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    LIFT OR DIE El Freako's Avatar
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    Blood and Chalk: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights

    I'm posting up the Blood and Chalk articles from TMUSCLE featuring Lord Wendler. They're all a pretty good read and, as you all might have guessed, I have a massive boner for Wendler.

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    My log - read it f*ckers!

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    There are few things graven in stone, except that you have to squat or you're a pussy.
    -Mark Rippetoe

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  2. Back To Top    #2
    LIFT OR DIE El Freako's Avatar
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    Blood and Chalk: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights


    Blood and Chalk: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights
    by Bryan Krahn

    Jim Wendler of Elite Fitness Training Systems knows a lot about moving big weights.

    As a former competitive power lifter, Jim's best lifts included a 700-pound deadlift, 675-pound bench press, and a 1000-pound squat, which, when you do the math, all totals up to 'really freaking heavy.'

    Jim has since retired from competing, trading in all the physical challenges that come with weighing 275 pounds for fatherhood and a busy career at Elite as Dave Tate's right hand man. But the new lean, mean Jim is even more passionate than ever about strength, having published the popular ebook, 5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength.

    Considering there are about 350 or so 5/3/1 training logs posted at TMuscle, we figured there just might be a demand for a little Q and A with big Jim himself.

    But for those who can't handle a little harsh language, consider yourselves warned. This ain't your mama's power lifting column! The Devil's Advocate always tells it like it is.

    So without further ado and parental advisories, here's big Jim, raw and uncut.

    TMUSCLE: My winter project is to build a yoke so intimidating that it will scare the guys I grapple with. Any tips on growing the traps/upper back/neck? Any benefits to a big yoke?

    Jim Wendler: There are many benefits of a well-endowed yoke. First, it is actually a sign that you lift weights, a calling card that most are afraid to get or don't work hard enough to ever earn. Second, it looks awesome. Third, it gets you out of wearing ties and having to button your shirts' top button (Why the fuck are you wearing a button down shirt anyway?).

    Fourth, because, once again, it looks fucking awesome.

    The first thing you must do is what you should already be doing — training heavy and deadlifting. Do this consistently and never take days off (unless they're scheduled). Repeat for about 5 years.

    The second thing is to do power cleans. Pick up the bar and put it on your shoulders. Do this once a week.

    The third thing is to do some kind of rowing movement: barbell or dumbbell. Don't turn this into a Quasimodo power clean, though. Do this once a week for 5 sets of 10 reps.

    The fourth thing is to get your hands on a neck harness and start nodding your way to a bigger neck. For novices, I recommend 30-50 reps three times per week. Build this up until you're doing 100 reps per day.

    Round this out with some balancing of your shoulder girdle — face pulls, rear laterals, the Joe DeFranco Scarecrow, etc. These should be done WITHOUT emphasis on weight, but rather on the movement. Do this twice a week for 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps.

    Now, before anyone asks, the reason I didn't include shrugs for the yoke (although they are a very good movement) is: 1) To piss you all off and make you cry, 2) 100% of people would be better off if they just concentrated their efforts on deadlifting and power cleaning correctly, 3) I have rarely seen anyone do a shrug correctly, and 4) I have bigger traps than 99% of people and I never do them.

    TM: Whenever I deadlift, my grip always seems to fail before by back or hamstrings. I've tried everything to build up my grip strength, but no luck. Help!

    JW: The typical answer is to say, "Use straps!" but that won't solve anything other than building a bigger ego and a shittier deadlift. There are a couple of very useful things that have helped my once-awful grip into something that is no longer an issue.

    1. Do high rep dumbbell rows. These need to be done with the heaviest weight you can handle for 20+ reps. These are also known as Kroc Rows and do wonders for developing upper back, lat, and grip strength. Your goal should be "whatever dumbbell you think you can't do for one rep" x 50. Seriously.

    2. Do reps on the deadlift. Everyone is scared to do reps on the deadlift because they say they it might hurt their back or that they're training for speed, etc. The truth is that they suck and don't want to do something hard. I know because that pussy was me, many years ago. But doing reps, even as many as 10 or more on the deadlift, is a great way to build your grip strength.

    3. Do high rep shrugs. The same principles apply as the high rep dumbbell rows. Do these with a double overhand grip and a barbell.

    4. Do warm-ups and downsets (if applicable to your programming) in the deadlift with a double overhand grip.

    Notice that every one of these grip enhancers is more than just a grip exercise. This is the definition of 'training economy.'

    TM: After reading some articles at TMuscle and EliteFTS about power cleans, I've decided to add them to my 5/3/1 set up. Will this screw up my squat or deadlift workouts? Any advice you might have is appreciated.

    JW: First of all, power cleans aren't that hard to learn. It seems like everyone believes they're as complicated and difficult to do as organic chemistry. If that were the case, people who stock shelves at Home Depot and Lowe's would be the most amazing athletes ever. Picking something up and racking it across the shoulders is a natural movement, so don't let these experts ruin a fun exercise.

    Now if you're going to be a competitive Olympic lifter it might be different, but you don't need to hire a quarterback coach in order to throw a football around with your friends, do you?

    These aren't going to hurt your squat or deadlift in the least bit; for some this might actually increase their deadlift due to the extra upper back work. I usually have people do these as the first exercise of the day, right before they squat or deadlift.

    Most of the time people get a good boost to their second exercise due to the explosive nature of the power clean. For sets and reps, I highly recommend people use my 5/3/1 set up; it's easy to follow and you might actually get stronger.

    Here are some easy ways to teach yourself how to power clean:

    1. First, be sure you can walk and chew Red Man at the same time.

    2. Please be able to show me you have some kind of muscle development and coordination and can do pushups, sit-ups, dips, and lunges (without falling).

    3. Pick the bar up with good form (i.e. deadlift).

    4. Once the bar passes the knees, jump like you mean it.

    5. Rack the barbell across shoulders and stand up.

    6. Put the bar back down again.

    7. Don't be a fucking pussy with this exercise or wimp it up.

    TM: In your 5/3/1 Manual, you briefly talk about the best lifts to bring up your deadlift. Unfortunately, you go into zero detail, you lazy bastard. Care to elaborate?

    JW: This is really simple and I'll make it easy for everyone. Here are the exercises:

    1. Deadlift. You're already doing this. Just please have some sort of plan, like my 5/3/1 program.

    2. Good Mornings. Do these on your deadlift day, good form, ass WAY back, knees almost straight (slight bend) for 5 sets of 10 reps. This is to build your low back and hamstrings. I do these with the safety squat bar. You don't have to go heavy on these as I rarely do more than 135. Do not wear a belt.

    3. Squat. You should already be doing this. This should be done without equipment, too. Because you're squatting without equipment, you'll be using a shoulder width or narrower stance, which will place great emphasis on your quads. Make sure you're going parallel or lower to bring the glutes and hamstrings into play. Strong legs are important for a good deadlift.

    4. High rep dumbbell rows. This is great for building lockout strength and grip strength. For a long time I could never lock out deadlifts. I thought I needed more glutes, low back, or hamstring work. While these things are important, the high rep dumbbell rows solved the problem for me.

    5. Weighted sit-ups and hanging straight leg raises. For abdominal strength. Do I really need to explain this?

    Do these five things with a plan, purpose, and reckless enthusiasm. Your deadlift will go up.

    TM: This fuckball at my gym (I train at a lame 24 Hour Fitness) actually showed up to squat in a squat suit. I almost killed myself laughing, cause his max weight was 365. I honestly think he was wearing it to impress some of the chicks there.

    But it kind of got me thinking, what I could do with a suit? My best parallel squat is 495, give or take. Theoretically, what could I get out of a suit? What about a bench shirt? My best raw bench is 385.

    JW: It takes a brave man to lift at a 24 Hour Fitness and an even braver one to use a squat suit. The drama that is the Great Gear Debate is overwhelming. Powerlifting is one of the few sports where men will bitch, moan, and criticize what another man is wearing. I never thought powerlifting could end up on Bravo but it certainly looks like it might. Fashion divas!

    Do squat suits and bench shirts help? Yeah, they certainly help you lift more weight. For most, there'll be an immediate carryover, but not what most would consider outrageous. It's hard to get 200+lbs out of a bench shirt. The technique is different, the pressure in your head, chest, back and arms is insane and the weight can feel overwhelming; like your arms are going to break and your shoulder is going to pop out of its socket.

    The same with a squat suit. You might be able to squat more, but can you even take it out of the rack? 700 or 800lbs feels a bit different than 500 and that is something that no suit, brief or shirt can help you with.

    What you can/can't get out of powerlifting gear is going to be determined by your dedication to learning the equipment. And if you don't get a lot out of it, you'll hate those that do and claim it's ruining the sport. And if you do get a lot out of it, you'll claim you really aren't. That's how it goes.

    TM: I have about 30 books and ebooks about powerlifting...5/3/1 is my favorite, of course. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of my books are basically shit. Who should I trust in this field? How do I spot the goods from the bullshit? Can you list your favorite strength training books?

    JW: I'm no expert on training books, but I can tell you how to get a built-in Bullshit Detector. Are you ready for this pearl of wisdom? Sit down and take out your pen or even better, write this in your own blood and semen:

    Train like a motherfucker for 10 years, no breaks, no bullshit, nothing but you and the bar, the rack and some chalk

    Once you do this, you'll be able to read most things about training and realize if they're full of shit or not. You'll see people widely regarded as experts as the charlatans that they really are. Without ever meeting the author, you'll be able to tell if he or she actually has calluses or if they just hide behind a keyboard. It's like this amazing veil of shit will be lifted from your eyes and everything will be clear.

    Every once in awhile you'll lose track, but all you have to do look at someone's shins and hands; do they look fucked up? Then listen to them.

    TM: What's the biggest technique myth that just won't die?

    JW: The biggest myth is that you'll have perfect form when doing a rep max. If it's a true rep max, not a set of 5 reps but a 5RM, your form isn't going to be perfect. This is because it's a REP MAX. If your form was perfect, I doubt it was a true rep max or if you even tried that hard in the first place.

    The problem lies in the fact that there are people who want feedback on their videos during a rep max set and want to know what the problem is with their form. This is fine, except that there are going to be flaws, and there should be flaws.

    In other words, unless you're putting your body in such a position that an injury will occur, or doing something seriously wrong (like squatting with the bar on your forehead or benching with your ass 3 feet off the bench), you're probably okay.

    Now people will ask me and other people where their weak points are — and that's fine — but the weak point myth is something that's best left for another discussion.


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    Blood and Chalk Volume 2: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights


    Blood and Chalk Volume 2: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights
    by Bryan Krahn

    Last month, TMUSCLE proudly unveiled Blood and Chalk with Jim Wendler, a brand-spanking new advice column dedicated to all things that concern the moving of ridiculously heavy weights.

    While reader response to his column was overwhelmingly positive, we weren't sure if Jim would have the time to make a second appearance. (After all, when you're the Hellraiser, Halloween is an awfully busy time of the year.) Well, it turns out that Big Jim got some kinda kick out of slapping sense into TMUSCLE readers, so he's back — and with a fresh set of unedited, unfiltered answers to some of your favorite questions.

    For those who might have a question of your own for Jim, feel free to post in the discussion thread following this article. Just don't be intimated by his seemingly surly personality; the coach wants you to know that there really are no stupid questions; just really stupid people.

    — BK

    TMUSCLE: My new gym has a bunch of heavy chains and rubber bands to play with. I'm new to all this type of gear and just wanted to know your opinion. And how should I use it?

