The Wrong Strategy

Recently there was an article in The Seattle Times about the devastating effects on US soldiers from carrying heavy ruck loads in combat (ARTICLE). The article details individual stories of young soldiers with chronic spinal arthritis as well as how musculoskeletal injuries have significantly increased since this war began. Depending on the branch and unit, loads vary anywhere from 70 to 130 pounds. The article calls for a significant “weight loss program” to reduce the average load carried by combat soldiers.

Unfortunately it isn’t realistic to ask an infantryman to carry less weight. How else would the team carry batteries, survival gear, food, water, ammunition, and necessary explosives with them in the field? Vehicles and even pack animals are used when they can be, but there are specific circumstances and specific units who have a mission that won’t allow help with carrying loads. The warriors will have to soldier on, as they say, in order to do what they need to do.

The article referenced several underweight infantrymen.

“I had a choice. But I couldn’t leave my squad behind just before they were being deployed,” said Staff Sgt. James Knower, a wiry, 155-pound soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord who served in Afghanistan for a year despite injuries to his arm and rotator cuff.

A rail-thin staff sergeant in the same platoon, 130-pound Kenneth Rickman, patrolled with armor and gear that typically weighed between 80 and 90 pounds.

There are several things wrong with a guy carrying 70% of his bodyweight all day, every day. First is the institution that put him in that position. Why would a 130 pound man be tasked with a job in infantry — one that specifically demands that the soldier carry heavy loads long distances on a daily basis? That infantryman may also need to carry classified equipment or, god forbid, another American soldier away from a dangerous situation. Trusting someone who is underweight, and inevitably under-strong, with these tasks is a fault of the institution.

Additionally, it’s a mistake to have a “cry for help” to try and reduce loads. Modern warfare demands significant amounts of equipment ranging from communications gear to mortar rounds and tubes. Realistically the loads won’t be reduced any time soon. Warfare and methods would need to adapt, and this environment of this current war (mountainous terrain in the middle of no where) limits technological adaptation to help a platoon move materials from one place to another. The trait that can be influenced in the short-term — one that will help improve the readiness and capability of the soldier as well as limit their potential for injury — is to have a stronger soldier.

A stronger soldier not only will be able to withstand the rigor of carrying 100 pounds on his back all day (and then dropping a small portion of it to engage an enemy followed by picking it back up and moving to the destination), but it will strengthen the structures to withstand the force and strain of heavy loads. Advocates that fight for the improvement of soldier safety (regarding carrying heavy loads) shouldn’t aim to reduce the load, but to prepare the soldier to handle those loads heavier. In reality, it’s the only thing that can be currently effected — focus on the variables that can actually be controlled.

Most of these young soldiers with withering spines were ill prepared for carrying such loads. It’s not that they didn’t have the experience of carrying loads (they do it in training), but that their structures — muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones — were ill prepared to handle the ongoing stress. It’s one thing to increase the contractile force of your muscles, but it’s another thing to increase the density and capabilities of a structures. Bones will react and adapt to the forces that are placed on them, yet slamming them with 100+ pounds of compression forces without any chance to adapt will result in deteriorating mass and structural stability. Instead, soldiers should use a combination of overall strength training with safe ruck marching loads (sources recommend capping training ruck loads at 50 pounds). Squatting and deadlifting are perfect exercises for preparing the entire spinal column to withstand higher forces, and the training ruck marches can condition that strength for prolonged postural use.

A 130 pound — even 150 pound — guy who hasn’t increased the integrity of his musculoskeletal system is ill prepared for the rigor of deployed ruck handling. What actually should happen is under weight soldiers should be put on a strength training regime to increase their body weight to at least 180 pounds with compound, realistic movements that train the musculature and structures involved in a soldier’s job: squatting, deadlifting, pressing, and rowing. It isn’t realistic to begin or maintain a program in an institution like the military. It takes years for large-scale physical fitness trends to permeate, and they don’t have the means for all personnel to get adequately strong anyway. I should point out that doing a leg press or machine row is a poor substitute for effective training. The spine and hips need to be loaded similarly to how they’ll be loaded in the actual job, and that is stabilizing a load that is not constrained to a set track.

