Don’t Like the Drugs, But the Drugs Like Me

Today’s preworkout supplementation consisted of caffeine, creatine, and acetaminophen (also thank you Marilyn Manson for the title).

So I have a bit of a cold right now and I’m too stubborn to not train when I don’t completely feel like death. This is a personal choice, but not the best choice. If you really are knocking on heaven’s door you won’t be training at all plain and simple. If you are a bit sick and then go hard in the paint, congrats, you will have most likely made the illness worse than it was beforehand. Here is a list of things that I do when I’m not feeling the best to at least feel like I did something, or ways to make the training less severe.

Bundle up

When I feel like crap I like to dress in layers as a means to allow the body to stay warm and start taking them off as I get more and more warmed up through the session. Wearing sweats with shorts and a t shirt on underneath is always a solid choice for me. Also, you get to look like rocky is you are wearing all grey sweats while you do it.

Hydrate up

I find that pushing fluids always helps. If you get dehydrated from all of the various happy forms of drainage part of the fluid is robbed from your joints and this is going to make things feel even worse. Not to mention that dehydration is a stressor on the body (and you seem to have enough already in that department). Do yourself a favor and really push the fluids through the entire training and don’t be afraid to use some minerals to help with the electrolyte balance (I was recommended this by Adam Feit and really enjoy it.

Just warm up

Seriously this is the beginning and might even be the end of your workout. Mine always starts with a combination of ultra-light resistance (empty bar movements), jumping rope, hanging knee raises, and light dynamic stretching for usually 4-5 rounds before I will even put a plate on the bar. If you do this at least you will get the blood pumping and possibly even feel better. They don’t hand out medals for whoever warms up the fastest. Take your time and loosen up.

Go light

Next step slowly add weight to the bar and just keep moving. When squatting or benching I only take at most a 50 lbs. jump from one attempt to the next. Military press I take even smaller jumps of typically less than 40 lbs. jumps. Do a lot of warm up sets and see if you can get a bit in. If this is as far as the bus goes then hit a few light sets and get out. (Prilipen chart counts attempts that are only 55% of your max, I’m sure most of us can manage that even when we are gassed out or under the weather.)

Go for it

If everything is agreeing with you and it isn’t due to taking 4 scoops of pre workout might as well just hit a few heavy sets and go from there. I’m a fan of avoiding taking any of these sets to failure (much less near failure) since that is even more stressful to the body than just lifting heavy weights in the first place. Let Prilipen be your guide again and just get in some quality volume and go from there. Another factor here is ease in to using the Valsalva maneuver (holding your breath when doing heavy lifts). If you dive right in to the deep end you might just end up taking a dive right in to the dumbbell rack. Bring that intensity up slow set after set.

Avoid speed

Lord knows if I’m not a hundred percent I’m not going to do speed work, too much damn aggression when I’m lacking drive in the first place. I like the idea from Bert Soren (over at sorinex, great equipment check them out) where if your speed is too low based on Tendo measurements (tethered position transducer) then just work strength or volume instead of power. Jerry Martin at UConn has spoken about the same thing at conferences (get well soon Jerry).

Cool down

Maybe get in a bit more light bodybuilding work, but after that be sure to cool it down and stretch out a bit to get back to baseline. Sounds simple, but it is easy to skip if you are in a rush or feeling good. If you feel like crap take your time and make sure you aren’t going to be a sore mess the next day that also has a head cold.


Seriously eat, get calories in as soon as possible and quality ones at that. (If you have to ask what that means just take a moment and reflect on life (protein and carbs post workout)). Do this along with definitely hydrating and you will be on the road to recovery and feeling better.

Wash yourself

You just trained, your immune system is already fighting something off, so don’t be in your sweaty gross gym clothes that have also touched a wide number of surfaces that probably have who knows what other bacteria and viruses in them. The faster you clean up the better.

Get some sleep

You trained (or at least warmed up) you took care of yourself nutritionally so now go bed. Let your body repair itself and fight of the invaders while the rest of you is not watching mind numbing television or something else that is not as effective as just sleeping for health and recovery.

Wrap up

Well this is the basics of what I do when under the weather and still trying to train. Once again if you feel like death call it a day. No one hands out participation ribbons for the person that comes to the gym and pulls a Typhoid Mary on everyone there. But if you seem to be turning the corner or at least it is manageable this is a simple way to stair step as far as you can through your workout. If you have anything that you do while sick or otherwise just put a comment on the blog. Thanks again for taking the time to read this.


Cull of the Kill a Man

Or the joys of training partners and how they can bring you up.

Today I was chatting with two folks (the British Invasion and Emelia Firth) who work in the lab with me while they were taking a studying break and I was just calling it a day from doing data entry and some analysis myself. We talked a bit about muscle adaptation to aerobic training and such. How the longer you train for, the greater your chance of getting injured can become just due to the volume and intensity you have to inflict on your body to keep making progress (be it endurance performance, strength, or sports in general). We talked about keeping the recovery balance in mind so you can perform at your best abilities and not short circuit your progress. Even made a little pass in to how heavy lifting can be fatiguing on your nervous system. (Really I was just stalling because I had little to no interest in training that day). But, the best part of the conversation was when one of them asked me if I really liked training with people that are stronger than me since they thought it was motivational.

That is a great question

I thought about it for a moment and in all honesty, I don’t really get that much out of training with folks who are stronger than me. What I get a lot out of from training is seeing the people that push themselves. You don’t have to be strong to do this. You don’t have to be weak either. You just have to want it. Have to be ready to bleed for it. Every person that I would call a true training partner of mine can turn it up and get after it. This doesn’t always mean screaming and shouting (but it happens). It means being ready to lay it down.

Enter “Kill a Man”

When I was back in Kansas training in Robinson a young man came in and started training with us. He is about 5’10-11” and at that point about all of 140lbs. soaking wet. He was rangy and the bar was thicker around in some places than he was. What that kid had though was drive. The first time we watched him squat we all reeled back in fear and winced watching his technique, but damn did he want it. His was the face of determination. At this point I had been training and competing in powerlifting for about 7 or 8 years and not that I didn’t still enjoy it, but I forgot about what that hunger looked like. Especially what it looked like to be ready to kill for it again and attack the weights. When that kid came in he attacked squatting 135 like it killed his parents. It was awesome to behold. With time he kept coming back and soon enough he was grinding hard with 155, 165, 175… 225 and beyond.

Last I heard he was squatting 315+ which is a solid weight for any person in my book. He and I don’t talk as much as we did when I was still in Kansas, but I will always remember that look in his eyes. That wince and twist of his face in both rage and pain while squatting heavy. Those memories never fail to inspire me when I am wondering why I’m even training or questioning if I’m going to train that day. I really can’t say enough good things about this guy.

Party till you puke

Another good friend of mine you would think drank a bottle of ipecac for a preworkout supplement, due to the fact that he frequently would vomit on prowler pushing days or squatting days. The strength club at Kansas just understood on Monday that the trashcan needed to be near his rack for use. The key is folks if you work hard enough that you puke from training you have literally dropped your blood pH so much that your body thinks you are poisoned and it voids your gut so you don’t die. This for “Kuipes”, was just a Monday. Now, was it a good thing that it seemed like he had an eating disorder, or the fact that my wife asked me: “Does he always puke?”. Not so much, but you know they are working damn hard to do this. This guy will always be a good friend that is not afraid to do the work.

Short sidebar, one time he came over to our apartment at the time to push the sled. Of course he vomited, but he had been eating a lot of raw vegetables at that time and literally did a “rainbow yawn”, where his vomit was every color of the color wheel except for blue all over the parking lot and it didn’t go away for about two weeks.


There is a gym in Columbus, Ohio called Westside Barbell. To say it is an intense powerlifting gym is quite the understatement. Some people love it, some people hate it, but Westside is Westside. If you are ever in the area and just want to see an environment filled with people that just want it. That are willing to fight and die for it. You should go to the gym and see it. Every time I have visited that gym I have always gained a few stories and got some new ideas. One quote from the coach there Louie Simmons that I enjoy is (paraphrasing); “Walk with the lame and develop a limp”. Well if most people will always move to the average, that place is going to bring most people up to levels they never dreamed. Finding a solid environment to train in is always an important factor. For the love of god avoid gyms that actively try to remove people that are actually training hard. Odin forbid if any of us aspire to greatness in this life and that terrifies the weak.

Wrapping up

I don’t really care how strong you are, weak you are, tall you are, short you are, etc. I just want to train with people that are game. That will throw down and take hard shots at what was once their limits. Do yourself a favor and find someone like this in your gym and just train with them. Doesn’t matter what type of athlete they are, you will hopefully learn something about that grit and dedication the hard training requires.


If you are reading this and interested in some training programming help shoot me a message either on twitter of facebook and we can hopefully come up with some ideas to make your training better. What I will require is that we do this with a three month commitment in mind and I will post about what you did and your progress whether it works or not.

What Would Alvin Do? Pull up Edition

This will be another stream of consciousness post. Today, due to the athletics weight room having three teams training in their room at the same time I had to go over to the student rec center to train. It was a deload bench workout with rowing work so I wasn’t too concerned with the change of venues. I get over there and as per the usual it is bro o’ clock and curls are on the menu. In reality lots of kids doing good work pushing themselves, technique optional, and not always with the best (Read rational) programming.

I go about my work and let me say thanks to the football player for spotting me on a burn out set on the bench press. A bit past halfway through my workout a student of mine asks me for a back exercise. The exchange goes like this:

“What should I do for back?”

“Pull ups”

“But I’m bad at pull ups”

“Then what will help you get better at them?”


I stare at him. He then smiles and says:

“Doing pull ups”

“Yup, and I’ll join you”

“I can’t do that many”

“No problem, we’ll do an empathy day”

Empathy training

The idea here started from training with Big Mike, Jeremy, and Max at Eagle gym in Saint Louis many years ago. What you do is take the weight of the heaviest guy (Big Mike was about 390 I believe) and we did a grip competition for who can hang on to the bar the longest at his body weight. Hanging that dumbbell (190lbs. at the time) from me I think actually made me taller by the time that I was done. This is something since that I do for fun in training where you try and do a body weight exercise or such at the weight of your heaviest training partner. You can use a weight vest, ankle weights, dip belts, chains, really anything that adds weight that will stay on you and not move around too much for the movement you are doing.

Back to the workout

He then looks at me quizzically and we walk over to the pull up bar and I ask him how much he weighs. This turns out to be 270, (this is gonna be a party) so I grab 55 lbs. of kettlebells and strap them to my dip belt. With that we start doing a ladder.


The basic idea here is your partner does one rep and then you do one rep. The partner then does two, and then you do two. Build this up until someone fails and then you can either call it or start back over at zero. This is a good idea I took from both Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline. By training movements (specifically body weight movements) in this many you can get in a great deal of quality volume in a short period of time.

So we get set up and then two other guys I know from the power lifting team join in. We then start at each of us doing one. Now one guy can’t do one pull up so he simply does controlled negatives on each of his turns (brutal but effective), one guy gets to three and fails at four, then gets to two and fails at three and then the final round gets one. The third guy builds all the way up to eight. I work in with them and we follow a simple order here (1st guy, 2nd guy, 3rd guy, 4th guy, back to 1st guy) so rest is relatively short. The nice thing is by doing this with a group as the reps gets higher so does your amount of rest.

The two guys from the power lifting team that were nice enough to hop in with us on the pull ups.
The two guys from the power lifting team that were nice enough to hop in with us on the pull ups.

All in all the final amount of reps breaks down to one guy does 8 negatives, one guy does 14 good reps, and the final one does a total of 36 reps. This is a solid amount of work for each relative to their ability. If we look at this from the perspective of Prilipen work (google it) the two lowest performers did a high volume of reps in the 90% range, and then guy that worked up to eight reps was still high volume in probably the 70% range for his ability.


I was then getting ready to go and I see a group of guys (5 or so) doing deadlifts together. These guys are actually going for it with the strongest guy in the group hitting 4 plates. I stopped and chatted with them for a moment since they all seemed to be making the same mistake of gripping too wide on the bar and standing with their feet too fat apart to have a strong start. So I point this out to them and help some guys sit back on the deadlift to help use their own weight to lift it. (I need to do a video this and put this online, maybe I will do that).

They did a good job and I failed to get a name of any of them, but I talked with them for a few more and headed on my merry way on out of there. Good training session for me, in the future I need to do a better job of learning names.