Chalk floats softly through the air. The thumping of your heart is all you hear, all you feel. You step to the bar and place your hands on it, feeling the cold knurling on callused hands. The whirling hurricane of emotion settles into the eye of the storm, the peaceful moment when you have to make a decision to begin.
If you’ve found yourself on the receiving end of an ass kicking by gravity, I can feel your disappointment, irritation, and likely rage. Missing reps is common among lifting, yet dealing with them is not. Powerlifters can go months without missing a single rep to experience the ultimate let down on a third attempt. Weightlifters who push themselves will miss in each workout, but it doesn’t make it any easier. After the initial moments of rage subside, remember that each missed rep is a learning opportunity.
The process of getting stronger is dependent on how you react to failure, and failure will be prevalent. In order to get stronger, you have to get smarter, and you get smarter by analyzing what went wrong, how to fix it, and doing it better next time. This may require a hard look at recovery methods (food, sleep, etc.), the program (levels of volume or intensity throughout the week and over time), and technique (inefficiencies in movement and bar path). The possibility may exist that you didn’t have any business attempting that weight, but you won’t know until you try. There’s always a reason for failure, but it’s up to you (and the coach) to figure out why. Otherwise you won’t get smarter about getting stronger.
Training consistently is a learning process, an active process of introspection. Getting stronger isn’t easy. It requires a laboring, painful work that will only be expressed in the next bout of laboring, painful work. Yet with strength training, that process is just as important as the end. Choosing to do something hard — of your own volition — puts the mind in a vulnerable state. It forces you to decide whether or not you think you’re capable. Want to complete a set, but don’t think you can? You won’t. Staring down the bar, daring it to beat you and knowing that you will crush it; that is something entirely different, my friends.
It isn’t about merely attempting something that is Very. Fucking. Hard. But shifting the mindset into not just the possibility of completion, but the explosive dominance and subsequent victory you’ll have over that barrier. The mindset itself is the victory. The destruction of the set is the victory lap. The weening moments after when your heart is still racing and short of breath — that’s standing on the podium. Learning how to give everything you have mentally and physically to achieve your goals is what getting stronger is all about.
Aaron is a PJ, or pararescue jumper, as well as a general badass. He’s already written a couple inspiring articles for us (Excuses? No. and Lessons From Lifting). In this one, perhaps his best yet, he has a call to arms. Are you ready to answer? Ladies and Not-so-Gentlemen, are you ready for some old-school 70sBig? – Cloud
Three years ago I was drawn to this site by the unapologetic, brash braggadocio only a true miscreant could love. Idolizing forgotten mastodons wearing short shorts and high socks. Celebrating facial hair and real meals, encouraging real men and women to be real men and women in a time of androgyny, man-scaping, skinny jeans, Twilight, and other things so horrible they shall go unmentioned. Like 50 Shades of Grey. Those things are not cool, bro, and like my personal heroes Michael Douglas, General Patton, Tyler Durden, Vlad the Impaler, the Techno Viking (that guy took ZERO shits), John W. Creasy, and Walter- this aggression will not stand, man.
In the movie “The Rock”, voted “the best movie of all time in the history of the world” by NATO and the Illuminati, it was said, “sometimes the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots.” Well sometimes the tree of 70sBig must be replenished with the fuel of attitude, with the liquid reduction of our resolve. In the interest of re-focusing ourselves, I charge you to live your life a little more recklessly this next week. Just for a while, think to yourself, “What would Ricky Bruch do?” I assure you, that answer is almost always, “Get extra mayonnaise, lift some heavy shit like a damn boss, and proceed to not give a shit, two monkeys or a damn.” Would Ricky pass up an extra conditioning session? Absolutely not. Would Ricky pass up the 4th steak in 2 meals? Not up in here. Would Ricky wear long, pleated slacks and watch NASCAR drinking a light beer at a tofu tasting party, politely discussing HOA fees? I just got a phone call – the message was, “Ricky Bruch’s estate wants to kill your family for associating his name with that scenario.” It’s that serious.
“But Aaron! I am entrenched in the corporate world; I can’t go stomping around like a heathen, shirtless, scaring the villagers! Also, I don’t know any villagers and my shorts are of an acceptable length for ‘casual Friday’.” Well, first of all, that’s unacceptable. If you say “Casual Friday”, you better be ready for aviator shades and some damn boat shoes. If that’s not the case, it’s time to get your swole back. It’s time to remember who we all are, at our base. Boil us down to brass tacks, twisted steel and ball bearings, and we all realize several immutable, undeniable, irrefutable facts.
We are human. That makes us all physiologically the same, genetically capable of tasks very much the same. If you are reading this saying, “Well, X person is bigger, stronger, I don’t think that’s totally correct…” STOP IT. That’s half the problem. Who’s to say you can’t do anything you want? Me? You? Anyone? What if you just refused to believe impossible things, and simply did them? That wouldn’t make you a superhuman; it would simply mean you refuse to be limited. Do you really have limits? Do you think that’s air your breathing? That’s a Matrix reference. Keep up.