It’s unfortunate that many soldiers have lingering effects of courageously carrying massive loads when deployed. The Seattle Times article repeatedly references the musculoskeletal issues, especially on the spine. Good chiropractors that can treat spinal issues as well as the soft tissue surrounding the spinal column should be utilized to help treat battered soldiers. Additionally, they should have effective programs that progressively increase the capabilities of the injured structures to a point where they can handle a load again. Simple, yet intelligent, progressive overload principles over time compounded with skeletal and soft tissue manipulation can help treat these lingering injuries so that the soldiers don’t have to result to pain killers and narcotics to cope (see article).

Alas, changes in the institution’s system will be long, drawn out affairs if they happen at all — it’s just the nature of a large organization responsible for the defense of the United States. Instead, active and former soldiers would do well to educate themselves on how to properly prepare, cope, and rehab with the physical punishment associated with their job. Most veterans who read this site are “in the know” of how to train their body accordingly, but they’d do well to help their friends with these simple, yet helpful lessons. Take responsibility in helping who you can when they will listen. There are thousands and thousands of people around the world that train for the sole purpose of killing Americans, especially American soldiers. We don’t need our lack of proper strength training to kill our soldiers in the field, or slowly killing their spines years after seeing combat.

Shrug Thug’s Story

PR Friday

Post your personal records or training updates to the comments. Keep the bathroom related topics to yourself

Shrug Thug

Brent does Brent-like things online. Here’s a story he told AC. I cleaned up the punctuation (The Shrug Thug refuses to use punctuation).

So, I’m benching at the globo gym and this fucking Asian American fuck face with his cap turned sideways on his fucking head, repping 135 is like, “say bro, you go to UTD?” (UTD is a school around here)

I am like, “Nah man, I didn’t go to school here.”

And he is like “Oh cool, what are you working out for? Getting cut, getting bigger, Strength?”

He proceeds to spend the rest of the workout making friends with me. He says he benched 280lbs at 155lbs and says he used to do 35 pull-ups before he stopped working out. There is a bullshit “leader board” at this globo gym ranking top 5 faggots at squat, bench, leg press, max pull ups, and max push ups. JH is like “I am gonna be on that list for pull ups” as if it’s some big fucking accomplishment.

I am like “Cool man, spot?” because I am benching and need a spot.

He is fucking all pumped about pull ups, he climbed all the way to the top of this big support beam in the middle of the gym (like a 50′ ceiling at least) and he is like, “Let’s do some pull ups. I am all about form man, that shit is the most important. I will show you some legit form on pull ups.”

So he asks me to show him how I do pull ups, and I do.

He says “Good form bro, let me show you how I do them,” and proceeds to not go to full extension.

He wants to “start a team” and have everyone train together. You remember that scene in Inglorious Basterds where they are in the bar and the SS officer is joking with Stiegler, and Stiegler very clearly wants to stab the guy in the face? That was me except instead of stabbing i would have just said, “Your civic fucking sucks and that spoiler you have on it is absolutely ridiculous.”

No, No, No Squat at 600 pounds

Glenn Pendlay coaches some good Olympic weightlifters. Unfortunately Max has a wrist injury that prevents him from lifting. He’s still squatting though:

Someone that is friends with Max sent me the vid after I had seen it, but they told me the following story:

True story: He had serious injury and not worked out for months, no squats no nothing. One morning he was training someone and was standing there in some running shoes, holding a coffee, while looking at his iPhone. Someone had left a squat bar set up with 200 kilos, and Max said “I bet I can squat this cold.” I assessed the situation as easy money for me, and a safe bet I would either call his bluff or he would fail. I offer up $20. He put down his coffee and iphone, walked to the bar a took my money. Not only did he not warm up in any way, he had not touched a weight in 6 months. Fast forward, and Max is back to training, the result a 601 lbs A2A squat.

Moral: Max is mutant strong, do not bet against him. Ever.

