Brent Belts Big Ones

I’m glad to hear that you guys are listening about belts. I had a talk with Brent, who is an Olympic weightlifter, last year about wearing one while squatting, and he listened. ‘Twasn’t long before he was squatting more than the rest of the Asian population in Wichita Falls combined. This video is from earlier this year (he would later unintentionally break the Texas State Raw Record on his third attempt at the USAPL Texas State Meet in April with a 458 pound squat):

Brent is 5’5″, so a conventional four inch belt doesn’t fit him. He bought a belt from Elite FTS that is 2.5 inches in the front. Yes, it is one of those belts that tapers from a wider back to smaller front (look at the links below to (re)learn why this is silly), but it is one that he can wear comfortably and take advantage of the strength building benefits of wearing a belt.

To review some information that I have written in the past on belts, click the following links:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

More Reasons For Wearing A Belt

In case some of you noobs haven’t seen it, I’ve talked extensively as to why you should wear a belt (part 1 and part 2).

To review, when you lift, you take a big breath. This large breath increases your intra-abdominal and thoracic pressure which acts as a pneumatic brace on the anterior portion of your spine. In other words, it helps support the spine, and because it has more support, it has more strength. This process is called the Vasalva Maneuver. The Vasalva Maneuver was something that Antonia Maria Vasalva created to test patency in the eustachian tubes of the ear. It was later used on U-boats, and has since been used by fighter pilots so that they can pull G’s as they shoot down bandits and destroy things. It’s also one of those things embedded in mammalian DNA; take a breath and hold it to exert lots of force.

Grunting while lifting achieves the same thing. The grunting provides a guttural expulsion of air through the throat against a closed glottis. Usually it is done through the sticking point, or the point where the most force is being applied because it temporarily increases the torso pressure because of the forced air against the closed glottis. But grunting should only be done on lifts over 400 pounds so that you don’t look like a jackass.

A properly tightened belt will augment all of this pressure build up. The tightness of the belt essentially decreases the volume of the lower torso just a little bit. We all know, or should know, that when the volume is decreased with the same amount of air in the container, the pressure will increase. But, more importantly than the change in volume is that the tightness forces and allows the abdominal muscles to contract harder into the belt. More contracting by the abdominal muscles with a smaller container means more pressure, thus more support, thus more strength. This is good for getting stronger, and as I’ve said before, if someone aims to get strong and doesn’t wear a belt, they are a fucking idiot.

Now, this whole “belt wearing” process has both acute and chronic affects. It irritates the shit out of me how fanboys around the internet will ask, “How many pounds/kilos will be added to my lifts if I wear a belt?” It doesn’t work quite like that. Yes, the acute affect of the belt is more pressure which leads to a stronger torso in that bout of lifting, but wearing a belt must be learned, and the belt is more useful for it’s chronic affect. Since the belt aids in strengthening the trunk, the squat/press/deadlift will be increased by wearing it over time. It will be increased so much that your new strength attained by wearing the belt will be higher than the strength you would have gained without the belt. Yes, you will get more strong more efficiently when wearing a belt.

It also has a chronic affect on the abdominals. Since they are contracting harder while tightened in a belt, they will increase in strength faster by doing so. The stronger abdominals make a stronger back as well as a stronger lift. This is also why it would be optimal to train with belts whenever possible. If you can’t wear a thick 13mm belt while deadlifting, find one that you can use. The picture below shows Chris deadlifting 625 last year wearing just a velcro belt. He has since switched to a thicker belt.

Chris deadlifts some time last year wearing a velcro belt

I wear a velcro belt when I clean and jerk heavy, but when I front squat I wear the same belt I back squat in because I want more tightness on my abdominals for the training adaptation. So, don’t think in terms of acute use out of wearing belts, because the chronic adaptation of wearing one over time while getting your abdominals stronger is the most useful reason to wear it.

Breakin in that stiff belt from 70s Big on Vimeo.

The Prowler

Note: The Prowler is not code for being a stalker.

We recorded a video talking about The Prowler sled from Elite FTS. I don’t really remember what we said about it in the video, but if I recorded the video now, I’d say that it is the PREMIER conditioning tool for the strength athlete.

The more I think about how to use The Prowler, the more I’m impressed. You can literally attack any part of the energy systems continuum by varying the weight and work/rest ratio. Put a medium amount of weight on, and do sprint repeats. Put a light amount of weight on and push it a long distance. Put a whole lot of weight on and push it a short distance. Vary the speed in all of those examples. And I’m not even scratching the surface.

The thing is versatile is hell, and now I have people using it on a regular basis. Kyle, a 15 year old weightlifter that I coach, gave some good insight after using The Prowler for the first time; “They should take people in prison and duct tape their hands to the prowler then release rabid dogs to chase them.” Crime rates would plummet since The Prowler is definitely an ass kicker.

Rip bought the Econo Prowler, which is a less expensive version of the original Prowler. You can read about it, see some videos, and see a review here. Again, I’ve never met anybody from Elite FTS, and nobody asks me to endorse anything (c’mon, this audience isn’t that big), but if I were going to have another tool in addition to a bar, plates, and rack, this would be it.

The Prowler from 70s Big on Vimeo.

If you own a Prowler or have used one, tell your stories in the comments.

Equip for the Quest – Shoes Part 2

Female to another female:
“I was looking for some new shoes the other day and just so you know Dicks Sporting Goods is not”

I didn’t realize how many of you were still lifting without shoes. I’d like to go on record, much like I did with belts, and say that if you do not lift with a pair of shoes, then you are an idiot. Here’s why.