Slap anyone that uses the term “swag”, either ironically or seriously, right in the gob. They know better. Go to YouTube, and look up every video of Leonid Taranenko clean and jerking 266KG, then cook a damn steak and do some mobility. Disagree with someone. Seriously, get into an argument, and instead of worrying how their feelings will recover, wondering how you’ll be viewed, so on and so forth- just disagree. Tell someone they are wrong, and that you don’t agree with what they are saying, and that you won’t be wavering. If the term “agree to disagree” is uttered, wage total war and destroy the room. The world understands. That phrase is about 10% of the problem today. So help me Zeus, if anyone around you says “YOLO” and you do not immediately beat him or her to death, I will find your house and mail you a strongly worded letter.
Here is the hard truth- there are no trophies for 5th place, no consolation prize in real life. It does pay to be a winner, and too often in today’s environment it has become acceptable to trivialize a loss, to rationalize poor effort, to soften heartbreak. Well I am here to call bullshit. If you work hard, you get rewarded. If you don’t work hard, you lose, and you don’t get a prize for that. I don’t know when ‘Murica, – the home of first place, the inventor of competition for everything, the bastion of bacon-wrapped-filets and filet-wrapped-bacon-filled-deep-fried-chocolate-coated-turducken-sandwiches became OK with second place, but I am here to tell you it stops now, and it stops with each and every one of us. It starts with me, and it starts with you.
So this week, get up early. Stop making excuses for yourself, and stop taking excuses from others. Get to work early. Put out as a friend, spouse, significant other, parent, older sibling, citizen, WHATEVER. Stop living your life only to keep breathing and start attacking it. Look for every excuse to get better, and get nasty about it. Are you a lady that wants to get “more toned” and look “better this summer?” Get your lady parts underneath a damn bar and do something about it right the hell now. The world is, quite frankly, not ready for that jelly, and I want more ladies bootyliscious when the sun shines bright and hot in 3 months. Are you a fella that can grow a sweet ass beard, or at least a somewhat child molestor-ish mustache, yet shave every day? By the light in Kate Upton’s eyes, grow that damn facial hair, and do it while you grill some meat and write out your week of programming. Is there a charity, a group, or an organization that is worthy of your time that you haven’t volunteered for? What are you, some sort of sissy? How about you do the right thing and donate some time to something bigger than yourself.
Look into her eyes!
If you haven’t torn up in the gym, so motivated that you wanted to literally explode into a ball of flame, or flipped a table in public only to be applauded for your gusto, or uppercut a punkass into a bowl of punch at a high school dance lately – well, dammit, now is the time (editor’s note, please avoid high school dances, thank you).
Now is the time we take back that attitude, and seize life by the horns/balls/ovaries. The part you grab isn’t important, the fact remains that we must grab that part by force. It’s time to get that 70s Big attitude back. And the time starts now.
Along with opening the site to reader submissions, I’ve asked various friends to contribute. Aaron is a PJ, or pararescue jumper, a Special Operations job in the Air Force where operatives are tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. His experience, attitude, and humor are unique and he can squat over 405. –Justin
I’ve been in the military for 11 years. I joined the Air Force after spending some time bouncing around Ohio where I grew up. I was always good enough at sports to make the varsity team – I swam and played water polo – but I wasn’t good enough to pay for school or to make a living out of it. I wasn’t challenged enough by college to care to keep going. For about 8 months in the start of 2001, I talked to recruiters, asked what they could offer me, took some placement tests, and scored well enough to get my pick of jobs. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in despite coming from a family heavily entrenched in military and civil service. I wasted a lot of time that year. Then September 11, 2001 came and went, and like so many other young men and women I was gone a month later.
I chose the Air Force to try out for Pararescue, or PJ – a special operations job in the Air Force where operatives are tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. It’s arguably the hardest Special Operations job in the United States military. I was attracted by the difficulty, the attrition rate (more than 90% fail), and the mission. Saving lives, bringing home fallen Eagles, no matter the cost. “That others may live” is the motto. Small teams are asked to do impossible things only to succeed time and time again. It’s mentally challenging, physically demanding, and packed full of the world’s best training opportunities. It took all of 5 seconds for my recruiter to tell me about the job before I wanted to sign papers.
This is usually the point in the story where I tell you how I completed selection, realize my dreams, but it’s not. I failed the selection course for Pararescue, called “The Indoctrination Course”, or colloquially “INDOC”. I did not have the maturity, physical skills or mental preparedness needed to be a PJ, and I found that out in the harshest way over the course of my first year in the military. I love the saying, “failure is not an option.” I assure you, it most certainly is an option.
I spent 5 years in Washington, D.C. working a very cool but very “desk” job. I excelled, made a couple stripes, and was well set up for a very “easy” career in the Air Force. I loved the people I worked with, I loved the Air Force, and I loved my life. I even got married, had a baby – the whole deal.
At 3 a.m., on the night I graduated from Basic Army Airborne School, my wife looked at me as she held my then-three-week-old daughter, and said the one thing that changed all of our lives.
“It made you want to go back, didn’t it? Did jump school make you want to try INDOC again?”
