Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Simple. Hard. Obviously.

by Jim Steel | November 26, 2019

getting under a heavy barbell squat

You ever seen stuff from the old days, or even in movies, where a salesman has a “magic elixir” that will “cure what ever ails you,” but really has cocaine and/or alcohol as the main ingredient? Everyone gathered around, listening to this guy's bullshit. It was bad for you – it could kill you – but it was easy. It was exotic. It was new! And people loved it. 

People didn't know shit back then. Easy is better, right? Sorry, Charlie. It doesn't work that way, in anything, but especially when it comes to the weight room and getting stronger. 

I am not surprised. Let's put it this way: I shouldn't be surprised when people fall for silly shit when it comes to strength and conditioning. The problem is that it's simple when training athletes, but everyone wants to make it gimmicky and new so that they can be seen as geniuses when they really don't get it, or when they are afraid, yes, afraid of hard work and being uncomfortable. So they avoid deadlifts and squats and presses, and do things like throw an unweighted swiss ball and call it functional. And athletes fall for it, because what the hell do they know anyway? They trust the guy and do what he says, and then they get hurt or their career ends. It happens all the time. Like a pro football player going vegan because of cow farts. Gone. Right out of the league. 

Bottom line? Get strong as hell in the weight room. I'll handle that part. You as a sport coach? Make them great players. With coaching. Stuff that you know about. Not strength and conditioning. You know zero about it. You wanna piss somebody off? Tell them that they know zero, and make the “zero” sign with your hand. Say it a bunch. They will go nuts. I did that to a supervisor that literally started crying. Well, stay in your lane and I won't make you cry. 

I've done it to coaches as joke. Just when they pissed me off, mostly. Yes Coach! We are going to be absolutely “sports specific” with your team with our exercises! Are strong legs specific to your sport? Alrighty then! Yes sir, we are gonna squat! 

Some athletes get it. I was coaching a volleyball team in the weight room one day. They were between coaches (again). And one of the players came up to me and said, “I hope they don't hire someone who tries to change what we do in here.” I asked why not, and she said, “Because we never get hurt, and we know this is why.” What did I do with them? Squats, deadlifts, presses, sets of 5, sets of 3, sets of 1. That's all. No major injuries, no missed playing time. And nothing that “mimics” the skill in the weight room. 

Don't add weights to your bat. Don't use a weighted racket. Don't tie a bat to a lat pulldown machine and swing (as a division one baseball coach asked me to do). You will lose your skill – it changes your skill to swinging a bat tied to a lat machine. And it doesn't make you stronger, because if you can swing it, it's not heavy enough to make you stronger. Practice the skill the same way that you will use it in a game, and get stronger in the weight room, under a heavy-ass bar. 

Nah, that just makes too much sense. 

Maybe, just maybe, the coaches of the sport can't teach the skills correctly, so they try all kinds of bullshit to mask their ineptness. I have so many stories of “new age” ideas causing nothing but harm to athletes. I've had coaches tell their athletes not to lift, to just do abs, that doing air squats will prepare a soccer team for handling the forces they will encounter on the field (ACL injuries out the ass on that particular team). I've had idiotic, inept supervisors rail against squatting and pulling heavy just because they were personally scared of actually lifting weights. 

You can meditate and do yoga until your balls fall off, but if our talent is equal and I'm stronger than you, I will always beat you. Always. Whether you have visualized it, stood on a med ball and danced about it, had lots of positive thoughts about it, or “functionally trained” for it, if our talent is equal and I am stronger, I will meditate you right into the losers department. 

I train people who go to war (real war, not sports), and if they screw up, they die. Guess what they do in the weight room? They lift heavy weights in the basic exercises, so that if they have to they can carry their buddies on their shoulders, so that when they get in a hand-to-hand combat situation, they are strong enough to kill the enemy. Because if the enemy's fighting talent is equal to his, but my guy is stronger, he will kill his enemy. They don't have time for any bullshit, because their lives are on the line. If I told these guys that they should meditate and do yoga and not lift weights and not get stronger, they would be done with me in a second. Because they are also real smart, and they are not swooned by utter bullshit. 

I have a tendency to believe that the reason folks don't embrace true things a lot of times is because they are afraid. Afraid of the uncomfortable feeling that arises when the bar is on your back or your head feels like its going to explode when you deadlift. Its uncomfortable, and if you have a little spindly never-played-a-sport-in-his-life “strength coach” whispering in your ear that holding a ball over your head and dancing will make you better than getting stronger (a real life example), and you are already afraid, you will have a tendency to listen, because you are already leaning towards softness and away from your fear. 

And then the “coach” will tell you that only football players need to be strong, but your sport (anything but football) is a finesse sport, and you need to be flexible and dynamic and weak as a kitten. They mask it with mumbo jumbo and question why a pro athlete should squat when they make so much money already. 

Huh? So weaker is better? It's not, it never is, and it will never will be. I don't give a shit if you are a singer, if you were stronger you would sing better. Those spindly soft pop singers that the girls swoon over would be belting out love songs much better if they squatted. 

It's pathetic, but its a sign of the times. Everyone gets a platform to espouse what they believe is right. That's cool. But I just can't figure out why folks can't see that the simple hard way is the best way. Hell, it is always the best way.

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