A Message to Garcia

Here is an old essay that harnesses a lesson that we all need to be reminded of. I hope that you all take the time to read it.

written by Elbert Hubbard
February 22, 1899

In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba – no one knew where. No mail or telegraph could reach him. The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly.

What to do!

Someone said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How “the fellow by name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and having delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?” By the Eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do the thing – “carry a message to Garcia!”

General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.

No man, who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well-nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man – the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifferece, and half-hearted work seem to be the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office -six clerks are within your call. Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Corregio.”

Will the clerk quietly say, “Yes, sir,” and go do the task?

On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye, and ask one or more of the following questions:

Who was he?

Which encyclopedia?

Where is the encyclopedia?

Was I hired for that?

Don’t you mean Bismarck?

What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?

Is he dead?

Is there any hurry?

Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?

What do you want to know for?

And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him find Garcia – and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.

Now if you are wise you will not bother to explain to your “assistant” that Corregio is indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile sweetly and say, “Never mind,” and go look it up yourself.

And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things that put pure socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? A first mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting “the bounce” Saturday night holds many a worker in his place.

Advertise for a stenographer, and nine times out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate – and do not think it necessary to.

Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

“You see that bookkeeper,” said the foreman to me in a large factory.

“Yes, what about him?”

“Well, he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him to town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and, on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street, would forget what he had been sent for.”

Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the “down-trodden denizen of the sweat shop” and the “homeless wanderer searching for honest employment,” and with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.

Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with “help” that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away “help” that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues, only if times are hard and work is scarce, this sorting is done finer – but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best-those who can carry a message to Garcia.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to anyone else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress, him. He can not give orders, and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, “Take it yourself.

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular firebrand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled No. 9 boot.

Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in your pitying, let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold the line in dowdy indifference, slipshod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry and homeless.

Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds – the man who, against great odds, has directed the efforts of others, and, having succeeded, finds there’s nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes.

I have carried a dinner-pail and worked for a day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.

My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the “boss” is away, as well as when he is home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets “laid off,” nor has to go on strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks will be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted every city, town, and village – in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such; he is needed, and needed badly – the man who can carry a message to Garcia.

I hope that you took something away from this; I know I did. Instead of spoon feeding you the relevancy, I’ll let you stew on it.

One Little Gal’s Meet Review

Thunderthighs and Antigen are regular 70’s Big readers. This lifting couple competed in their first meet this past weekend, and ThunderThighs gives her account here. It’s kinda lengthy, but I enjoyed it and preserved it in its original form. Enjoy.

Hello stronglings! (if you didn’t catch that reference, it is a term modeled after yoda’s gender neutral reference ‘younglings’ to his students in training)

I am not quite sure what to say. I’m not really as wise as the great yoda…but…I have finally competed in a powerlifting meet! I wish I had some great insights for you, but I don’t. I’m so excited about competing that I would just love to share some of the story with you all.

Before I begin, I must try to stress just how much I think each and every fucking one of you needs, needs, needs to compete. This is something that has been stressed multiple times on this site in the past. Well, guess what? It’s true. It’s so motivating. It’s so inspiring. It’s so FUN. seriously.

Ok, so where do I begin? How about the preparation? Honestly, when I first considered registering for the meet, I seriously doubted that it would do me any good. I was convinced I wanted to focus my training on the olympic lifts, and frankly, I’d rather lick a toilet seat than train the bench press most of the time. But I gave it some serious thought and realized there were a few perks to trying it. It was a good excuse to eat. I had most recently competed in the 63 kilo class at an olympic meet, which left me at least three inches taller than the girls I was competing against and hungry much of the time. The weight classes are a bit different for powerlifting, and I chose to shoot for the 67.5 class. Damn, I’m going to miss those post workout meals. (who am i kidding, i just finished a pound of ground beef as i typed the first paragraph…and i’m not training today) Anyway, it was also a good motivator to get my squat and DL up—I had been losing steam in those lifts. Having the meet marked on my calendar really helped me focus and train with some tangible goal in mind.

