Blog Archive

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Wrote this word down while working on something else, and it stuck with me. I think there might be something very important in it.

Most people talk about training imparting "confidence". I'm not really a fan of that. Confidence is pretty easy to instill, but it can just as easily be false confidence. I've had plenty of moments in my life where I was confident right up until I got utterly smoked. Tony Blauer points out that there is a great difference between confidence and competence, and that the latter is far more desirable than the former.

So I rarely try to instill confidence.

Competence is good.

Resiliency might be better.

A Definition

"Able to recover quickly from misfortune; able to return to original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched out of shape. A human ability to recover quickly from disruptive change, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways."

I'm a pretty firm believer in the idea that good training improves resiliency. Not just physical resiliency, but emotional and psychological resiliency. This is pretty obvious in the martial arts (arguably (very arguably), a large portion of martial arts training is about "recover[ing] quickly from disruptive change"), but even strength training can teach some lessons about resiliency, both physical and psychological. Coming back to struggle with a challenging lift or exercise can build as much resiliency as another round of pad work. Honestly, I'm convinced that many of the lessons of the martial arts can be found in strength training, though possibly not all of them.

It might be interested if our training, particularly our martial training, was more open about the need to develop resiliency--to recover from bad situations--rather than focusing so much on being good or perfect. Certainly, there are some systems that put more time into this than others (the PDR/SPEAR system does, as does a chunk of Rory's material).

Lot of stuff to think on right now.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

POST-SFL Brain Dump

Just finished (as in, about five hours ago) re-certifying my StrongFirst Barbell Lifter's Instructor cert (hereafter referred to as SFL). This is going to be a brain dump. No attempt at organization or coherence here--I may do a more coherent review later.

Observation One: Repeat performance helps with learning.

The first time I went through the SFL, I was using up a lot of mental energy worrying about getting through the course, especially after I missed the bench press test. I learned a ton, but coming through the course a second time with a stronger foundation meant I was able to relax, pay attention to more of the details, and focus more on learning, rather than just surviving. Makes me almost curious if redoing an SFG would be a similar experience. Almost.

Observation Two: These are good people.

Everyone likes to argue about the various camps in the strength training/fitness world (just like everyone likes to argue about various martial arts styles). I couldn't care less about most of these arguments, but my experiences have been that the vast majority of the people I've met through StrongFirst have been awesome, and the SFL's have uniformly been packed with cool people who I'd love to spend more time training with. Everyone was helpful, supportive, and engaged the whole time. It was awesome.

Extra awesome, because (as my friend Lore pointed out to me), I train almost entirely alone. 99% of my workouts are done in my basement, and even those that are done at a gym are usually done alone. To lift in and around a community of like minded people was invigorating.

Observation Three: Plenty to Learn

I had, I think, been starting to get a little bit of, if not training ADD, what John Connors referred to as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I was vaguely poking at some bodyweight stuff, and wondering about other things. This course really helped refocus me on a basic truth: between the SFG and the SFL, there are about 13 lifts that I would like to have dialed in much better. That's plenty.

Observation Four: 

I don't know what to call this one, but I felt like I made some qualitative skill gains in some of my lifts over the last few months, and through the entire SFL. The best analogy I can draw is that there's a point in the martial arts where you don't need to think through the basics of the movements, and you can start focusing on the nuances--you know what a jab is, but you can feel where the jab isn't right. I feel like I'm getting there with my lifting.

Observation Five

There's a balance to all things, but lifting heavy shit really is fun.

Gold Quotes/Concepts

The set up is everything. (I got that last time, but it's worth repeating)
Speed hides dysfunction. (Gray Cook got named checked here, but Lore sent me another version of the quote that was attributed to Dan Inosanto. Considering the great application this has to the martial arts, this is not a big surprise)

I'm happy to say I passed the course straight through this time. That was due in no small part to the nutrition coaching I got from Amanda Perry, and the strength coaching and programming I got from Mike Perry. Skill of Strength is where it's at folks. Go check 'em out.

And finally, Lore introduced me to what Starbucks apparently calls a "black hat?" This may or may not have been a wise idea. On the upside, I may see through time someday.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Forget The Bulgarians

This was originally going to be a FB share, but I discovered I had enough to say that I thought it was worth posting here.

This article came to my attention through Dan John's newsletter.

I know squat (ha ha, see what I did there?) about Bulgarian training, but the basic message is interesting and makes sense to me. I see people in a lot of fields obsessed with trying to replicate what the elite do, without ever stopping to consider whether or not they are actually elite, or EVEN NEED TO BE.

It’s that latter point I want to drill down on for a minute.

People love throwing around phrases like “there’s no such thing as ‘strong enough’” or other similar statements about how you need to constantly strive to get better and better, because wherever you are isn’t good enough. Like a lot of ideas, I think it has some merit, but the merit gets lost in the stupid memes.

It’s great to constantly try to get better at the things you like/enjoy practicing. Keep trying to get stronger. Or faster. Work on becoming better at your chosen martial art. These are all good things to do.

But at some point, enough really is, well, enough. You are not a UFC star. You are not a world class powerlifter. It is okay at some point to say “instead of going to the gym today, I’m going to be with my children”. Or walk the dog. Or read a book. Whatever.

My point here is this: the elite do the things they do because they need to. If you are not one of the elite, you don’t need to do those things. There are other, better ways to use your time.

Forget the Bulgarians.