Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blogs Of Note VI

It's been a while since I've introduced posts from other blogs, but here are a few recent outstanding ones:

*Presentation Zen*

Garr Reynold's blog is a wonderful source of inspiration for anyone who teaches and/or gives presentations and lectures. This post, The Need For Participation, Compassion, and Community In The Classroom (and lecture hall), presents clips from a documentary "Children Full Of Life". Be prepared to be moved by children's pure emotion and the skill of a veteran grade school teacher as he leads and guides his class towards a more empathetic and compassionate sense of community.


Ross Enamait's site is full of great resources for fighters and people interested in bodyweight and home training options. I've heard nothing but good things about his books Never Gymless and Infinite Intensity - they are on my list of books to pick up asap. In this blog post, Ross gives a homemade dipping belt recipe: Dips & Pull-Ups - Homemade Belt

*Dave Draper's Iron Online Strength Conditioning Blog*

Dave and Laree Draper's blog has GREAT guest posts from authors such as yours truly and more well-known authors like Dan John and Gray Cook. In this post, Strong Does Not Necessarily Equal Tough, Gray Cook talks about the follow of trying to coach toughness, when what we are coaching is strength - the takeaway is that toughness comes from the strength training, not the other way around.
The point is not to make things unnecessarily hard; it’s to make really hard stuff become easier, safer and more manageable, and then move to something harder. Somehow squatting weight on an unstable surface does not seem that smart or necessary. Balancing on an unstable surface is a great way to train balance reactions, and squatting with weight is a great way to get strong, but combining the activities only reduces the benefit of each in an artificial attempt to be functional. You can’t fool nature; nature knows it’s a stupid exercise. Instead of trying to make our fluffy exercises harder with awkward angles and bad lines, we should pick some hard exercises that are time-honored and technically sound, and learn the art of making them easy.

Other Blogs Of Note Posts:
Blogs Of Note IV
Blogs Of Note V

Squat To A Million: 553,800lbs Down, 446,200lbs To Go

After 45 consecutive days of squatting, I have logged 553,800lbs. Weekly volume has creeped upward as I've been trying to move things along. Intensity has also kicked up a little - one can only do so many sets with 135lbs, I guess. I'm hoping to finish by June, but doing so will mean daily sessions of 14000lbs+ in May. We'll see.

Please donate to The American Red Cross or to Squat Rx - every dollar will go to charity and every $5 donation will put you in our May 14th drawing for Skwat! t-shirts.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

If You Want A Skwat! T-Shirt...

We're going to have a raffle! For every $5 donated to disaster relief through Squat Rx, your name will be entered for a drawing to win a free Skwat! t-shirt. You can enter as much as you'd like. Every dollar donated will go to disaster relief. Please include a shipping address and t-shirt size when you donate.

On Saturday, May 14th, I will post a video drawing four donor names and then send a t-shirt to each of them. If I draw your name more than once, I will send you more than one t-shirt.

This summer, I will be visiting family in Japan and plan to donate this money raised to a charity in Sendai. So far, all donations have gone to the American Red Cross and I am very happy with that, but I would like to donate to people in Northern Japan more directly if possible. If I am unable to visit Northern Japan due to aftershocks or other circumstances, then I will donate through the Japanese Red Cross.

Thank you so much for everything you've done so far and I hope to hear from you. The raffle will be held on May 14th - please get your name in!

*I've had several people inquire about buying shirts directly since this post - I will likely have assorted sizes remaining after the raffle, but I will be giving many of those to the largest contributors whose names were not drawn. As of right now, the chances of your name being drawn are OUTSTANDING - hopefully many will enter, but so far not so many...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Turkish Wrestling

This is a yearly event in Turkey. I'd have zero interest in competing, but it would probably be fun to spend a day watching.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Squat To A Million - Day 33

Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will pass 400,000lbs.