So I set my goal—I wanted to meet or exceed a total of 500 lbs. I knew this could be accomplished even if I didn’t make any PRs in the three lifts on the big day. I figured it would pressure me into hitting solid numbers, but allow me to stick with weights I was more or less comfortable with, yet still relatively proud of displaying. Does that make sense? I mean, considering it was my first meet and I had no fucking clue what to expect out of the day, I thought I should be primarily focused on not bombing out while still reasonably challenging myself.

Have I mentioned I hate being hungry? I ate and ate and ate and a week before the meet I realized I may have exceeded the class. Oops! But no worries. The night before I simply soaked in an Epsom salt bath and gave up drinking for a few hours. Saul cooked two pounds of bacon the night before the meet and I packaged it up but saved the fat. The next morning I got up a bit earlier than necessary and used the fat to cook an additional two pounds of grass fed beef. I also hard boiled thirteen eggs and packed up a few slices of beef liver we had cooked recently. (side note—i hope to goodness you all have discovered the incredible, magical strength gaining powers of beef liver. it’s dirt cheap and full of protein, iron, and all sorts of good shit i can’t think of right now. if you don’t already eat it, you must start.) I also cooked up a chinese yam for recovery between sessions. For additional highly dense energy, I threw some shredded coconut in our cooler, as well.

Oh my goodness, it was quite hard to avoid food and liquids before weigh in. I didn’t realize how long it takes to check in at a powerlifting meet. If I have any advice for you, it’s to get there early! I brought along my coffee pot because I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t perform well if I didn’t at least somehow retain part of my morning habits. So after I weighed in (I was 66.4, a whole kilo under. Looks like my nerves got the best of me and I really didn’t have to get so dizzy in that damn bath—is this another lesson? don’t get so wrapped up in nervous energy that you accidentally act in a self-defeating or destructive manner thinking that you’re doing the right thing?) I made a really fucking strong ass pot of espresso. Heaven. If you haven’t read the research, please do a quick search of the effects coffee has on lifting.

But, damn. I had very little time to warm up my squat. I literally squatted four weights—I didn’t even get to check my nervous system preparedness with the bar. Some douche bag guy started putting weight on the bar in the warm up room even though he wasn’t going to be squatting for another couple hours—what the fuck? i mean, seriously? I meekly requested to squat the weight he had put on before he could put more on, and he let me go. so I did a couple reps with 95 lbs, 135, 155, and 170. I swear it felt like I only had ten minutes to warm up.

Before I knew it, it was time to start. Wait a sec—nobody told me I’d be squatting on carpet. I’ve never squatted on carpet before. Rubber, yes. Wood, uh huh. Carpet, huh? I took the weight—187—out of the rack and struggled to get my feet where I wanted them. My toes weren’t quite at the angle I like and my heels wouldn’t budge. Well, it started to get heavy so I just went with it. It wasn’t comfortable, and it wasn’t a very efficient set up, but I couldn’t dance around on that damn carpet any longer. I’ve also never squatted with a very large, hairy, incredibly intense man hovering one inch away from my ass and yelling various encouragements in my ear, either. Now that was something I should have prepared for. Mildly erotic, moderately distracting.

I was also unfamiliar with the set up of the attempts. Although this was a pleasant surprise! It’s quite nice that each person takes her first attempt before anyone begins her second, regardless of weight on the bar. I was prepared more for something like olympic lifting where you may or may not have only two minutes between attempts, and the bitch before or after you can change the weight of her attempt to catch you when you are still tired or force you to wait until you are cold. lame. So I got a little more comfortable as the next few minutes progressed.

I was also unprepared for the jumps I had to make—2.5 kilos minimum—this meant I had to squat a weight that I thought would be too similar to my opener, or a weight that seemed like a little bit too big of a jump for me. Well, I chose 198 because, well, I don’t know. It turned out to be a bad choice and I missed my second and third attempts. Whoops. You know, it didn’t even feel heavy. I still was a bit shaky in my confidence to set up on that damn carpet (not making excuses, I promise–just an observation about my ‘feelings’ at the time, which as you may know, can get much in the way of a very able and prepared skeletomuscular system). I furiously looked down and searched the floor and stared at my feet as I set up, which can be seen in my videos. Not a very solid start to a squat.