I responded with some really pansy type, “Uh, babe, you know…”
“Shut up” was the only response from my wife. “Put the packet in. Let’s go back. But I am changing the locks on the doors, and you aren’t coming home to this family unless you pass. You can get your new keys at graduation. You are gambling on our lives here, and I won’t bet on anything but a sure bet. Let’s do this.”
Fast forward to now. 8 years after that conversation, I am a PJ with multiple combat deployments, and international SOF experience. I just returned from a deployment, and I am getting ready for the next one, as usual.
But now the question: why did I spend 300 words telling you this, and what does it have to do with 70’s Big?
Well, it has everything to do with it. Along my journey, a couple resounding truths kept my head right and kept me on the right track.
You have to stand up, do the work, and grind out every day of your life. Some say, “Half of life is just showing up,” but the other half is putting out, and getting the work done. 50% is a failing score in real life; just showing up isn’t enough.
The second you lose sight of item 1, someone will call you on it and you will pay a penalty. In my line of work, that could conceivably mean a serious injury or death – or the worst possible scenario, that I would be unable to answer the call when it comes. It seems as if I got those two consequences in the wrong order. Trust me, I didn’t.
These lessons were taught to me at the gym. Not during some “cool guy” combat scenario or during a movie-type scene; I learned these things under a bar. Trying to find a way to push into a max-effort set; showing up an hour early to make sure I get my mobility work in; getting up hours before the sun because I don’t have enough time in my day; or refusing to miss a weight or a progression. These lessons were taught to me in the most unforgiving fashion possible. The weight is constant and the entry in your journal for that day is a pass/fail event. Would you like to skip today’s workout, or mail it in and only do 75% of what you had programmed that day? That’s fine. Just realize you will not be strong and you’ve increased your chance of failing. If you are ok with that, well, I’m not sure we are going to get along.
Throughout my career I’ve loved learning and passing knowledge on. Long ago I saw the value of strength training and have never looked back. Three years ago I found my way to 70’s Big and saw a community of like-minded individuals and have been an avid follower since. When I was presented the opportunity to contribute in any way, I was amped.
So, here we are. Hopefully, I can contribute some quality articles. I want to bring my military and Special Operations experience as well as my experience coaching athletes of all shapes and sizes – males, females, special operators, intel officers, housewives and grandparents. Hopefully my experience can help make 70’s Big readers better.
If not, at least I “showed up”, and that’s at least worth half credit.
Aaron is a Pararescueman (PJ), a special operations job in the Air Force where operatives are tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. He spends his free time eating meat and repetitively moving heavy things.
70’s Big started as a joke six months before the site launched in September of 2009. After coining the phrase, our group of friends saw 70’s Big in everything we did. Eating a one pound burger was 70’s Big. Getting eight hours of sleep was 70’s Big. Air guitaring was 70’s Big. Anything that pushed us towards the goal of being stronger and bigger was 70’s Big.
The attitude of 70’s Big has been in my life for almost four years, but the mentality has been around longer. Shouting the phrase, “Never miss a chance to get better!” and following it with impromptu exercise was one of my favorite public jokes. See two chairs together? Get a few dips in. See a sidewalk? Get some walking lunges. Never miss a chance to get better.
I distinctly remember shouting the phrase outside a bar on Halloween in 2008 when AC and I dressed up as speed walkers. I drunkenly shouted the phrase, jumped on an awning, and started doing pull-ups. When I landed, I looked down to see blood seeping out of a gash on my hand. “Never missing a chance” has its consequences, but this didn’t stop me from speed walking up and down the bar or doing jumping jacks in the corner.
This pic was taken a few minutes after the hand gash incident (I hold a napkin to stop the bleeding). Friends Brock and Taylor (gorilla) pose with AC and I.
This “joke” is a derivative of a long-time belief I established at an early age: people should not only never plateau in life, but they should never be satisfied with plateauing. The very idea should make them vomit.
Some people hang their hat on past accomplishments as if it gives them the right to complacency. “Success” is not something that a person ever qualifies for, but a state of mind that results from honestly striving for it.
Personally, I don’t think anything I’ve done is impressive. Graduating college, coaching people, or establishing this website — to me these are byproducts of the work I’ve put in. I don’t ever focus on what I’ve achieved, but focus on what I could have done better. And there’s a lot that I could have done better. I don’t dwell or fester on the bad, but use it as a tool to improve. Just like in lifting, if something goes wrong, figure out why, and then work towards rectifying the problem. Everyone has good traits that clash with flaws, yet it’s overcoming the flaws that allow us to show our quality while working towards success.
My intention with this website has always been to educate and subsequently motivate. If that means I have to act like a fuck-head to get your attention, then that’s something I’m willing to do. If you get nothing else from 70’s Big, I hope it’s the motivation to bust your ass in training, but it’s my sincerest hope that this rubs off into the rest of your life. Attack your life goals with the same intensity you use during a 3RM squat attempt. Train your mind, speak foreign languages, study history, understand philosophy, play musical instruments — independently think and actively learn to better yourself. It’s no different than training your body and equally important.