Please donate: The American Red Cross

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Guest Post From The World's Strongest Librarian

When it comes to book recommendations, there are very few people that I have absolute trust in - Josh Hanagarne is one of them. Josh is an amazing man and writer whose blog, The World's Strongest Librarian,  covers topics ranging from book reviews, to guitar, to Tourette's Syndrome, to strength & conditioning. He offered to write guest posts for readers of his blog and I jumped at the chance. Here is his review of the book "Emotional Awareness". I will be picking up a copy this weekend without fail. Enjoy!

Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance

Book Review: Emotional Awareness 
by Josh Hanagarne

 I first heard of Paul Ekman when I was reading about how to tell if someone was lying by their facial expressions. In his book Telling Lies he really gets into the rampant deceit in the marketplace, in politics, in marriage, and in all of our interpersonal relationships.
 I first heard of The Dalai Lama when…well, I don’t know when, but it was probably from Boris, who has recommended several wonderful books of Eastern thought and philosophy to me in the past.
Emotional Awareness is a series of dialogues between these two thinkers. I think this book is the literary equivalent of the East West smackdown from Rocky IV. It seemed like an odd match to me at first, but that passed quickly.
 These two aren’t antagonists, and I’m guessing there was no snappy soundtrack in the background during their good-natured verbal checks. 
 During their discussion they cover…far too many things to discuss. This is a book of deep thoughts that you could drown in if you started meandering. But I’ll tell you what was most relevant to me. Their discussions of what the Dalai Lama calls “afflictive emotions” and afflictive psychological states.
 Some of you may have followed my Tourette’s case on my own blog. In Emotional Awareness they spend a good deal of time talking about the “states” we exist in. Our mental and emotional conditions.
 These two great thinkers have managed to articulate so many of the things that I have only glimpsed the edges of. Their ideas about “better” vs “worse” align with most of my own—I’m just not as good as talking about it as they are.
 Aristotle described the sense of falling in love with someone as something similar to what I call déjà vu. When we met a person we are entranced by there is a familiarity there that Aristotle attributed to (I’m paraphrasing) the remembering of something we already knew—this is a rough notion of Aristotelian pre-existence. That we don’t necessarily learn things, but we remember things we once knew.
 The reason I mention this is because it is how reading Emotional Awareness felt to me. Their discussions of contempt, nirvana, parenting, attachment, and other concepts all felt familiar to me. Perhaps this simply means that I used to have common sense and now it’s gone.
 Regardless, if you’ve ever enjoyed any of Boris’ or my own reading recommendations, I think Emotional Awareness will be worth your time.
 Thanks Boris.

About the author
 Josh Hanagarne reviews books and more at World’s Strongest Librarian. He is also The Dean of Dunce Academy, has cured his own extreme case of Tourette’s Syndrome,  wishes they made pants in his size, and runs a beauty of an online book club, if he does say so himself.

Friday, April 15, 2011


After 30 days and 30 squat sessions, I have logged 346,135lbs. I go to the squat racks everyday without feelings of entitlement or expectation. I hope to squat at least 10,000lbs per session, but I am not attached to that idea. If my knees or lower back are a little more noticeable than usual, I message, I stretch, I use "Atomic Balm", I look for other squatting options - so far, I've done high-bar, low-bar, manta-ray, Top Squat, and kettlebell squats (among others). Squats kettlebells, or with a sandbag shouldered to one side seem to work magic with mobility and for "evening me out". 

Thank you to everyone who has donated so far and thank you for checking in on this journey. My goal is to finish by June 1st, but no promises.

Please donate: The American Red Cross

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Few And The Proud

One of the best training partners I ever had was a man old enough to be my father - Bob was a Marine and a Vietnam War veteran. He never missed a training session. He never skipped a set. And he never, ever complained about training aches and pains. I think the closest thing I ever heard him say what could have been construed as a mild complaint was "I think I'll take an extra 'Aleve' tonight." I try to remember him as I hobble around, feeling sorry for myself.

This video has made the rounds in blog-land, but I thought it was nice. It gave me some new warm-fuzzies towards The Corp and even though I'm a Pride fan, the UFC as well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One Month Later...