By the time bench rolled around, I had become acquainted with the spotters. They nicknamed me smiley and were incredibly encouraging. It was so great to be surrounded by that intensity and positive energy. What a blast. As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of the bench. But in this case it was exhilarating! Again, the jumps were a little tricky for me. After benching what was just under my max, I had to attempt a weight almost five pounds above my max—a pretty big jump for me in an upper body lift, especially considering my attempts were under 100 lbs, meaning each jump was a higher percentage of my attempt to begin with. I normally make one or two pound increases on that lift from week to week. So, that’s definitely something to keep in mind for future training of max attempts in preparation for a meet. These choices can be tricky!

So, about the deadlift. Gosh, that was fun! I feel as though I may be writing too much and you may not actually be interested…but I gotta tell you about this part. So, I opened with 209. Easy. I jumped to 220, which I don’t think I’ve ever actually picked up. See, I hit 225 last June (you may have seen my hysterically excited post about it on the site). But since then, I have not once been able to surpass 215. Mental block? maybe? I don’t know, so I just went for it. EASY! So I was like, shit son—i’m gonna fuckin PR! Let’s do this! So I chose 231, a six pound PR because the jump seemed manageable and the PR didn’t seem too greedy. I was afraid if I got greedy I would be punished with failure. even easier!

The only problem….

I pissed my pants.


Remember that coffee I told you about? Well, yeah. It was now running down my thighs. Thankfully my singlet was tight enough to hold it in until I ran to the showers.

So when the weight was halfway up my thighs, all I could think about was:
1) CAN ANYBODY SEE THIS??!?!!! i can’t get it to stop!
2) if i’m going to piss my pants, i’m definitely not going to fail. i will not set this down. you know, you can’t just piss your pants on a failed attempt, it’s just not worth it.

I didn’t think about my form. I didn’t think about my back. (which on the video i think look lovely)

I just kept pulling and peeing. it was life altering.

So, that’s my day in a nutshell. I’m not sure what else to share, but I must say I learned a few things. Mainly, competing truly legitimizes training. It gave me a concrete goal, a time line to complete that goal, and a day to look forward to where I could share my hard work with my peers. Not only that, but I often get discouraged when I see the numbers other women are capable of pushing around. Not to be negative–I think it’s great–holy shit there are some strong women out there! But I sometimes feel as though my struggle to squat what others around me are benching for reps makes me look like I don’t try hard enough or train seriously enough. But when I was setting up for my lifts, it didn’t matter that my weights were a fraction of some of the other competitors’ lifts—the spotters treated me equally. So did the other lifters. They were all so supportive. They rooted for me just as much. They encouraged just as enthusiastically. They acknowledged that my attempts were heavy—maybe not heavy for them, but to me. At the same time, the crowd got behind every lifter that had the balls to get out there and try. It was a great time to cheer each other on as we all challenged ourselves.

Spencer, Vids

Squatland Yard
My friend Spencer is an editor at the sports site Every Day Should Be Saturday and a contributor to SB Nation. He’s been to one of the 70’s Big Workshops, has written this article about AC, has a gnarly mustache, and refers to himself as “more of a pack mule” regarding conditioning. In other words, he’s a cool dude.

A couple weeks ago he asked me some questions that came from his readers for the first episode of his off-topic podcast, Squatland Yard. What resulted is a random, amusing podcast. Enjoy.

Chris and Mike train hard and are reckless. They are both on advanced stages of some kind of TM programming that we’ve tweaked together. Here are a few solid vids.

Here’s Chris squatting 610×2 — more than his old max.

Here is Mike pulling a solid 545×3. He pulled around 580 last summer, and I expect him to break the 600 mark at Militar Nationals in San Antonio.

Additionally, Mike’s brother is a jacked, deep voiced dude who is getting back into training. He smokes an easy 475×3 squat here: