
    3. Deadlift: 1 set of 4 reps Tom: 490 second session JC: 220

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics and partial PRESSES
    Holes (#8 hooks - 9) standing iso-iso 215;
    seated partials (# 1 top range ) 160x 3-5 (#4 top range) 165x 3-5
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 327.5 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 5 reps Tom: 257.5 JC: 112.5
    3. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 185 - 225 JC: 95+
    4. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    5. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 4 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 370 JC: 142.5
    2. Press: 3 sets of 5 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 157.5 JC: 77.5
    3. Halting DEADLIFT and Rack Pulls [blue mats and 2”x4’’’s]
    Halting Deadlift (black beams - above knee) 365x 5, Rack Pulls (#8 - top) 455x 5
    JC: Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps 167.5

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 9) 245, (#8 - 13) 285, (#12 - 16) 325
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    row 6000 meters

  7. #97
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    Dark times are upon us. Now that the Super Bowl is over, civilization has to struggle along for nearly six months without football. I’m not a fantasy league guy, or I won’t be getting wound up in the draft and combine this Spring; I’m in it to see power and athleticism in play. A friend has tried to get me interested in international rugby, and I should look into that. I don’t even know when their season runs.
    Lately, however, I’ve been diverted by a series of features on Facebook about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. It’s entitled TOM VS. TIME and is produced, or overseen at least, by Brady himself. I’m not a Patriots fan nor one to gush over Brady’s greatness, though in the Super Bowl, when he got the ball once more with two minutes remaining and down by a few points, I was among the rest of the world thinking, ‘Uh oh, he’s about to steal this game.’

    I’m not quite as won over by TOM VS. TIME as I am intrigued. It’s broken into episodes that focus on aspects like the Physical, Mental, and even Social sides of the game. As of this writing, I’ve most recently seen ‘The Spiritual Game.’ These are not the analyses one would really hope for; this most recent episode was to spirituality what the others were to physical or mental training: only so deep. When he’s not surfing with his supermodel wife in Costa Rica - which, admittedly, is probably enough to start a guy wondering, ‘Dear Lord, how can I repay Thee? - he’s explaining to the camera that he gets to explore great spiritual truths through sports.
    He has a point, but he only sort of develops it. All the hard work, perseverance, overcoming defeat, and that kind of thing develop a spiritual strength, essentially, but that’s where Brady stops. He does NOT admit that these struggles, as they apply to success on a football field, are the defining themes of his life, though everybody watching already knows this.
    I don’t know if Brady’s not a deep guy or just unwilling to bare his soul on camera, but I get the impression that not even he has probed these depths just yet. That’s the intriguing thing about this series. As superficial as the content seems to be, Brady might be giving away more than he realizes.

    Happily, he is not giving a great deal away about his TB12 fitness regimen. I have no idea to what extent he’s hawking it elsewhere, but TOM VS. TIME is far less a marketing ploy than one might expect. Like I mentioned, there’s not a great deal of training insight; as best as I can guess, TB12 is a speed, mobility, and nutrition program. Brady is as lanky and loose as a teenager, though seemingly reliant upon massages as he works out and before and after each game.

    [Now a word from our sponsor, TN53, the fitness regimen for middle aged adolescents who are likewise wondering what it’s all about:
    Why am I going into all of this? No real reason. I hit my 435 squat and the 490 deads this week, though I think I’m at the end of the road on dead reps. Benches and presses went 5’s with 257.5 and 175, respectively, which were limit weights for 5’s last Spring. I think I can push the reps along for a bit longer.
    I just happen to think Brady’s search for meaning is no different from those of bloggers on this site and strength athletes everywhere.]

    If he’s not flogging TB12 and not really getting too in depth with these components of the game, then what is Brady doing with these videos? Is he throwing his fans a bone or trying to steer the narrative because he doesn’t like the media’s coverage? Maybe.
    On one level, he’s trying to tell the world, Yeah, this is a privileged position, but believe me, I have my hands full. This is how it is.
    Dashing and handsome as Brady may be, as brilliant a quarterback and ruthless a competitor as he’s been, he’s always been betrayed by a certain unease and an unsure smile. For a guy who seemingly has it all, he doesn’t seem comfortable in his own skin.
    My belief is that these videos represent Brady’s possibly first, tentative steps in figuring out what it all means - past, present, and future. It’s not us he’s telling how it is; it’s himself. This is in anticipation of moving beyond football, where finding meaning and purpose is going to be all the more difficult. ‘I can’t just quit,’ he must object when his wife implores him to retire. ‘I have to be ready.’