The two primary purposes of wearing weightlifting shoes is so that they support the foot as well as the proper mechanical positioning of the body while under a load. The metatarsal strap(s) on a lifting shoe help hold your food in place and allow the structure of the shoe to reinforce you foot properly. If you lift barefoot, you are missing out on this support, and subjecting the foot to weird stress that it isn’t supposed to experience. And trying to make the painstakingly asinine argument that “we didn’t evolve with shoes” is a reason for not wearing shoes is ignoring the fact that we didn’t evolve with barbells either. I guess we should stop pooping indoors too, then. Jackass.

The metatarsal strap helps reinforce your foot as well as holding your foot in place while it is in the shoes so it doesn’t slide around. The wide sole provides more stability via the increased surface area. The non-compressible sole ensures that all of the force that you are attempting to apply to the ground goes all of the way to the bar. Think in terms of the deadlift: the initial portion of the pull has your quadriceps concentrically contracting so that they extend the knee while your hamstrings isometrically hold the back angle in place. The majority of the muscles in the back are isometrically holding their position as the force is transmitted up the back, to the traps and rhomboids, to the shoulder blades, to the arms and hands, and to the bar. In the beginning of that pull, if your back rounds or your arms are bent prior to the pull, some of the force you are wanting to go through your system is being lost. The same thing happens when you have squishy soles on (and yes, Chuck Taylors compress). Would you rather deadlift on a solid surface or a water bed? If you are going to invest lots of time and effort in doing things that are dependent on pushing against the floor, why are you okay with half-assing this endeavor? I am not okay with your lackadaisical shit, and this is why this website exists.

The additional heel that weightlifting shoes provide is pretty important too. Some heel lift puts the foot at enough of an angle so that the shin has some forward angle which slightly allows the knee to be flexed more. This little bit o’ knee flexion allows more quadriceps to be involved in pulling or squatting. This is good because it increases the efficiency of the movement, and it adds in more muscles to the movement. As a general rule, more muscles = good, less muscles = bad, ooga booga.

However, the heel height is dependent on how you pull the bar off the ground. Conventional weightlifting exaggerates the heel lift because they want the bar over the balls of the feet along with ankle flexibility considerations. The problem is that über amounts of heel lift produce too much knee flexion which reduces the tension of the hamstrings (since it is a muscle group that crosses both the hip and the knee). Having slack hamstrings does not help the back to be maintained, nor is it something that promotes sweet hip extension (when lifting, pervert). How you pull the bar off the floor is a consideration for how much heel height you want in the shoe, but how you pull is a discussion that has been documented elsewhere.

Anthropometry, or limb lengths, can also alter heel height considerations. It just depends on how freaky your ratios are. A good rule of thumb is that a 1/2″ heel will be “about right”. This is why we featured the Rogue Fitness shoe yesterday. Some shoes have heel heights around 3/4″, and those aren’t too shabby either. I have a pair of VS Athletics that are 3/4″ and have worked well for a year and a half. I cannot, however, pull heavy in them very effectively (due to Tyrannosaurus arms), so my rack pulls or deadlifts are done in a shorter heeled shoe (I actually used the pair that was in the video , but Rip gave those to Hom). Yesterday Gant told me that he paid around $60 for his pair of VS, and then $10 to get the heel chopped down. I estimate his heel height is about 1/2″. His self-esteem is much smaller, though.

Yes, spending money on shoes may not be glamorous, but you are sacrificing useful training by doing so. If you are going to by the milk, eat the meat, lift the weight, lift the girls — it will be facilitated with improving the relationship between the ground and your foot. You can find relatively cheap shoes on VS Athletics’ website as well as some others, and you can always go to a shoe tailor to get the heel reduced. Also, as I mentioned in the video, if you can get neoprene soles on your shoe, it won’t ever slip. The soles on my shoes have worn from clean and jerking, and I slip periodically on a platform in our gym. As a general rule, slipping with 350+ pounds overhead = bad.

Summary: Lifting shoes = good + necessary. Not having them = bad + stupid. Zug zug.


Kevin visited the gym. If he wants to do a write up, he is welcome to. Here is a picture of some of us. The most important member of this picture is my pup, Leda.

Kevin, Justin, Leda, Gian, Rip, and Chris

Kevin, Justin, Leda, Gian, Rip, and Chris

Equip for the Quest – Shoes Part 1

“This stuff will make you a sexual tyrannosaurus!”

You gotta make sacrifices if you wanna get 70’s Big. This means training hard, eating hard, learning how to cook, weighing over 200 pounds, listening to Chicago, tossing small children, knowing your enemy, consuming American soil, and not shaving your chest (certainly don’t do this).

In order to begin or continue your quest to being 70’s Big, you will need to be properly equipped. In all of barbell lifting, your feet articulate with the ground. Weightlifting shoes will be necessary so that this articulation prepares you to move the weight as efficiently as possible.

In general, weightlifting shoes have a wide (read: stable) non-compressible sole that has a little bit of heel lift. This heel lift is a bit exaggerated in some brands of shoes because it is made for a pulling position where the shoulders are behind the bar (thus the bar is out in front of the middle of the foot near the ball of the foot or further). If you follow this site, then you know that the creators will place the bar over the middle of the foot in order to pull it off the ground, regardless if it is a deadlift, clean, or snatch. Shoes with a higher heel will not be as efficient to complete this task as intended.

This post does not aim to try to validate weightlifting shoes. Instead, I just wanted to talk about a new shoe that just came out at Rogue Fitness. If you have read Starting Strength, understand the importance of the pulling model, and need a pair of shoes, you may be interested in the shoes that Rogue is selling with a 1/2 inch heel.

We filmed a video talking about this shoes before it was released in December when Mike Hom and AC were in town. Since then, the shoe has been released and is selling quickly. Again, nobody asks me to endorse any products, I just like talking about good products. Gold star if you catch the Star Wars reference in this video.

Rogue Weightlifting Shoes from 70s Big on Vimeo.