It's been one month since the tsunami hit northern Japan. I've been squatting for 28 days now. 323,215lbs completed. 676,785lbs to go. I'm going to see if I can finish by June but no promises.

Please donate - American Red Cross

Natsukawa Rimi - Asu To Iu Hi Ga

Monday, April 11, 2011

Words Of Wisdom - Dan Millman

Body Mind Mastery: Training For Sport and Life

Body Mind Mastery: Training For Sport and Life

Take this amusing test: A door swings open before you and you see a sink full of water. The drain is plugged, and the water is running. The water begins to pour over the sink's edge. Do you turn off the water and pull the plug, or do you grab a mop?

Many athletes, and others facing the problems of daily life, spend a lot of time "mopping up" - dealing with symptoms. Many couples, for example, argue constantly about various topics when they need to focus instead on communicating more effectively. Developing mental talent involves "pulling the plug" on the primary source of emotional turbulence and physical tension.

One way to appreciate your present state is to contrast it with that of a typical three-month-old. Babies store many of the impressions of movement and energy they perceive in the world. But because they can't talk, and because they don't yet have complex associations, beliefs, opinions, values, and attitudes relative to those impressions, they don't think much about anything. Children don't philosophize, conceptualize, or theorize. Their attention is entirely focused in the present moment, without judgement or expectation. While their intellects are underdeveloped, their attention is also free of the complex fears, angers, attachments, expectations, plans, biases, self-imagery, and self-criticism that characterize most adult minds. Such "ignorance" is bliss.

Babies are body mind masters in their clarity, relaxation, sensitivity, and openness to the environment, and in their simple, direct approach to life - free of mental reaction and resistance. These qualities account not only for their outstanding learning abilities but also for their innate charm and spontaneity.

When you pay close attention to what you are doing, your mind quiets; and in that moment of silence, the symphony begins.

- Body Mind Mastery: Training For Sport and Life (Dan Millman, pp. 41-42)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Man Cannot Live By Squats Alone

Squat To A Million - Day 26

After the morning session of squats and axle deadlifts, my hips and knees were aching. So, in the evening, I went back for pull-ups, Bulgarian split squats, and Twist Yo' Wrist. Not surprisingly, my hips and knees felt MUCH better after the Bulgarian split squats in the evening- it's like truing a bicycle wheel by tightening some spokes and loosening others.

I have a long way to go on this million pound journey and occasional tune-ups are going to be necessary to finish strong and healthy. To that end, I'll be careful about intelligent exercise selection and the inclusion of stretching and maybe a massage or two if I can.

After Day #26: 290,375lbs down, 709,625lbs to go.

Please give if you can. The American Red Cross

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 25 - ガンバレ日本!

I was watching a Japanese news program on satellite tv this morning. It was tough to watch a grown-man who works at the nuclear plant in Fukushima choke up at a press conference as he reported their frustrations. It was tough listening to people relate stories of helplessly watching others being swept away. It was tough seeing people trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives after being relocated in school gymnasiums and vacant apartment units.

I had time for a short training session after watching this. I did some higher rep sets and I was about to call it a day when my iTunes (set to randomly shuffle songs) decided to spit out Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" - it's one of those tunes that always gets to me. Always has - probably always will. Maybe I keep it on my computer just to remind me that I'm not so badass. Whenever it decides to play, I end up fast forwarding through it, but not today...

Please give: The American Red Cross

Friday, April 8, 2011

Training For New And Expecting Fathers

The other day, I was talking to a colleague who is a new father. It goes without saying that he was feeling a bit overwhelmed. In a nutshell, my words to him were:
"Dude, it's not your fault."

If you've ever been a new or expecting father, you know exactly what I'm talking about, but you didn't hear that from me...
I also have some more useful advice for those that are trying to maintain some semblance of a training life as a new and expecting father. This article, entitled "New & Expecting Fathers: Tips For Training and Time Management", originally appeared in Dan John's February, 2008 "GET UP!" newsletter. Coach John's newsletter has some amazing gems - you can find all of his newsletters, as well as his blog at 

New & Expecting Fathers: Tips for Training and Time Management

Fatherhood is a life-changing event. There is “the moment” when the full weight of your new role strikes you. “The moment” may hit others at different times, but hearing that first weak cry when my son was born was it for me. The words “love” and “responsibility” suddenly carried immense weight. From that moment on, I would find myself in a rage when reckless drivers tailgated, swerved, or honked. I’d get angry when people swore around my son. In short, the world became a scarier place that I needed to be able to defend my baby against if the need arose and, in that context, training became an even greater necessity to me.
I can’t prove it, but I believe that becoming a father automatically makes you stronger.
How does this play out in the wild kingdom? Well, take lions, for example; young rogue lions have a rough life - no sex, no pride, no offspring. They have to hang out with other rogue males. They have no pride of their own, which makes hunting harder. When they think they have what it takes, they challenge a pride leader. The king of the pride is probably older, stronger, better fed. If the king loses, he will be stripped of his lionesses, and his cubs will be killed and possibly eaten. Who would you put your money on? Who has more to lose?
The concept of “Dad Strength” is not just “philosotainment” (a term coined by Dan Adams, author of Dilbert) – it actually exists. This may or may not translate to bigger numbers in the gym, but things like being able to open a can of whoop-ass should the occasion call for it, take on a whole new level of significance when you are a father, and not just for lions.
In this modern and sophisticated age, however, your wife probably doesn’t get the importance of being able to pummel young rogue lions (which is your purpose after all, isn’t it?). So, unless you are fortunate enough to be married to someone who shares your obsession with moving heavy things, your “hobby” can take it in the shorts when you are a new or expecting father. There are some things you can do to better your situation and here I present some tips to help you develop or maintain your “Dad Strength” on a limited time-budget. 

*Shift Focus
As a new father, you will find out how heavy 10 pounds can really be. Imagine carrying and protecting a raw egg in your hands while trying to do track and field events – how tired do you think your upper body would get? The answer is pretty damn tired, pretty damn quick. The challenge in holding a small child is not the weight – it is in holding it delicately for long periods of time. Developing “Dad Strength” is a topic for another article, but until your child starts walking, your biggest strength assets will be your ability to carry and load your child + car seat. If you are an expecting father, start doing these exercises NOW: farmers walks, suitcase carries, and “Mr/Miss Stinky Pants Carry” (imagine walking and holding a baby wearing stinky diapers and you’ll get the idea) – you’ll thank me later.

*Front-Load Your Training Week
We all have busy patches when it’s tough to get in a single workout, let alone a string of them. We put off training until later in the week and, before you know it, it’s Saturday already and you haven’t done a single rep of anything except maybe some curls with the television remote. A simple (but not necessarily easy) solution to this is to “front-load” your training week. This means planning your hardest and most productive training session early in the week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday). If you do this, even if you get busy and don’t train for the rest of the week, you still already have one or two good training sessions in the bank.

*Have Your Mother-In-Law Over for a Week or Two
An easy way to save up on training time is to encourage your wife to have her mother over FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME. This will curry goodwill from your wife and, if you clean before Mom-in-law shows up, the reward of extra gym-time is almost guaranteed.
There are limits to this though and diminishing returns with respect to the training time gained. My mother-in-law lives in Japan, so when she visits, it’s not going to be for dinner or chit-chat - it will be something longer than a week and less than a month. After about a week, EVERYONE (including mom-in-law) wants her gone and is looking for excuses to go to the gym. So plan on, at best, one or two weeks of good training with this scheme.

*Get Used To Training at Odd Times
It’s easy to find a solid block of time if you are willing and able to train before everyone else wakes up or after everyone else goes to bed. If you have access to a gym at odd hours or you have equipment at home, the only thing limiting your ability to train is your sleeping habits. Notice that I said your sleeping habits, not sleep. Do not sacrifice sleep, because as Dan John says “Recovery is not a drink. Recovery is sleep.”
Once the kids are tucked in, excuse yourself to the garage or the gym instead of cracking one open. Or, skip the late night websurfing and worthless cable T.V., go to bed and wake up an hour and a half earlier to put in a training session before going to work. Will this suck until you get used to it? Yes, but after a while, you will not miss the time you used to waste watching shows you never really liked that much anyway.