    I wonder if the producers got this past him or if Brady’s a little shrewder than he lets on. The shows reveal how the center of gravity in his life is shifting toward his family. He fawns unashamedly over his kids. They’re no longer babies, and his wife would appear to be getting over all the self-involvement of being a supermodel and star of the fashion industry. One scene hints at the tension between them. Seated together on a couch, Giselle laughs over the promises Brady has broken about leaving football. He’s clearly uncomfortable.

    It begins to make Brady’s non-stop training look a little tragic. This is a guy who runs around in his own backyard in a helmet and pads, throwing either to receivers from his team or members of his trainer’s staff. We see him taking five step drops against resistance bands. He’s hired Major League Baseball pitching coach Tom House to refine his mechanics. He’ll workout off-season with his Patriot receivers, sweetening the deal by springing for a weekend in Montana to bomb around on four wheelers and raise Hell after practice. This is all Brady has ever known. Apparently, rounding up his receivers for extra throws is something he began in high school, and since Brady was never truly a blue-chip recruit or even a top draft pick, he’s always had to work to overcome other people’s low expectations and then work some more to meet his own high ones.
    At age 40, Brady looks like he can keep playing for some time. It must sadden his trainer-guru-masseur to know that the secret to Brady’s success is not in the sauce of TB12 but Brady’s mania to keep going at any cost.
    Soon, however, his wife is going to tell him, Stop. This can’t be so much about you anymore.
    When Brady does hang it up, viewers can already tell, he’s going to sit on that couch and bawl like a child, and she’s going to be the one to get him through it.

    Brady tells the camera at one point that he can sit for hours at a time watching game films. He’s always been thorough and methodical. I’d imagine that he’s planning to sit down and study these films, to see if he can pick up on the messages that seem so clear to the rest of us.
    Tom Brady, superstar, has as much on his mind as any regular folks knocking around this website looking for advice.
    My bet is that this coming season will be his last.

    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 2/12/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 4 reps JC: 157.5
    Tom - pyramid 4-2-1-1-5: 370, 400, 425, 445, 325
    2. Press: 3 sets of 4-5 (2.0) reps Tom: 177.5 JC: 87.5
    3. Deadlift: 1 set of 4 reps Tom: 500 single, 455x2 second session JC: 220

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics and partial PRESSES
    Holes (#8 hooks - 9) standing iso-iso 220;
    seated partials (# 1 top range ) 162.5x 3-5 (#4 top range) 167.5x 3-5
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 327.5 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 5 reps Tom: 260 JC: 115 x4’s
    3. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 185 - 225 JC: 95+
    4. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    5. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 4 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 375 JC: 142.5
    2. Press: 3 sets of 5 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 160 JC: 77.5
    3. Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps Tom 345 JC 167.5

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 9) 250, (#8 - 13) 270, (#12 - 16) 325
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    swim 1 mile