    Jim Wendler: First, you need to find a strong girl and figure out a safe word that doesn't sound like "OWWW!"

    But if you want to use them in a strength-training program, it's actually quite easy in regards to the main lifts.

    First, I assume that every lifter has each set and rep planned in his training (and based on a percentage of that lift). If not, do it. If you don't want to, then I can't help you.

    Second, realize that the lifts done with chains and/or bands are DIFFERENT lifts than the original. For example, a bench press with bands is different than a bench press. So, treat the new bench variation the same as you would a squat — with different numbers.

    Third, find your max for that given lift with the bands or chains.

    Fourth, use the new max to determine the new weights.

    Fifth, make sure you are using the same set up with each exercise — don't set up the chains or bands differently each time. Be consistent!

    Sixth, be careful using the bands for anything else. It's best to have bands set aside for main lifts and then some for assistance lifts. The versions for the assistance lifts (chins, triceps pushdowns, stretching) should be older bands that have served their time around the sleeve of a barbell.

    Remember, using chains and bands is not only for dynamic work. It can be used for just about anything. Just remember what I mentioned about the strength curve and raw lifting in my book 5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength. — that is key.

    TM: Jim, what's your opinion of mixed grip deadlifting? Yes, no, depends?

    JW: This is a simple black & white issue with me. If you're so worried about tearing a biceps that you don't want to do a mixed grip deadlift, you clearly don't want to lift big weight, and therefore you're in the wrong hobby. You probably also own a lot of ties and drink wine- so you and I likely wouldn't get along, either.

    Now if you have grip problems, I highly recommend doing a double overhand grip for your warm up sets or your Boring-But-Big down-sets. But seriously, debating about a mixed grip? What the fuck has this world come to?

    TM: What do you think of the various pre-workout tools lifters use? Surge Workout Fuel? Smelling salts? Ephedra sandwiches?

    JW: This is kind of a double-sided dildo for most lifters. While it's great to have a few things that put you in the proper mind set (music, wearing a certain shirt, taking a supplement) you don't ever want to be so dependent on them that if you DON'T have them, you can't train effectively or even at all.

    Stimulants work, but I never tolerated them very well — some people can. I'd still save them for big training sessions or meets.

    There's a lot of talk about pre-workout nutrition like that Surge Workout Fuel around here and guys seem to be experiencing some very positive effects. I'll admit that I know very little about nutrition or supplements. I barely have a basic hold on training and programming and until I master that, I can only speculate on these things. I hope to one day be able to be good at both like so many seem to be.

    TM: Hey Jim, I've been following 5/3/1 for a few months now. For the most part I like it, except I always seem to hit a wall in my bench press. I'm frustrated because I do everything right, but my max hasn't budged. WTF?

    JW: The first thing I'll tell you to do is to relax and take a step back. How are your other lifts doing? If your other lifts were going well, then I wouldn't worry too much about it. 75% of your training is kicking ass; don't get too caught up in one lift. Everything goes in phases. When my pull is doing well, my press might be suffering.

    But since you sound like you're ready to start crying all over your mom's keyboard, here are some simple tips:

    Back off your training max. I've realized that some lifts need to be reset way more than others, even if I can get the requisite reps + a lot more. My deadlift is one of them. Higher reps make my deadlift go up, so I don't need to train much heavier than 600lbs to pull over 700.

    Make a commitment to getting strong shoulders. In other words, treat your standing press the same as you would any other major lift.

    Back off or increase assistance work for your upper body — just make a change there.

    Do some curls (yes, curls) if you've never done them before. This is a little secret that few people know about. Use a straight bar. Do 5 sets of 10 reps, once a week.

    Last but not least, you're probably too small. Gain weight. Stop typing. Eat.

    TM: In the last installment of Blood and Chalk, you gave some suggestions on choosing the right assistance lifts to bring up the deadlift. On a similar note, what are the best lifts to bring up the squat?

    JW: I knew when I addressed the deadlift last month that this question was coming, so I've prepared accordingly.

    You have to squat. And do lots of squats.

    Are you squatting? Fuck you if you lied to me in the first question.

    See you next month!

    Oh all right, here's a few more:

    Strengthen your hamstrings with glute ham raises or something similar (please don't ask).

    Best lift for overall strength? The deadlift.

    Best for lower back? Good mornings or back raises to build the low back, and also hamstrings and glutes.

    For Quads? Lunges or leg presses.

    For Abs? Weighted sit-ups.

    You should be doing all this stuff anyway — and if you aren't, why not? Did you hop on the latest bandwagon? Did weighted sit-ups and good mornings suddenly become non-awesome?

    TM: I was thinking about getting my wife started on 5/3/1. Are there any changes or alterations that need to be made for women?

    JW: In general, women should train the same as men. I'm not sure how the "women need special shit" myth got started — maybe because guys have "outies" and girls have "innies"? Or maybe because it doubles the number of programs coaches can sell? That said, coaching women might be different, but everyone is different to coach, regardless of gender.

    The only thing that you really have to be cognizant of is that women tend to do more reps at the same given percentage of their max as men. For example, let's say a guy can do three reps at 90% of his max; a girl might be able to get six reps. That's just an example, but hopefully you get the point. I would also highly recommend smaller increments between lifts — use 2.5 pound and 5 pound jumps.

    Now if they're just starting out or have an apparent weakness in a big lift (standing press is usually the most obvious) then you will have to treat these lifts a little differently until they get their feet wet. I'm actually working on a beginner 5/3/1 program for a new book I'm putting together on programming.

    In conclusion, women should squat and bench and deadlift and press just like those with the hang low.

    TM: I've been reading a lot about the Reverse Hyper. Is my gym a bust if it doesn't have one?

    JW: What? I thought the Reverse Hyper also cured cancer and erectile dysfunction!

