QB’s Can’t Gain Weight? Bullshit.

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Adam Schefter works for ESPN and is an NFL reporter who gets all the “insider” information. The above tweet is talking about the top three quarterbacks that will be going into the NFL draft this year. These stats are gleaned from the NFL Combine, which allows the NFL personnel to evaluate the talent coming from collegiate sports to the NFL. It’s a lot of mental and physical testing to try and project how well these athletes will do in professional football, yet it is often incomplete because physical stature and prowess do not always make the best football player, though it helps.

I was listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio this morning, and they were talking with various experts on the size of these quarterbacks, particularly Manziel and Bridgewater. The important stats for quarterbacks, from an anthropometry perspective, are height, weight, and hand size. The hand thing is apparently a good projector of success (i.e. it’s easier to hold onto a football in adverse weather), but let’s ignore that. Height is also very important — seeing over the large lineman to throw a pass is important — but we’ll ignore that too. How much a guy weighs and fills out his frame is important because football is a rough, collision-based sport, and frail guys will not have durability. Especially when there are mastodons who weigh anywhere from 250 to 350 pounds wanting to crush your soul.

The experts point out that two of the above quarterbacks weigh 207 and 214. As a “lifting and athletic population”, we know that these guys aren’t heavy. Yet we also know that it’s actually kind of simple to add mass on to a guy, especially when their frame has room to fill out (as both of those quarterbacks do).

What I find baffling is how difficult the experts think gaining weight is. And I’m not even just talking about gaining weight for the sake of gaining it, like in Starting Strength-style linear progression. I’m talking about putting a focus on retaining athleticism, agility, and speed yet increasing lean body mass. Most rookie mini-camps don’t start until the end of May. Training camp starts in July. The season actually starts in September. How long was your linear progression? I got some pretty solid fucking progress in 8 weeks by moving my three-sets-of-five from 325 to 445 while increasing my body weight from 195 to 215 (in 2009).

If the experts think it’s difficult to put five, ten, or even fifteen pounds on a guy in three to six months, then either the strength and conditioning is really shitty, there’s no athlete compliance, or they don’t even try. I’m no expert in the realm of NFL strength and conditioning, and maybe we should get John Welbourn’s thoughts, but it sounds pretty stupid to see a 21 year old’s body and think that it can’t be improved. I’ve done it over and over with athletes, so why can’t they?

Shameless plug, but this diet style would help an athlete build quality mass and aid recovery.

Shameless plug, but this diet style would help an athlete build quality mass and aid recovery.

Edit: I forgot to mention what I would do for a guy that needed to retain athleticism but increase size. I’d have him lift three days a week in conjunction with his agility, speed, and/or skill sessions. He’d squat, press, row, and do pulling movements that wouldn’t interfere much with his other training (i.e. stuff like power cleans, RDL’s, and lighter deadlifts instead of trying to push his deadlift up). A quarterback would be doing weighted pull-ups and chin-ups, possibly some barbell pullovers. I’d throw a Paleo for Lifters diet at him, which would be a quality, clean diet of meat, potatoes, fruits, veggies, and good fats with a little bit of protein powder in quantities that would help him grow. It wouldn’t be all that hard for kids that are described as “not very thick” or having a “slight build”.

AC Meet Recap – 2013 Southern States

I hope that reading about AC’s experience will inspire you to enter a local competition. Have fun and train hard. –Justin

I recently competed in the 2013 Georgia and Southern States Powerlifting Championships hosted by Josh Rohr and held at Meadow Creek High-school.

Started off the day well. Got roughly 7 hours of sleep the night before, which was a lot considering I was really nervous/anxious. It’s only inevitable to get some pre-game jitters. Everybody knows them well. You think about the excitement during the day of the meet. You feel that don’t you…that tingling in your balls? Big metal butterflies fluttering around your stomach? No it’s not testicular cancer; that’s your mind fucking you. Hope you’re wearing a condom.

Fortunately I slept well. Woke up around 6. Made my way to the meet. Checked in/Rack Heights/Equipment check. All done. I get to the scale. The guy looks at me and says 101.7. I stare blankly at him and say words Chris has spoken before “Hey man, I don’t do kilos”. He said I was over the limit. He urged me to go take a shit. I said NAY, I have already shat! The future plan is to compete as a 231 lifter at Nationals and the Arnie so I didn’t really care about weight. However this meant I was lifting at 2:30pm instead of 9:00am. Kinda fucked that one up. I re-weighed in around 12:30.