  8. #98
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    An important scene is missing from the DVD of David Lean’s 1957 World War Two epic THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. This is one of my favorite films, and of all the moments that could be lost or damaged, this one seems particularly important.
    It takes place shortly after the American, Commander Shears, is compelled by British Intelligence to join a commando mission he really wants no part of. Shears, played by actor William Holden, is mainly a rebel and a loner, out for no one but himself. In fact, he’s just trudged through endless jungle on a miraculous, thought-to-be impossible escape from a Japanese prison camp on the River Kwai. After Shears recovers in a military hospital, he’s approached by a Major Warden, played by British actor Jack Hawkins, to brief his ‘rather rum group,’ on details about the camp and the railroad that prisoners of war are being forced to build.
    Shears quickly finds himself outwitted - trapped - into returning to the camp on a mission to destroy a vital bridge. Shears, we realize, is a bit of a con man himself, but he’s genuinely horrified at the notion of returning to the Kwai. He’s equally baffled by Major Warden’s eagerness to obliterate things with plastic explosives as well as plunge deep behind enemy lines as if the mission were nothing more than a shooting weekend in the country.
    Shears finds a moment alone with the colonel in charge of the task force - and this brings us to the missing scene. Still in the movie is this: Shears says he gets how the mission is going to go; as for the others involved, one ‘will be all right,’ and another has ‘ice water in his veins,’ but it’s Warden he can’t figure out: Cambridge don, Oriental Languages, ‘Jolly good show,’ and all that sort of thing.
    ‘Well, he’s not without some experience,’ the colonel says, lighting his pipe.
    This is precisely where the segment is lost: Warden joins the conversation with news on an upcoming parachute drop.
    In the original version, the conversation about Warden continues. ‘He stayed behind for us when we lost Singapore,’ the colonel goes on. ‘He blew a few things up but then found himself captured. Soon enough, he spotted his chance and walked out of the jungle.’
    (I’m paraphrasing from memory.) Shears is suitably impressed - but soon Warden enters.

    This is vital. Warden is every bit the real deal he would need to be to lead a team to the Kwai. His escape was just as impressive as Shears’, but of course he’s too much of a gentleman ever to bring it up.

    I have to conduct myself in a very Jack Hawkins or Major Warden manner as I shepherd these 30-plus kids through their training. Of course, only a jackass would attract attention to himself, and any coach should know they’re not supposed to be the star on display. It’s not like I’ve only now figured this out. Rather, it’s just that this humility is working better than I imagined.

    Even Jack Hawkins’ baser instincts must get aroused once in a while. A week ago, as we finished in the weight room, four young dudes swaggered in and made it very clear they’d be taking over the space so some real lifting could begin. One of them yanked the bar off a squat rack and swung it around pretty carelessly, while the others pulled plates off the racks and dropped them loudly on the platform, where some serious deadlifting was about to go down.
    They then proceeded to load the bar and work their way as far up as . . . . 185, which a great many of my kids, at half their size, had just finished using.
    I stood by as my last few grabbed any remaining water bottles or sweatshirts. Had all the banging around been any more hazardous, I was perfectly ready to cruise over. ‘You look like some seriously strong guys,’ I’d say like I was some kind of casual observer. ‘How much is that? I’d bet you can lift it with one hand . . . ,’ which would lead them down the merry path of one-handed power cleans.
    It didn’t come to that. I’m sure they didn’t even notice me.

    The other day, one of my bigger guys loaded some full sized 45-pound plates on a bar and managed a few presses with 135, much to the thrill and amazement of everyone else. For a second, this tugged at a competitive spot in my psyche, I’m ashamed to say, but I stood back and enjoyed the scene. This was something they had never seen before and their moment to be impressed or inspired. The same is true with another guy, who can deadlift 315 for 5’s, which everyone thinks is pretty insane.
    I pour on the praise, and they’re all busy doing their sets and socializing. Not a single one of them, I’ve realized, has stopped to consider whether I happen to lift weights as well. I’m sure they haven’t the slightest interest. What I’m saying seems to be common sense, so they take me completely for granted. I’m older than many of their parents, and they see me pop on my reading glasses every so often. This guy lifts weights? Seriously?

    The lesson here is that I might have missed the mark in my appreciation of THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Rather than Major Warden’s superhuman modesty, it’s his focus on the job at hand that I should be admiring. True men of action go from one exploit to another without dwelling on everything all the time.
    That’s the key to being a true gentleman, filmmaker David Lean is telling us: have something bigger than yourself to think about, such as blowing up an enemy railway bridge or teaching 30-some-odd kids how to lift. Remember, when you have to hoof it through the jungle, you’re on your own anyway, so don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.