*Give and Ye Shall Receive
If you are a slacker in the “home upkeep” department, you have an uncovered mining opportunity to garner training time. Now, understand that time spent on housework is not directly proportional to training time allowed by wives and, as with mom-in-law time, there are diminishing returns. Too much help around the house will reset long-term expectations of you as a husband, so use this tool sparingly, but, as a general rule, being generous with help around the house will yield more training time.

*Experiment with Time-Based Training Plans
Once upon a time, I believed that if you were serious about “strength” (limit strength, that is), you would stick to low-rep, high-intensity sets with generous rest between exertions. Of course, I still believe that, but after numerous injuries put my non-existent  powerlifting career on hold, I loosened my views of what “acceptable” training poundages in the squat and deadlifts are, especially with high reps and/or limited rest intervals.
As a father, it is hard to find a solid hour or two to devote to training. Training programs like Charles Staley’s “EDT” (Escalating Density Training), or Dan John’s One-Lift a Day routine, or Dan John’s “Training for the Busy Working Guy” plan, or interval training (Tabata, et. al), will let you get A LOT done in less than a half-hour and even less than 15 minutes if you are really pressed for time.
I have nothing but respect for the “It’s Westside or DIE!” types, and if you’re one of them, keep in mind that most of us (unless we were ramping our way up to 600+ pounds) could probably work up to a max single, double, or triple in a given exercise within 30 minutes if we put our minds to it. You’ll have to skip the supplemental and auxiliary exercises, but you can get the max effort exercise in relatively quickly and it’s a simple matter to do supplemental work with extra sessions if you have access to minimal equipment.

*If You Can Do It at Home, Do It at Home
Get Up! readers know this already, but there are a ton of things that you can do at home, even if you don’t own a barbell. With some bands, an Army duffle bag, and a few hundred pounds of sand, you will be able to do most exercises, or at least some variation of them. Throw in plates, rope, duct tape, adjustable dumbbells, and maybe a kettlebell or two and you have a home gym that is as functional as most commercial gyms. Add a “slosh pipe” and you’re freaking cutting edge!!!

*Remember, in the Gym and Out, It’s ALL Quality Time
Staying engaged in life is something that’s pretty tough with the distractions of the modern age. Finding time to train is easier if you can eliminate the unimportant things that distract us from the things that really matter. Television, texting, web-surfing, and video games can be bottomless pits of wasted time. Avoid them.
Those carefree days of admiring gym eye-candy from the water fountain or while you pretend to catch your breath between sets of EZ bar curls are over. Depending on how forgiving your wife is, weekend afternoons playing lazy-ass on the couch are probably numbered as well. You have responsibilities now and you need to take care of business, in the gym and out. Having a vision of where you want to be longer term is important for your lifting career and your family life – invest some time to creating or refining those visions.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Priming The Squat (Day 23)

Today, sets of kettlebell squats with a pair of 24kg bells primed the barbell squat perfectly. The low and forward combined center of gravity warmed up the hips and made the Manta-Ray squats that followed a breeze.

After 23 days of squatting:

14,415lbs today.
256,580lbs so far.
743,420lbs to go.

Please give: The American Red Cross

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Would you be available to discuss this on the phone?"

No, I would not. If you are not forthcoming about who you are and your purpose for contacting me, then no.

Avoid email scams - I was this close to sending off an email before I did a Google search.

Day 21

Feeling beat up, so I did some light work with kettlebells and the Manta-Ray today. Overhead squats with two kettlebells while wearing Vibrams is not easy even when the weight is light (I'm using 16kg bells in the video).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Genius In All Of Us

The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ

Sports geographers point to many crucial ingredients in Kenya's competitive surge but no single overriding factor. High-altitude training and mild year-round climate are critical, but equally important is a deeply ingrained culture of asceticism - the postponement of gratification - and an overriding preference for individual over team sports. (Soccer, the overwhelming Kenyan favorite, is all but ignored among the Kalenjin; running is all.) In testing, psychologists discovered a particularly strong cultural "achievement orientation," defined as the inclination to seek new challenges, attain competence, and strive to outdo others. And then there was the built-in necessity as virtue: as Keino mentioned, Kalenjin kids tend to run long distances as a practical matter, an average of eight to twelve kilometers per day from age seven.

Joke among elite athlete: How can the rest of the world defuse Kenyan running superiority? Answer: Buy them school buses.

With the prospect of international prize money, running in Kenya has also become a rare economic opportunity to catapult oneself into Western-level education and wealth. Five thousand dollars in prize money is a very nice perk for an American; for a Kenyan, it is instant life-changing wealth. Over time, a strong culture of success has also bred even more success. The high performance benchmark has stoked higher and higher levels of achievement - a positive feedback loop analogous to technological innovation in Silicon Valley, combat skills among Navy SEALs, and talents in other highly successful microcultures. In any competitive arena, the single best way to inspire better performance is to be surrounded by the fiercest possible competitors and a culture of extreme excellence. Success begets success.

There is also an apparent sacrificial quality particular to Kenyan training, wherein coaches can afford to push their athletes to extreme limits in a way that coaches in other parts of the world cannot. Sport's Illustrated's Alexander Wolff writes that with a million Kenyan schoolboys running so enthusiastically, "coaches in Kenya can train their athletes to the outer limits of endurance - up to 150 miles a week - without worrying that their pool of talent will be meaningfully depleted. Even if four out of every five runners break down, the fifth will convert that training into performance."

...These are not superhumans with rare super-genes. They are participants in a culture of the extreme, willing to devote more, to ache more, and to risk more in order to do better. Most of us will understandably want nothing to do with that culture of the extreme. But that is our choice.

- The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ (pp. 104-111)

Monday, April 4, 2011

WOD for today? Squats. WOD for tomorrow? Squats!

When I was in college, I became friends with a Japanese family living in the same apartment complex. The children came to know me over the course of several "bulking" phases and later, when I started working in Japan, detrained states as well. They took to calling me "Mr. Balloon" because I'd get big and then I'd "deflate", and then I'd get big again.

Right now, my legs are inflated. I realize some people would be happy to have my "problem", but it's no fun when "relaxed fit" jeans are binding... Dress slacks for work are even worse.

I'm hitting a bit of a wall... My legs are very tired and my knees are a little achey. These are solid signs that I'm overreaching and need a change, so today I dialed it back a little and did some light squats with the Manta-Ray and kettlebells.

8040lbs for the day. 220,825lbs total. 779,175lbs to go.

Please donate: American Red Cross

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It's not over

After 19 days of squatting: 212,785lbs down, 787,215lbs to go. It's not over.

Tens of thousands of people are still living in evacuation centers throughout northeastern Japan. Aid is making its way to them, but it is not enough. Many are still suffering and dying.

Please donate: American Red Cross

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 17 - Light Interval Work

Some days, just getting to the squat racks is a bit of a challenge. With commitment, there is no escape. The discipline is to keep going and not be greedy. Being attached to an arbitrary number or a set is a good way to end the run early.

Day 17 wasn't bad. My legs are tired. I think they will adjust, but for the time being, it's going to be low intensity and the rest of my training will take a hit.

I knew that I wouldn't be able to stomach a late night session, so I used a 25 minute stretch of time I had at about 5pm. The session consisted of a warm-up with the bar x 10 x 2 sets, and training sets of 135lbs x 10 reps x 9 on 2 minutes. I planned to do 10 sets but literally did not have the extra two minutes to spare. It was not hard and felt like mobility work.

Today's volume = 13,050lbs
Total tonnage to date = 190,755lbs

Please donate: American Red Cross