The other flights were taking a long time to finish. A 30 min delay which turns into a 2 1/2 hour delay. This sucks if you’re waiting around trying to stay calm and keep your energy levels up. Luckily I had a great group of people there to support me. Nelson (my chiro) had some extra energy bars that HE PLANNED ON EATING. He gave them to me. I bought him a 40 dollar Chipotle gift card as a thanks (for the meet and the free chiro work).

Warm-up time finally rolled around. I do some quick stretching/foam rolling, then on to the bar. Squats feel good. I hit my last warm-up at 500. It feels EZ. I’m ready for the platform. My dad let’s me know that I am 3 out. I stay ready for my opening attempt. I’ve prepared for several months for this moment. An easy smooth opener to get into the meet. I’ve tripled this weight before. No problemo.

I FUCKING MISS IT. Great. It felt off-center/mis-loaded. I almost fall backwards. I was ashamed/embarrassed. My family and friends had been waiting all day to watch me lift and I fucking blow my first attempt. Callahan and my dad say to move on. That’s exactly what I did. I ended up reducing my attempts so I could go 2/3. It was the smart move. My confidence would have been shot if I missed another one. They load it to 540 for the second attempt and I crush it. Felt much better. I take 551 after that. It was rough. Not a PR by any means, but my squats were not working that day. A guy named Chris was one of the spotters; he was a real cool dude. He follows 70′s Big along with some other great guys I met. He was right there in the thick of it trying to help and motivate me. It’s great to meet dudes like that.

I talk to Shawn during my breather in between Squat/Bench. Even though my squats didn’t go according to plan, we agreed I was the best looking guy in the building.

Time to bench. It feels way better from the start. As the meet moved on I felt my body and mind working together. We loaded the bar to 350 for my last warm-up. Joke. I go out to the platform with 374 loaded. Blasted it. My abs started to cramp, and I think it was due to some dehydration. I thought I had diluted my Powerade enough, but yeah I was fucking wrong. I take 391 for my second attempt. I was concerned about cramping up at this point. 391 is a PR and even though I’ve done more in the gym the goal was to PR during the meet. My abs cramp even more. Callahan gives me a lift off. I kill it. The commands were loud and quick. I wave my third attempt Bench because I was concerned about cramping. I really wanted to hit 402 on my third attempt and I think I would have been good for it, but I wanted to save myself for deadlifting in case I cramped. At this point in the day this is not where I pictured myself, but sometimes you have to roll with it and make adjustments.

I try to stay calm during my warm-ups. My dad knows I am on the verge of an emotional eruption. He tells me one word when he sees me. Calm. Over and over. I did 500 as my opener. It felt like nothing. My dad puts in 550. He looks at me and he says with a smile on his face “One more then let it all loose”. I’m trying not to cry. Not sure why I need to get upset in order to rage out. It’s mainly a huge stress relief for me. It’s just the way I get pumped up. I take 550 and it feels even better. I turn and look at him and say “Welcome to the fucking show”. I’m in a haze at this point. He says something along the lines of “We are at the show now baby”. My dad is all smiles. He puts in 600. I find a song to play before I am 3 out. Before I know it my dad puts his hand up. He is holding up three of his fingers. I tighten my shoes, pull my socks up, and tighten my belt. I walk over the the line and put on Dom’s death scene from Gears of War 3. The music times out perfectly. The head judge looks at me and gives me the thumbs up. Right when he does it the sound fades and Dom says “Never thought it would end like this, huh? Huh, Maria?“. The first piano strike of Gary Jules’ Mad World hits. Marcus screams “Dom no!”. I can’t stop crying. I scream and rush the bar. This was a moment in the making for over a year. The set-up is perfect. I grab the bar and it was perfectly smooth all the way up. I scream in excitement once it is gliding past my knees. It’s a huge meet PR for me. I let it down after the command and I scream again and hug my dad. Exactly how I wanted to end my day.

For the delays and the changes in weight class I had a great time. I couldn’t have had any better handlers and people supporting me. I went 7/8. 551/391/600. A total of 1542. Placed 1st in the 242′s and I got 75 bucks for placing 3rd overall at the meet. I can’t thank everyone enough. Thanks to everyone who follows 70′s Big. Wish we could train with all of you!

Here is my 3rd deadlift.

Here it is from Brooks Conway’s perspective (who had a pretty good meet). You can see the epic man hug post lift.

A few of the photos courtesy of GT All Sports.

PR Friday and Robert’s First Meet

I asked one of my Vintage Strong lifters, Robert, to write up a recap after his first powerlifting meet last week. I’ve been incredibly proud of his work in and out of the gym, and thought his story would be a great one to share with you all, and knew that he’s a great writer and it would make a good read. What he sent me impressed me even more than I imagined. This is a heart-felt and honest story, folks. Check it out, and post your PRs in the comments as you would any other Friday – but go ahead and mention how many days out from your next meet you are while you’re at it. – Cloud 

When I first started trying to write this I had a difficult time deciding what was worth sharing. Should I talk about how I learned pretty quickly that a competition bench is much wider than the bench I use for training at my gym, and as a result I felt rock solid steady on that thing? Or how on my third bench attempt my face split into a huge grin as soon as I got the press command because I felt how easy 248 was, and then got teased by the judges because, “there ain’t no smiling during the lift?” How about the incredible embodiment of strength in all the participants through their support, compassion, and empathy? Or how I went nine for nine (and got a perfect 27 for 27 from the judges), set four PRs (three coming on my final attempts for each lift), and I shattered my goal of a 1000lb total by hitting 1063? All of these were eye opening, and very important for me, but I was still curious as to what I could possibly have to say that is worth hearing. Then it hit me: this has been my biggest hurdle both in and out of the gym. I rarely understand why anyone would think I am worth whatever he or she is asking of me, because I constantly think I am not good enough. Maybe, just maybe, Cloud is still coaching me out of the gym, and knows I need to work on this… so I decided to write about how I hit 1063 by NOT listening to that asshole little voice in the back of my head that tells me, “you are not good enough,” and instead listened to my coach and my handler (here is a great article by Cloud that hammers this same stuff out very clearly).

Cloud started coaching me back in March. I had been running the Greyskull LP for about a month or so, and had been really enjoying it. However, I had been program hopping for the last three and a half years, and as a result, I had basically the same PRs in March that I had four years prior. GSLP might be a good program, but I finally realized that I needed to reach out and ask for some help.

Cloud slid into the role of coach effortlessly, and he knew really quickly how to explain to me the plans we were implementing, and how to get my head out of my ass. We continued to run a modified LP right up to four weeks out from the meet, when we transitioned to a Texas Method taper approach. I could go into all the detail for you, but suffice to say, that for the first time since my D1 swim coach in college, I trusted someone to tell me what to do, when to do it, and that it would be the right move. I trusted that Cloud knew more than I did, and as a result the whole “not good enough” attitude started to fade.

Come meet day it was impossible for Cloud to be there in person to keep an eye on me. He was out in Austin for his Push/Pull, and I was in Atlanta. Cloud and I did take some time to map out exactly how to approach the attempts, and he made a fantastic plan for me to give to my handler when things got rolling. Enter my buddy Alex.

I asked Alex to handle me because Alex coaches another guy at our gym, Dave, and Dave set some solid PRs a few weeks back. He told me he never knew what was on the bar because Alex put in the weights so he wouldn’t think. I immediately wanted Alex to do the same. As someone who overthinks, I knew I could ruin the meet by overthinking my second and third attempts.

Alex is a few years my junior, but he is a huge inspiration to me. He also competes in the 198lb weight class, and is a trainer at the gym where I train: Core Body Decatur. Besides his great lifting knowledge, Alex is just an all around great person, and despite my insistence on paying him, agreed to come handle me free of charge. I sent him Cloud’s spreadsheet two days out, and all I heard from him between then and meet day was, “looks good, but let’s see how your openers look.” I was a bit disheartened by this, because I of course interpreted Alex’s response as, “You are not good enough to hit those weights.” Boy, was I wrong. Alex did not tell me, but he thought I was shortchanging myself.

When Alex arrived on Saturday morning he completely overhauled what I had planned. He cut my expected warm-up reps by almost two-thirds, and I was admittedly a bit nervous going into the first squat. Next thing I knew, 319 felt like kiddy weight and was quickly followed by a very easy 342 (which was the worst case scenario third attempt Cloud and I had come up with). I was starting to buy in. Third attempt goes up with a bit of a fight, but nothing bad. I went to the table and asked how much it was. They just laughed at me and said 358. 358!? A thirteen-pound PR that easily? That was what Cloud and I thought might be a best-case scenario. Needless to say, I was listening to my handler from there on out.