    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 2/19/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps JC: 160
    Tom - pyramid 4-2-1-1-5: 375, 405, 430, 450 or 455, 325
    2. Press: 3 sets of 4-5 (2.0) reps Tom: 180 JC: 87.5
    3. Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps Tom 350 JC 167.5

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics and partial PRESSES
    Holes (#8 hooks - 9) standing iso-iso 225;
    seated partials (# 1 top range ) 162.5x 3-5 (#4 top range) 167.5x 3-5
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 327.5 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 4 reps Tom: 262.5 JC: 117.5 x4’s
    3. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 225 JC: 95+
    4. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    5. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 4 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 377.5; single at 415 JC: 142.5
    2. Press: 3 sets of 5 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 160 JC: 77.5
    3. Deadlift: Tom: 500 single, 455x2 second session JC: 220

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 9) 247.5, (#8 - 13) 270, (#12 - 16) 325
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    row 6000 meters

  9. #99
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    Camp 4, The Death Zone
    8,000m / 26,000 ft.
    Not a lot remains at this point aside of the numerous reasons not to go any further. The terror has settled for the long haul into that adrenal pit just below my heart and is probably the single most animating force I can feel at this altitude. It’s nearly matched by a head-sick weakness, something I’d sleep off if only I could, or which anyone would on any other day in any other place. The cold won’t allow it. Everyone by this point has some body part, a foot or a shinbone, that’s been completely penetrated by an icy, unforgiving ache. In the following hours, the frozen deadness will steal through the rest of our skeletons, and the only people who will make it to the summit and back are the ones in whom it doesn’t spread too far. That’s really the silent enemy that has us too scared to sleep.
    We wait in the darkness to strap on our gear for the final push . . . .

    I hope that’s sufficiently dramatic. If I were climbing Everest, I’d tuck my leather-bound journal inside my jacket, knowing full well that the next person reading it might be someone who’s found my body. It would be full of the dramatic moments I did survive. These readers from another era, even if my family were never to learn the truth, would come to know me as I struggled up the mountain.

    Here I am in a similar spot, at Camp Four just below the summit of a 460 pound squat, which has been a mythic height in my life for nearly 36 years. It’s represented an ability I once had and then lost, something that sometimes I think was taken from me, and which for a long time I figured I’d never see again.
    In April or May of 1982, my senior year of high school, in the equivalent of climbing Everest without oxygen, I bounced out of 460, weighing 175 in sneakers and a pair of shorts. I did not own a belt. As best as I can recall, the entire event was pretty unexpected. I might have been past a pyramid and not planning any more maxes, when my coach suggested I give it a shot anyway. The lift went so easily that I was worried I hadn’t dropped deeply enough. I’ve distinctly remembered Coach’s words over the years: ‘No, I saw it. It was good.’
    460 became a crowning glory that capped off an awesome senior year that I’ve described in the past: hockey, trips to the beach, dating a cheerleader, and completing the transformation from the runty little punk I was when I was enrolled as a freshman by my nearly desperate parents. 460 began to slip away, however. A year or two into college, I could no longer use it as a bragging point. After graduation, and a year or two after that, when I was truly done with heavy lifting, the idea of having 460 pounds on my back was absolutely foreign. In the decades that followed, if I ever brought it up to my runner or swimmer friends, it was just something that might amuse them. ‘You know what I did once? . . . ‘
    The number 460 never went away.
    I have to think about this, I’ve realized as I’ve drawn near once again. Why has this number stayed so important? The answer had me worried. It seemed pretty pathetic: seriously, my life was at its peak senior year of high school? I was a little scared of the answer - because yeah, everything really had fallen into place back then.
    Then again, I have accomplished a few things in the years since, and as far as dating cheerleaders goes, I’ve been married to another member of that very same squad for 26 years.

    The other night, 13-year old Rowing Girl and I were driving home, listening to a story on the Winter Games. She asked, ‘Was there ever a time when you really thought you were going to the Olympics?’
    ‘Freshman year of college, when I was introduced to Olympic lifting, I thought I had as good a chance as anyone. I figured that if I were as successful as I had been with the conventional lifting, I’d definitely be a player at the national level.’
    ‘What happened?’
    ‘My coach didn’t believe in strength training. Everything was about technique.’
    That sounded crazy to her, and it does in hindsight, but the zeitgeist in the 80’s was speed and athleticism at the expense of strength. That was presumably how the Bulgarians and Soviets had been rocketing through their lifts for the two preceding decades, leaving the lumbering American dinosaurs far behind. ‘The woods are full of strongmen,’ coach Joe Mills used to say. ‘I want to see some lifters!’
    At first, I beat the dinosaurs, too, the bigger, stronger clods who knew nothing about speed and technique. As time went by, Joe doubled down on his aversion to strength work. ‘Assistance exercises don’t assist,’ he declared, and we all believed him. After all, he had produced champions once upon a time.
    I’ve described this before: what followed were fruitless years of absolutely earnest effort that went nowhere. As 460 ebbed away, a given weight, say 250 or 275 for clean and jerks, suitable for ‘technique’ work sophomore year, was too damned heavy senior year. All the technique in the world won’t help if you can’t handle the weight to begin with.
    By the time I hung it up, I couldn’t see the big picture - and I was beyond caring.

    I now see what the significance of 460 has been all along - or, really, what it hasn’t been. The Olympic lifting represents a time in my life when I placed my fate in the hands of other people. The 460 was my doing. The failed Olympic lifting career is what I got for believing too much in somebody else’s credentials - or not enough in my own. That’s what I get for being polite: ‘Hey, I’m new at this . . . ‘ That’s how I was told to approach Mills, as a matter of fact. Say, ‘I want to learn how to lift.’ I had to subjugate myself if I were to tread on his platform, as he did not suffer fools.
    For the record, I liked Joe quite a bit, and I truly value the friends I made in that time. Still, the psychology is undeniable.

    Back to 460, senior year, and transformations: my capital-‘C’ Coach, in prep school, would be the first to agree that the 460 was all mine. His approach was like Rippetoe’s. He taught us mechanics, programming, and provided some course corrections along the way, but otherwise he let us do our own lifting. A good coach understands his or her role and knows that it’s the athlete who decides how far they’ll go.
    As a runner and swimmer I was self regulated and reasonably successful. The only other time I placed my faith in someone else’s genius was with CrossFit 10 years ago. It was fun, but at least I caught on a little more quickly that things were going nowhere fast.

    This past Monday, I squatted 455 after 435 and 445 in the weeks beforehand.
    455 was a brutal grind, which is why the Everest metaphor is apt in a number of ways. I’m not sure I’m going to make it on this next attempt.
    Will it feel the same, standing on that peak and surveying the landscape? No way. This time I’ll have climbed all those other mountains down below.

    Dual Progression: High Reps and Isotonic-Isometrics
    Week of: 2/26/18
    MONDAY
    1. Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps JC: 162.5
    Tom - pyramid 4-2-1-1-5: 375, 405, 435, 460 or 465, 325
    2. Press: 3 sets of 4-5 (2.0) reps Tom: 182.5 JC: 87.5
    3. Deadlift: Tom: 405 x5 second session JC 185 x5 for 3 sets

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics and partial PRESSES
    Holes (#8 hooks - 9) standing iso-iso 230;
    seated partials (#1 top range ) 165x 3-5 (#4 top range) 170x 3-5
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 115+
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 50, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of Monday’s weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 327.5 JC: 125
    2. Bench Press 3 sets of 4 reps Tom: 265 JC: 120
    3. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 225, 230 JC: 95+
    4. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520+
    5. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: 3 sets of 4 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 380; single at 415 JC: 145
    2. Press: 3 sets of 5 [90% of Monday’s weight] Tom: 165 JC: 77.5
    3. Romanian deadlifts (off rack) 3 sets of 5 reps Tom 355 JC: 135

    4. 4 sets of hanging (gymnastic) rows, with vest
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics BENCH PRESS 3 sets of 1 six-second hold
    Holes (#4 - 9) 250, (#8 - 13) 275, (#12 - 16) 330
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 barbell curls
    7. abs: weighted sit ups; ab-mat

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    swim 1 mile

  10. #100
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    starting strength coach development program
    The 460 did not happen.
    I got out of the hole but not past the sticking point. As far as Everest-level disasters go, the escape from under the bar was pretty easy, so I’d like to think metaphorically I’ve lived to tell the tale. I’ll head back to base camp to regroup, still within striking range conceivably.
    Translated, that means it’s about time to roll into the 5-3-1 / HLM program I’ve used before. I’ve run the squats out as far as they’ll go, and my deadlift has been shot for three weeks already. That’s an issue I have to examine, but gigantic deadlifts were not in store while I was hitting gigantic squat attempts.
    The bench presses and presses are still going. The presses - the progression I’ve always said would die first - will probably live the longest. I suppose I’ll hit a few max attempts in these as the 4’s come to an end, and then they’ll join the 5-3-1 rotation.

    It’s about time, however, to draw some conclusions about this little experiment, the dual progression of high-to-low reps and isotonic-isometrics.
    Did it work?
    It didn’t not work. Taken together, the 10-8-6-4 progression and the isotonic-isometric rack training worked very, very well on my mid-range strength sets, setting numerous lifetime rep-count records. The mid-range would account for weights between 65 and 80 percent of maximum in each lift. This quite possibly has an application for in-season training for athletes like football, basketball, hockey, or rugby players, where practices and games would be counter-productive to training with top-level loads (and vice versa).
    Unfortunately, these higher rep counts did not extend proportionately into weights above 85% of maximum. I did increase my rep counts in these heavy loads for every lift but the deadlift, but not to the extent seen with lighter weights.
    Furthermore, with one significant exception, progress on the isotonic-isometric work largely ceased as I entered the 85 percent plus range in the conventional reps.

    This is a quote from my blog entry as I began the program on September 11, 2017:
    “As I wound up the previous two years living in Maryland (ending in June 2017) these were my best - and very recent - lifts:
    Squat: 445 - three singles in a workout
    Press: 217.5
    Deadlift: 530
    Bench Press: 305
    Power Clean: 270

    Since moving to Ohio, I’ve seemed pretty spent. I deadlifted 510 for a single, 500 for three at one point, and benched 280 for a deuce.
    My best stock-still, utterly strict press is 190, and in the rack, from the pins at chest level, I’ve benched 275 from a dead stop, 10 seconds after lowering it.“


    I’ll take the 455 squat as an improvement, based on the following qualifications: when I hit those 445’s, I didn’t come anywhere near that weight again for some time. That was in late May or June, and after a summer of frustration, I backed down to light weights to begin this routine. Now, despite booting 460 the other day, I’m confident I can edge my way up in the coming weeks. Is it a dramatic increase? No, I’m not fooling myself.
    In the deadlift, I managed 490 for 4 reps a few weeks ago, but more often than not in the past month I was too beaten up to manage top weights, even to get a single off the ground. This is not a victory for deads.
    We’ll see in the next month how things shake out for the press and the bench. Currently, I’m hitting 5’s and 4’s with 185, which used to be weight for 3’s in the press. In the bench, my 4’s with 265 are a record. That was a real coup for 3’s at one point.

    Taken separately, 10-8-6-4 and the isotonic-isometrics have each provided some interesting lessons.
    High reps at light weights would seem to have a lot counting against them. I spent a great many weeks far, far away from the kinds of limit weights with which a 5-3-1 or Texas Method program would steadily chip away at new records. Secondly, as I described, all the inflated rep counts disappeared as I got up to that level anyway, right when they would have made the greatest difference.
    Still, despite how light they were for such a large portion of the program, the 10-8-6-4 progressions, increasing by 10 pounds every week in the squat and deadlift, and by 5 in the press and bench (at first) enabled me to sail directly into the heaviest weights I’ve ever handled for reps. There was no need to spend weeks and weeks edging upward. I have a squat PR, and the upper body lifts bode well - or certainly not any worse than before.
    If, as I said above, the high rep sets, middling weights, and rack work would serve well during an athlete’s playing season, finishing the progression with limit reps and max singles would be the way to swing into off-season heavy training. Once the dual progression was done, the athlete would switch to a more conventional intermediate strength program.

    The isotonic-isometric rack work was successful, which is a statement I have to qualify. I grew steadily stronger in the rack work exercises themselves, and I believe they contributed to my success in the conventional lifts.
    Ultimately, I’m not sure they’re any more effective than the pin- or partial-presses described in STARTING STRENGTH. The one exception to this is in the press, in the bottom position where the bar travels from collarbone level to mustache height. This range is slightly reduced from when it went as high as my eyebrows, but my progress has yet to slow. I’m hoisting 235 pounds for a six second hold, and this launching strength has been a big help. My other two press ranges are trained with seated partial presses.
    I owe the successful 455 squat completely to the isotonic-isometrics, at the very least for teaching me how to grind for 6-8 seconds, if not for the strength they trained. Deep down, I’m not sure I maximized the potential of the rack work when it came to squats. At the bottom range I had; my progress there died at about the time the rack work did everywhere else. However, in the middle and top ranges, I had more in me. I’m encouraged enough by this that I will someday work pin squats into my HLM program.
    I get the distinct impression that partial presses work better in the bench press than rack holds - in my case. My conventional reps died away right as my rack holds did. They’ve been revived, however, by partial presses, which are also climbing.

    The story in the deadlift is in the toll the lift can take on the central nervous system - but it’s here that a larger truth has dawned on me.
    The isotonic-isometrics made the lighter deadlift sets fly up almost like power cleans, but as the rack work and the conventional sets both got heavy, my body was quickly done with the entire exercise altogether. I was heaving 500 or so in the mid range, and nearly 600 at the top.
    The lesson is probably to do just one or the other at a time in a given cycle - the rack work OR the regular lifts, but not both. Remember, the rack work was just three single reps, each a six-second hold, once a week. The regular set was elsewhere in the week and only a handful of reps. Still, the combination was too much.

    I have to be fair to the deadlift rack work even if my preference right now sends me back to Romanian deads. The rack work was working - and climbing, especially in the top two ranges. Here’s that larger truth: it’s quite possible the conventional reps screwed up the isotonic-isometrics.

    This might be true in all of the exercises. This takes me back to my old high school coach’s routine: the isotonic-isometric program was run to its completion before the conventional peak program began. My dual approach has probably sold old Bob Hoffman and his rack work short.
    That means I have to amend my sentence above: I’m not sure [isotonic-isometrics are] any more effective than the pin- or partial-presses described in STARTING STRENGTH . . . in the context of a routine that also trains a full complement of conventional sets and reps.

    Isotonic-isometrics delivered the goods despite difficult circumstances. Someday, somebody has to be truly brave and give them their due: train them as prescribed.

    Heavy-Light-Medium
    Week of: 3/5/18 3 sets of 5 reps week
    MONDAY
    1. Squat (3x5) Tom 375 JC : 165
    2. Press (3x5 - or 4) Tom 185 JC: 87.5
    3. Deadlift (1x5) 415 second session JC 190

    4. 3 sets heavy pull ups
    5. Isotonic-Isometrics and partial PRESSES
    Holes (#6 - 9) standing iso-iso 235;
    seated partials (#1 top range ) 167.5x 3-5 (#4 top range) 170x 3-5
    JC - dips
    6. barbell curls: 3 sets
    7. abs: banded pull downs

    TUESDAY - Conditioning
    sled pull 2 miles; 45, 25

    WEDNESDAY
    1. Squat (80% of [original 3x5 Monday’s] weight) x5, 2 sets Tom: 300 JC: 132.5
    2. Bench Press: three sets of 4 Tom: 267.5 JC: 12.5
    3. Power Cleans 3x3 Tom: 230 JC: 75 - 95
    4. 4 sets of heavy shrugs 520
    5. abs: hollow rockers

    FRIDAY
    1. Squats: [90% of Monday’s weight] (3x5) Tom: 337.5 JC: 150
    2. Press: [90% of Monday’s weight] (3x5) Tom: 167.5 JC: 80
    3. Romanian Deadlifts - off rack - 3 sets of 5
    Tom 360 JC 137.5

    4. 4 rounds gymnastic rows with vest
    5. 3 sets of partial bench presses holes (- 4 -8 -12) . . . . 250, 275, 330
    JC: close grip bench press, T-Bar
    6. 3 sets 5-6 curls
    7. abs: T-bar sit ups

    SATURDAY - Conditioning
    row 6000 meters

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