“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.’” – Ronnie Coleman
Well it’s been about a month since I’ve posted here, and it’s a new year which means two things. I owe the blog gods a blood sacrifice and people are trying to take action on their resolutions to get their fat asses into shape.
I don’t really consider myself a fatass, but I toned down the training and ramped up the eating over the holidays, so I was definitely ready to get back at it when the calendar flipped to 2021. If you listened to the latest episode of my podcast, The Savage Sacktap you know that I ate gluttonously enough over break to trigger a series of strenuous and foul smelling bowel movements at my sister’s New Year’s Eve party — it wasn’t pretty.
But what’s a boy to do? It was Christmas, then it was New Year’s and for like 3 weeks there was nothing to be found but nitrates, carbs, sodium, and booze. Needless to say it’s felt really good to get back to chicken, broccoli, and dead lifts this month.
With that said, here’s what the start of the new year has in store.
When New Jersey reopened gyms in September, I started a classic Mark Rippetoe program called ‘Starting Strength’. It’s a program for beginners, but since I had been out of the gym since March, with only my body weight and a couple light dumbbells to work with I figured I should give it a stab. After all, how often do you get to start from almost zero after spending over 2 decades in the gym?
Starting Strength is a very basic program broken into three phases. The program focuses on the squat, deadlift, overhead, and bench press with cleans and chinups brought in as you move into the second and third phases. If you want a complete breakdown of the program, you can check it out here.
Phase 1 was a month long reintroduction to squatting, pressing, and deadlifting. Once I hit the 4 week point I was ready to move on to the second phase which brings in power cleans every other day to replace dead lifts.
So Phase 1 looks like this:
Alternate between workout A and B, for 3 workouts/week.
Squat 5×3, Overhead Press 5×3, Deadlift 1×5
Squat 5×3, Bench Press 5×3, Deadlift 1×5 (for deads I alternated between trap bar and straight bar).
Phase 2: Same thing, alternate between A and B for 3 workouts a week
Overhead Press 3×5
Power Clean 5×3
Bench Press 3×5
Part of the way through the second phase my shoulders started to take a beating so I swapped out the benching for landmine presses which are a great shoulder friendly alternative if you’re having similar issues — particularly if you work at a desk. Desk jobs will fuck up your shoulders, hips, hamstrings, and glutes, Just think of the hunched position that sitting at a desk creates; hump back, tight pecs, excessively stretched back muscles, tight hips, tight ham strings, sleepy glutes, and shit loads of lower back and shoulder pain.
To alleviate the mess that my posterior chain had become I added more mobility work, foam rolling, and weekly yoga classes (you don’t need to shell out any cash for this btw, Yoga With Adriene on YouTube is the mothafuckin jam). I also programmed pulling exercises like fat man rows, face pulls, bent rows, TRX rows, and band pull aparts into my workouts to get even more mid and upper back activation. These exercises engage the back, open the chest, and take a lot of pressure off the scapula and spine.
Here’s how my training looks for Phase 3:
Monday: Squat 3×5, Plate Overhead Press (a more friendly version of the shoulder press) 3×5, Power Clean 5×3. Extra work: arms n abs (beach season is getting closer by the day, gotta look sexy).
Tuesday: Outdoor workout; jump rope, agility drills, ab wheel, booty bands
Wednesday: Squat (this is a light day, so I’m using it to learn overhead squats) 3×5, Incline Dumbbell Bench (a healthier range of motion and easier setup than the traditional bench press) 3×5, Deadlift 1×5. Extra: Horizontal pulling including fat man rows/inverted chin ups, TRX rows, and face pulls. Back hyper extensions at the very end.
Thursday: Yoga for whatever body part needs a good stretch
Friday: Squat 3×5, landmine press 3×5, Chins/pullups alternating between a weighted day of 3×5 and a high rep day working up to about 2 reps shy of failure for each of the different angles available on my gym’s chinup bar. Vertical pulling to include; scap pull ups, lat pull downs, neck harness front and back.
Sunday: Agility drills, ab wheel, booty bands, jump rope
I embedded videos for some of the more obscure exercises, but pretty much all of this can be found on YouTube if you need clarification on technique or are looking for a different variation to suit your individual needs.
Right now my lifts are looking decent, especially since I’m only 4 months out of the longest training hiatus of my life. Squat was 285 for repeated sets of 5 before the holidays. I’ve scaled that back to work sets with 265 lbs because I like to be extra careful when I’m loading my spine with weight. By the end of the spring I’d like to be squatting 315 for 5-10 reps. My trap bar deadlift is at a mildly strenuous 405, and my straight bar dead lift is just over 350.