The bench went similarly. Smaller warm up, super easy opener and second attempt. Third attempt felt so light I grinned like a fool, and then came to find out I had just pushed 248, an eight-pound PR, easily. Moreover, Alex actually had to go beyond the plan Cloud and I had mapped out, because we guessed 242 at best.

Deadlift time: my bread and butter. The one lift I knew I had in the bag. I also knew that I had performed so well on the squat and bench, that all I had to do was hit my 395 opener to break 1000. That felt awesome. No pressure now, just fun time. Same thing: super short warm up, incredibly easy opener. Second attempt, Alex gives me advice for the first time: “Keep your hips high and your shoulders over the bar. This ought to go up pretty easy, but you tend to hitch when you get those shoulders back too early.” Fair enough, except it was not pretty easy. It was SUPER easy. It was also 430, a fifteen pound PR, and what Cloud and I mapped out as my most likely third attempt. I am geared up now, thinking “third attempt, what might happen?” Again, Alex steps close to me, “I have no doubt you have the strength to make this pull, but you have got to keep your shoulders ahead of the bar, otherwise you will hitch.” I step up, start to pull, and it gets going and then it hits me, this is a tough pull. However, I kept my shoulders back, and actually remembered Cloud’s advice instead of Alex’s: “when it gets heavy, just ride it out. Do not let go. Just keep it moving. It will be there.” It was. A 457 deadlift, a forty-two- pound PR, and it sure as hell was good enough.

IPF Classic Worlds

The IPF is hosting the “first” annual IPF World Classic Championship this week in Russia. I use the term “first” a bit loosely, because they had a nearly identical raw contest last year, but slightly changed the name this year (primarily because this year, they are hosting Junior and Sub-Junior Raw classes as well as Open).

Here’s where you can watch it live (scroll down for the schedule – keep in mind that they are 9 hours ahead of the Central Time Zone, 8 hours ahead of EST, etc.): http://goodlift.info/live.php

Here’s the lifter start list: http://goodlift.info/onenomination.php?cid=260

Here’s where you can check out the IPF Classic World Records/Standards, MANY of which will be broken this week: http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com/44.html

Some (American) Men’s lifters of note (I’ll make another post about the ladies):

Eric Kupperstein (59kg) and Shawn Frasquillo (66kg) lift Tuesday at 5pm (in Russian time – subtract the proper # of hours for your time zone). Eric’s been lifting for about 200 years, including last year at the IPF Classic Cup, and has pulled over 550lbs at 123lbs bodyweight, and 578 at 132. Shawn’s a local central-Texas fella who looks about a week out from a bodybuilding show at any point, and holds the US record with a 341lb bench in the 148 class, and 363 as a light 165.

For some reason, we don’t have any entries in the 74 or 83kg Open classes, but LS McClain (another Texan) will put on a great show as a 93kg. You might have seen him win Raw Nationals last year, and if you did, you’ll remember his bench – he hit 201kg/443lbs as a 198 – with a pretty close grip and a minimal arch. He’s a beast. The man he edged out at Raw Nats has a familiar name, and will be competing in the 93kg Junior class – Ian Bell. He will absolutely destroy the Jr. World Standard in the deadlift – probably on his second attempt. He’s got a great chance of bringing another Gold back to Austin. Ian lifts Thursday at 10am, and LS lifts on Friday at 12:30pm (remember, that’s Russian time).

Robert Trettin is a strong young guy that I saw at Raw Nats, but haven’t met. He’ll be in an extremely tough 105kg field, led by Russian Alex-Edward Raus, whose 325kg squat is a thing of beauty. They’ll be lifting Saturday at 1pm.

Everyone knows Mike T. He had a very tough IPF Classics last year (to say the least - read my coverage here), and we’re all hoping he can come out this year and take the gold, though he’s coming in ranked second to a Russian monster. There’s also another American in the class, Michael Hedlesky, who I haven’t heard of, but has very respectable numbers, including a 350kg deadlift. They lift Sunday at 11am, along with the SHW lifters – notably, Brad Gillingham. Brad is an all-time great, and comes in as the heavy favorite to win (and to demolish the WR DL, naturally). Getting up Sunday morning to watch these two classes is going to be worth it!

brad

Take a good look at the American representation in the Junior classes – I’m not familiar with most of them, but I’m sure I will be soon, and so will you. The future of powerlifting in the US – especially raw – is pretty stellar. Guys like Gregory Johnson (who I’ve seen at pretty much every local TX meet, and has pulled 727.5 as a 220) are a lot of fun to watch and have just begun reaching their potential.

 

Agility Ladders

The majority of people in what I call “the online training communities” are general strength and conditioning trainees. That means they are lifting, doing high intensity conditioning, but not much else. They may be competing in powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit, but those sports or competitions feature testing movements that are repeated over and over in training, albeit in different variations. Unfortunately some athletic elements are neglected, no matter how much CrossFit wants to claim athletic supremacy or strength trainees want to claim magical athletic prowess just because they are stronger.

(Here’s a completely inarticulate video about agility ladders. Watch Chris on the ladder — he’s very deft for a 310 pound guy)

General strength and conditioning training doesn’t include many dynamic movements that require re-positioning the body in space. Or any activities that require reaction to visual or other sensory stimulus. And there especially aren’t any rotation or lateral shear stresses on the spine, though we won’t be getting into that today. Instead, we’re focusing on those important athletic skills under the umbrella of “mobility” like agility, speed, balance, and overall kinesthetic coordination. These skills aren’t present in most general types of training, but are prevalent in high school, collegiate, and professional sport training programs. And I think it’s something everyone should utilize.

Agility, or foot work, drills are the easiest activity to add to your training. They aren’t significantly stressful, they can be done in a short amount of time, and can be done as part of your warm-up. Agility drills will also be a safe way for your lower leg structures to adapt to actual activity — stuff other than walking around and squatting. The drills will develop overall coordination, improve balance, and do so dynamically. It’s one thing to think, “I have good balance” when your feet are planted firmly under your shoulders, but it’s another thing entirely to move quickly and need to change direction without losing your balance. At the very least this is useful in a worst case scenario (dodging a moving car, fighting someone, etc.).

Agility ladder drills are a great way to perform foot drills and can be performed as part of the warm-up. I suggest doing your mobility work first, then go ahead and start on the ladder. Drills can be done for 5 to 10 minutes as a general warm-up before moving to your lifting schedule. Whatever drills you perform won’t be debilitating to your lifting, and if it is you are probably out of shape and need to do some conditioning work anyway. If you were going to lift maximally, then I would excuse you from agility work, but if you don’t compete in a strength sport I would have you do agility ladder drills as part of your warm-up every day. Especially for team sport athletes and soldiers.

I’m not going to get into the drills here — this is more of a post to teach the utility in doing agility ladder work — but some of the good ones include one foot in every hole (forward and lateral), one foot in every other hole (forward or lateral), single Ickey shuffle, double Ickey shuffle, and hop scotch. Running through each of those seven drills once will only take a few minutes. You can do two reps of each drill to get some more work in. The best drills are the single and double Ickey shuffles with the single version being the best. It’s excellent at teaching a person how to shift their weight laterally, how to maintain balance while changing directions, and improves foot speed. These drills can also be used as high intensity conditioning work, and you could even time your rest periods. If you aimed to use ladder drills as conditioning, then it would be okay to do them at the end of your training session (though your skill and agility development will be inhibited when you are fatigued).

Briefly, a point of emphasis in all agility work, including ladder drills, is to keep the feet under the hips. If the feet extend out in front, behind, or to the sides of the hips, then the base of support diminishes. Change of direction is dependent on having your feet under your center of mass to quickly apply force to stop or start, so keep the feet under the hips. To use the single Ickey shuffle as an example (which is what Chris and I do in the video above), must people will step too far lateral with their outside foot preventing a good base to push off that foot to move in the opposite direction — Chris does this a little bit. Keeping the feet under the hips is the key to agility and lateral speed. It’s also useful to burst into a ten yard sprint after completing the last segment of the ladder drill — it will teach the transition from agility or lateral movement to linear speed.

You can find cheap ladders on Amazon or sport stores, but I am partial to ladder segments that don’t slide up and down the straps. It can be quite annoying setting up a ladder with segments pushed around in a big bungle fuck. Most ladders are about 10 yards long, and that’s all you would need for training (we used a longer one in the above video).

If you want a new, interesting, method to warm-up and develop important athletic skills, then try out an agility ladder. When I played football I prided myself on my foot work and lateral speed, but that was probably due to the fact that I was linearly slow. Throw it in as a regular warm-up, or put it at the end of your workout for conditioning (doing agility work when tired is better than no agility work at all). Focus on a good, athletic body position (knees/hips bent, slight forward lean) with the feet under the hips. You’ll improve your coordination, perform conditioning that isn’t laborious, and ultimately improve your athletic ability with regular work.