    The importance of assistance work is almost always overstated. It's important but it seems like it's all that people care about. It makes up 90% of their training time, 95% of their thoughts and 100% of their log posts. That's not good.

    I explain why assistance work is important in my book and it's pretty simple. Reverse Hypers have been kind to me — I don't know if I gained huge increases in my squat and deadlift but my back was never hurt and always felt good. So maybe for me this exercise worked more as an injury prevention movement? There's nothing wrong with that either because you can't train if your back is fucked.

    One of the best things about the R.H. is that it allows you to train your lower back and hamstrings without a bar in your hands or on your back — very little stress to your body. The same can be said with glute ham raises and belt squats. These exercises would be staples in my weight room if I was a football coach and needed a great in-season workout for older guys.

    For sets and reps — I like using a higher volume on this so 3-5 sets of 15-30 reps. My back would be burning and cramping from this but for me it always seemed to work better than lower reps. I did this once or twice a week as my 2nd or 3rd exercise for the day.

    TM: I've heard a lot about the merits of instinctive training and how this is the best way to train. Does this hold water or just another way to get out of doing planned workouts?

    JW: In theory, I think it does hold water. But in practice, for most people it's probably counterproductive. Now this doesn't mean you can't adjust your training day to day a little bit — to account for feeling better (going for more reps on a final set) or feeling worse (just doing the required workout and leaving). But to rely entirely on your instinct requires two things:

    A person that is smart enough to assess his or her own training and monitor their body.

    A person that is strong enough to bypass most traditional training programs that have been proven to work effectively since the dawn of the barbell.

    These two things are rarely found in the same person. The smart ones are usually never dumb enough to push the insane limits of their body. They may be strong in their gyms but never really strong in the eyes of the elite (or even the "sort of strong but probably never really been accused of taking anything"). They always kind of swim in the kiddie pool, safe in the piss warm water of mediocrity.

    But the super strong ones are never smart enough to stop the insanity. These guys get shit on by the "smart ones" but usually only behind computer monitors because, well, these guys would probably kill them. (If their bodies can hold up long enough to fight.)

    So to recommend instinctive training really isn't the best idea. What you need to look at is your training program. A good training program will allow you to progress with the ebbs and flows of your day and how you feel; a poor training program rarely gives you an "out" — you better be on your best game or expect to be highly disappointed. If you're following such a program, either write better programs or find a new mentor.

    But here's a closing rant: one thing that no one talks about is how walking into a weight room tired, over-worked, stressed, and fucked up but then succeeding is a true lesson in mind strength. I don't always recommend it, but at certain times of your life you've got to quit being such a slave to your pussiness and step up and see how well you can do under shitty conditions.

    People have always been working labor jobs for long hours. There are single mom's working two jobs and still finding time for their kids. There are soldiers that fought for our country that were hungry, tired, thirsty, and with pieces of steel stuck in their bodies, but somehow they were able to pull it together in combat. Why can't you get your shit together for an hour and do a couple sets of squats?


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    Blood and Chalk Volume 3: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights


    Blood and Chalk Volume 3: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights
    by Bryan Krahn

    Jim Wendler knows a lot about moving heavy weights, and it appears TMUSCLE readers are digging what he's selling. For this month's installment of Blood and Chalk, Jim decided to change things up a bit and address just a few topics, but go much more in-depth.

    We think this may be his best work yet, and we're not just saying that because Jim knows where we live.

    For those who might have a question of your own for Jim, feel free to post in the discussion thread following this article. You never know, he just might answer your question. Although we can't promise he'll be polite.

    TMUSCLE: What would be the absolute best assistance lifts for the bench press?

    Jim Wendler: Let me start off by saying that the two most important things to improve your bench press are:

    Proper programming.

    Gaining weight.

    Although I'm a bit biased when it comes to programming (see my 5/3/1 Manual as an example of what I consider to be proper programming), just make sure you have a goal and a well thought out (and well mapped out) plan.

    Now with the gaining weight issue — I'm expecting someone to hop onto the discussion thread to beak at me about some mythical lifter in an imaginary gym in North Dakota who benches 450 while weighing 135lbs or something ridiculous.

    Even if this super-stud is anything more than a figment of your prepubescent imagination, never use the exception to prove the rule. (Please write that last statement on the waistband of your Fruit of the Looms and review daily.)

    I can also imagine that the small but painfully vocal segment of 155-pound TMUSCLE readers are rolling their sunken eyes because they're afraid of losing their precious four-packs.

    To all the calorie-phobes out there, here's a relevant (I promise) story for you: strength coach Will Heffernan was recently challenged to bench press 180 kilos, which for you Americans who've never bothered to venture beyond our borders is close to 400lbs. Six weeks prior, Will had benched 350lbs.

    During the six weeks leading up to his 400lbs. attempt, Will trained his bench only two to three times, but simply ATE his way to achieve a bigger bench press.

    Obviously, Will reached his goal (or I'd have been lying about the whole relevant story thing) but he is clearly not alone. If you want to get stronger, especially in the upper body lifts, you're going to have to gain some weight.

    Remember what your primary goal is. Your goal is that you want to increase your bench press. You can't then go and put a bunch of limitations on your goal, or you'll simply end up sabotaging yourself.

    Psychologically, you're just making it much easier to not reach your goal and have a great excuse already in place to fall back on. Simply put, you're afraid of success and want to fail. So if you want to man up and increase your bench, eat more and train smart.

    Now as far as assistance lifts are concerned, you have to look at the bench press and see what muscles are involved in making you stronger. Primary muscles would be the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

    Secondary muscles would be the lats, upper back, and biceps. Now since I'm a big fan of training efficiency, I always try to pick exercises that provide a lot of bang-for-the-buck.

    Dips — Weighted and non-weighted. I have a raging man-crush on this exercise and feel like it is one of the better exercises I've ever done for my upper body. Also, I get an absolutely obnoxious pump when doing it, so it's great to use before you go out on Friday night.

    Dumbbell Bench Press — not much to say about this one except PLEASE use a full range of motion with this. That's why you're using dumbbells.

    Military Press — I think this is so important that I use it as a core lift in my own training (and the 5/3/1 program). Strong shoulders are paramount for a strong raw bench press. I always do them standing (that's how you pee, so that's how you press), with NO WIDER than a "thumbs width from smooth" grip, and a false grip. These are done to the front of the face.

    Bradford Press — Begin by un-racking a barbell much like you would during a military press. Press the barbell so that it's a couple inches over your head. At this point, lower the barbell behind your head. It should now resemble a behind the neck press.

    Press back up so that the bar is a couple inches over your head, and bring the bar back to the front military press position. This would constitute one rep. By not locking out the weight, you're putting the stress on your shoulders and keeping it off your triceps. This is best used for high reps (8-15). (See video at right.)

    Weighted Pushups — You can do these while using Blast Straps, pushup handles, or just by placing your hands on the ground. Weighted pushups can be done a variety of ways: chains across the back/neck, bands in the hands/across the back, plates loaded on the back, or using a weighted vest (or a combination of the above).

    One of the more popular variations of the weighted push-up looks something like this:

    Perform three pushups with your bodyweight. Stay in the top push-up up position while your training partner loads two chains (zig-zag) across your shoulders and back. Perform three more pushups, hold the position again and add two more chains. Keep adding pairs of chains until you can't complete the reps.

    At this point, have your training partner take off two chains and continue doing three reps until you finish with your bodyweight.

    Now for your upper back and lats, you have to understand the difference between raw benching and shirt benching. When you bench with a bench shirt, the bar is brought out to you farther and the bar touches much lower. When using a shirt you must have strong (and big) lats first, and upper back second. This is because the bar is more "in the lats" than upper back when using equipment.

    Now with raw benching, you must have a very strong, stable and large upper back. This is because the bar will touch higher and you should be using a narrower grip — you must be "riding" high on your upper back for optimal support and strength. You don't want to flatten out.

    While face pulls and rear raises are good exercises, their limited loading potential makes them more akin to rehab and structural integrity.

    For my sake, please don't be that guy trying to max out on the face pull or perform rear delt raises with the 80lb bells, complete with super bent arms and the momentum of a swinging Richard. Please, just don't.

    For benching, I've found the rowing variations for building the upper back to be optimal. While I love pull-ups and chin-ups (I always do these, no matter what) it's rowing for your bench that will make a big difference. The key is to row HIGH to your body, with your elbows slightly out. Don't row to your stomach. I recommend using the bent over row, dumbbell row, and TC's personal favorite, the T-bar (thong) row.

    For biceps — Do barbell curls. Nothing revolutionary here; just be like Tiger and do them.

    To sum up — Get stupid strong up front, and big and stabile in rear.

    TM: If you had to choose between the free squat and the box squat, what would you choose?

    JW: My no BS, non-PC answer is this: free squats will trump anything in the weight room for sports. The recovery time is slower than box squats, but that should tell you something- it's a harder movement and requires more muscle, coordination, strength, etc.

    This is easily seen by leg (quad and hamstring) and glute development of a free squatter vs. a box squatter. Box squatters usually have comparatively poor leg development. Some people will argue that you can make up for it with lunges, step-ups, or something similar. But all this tells me is that you could kill two birds with one stone simply by squatting without a box. (Remember training economy? You should, it's important).

    Also, remember that teaching a free squat and having athletes do it correctly isn't as hard as you're probably making it. They DO NOT have to be 100% correct with their form; I'm not even close to what most people will say is perfect squat form, but I still get a lot out of it.

    I believe that it's easier to teach box squats, but most of the problems that people have squatting (besides being scared or whatever) stems from lacking the proper mobility. To me, training for sports is two things: 1) Having the mobility to get into the proper position for sporting performance, and 2) Having the strength to maintain the position or move from the position.

    That's really it. If someone can perform a free squat correctly, or at least fairly correct, that tells me that they're probably mobile enough to do most anything on the court, ice, or field. (Not always, mind you, but it's a good indicator.) So perhaps those guys who absolutely suck at free squats need their training to address the other problems that they're having.

    I also think that three to four workouts to "find" their squat form is fine. You can use these weeks for some lower volume/less intensity work and have them build from there.

    But I'm not entirely convinced that one needs to throw away the box squat either as it does have great applications, especially for those with knee problems. And some people are just awful free squatters...AWFUL. For these people, the box is fine.

    Just remember that you have to treat the box squat as a separate exercise. Many lifters make the mistake of getting good at box squats, thinking that there is a carryover to free squats; it's only when they go out to free squat and shit themselves miserably that they realize that the carryover is limited at best.

    That brings me to something that I've learned the hard way- the box squat transfers better to a geared free squat than to a raw free squat. I've seen this in my own training and countless others. Remember, a squat suit will stop you in the hole, much like a box would. And the suit/briefs will rocket you out of the hole, too.

    So getting back to whether to choose a free squat or a box squat, the real question you have to ask is this: is it important to be good at the free squat, or is it just important that you (or your athletes) perform a squatting movement of some type i.e. box, free, Zercher, belt, etc?

    You have to determine that for yourself, but in a perfect world, the free squat would be the number one squatting exercise for me.

    TM: If you had to pick one piece of equipment to target the posterior chain, what would you choose?

    JW: I'm assuming you mean between the 45-degree back raise, glute-ham raise and Reverse Hyperextension. All three of these pieces are very good and all have their place in a lifter's arsenal. Of course, some might be better for you than others. Here are some of the pros and cons of each.

    Reverse Hyperextension — This machine is the brainchild of Louie Simmons of the world famous Westside Barbell. Louie has had numerous back problems from a lifetime of extreme lifting. After several injuries, Louie took it upon himself to rehab himself and the idea for the Reverse Hyperextension was born.

    With this in mind, the Reverse Hyper is probably best suited for those that need to rehab a bad back, can't do standard back exercises (such as deadlifts or good mornings), but still want to maintain a strong and healthy back. I like to use higher reps with this exercise as I think it's great to force blood into the muscle, but beware- the high reps will pump up your lower back and make you squirm on the ground from the outrageous pump.

    Combine this piece, the glute ham raise, and belt squat and you have the perfect lower body exercises for in-season athletes and those with bad backs, shoulders, or anything injured above the waist. This is the most expensive piece of equipment of the three but it can also really help someone with a bad back — and you can't put a price on that.

    45 Degree Back Raise — This piece is probably the best for beginners and it's easier to load than a standard back raise. The problem with most 45-degree back raises is that they suck! The second you put a bar on your back the thing will tip over. If you can find one that is built with some heft and nice pair of balls (like the one we sell at EliteFTS) then you're in luck.

    Getting in and out of our Pro 45 degree back raise is easy and you can perform multiple reps with heavy weight (185lbs) without the machine moving. Performing back raises on this (with a barbell) is about the same as doing a strict good morning; you will get incredible hamstring and low back work.

    Glute Ham Raise — Of all the pieces on this list, this is probably the one I've done the most. Having strong hamstrings is paramount for any athlete or lifter and the GHR fits the bill perfectly. Besides performing the glute ham raise, you can also perform back raises.

    Now the loading is going to be a little more difficult than the 45 degree back raise, but you can still wear a weight vest, hold dumbbells, or hold a barbell across the back (you'll need a training partner for the latter). Of course, you can also perform weighted sit-ups on the GHR, which was a staple of my arsenal when I was a competitive powerlifter.

    The good thing with each of these pieces is that you're not going to make a bad decision. If I had to pick between the three, I'd choose a glute ham raise with a split pad. GHR's are a great exercise, you can perform back raises comfortably with a split pad and do weighted sit-ups. You just can't go wrong.

    TM: My mom just gave me a set of pots and pans for Christmas. Jim, I don't even cook! So I'm planning on returning them and getting something that might help with my training. Any ideas?

    JW: First of all, you don't need pots and pans. You need a pot and a pan. The pan is to cook (many) grilled cheese sandwiches. Grilled cheese fucking rules and should be eaten three to four times a day as I've found a direct correlation between being awesome and the uninhibited consumption of grilled cheese.

    As for the pot, you need that to cook and sterilize your Fina. That should be a given.

    So make sure you have a pan big enough to cook 2-3 grilled cheese at once and a pot big enough to house a massive bottle of Fina.

    Now take the rest of the shit back to Macy's or wherever you buy pots and pans and pocket the money. Now if you want to use the money to assist your training, we must first examine what can help you achieve your goals.

    1. Brains — can't really buy this. Sorry Corky.

    2. Balls — can't buy this either, unless you're into tea bagging.

    3. Grilled cheese ingredients — you think I'm joking about this? I don't joke. Ever.

    4. BIOTESTฎ GROW!™ Bioactive Whey Protein. Apparently it costs about the same as as the cheap stuff that Wal-Mart sells, which is nice unless you're the type of guy who likes to fart in crowded elevators. But until they make a grilled cheese flavor I will refrain from plugging the product too enthusiastically.

    5. My 5/3/1 Manual. Sure, it's only 20 bucks, but you can probably spend 8 hours searching articles online and piece the program together yourself. I mean, really, fuck that Wendler guy. What has he ever done for you, anyway?


  5. Back To Top    #5
    Elvira turns me on Natzo's Avatar
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    hey I'm going to eat some grilled cheese..

    I haven't had one for years..

    Blood and Chalk: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights

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  6. Back To Top    #6
    LIFT OR DIE El Freako's Avatar
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    TMUSCLE.com | Blood and Chalk Vol 4: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights

    Blood and Chalk Vol 4: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights
    by Bryan Krahn

    2009 saw Jim Wendler introduce his sensitive, politically-correct style to TMUSCLE readers in his popular Blood and Chalk column, where he made it crystal clear that he knows more than his share about all things strength related.

    And now, for the first time in 2010, The Ohio Hellraiser has returned, full of more piss and vinegar than a used douche and ready to help cure your heavy lifting woes. Whether your goal is to hit a 2000-pound total, kick ass at the combine, or just plain be the scariest looking dude in the entire accounting department, Jim's your guy.

    Don't forget, if you have a question of your own for Big Jim, just post away in the discussion thread following the article. Jim loves to help people, and if you're serious about getting strong, you'll listen.

    — BK

    TMUSCLE: I always read about power lifters doing "finishers" in their training, like squatting 315 pounds for 30 reps after regular squat workouts. What's your opinion of finishers? Should power lifters do this type of shit often? Some of these guys online talk like if you aren't lifting until your nose bleeds and your ass leaks, then you're just not hardcore?

    Ahh, finishers. The cool thing about them is that they're fun and probably one of the few feats of mental and physical strength that most of us will ever go through, especially in the safe, comfortable lives that most of us lead. Think about it, it's not like we have to chase down our food or run for our lives on a daily basis.

    Unfortunately, the finisher has been sullied by hardgainers and other random skinny punks that put one in every damn workout and can't figure out why they can only train two times a week when they're 15 years old.

    The role of the finisher in the weight room is one you have to be careful with; you can't use one every time you train or you'll burn out quicker than Ryan Leaf. I've done some really stupid shit, mostly involving squats. In college, I did 330lbs x 30 reps; I was supposed to do 3 sets of 10 reps with 330 and decided to just get the shit over with.

    As a sophomore In high school, we had to do 1.5 times our bodyweight in the squat for as many reps as possible. Thankfully, depth wasn't crucially important, so I ended up cutting most of the reps fairly high but ended up doing 255 for 44 reps.

    These days, most of my finishers are based around some hardcore conditioning: hills, Prowler, sled work, etc. Now I do these activities all the time, but it's how you do them that makes it a true finisher. Usually, I'll have some kind of stupid or crazy goal once a month involving the Prowler or The Big Hill.

    The Big Hill is one of two hills that I run — obviously, The Big Hill is a motherfucker. The current record for sprints up The Big Hill, six, is held by yours-motherfucking-truly. Now I only bother to count the records of people who have some kind of distinguishable muscle mass, not distance runner types that aspire to look like David Beckham. Anyone can run, but not everyone can total Elite and run.

    But the goal this summer is to do 10 sprints up The Big Hill. As a few of my compadres can attest to, The Big Hill will put tangled dreadlocks on your balls before it drops you to your knees.

    Now there is no rhyme or reason to the conditioning finisher. There shouldn't be. There's no progression. There just IS. So if you're looking for guidance on what to choose or how to choose, start looking inside your mind. Or just get a sicker mind.

    I usually think of some really crazy stuff when I'm walking my dog or sitting on the phone at work, having a riveting discussion about the complexities of band tension. I suggest when ideas come to you, write them down and when the time is right (this simply means, "whenever you feel like it") try them out.

    But to sum up, for the most part, finishers are part crazy, part fun, and all stupid. But these are some of the best and most memorable feats of strength that we will ever go through. The problem with weak people (or unsuccessful people, really) is that they're too scared to ever attempt a finisher in their training or their life.

    Whether or not you put this in your workout is usually based on how far out from a contest you are (don't use these things if you're preparing for a meet or a show) or how crazy you want to get. Most of the time, the really, really good ones are done with a training partner who is just being a dick, or starts talking trash. But like Kenny Rogers once told me in a drunken stupor, you gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

    Giving into peer pressure as an adult is pathetic.

    TM: I love low-pulley cable pull-throughs. What do you think of them? Also, I hear you can perform a sled-dragging version of them that also doubles as GPP. Your thoughts?

    My thoughts? Meh. Next question.

    All right, here's the deal. If you're going to do pull throughs, you best stop wasting your time and start doing kettlebell or dumbbell swings. They not only offer a greater range of motion than pull throughs, they're also a total body movement with some hip pop at the top.

    When I was first introduced to pull throughs, I was incredibly underwhelmed. To get any sort of effect, the reps had to be pushed very high and the weight was frustratingly limited due to the fact that you can't load the exercise with any more weight than you can get into position with. But I did them anyway, because a lot of strong folks swore by them, and I assumed they must have some magical properties of some kind.

    Looking back now, I should've just stuck with the staples: good mornings, glute ham raises, reverse hyperextensions, back raises, and straight leg deadlifts.

    The kettlebell and dumbbell swing are very good alternatives, though. Not only do you get low back, hamstring, and glute work, but your traps get some healthy stimulation as well.

    The big problem that I see when people do them is they don't do enough good quality reps; their upper backs aren't strong enough to stabilize the downward swing of the weight and they use way too much upper body English.

    Sure, I've tried dragging the sled like a pull through for GPP. Not my cup of piss. Sorry friend, but I don't jerk around when it comes to sled work. I believe a sled was designed to be loaded with as much weight as you can handle and pushed or dragged until you vomit all over your favorite shoes. Doing a pull through with a sled is like feeding animal crackers to a tiger shark — pretty frickin' pointless.

    TM: I've read that the shoulder press will help out your bench press but the opposite isn't necessarily true. I freaking hate shoulder pressing, I can't seem to get strong. What am I doing wrong?

    First of all, please remember that the shoulder press is probably the slowest to increase out of the four major lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead a.k.a. military press). So you have to be more patient with this lift, and you have to take it slower in terms of progression. It's simply not going to increase like your bench press, just like your bench press isn't going to increase as fast as your deadlift.

    But I sense the vagina-esque frustration in your message, so here are two things that have seemed to help others greatly with their shoulder pressing:

    Take a different stance. Some people have reported more stability and better results with a split stance (one foot in front of the other). A good friend of mine, Ryan Goldstone, switched his stance and immediately got five more reps on his previous best.

    Take a false grip on the bar. I learned this from Jim "Smitty" Smith of the Diesel Crew. Many years ago, Smitty and I were talking about overhead pressing and he told me that he had a much better time with bar path and strength when using a "false" grip (thumbs not around the bar). While many keyboard warriors argue that this is dangerous, I find it to be incredibly safe and far more comfortable. In fact, the false grip was like one of those Trojan Magnums — it felt great from the very first time I used it. There was zero adjustment time.

    Besides tweaking your form, a lot of people just need to make this lift a priority in their training and not treat it like another assistance exercise. Here's a novel idea: try making it as important as the bench press. I've seen this little change in mindset alone make a big difference simply because now you CARE more.

    TM: Whenever I try to improve my conditioning I lose strength in my upper body. I know, that's why many powerlifters aren't lean, but there must be something I can do to prevent this. Any ideas?

    And please, don't give me that bullshit answer, "You gotta pick a goal, either improve your strength or your conditioning." That's a cop-out. Lots of NFL players are ridiculously strong and fast and lean.

    Well, I have to say that I admire your drive and your goals, but let's look at this another way:

    You're trying to compare yourself and your training to that of a professional football player. That, kind sir, is absolutely retarded. But I'll give you a free pass, just because I feel a little sorry for someone as hopelessly delusional as you appear to be. Just don't send me any of your "Elvis helped pull off 9/11" conspiracy theories, okay?

    Anyway, I'm going to take a wild guess that you're probably frustrated by your declining strength over your current training cycle (which, for most people, is about two weeks before you get frustrated and move on to the next big program you read about online) and don't realize that it's going to take some time for your body to adapt to the increased work load you're imposing on it.

    Listen Corky, NFL players (or any professional athletes for that matter) don't just decide to try out for the big leagues the day they graduate from high school or college. There's an extremely lengthy, almost life-long building-up process that allows them to knock heads with the biggest and the best.

    Allow me to use myself as an example, so you can get an idea of what more than five years of college football is like, in terms of training load.

    January — March: Morning conditioning, usually a series of grueling circuits done over the course of an hour. Most people puked and got run into the ground. This goes on three days/week. You also lift four days a week.

    Spring Ball season: Practice begins at 6 AM and lasts for about two hours. Conditioning performed after each practice. Lifting three to four days/week.

    Spring Ball to end of School: Lift four days/week, running three to four days/week.

    Summer Sessions: Lift four days/week, run four days/week, 7 on 7 drills every day.

    Pre-Season: Two to three practices/day. Lifting is minimal due to heavy practice schedule.

    In Season: This depends on the coaches and the school. We lifted three days/week. Hard practices (hitting) on Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday was half-pads but you still ran a lot. Conditioning was hard on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sunday was usually a one-mile run and some pool work. Every practice started with a 10-15 minute dynamic warm-up.

    Now, most people that played college ball obviously played in high school first. Many times, the running was more intense and crazy in high school. Most football players also played another sport. So for about 10 years they have built up this incredible base of conditioning and work capacity. In other words, their bodies have adapted to it.

    So my frustrated friend, my advice to you is to give yourself 10 fucking years of the above if you want your body to react like a pro athlete's. Until then, choose ONE goal and go for it. Serving two masters isn't going to get you where you need to be.

    Now this doesn't mean you can't be in shape and be strong. But the trouble with wanting both is this:

    What is strong? What is "in shape"?

    I have very clear notions of what both of these mean to me. I know exactly what I think it means to be strong. I know exactly what it means to me to be in shape. But that's just me. What is strong to you? What is in shape to you? And more important, what does being "strong AND in shape" mean to you?

    Define each of these with CLEAR numbers and performances. The more specific, the better, none of this "I wanna be strong and look jacked" crap. I know I've started to go off on a bit of a tangent here, but you always have to know what you want before you dedicate yourself to the task. Otherwise, you're just wasting your most valuable commodity: your time.

    And last but not least, you better be willing to give blood to get what you want.

    TM: I rarely bench wide anymore. I'm basically shoulder width or about 14-inches. I know this compromises my max strength but it feels way easier on my shoulder. What do you do?

    Well, I'm with you on this one. I made the switch to all close-grip pressing and have had no problems. It's better to bench a few pounds less over 20 years than bench big once and have the rest of your life limited to dumbbells, machines, or nothing at all.

    Most people who do wide grip benching and switch to a closer press will have an initial drop off in strength. But over time, you'll build it back up. And I think this is a small price to pay for a lifetime of healthy bench pressing (and any pressing).

    There are a select few people who can press wide for a long period of time (without a bench shirt) but these people are a rare breed. It's best to learn from those that have come before you and have suffered shoulder injuries. And don't forget, a bad shoulder will limit your squatting, too.

    Bottom line: stick with the closer grip.

    TM: I love board presses, but I usually train alone so I'm stuck doing pin presses in the power rack. Is this an okay substitution?

    While pin presses have their place in certain programming instances, the majority of power lifters [not necessarily bodybuilders] have found a bigger carryover to their bench press with the good old-fashioned board press. The pin press is really good at allowing you to lift a tremendous amount of weight — on the pin press. It doesn't necessarily transfer to the actual full range bench press. So it's a good ego boost but not much else.

    Board pressing is a good assistance exercise for longer limbed lifters and shirted benchers. Just be wary that you don't turn into a good board presser and a shitty bench presser. These people make great gains on partial lifts week after week, month after month, only to try a full range bench press on competition day and fail miserably. This is also seen on box squats and rack pulls.

    Partial reps can help people, but don't center your entire program around doing half reps. You'll only get half results.

    Bonus Question From the Editors

    TM: Hey Jim, you're like the power lifting equivalent of Deepak Chopra. Give us something inspirational. Tell us the 10 things you learned in 2009?

    I hate questions like this. I feel gayer than a French horn just having to think about it.

    But since you asked, this is what I learned for sure in 2009:

    • Riding a motorcycle in 40 degree weather in the pouring rain for 400 miles in not smart.
    • If you want to get shit done, wake up before the sun comes up.
    • Always try to lead an interesting life. Get out and kick some ass at what you love to do and make shit happen. Have a life worth putting on the movie screen or in a book.

    Note: arguing on the internet about any subject is the furthest fucking thing from interesting, and if you think that it would make for a cool movie then I'd hate to see your DVD collection.

    • If a fitness expert is a pussy, double whatever his recommendations are.
    • If a fitness expert scares the shit out of you, halve whatever his recommendations are.
    • Choosing to not watch the news is time well saved.
    • Growing an angry-looking beard is cool.
    • Turning down a dinner/night out without an excuse is awesome. It's your life; do what the hell you want.
    • Words to live by: "Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt." — from the movie Ronin.
    • Self-help books are for people that need a hell of lot more than a self-help book.


  7. Back To Top    #7
    LIFT OR DIE El Freako's Avatar
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    Re: Blood and Chalk: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights

    The forum still isn't letting me post the latest Blood and Chalk articles, possibly due to the word limit, so here's the links:



  8. Back To Top    #8
    Mecca V.I.P. tim290280's Avatar
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    Re: Blood and Chalk: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights

    ^^ Word limit and the last bit with the links and author bio. Try just copying the text and nothing else (from the printer version).

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