The tentative plan right now is to keep this program going until April. Transition to a more advanced strength program for the spring, and then shift to a higher volume, lower weight bodybuilding program over the summer. The reason I’m doing it like this is simple; If I spend the next few months eating, lifting, and getting stronger then I’ll have a nice strength base when I start the bodybuilding program. Having a good strength base means I’ll be able to use heavier weights during the bodybuilding program and thus create better gainz.
If this sounds like a lot of time to spend working out, I promise you it’s not. The lifting days take about 90 minutes each, and everything else is between 30 and 45 minutes a pop. All totaled my weekly workout time is about 6 hours. Think about things that you spend 6 hours doing every week; social media, TV, drinking, sitting around doing nothing, etc. Would you be willing to give up 6 hours of that time in exchange for looking and feeling better? For me it’s a no brainer, but I also love working out, so if 6 hours is too much for you cut it down to 3. Certainly you can find 3 hours a week in which to move around and improve yourself right?
I mention this not to shame you for being such a fat disgusting slob, but to show you that despite the commonly held misconception that you need to live in the gym if you want to look and feel better, it really doesn’t take all that much. I get it though, we live in consumer driven society where most of our problems can be solved with the click of a button or the popping of a pill — seriously, you can be suffering from erectile dysfunction, click a button on a website, wait a couple days for a pill to arrive, pop that pill, and then pop a raging boner. Back in my day we just sat on the edge of the bed with a confused look on our faces trying to explain to the chick that, “I swear this has never happened before, maybe I drank too much? I can still eat you out though! No wait, don’t go home! You’re not gonna tell your friends about this are you?”. Point being, we’re an on demand culture in love with quick fixes. As a result of this we’re quite susceptible to being ‘sold’ on miracle cures for our health and fitness troubles (I’m not going to insult your intelligence by elaborating on this as I assume you’ve probably seen a chick you went to high school/college with selling weight loss pills on Facebook while her husband goes to work to make an actual living).
The truth is that the cure to looking and feeling better — and these days perhaps fending off the deadly global pandemic that George Soros and the Chinese released to sabotage Trump’s reelection — lies in creating simple healthy habits. If you truly want to be at your best in 2021 try this:
Find a way to move every day. I gave you the program I’m on, but if that’s too much for you then carve out 30 to 45 minutes 4 days a week. It doesn’t have to be much; if you live near a big hill then go run up it a few times before or after work, if you hate being outside then knock out a 30 minute home workout on YouTube, but if you can drag your ass out of the house I highly recommend it; sunlight and fresh air are natural anti-depressants, and just 15 minutes spent sitting next to a tree can provide a major mood boost.
Clean up your diet too. You don’t need to go on some kind of extreme “I’m only drinking water mixed with cayenne pepper power” diet to lose weight and get in shape. In fact, those diets are pretty useless — I eat steak and potatoes like 3 or 4 times a week, not bad as far as diets go. You do have to ditch the shit though, at least most of the shit. When I say shit I mostly mean sugar and bread. Cut back on the booze, replace your regular daily beverages with water (coffee and tea are cool too as long you don’t load with garbage), and then load up on the following:
Proteins: Steak, chicken, ground beef, ground pork, salmon, tuna, shrimp, eggs, bacon ( bacon for fun, but not too much)
Fruits, Vegetables, other things that grow in the earth: Broccoli, peppers, onions, spinach, mushrooms, avocados, apples, berries, nuts, beans, garlic, potatoes, oranges, ginger, lemons, and limes
If you can commit to moving around for less than an hour a day, and replacing processed/sugary foods with those listed above you will be well on the way to becoming a sexier version of your former self. The ‘feel good’ will happen as soon as you start moving with purpose and intention, and putting better stuff into your body. After about 3 weeks you’ll notice slight improvements in your appearance (losing fat, building muscle, better skin, better hair). As the months go by the changes will become even more noticeable and you may even enjoy your new found habits.
Not to go all Jordan Peterson on you guys, but it really is the little things that make the biggest differences. In the Marine Corps we call it being ‘brilliant in the basics.’ It means tackling the little stuff that makes up so much of day to day life, so that when the big stuff comes along you’re in a position handle it accordingly — that can be good stuff or bad stuff by the way. Whether it’s landing a date with a hot chick or dealing with some kind of disruptive life event, these things are a lot easier to manage if you’re feeling good, moving well, and full of energy.
If you’re already doing this stuff keep it up, if you’re doing it but half-assing it, then throw your whole ass into it. If you’re already doing this stuff and want to take the next step, then start looking at other areas of life where you need a little boost. For me that involved drinking less booze, working on maintaining relationships with friends and family who live far away, and putting together a healthy bedtime routine, but everyone has their own dragons to slay — maybe you wanna read more and jerkoff less, maybe you want to save more cash, maybe you wanna get more ass. Whatever it is, break it down to the basics, get after it, and have a great 2021!