Advice for the Young Lifter

After training with and watching a lot of newer lifters at meets, I think there are some things that a lot of younger lifters need to get in proper perspective. First off, even though powerlifting may be an individual sport, the way guys train and compete (and this applies to almost everything in life) is as a team. This means everyone helps everyone else. Don't expect help without offering something in return. There's nothing wrong with asking for help or advice, but if you’re always on the receiving end and rarely offering to help other people, they will resent it and after a while, cease helping you. Everything in life should be give and take.

Secondly, and this is a big one, show respect where and when it’s appropriate. This doesn't mean kissing ass or being a nut swinger – which is something most accomplished lifters hate. It means showing the respect that’s due to the people that earned it. I see so many new guys having one good meet or training cycle, then talking shit to everyone around them about how they will break their records and PRs. Nobody appreciates that, especially when they’ve been around for a long time, have been where you’re at and know what lies ahead of you. Think of it this way:

How would you expect a freshman football player walking on at a Division I school to act toward the guys who are seniors there? The same thing applies to a rookie in the Pros. Knowing how to treat those who’ve been around longer than you, goes a long way toward getting respect yourself.

You must give respect in order to get it.

This past weekend we went out to dinner after the state meet, and there was a young kid there that just started training with us. This was his first meet. He had a good meet and was very pleased with himself. At dinner, he started talking shit to both my brother and me. We put him in his place, but he’s lucky that one of us didn't get up and knock him the f--k out. This is a perfect example of someone's head getting way too big way too fast and not knowing where he ranks in the big scheme of things.

The point is that he hasn't earn the right to treat us that way. He hasn't earned our respect, and he obviously doesn't respect us enough. When I was younger and I trained with a group of guys that were bigger and stronger and had been training longer than me, I kept my mouth shut and listened to what they had to say. I never, ever talked shit to them. I didn't always agree with everything they had to say, and it didn't mean I worshiped them. I simply gave respect where it had been earned.

A good saying that I try to adhere to is, "If you really are good at something, you don't have to tell people. They will tell you." This is totally true. If you do well at something, people will know it and they’ll talk about it even if that never gets back to you. Talking about yourself and your accomplishments excessively just makes you look like an egomaniac and a tool. Don't do it.

People may congratulate you to your face, but I guarantee you they’re mocking you behind your back if you talk too much. Work hard, achieve your goals, show respect to your fellow lifters, keep self-aggrandizement to a minimum, and people will respect your accomplishment...not resent you for them.

Now, of course I’m generalizing with this article, and there are many older lifters that may not deserve tons of respect, as well as younger lifters who do, but I think the idea I’m trying to get across is fairly plain to see. I don’t know if it’s due to the current social culture, or if I’m already becoming one of those “old timers,” but it troubles me to see so much arrogance and lack of respect in many of the young kids that are up-and-coming in the sport.

Old-School Q&A

I see you’ve been doing lunges lately. Are you going to continue doing them? What’s with the log? Also, how do you recover so quickly from such serious injuries?

Yes, I plan to keep the lunges in my program, and I use the log because it's f--king cool. Seriously, I like the lunges because they hit the quads, hams and glutes hard, which of course helps with the squat and deadlift. Plus they do so without putting a tremendous amount of stress on the rest of the body - which makes them an ideal assistance movement after squatting.

I am able to recover quickly for a few reasons. First, I had lots of practice at it! Second, I know my body very well and learned how far I can push it during rehab to minimize recovery time.

The key to a quick recovery is doing as much as humanly possible as soon as possible after the injury. Sitting around on the couch getting fat and feeling sorry for yourself does nothing to speed up recovery. Getting up and working the injured area "A.S.A.P." does.

The trick is walking that fine line between maximum recovery and re-injury. That’s when knowing your body and all the years I of experience I have training help me greatly.

Another important factor is, of course, your mental outlook. You have to be confident that you will fully recover and are willing to endure some pain to get back quickly. I never had an injury yet (and I've had some good ones!) that I even doubted for a second that I would make a full recovery from. It isn't always avoiding injury that determines who will go the farthest, but rather how one handles coming back from them.

Do you have any advice on dropping body fat while increasing strength?

Your goal with cutting weight should be to maintain as much strength as possible during the cut and then to try to regain (and hopefully surpass) your current strength level, while maintaining the lighter bodyweight.

You see, losing weight is a catabolic process and gaining muscle is an anabolic process. Unless you're extremely out of shape or entirely new to training, it will be virtually impossible to gain strength while cutting. Most likely, you'll actually lose some strength, but don't worry – you should be able to exceed your previous strength levels in time.

With all of that being said, I feel the best way to lose body fat and retain strength is by increasing your cardiovascular work. You should also clean up your diet, but I would recommend maintaining your current total caloric intake and creating the caloric deficit necessary for weight loss through an increased expenditure of energy, namely more cardio.

My favorite method is walking on a treadmill at a rate sufficient to elevate your heart rate to 55-65 percent of your max. This is easy on your joints, doesn't tax your muscles too much to where it affects your recovery from weight training and it is effective for fat loss. You can also ride a bike (stationary or outdoors), walk outdoors or use other cardio equipment like elliptical machines and step mills, as long as you shoot for the same target heart rate.

Jogging or other more intense forms of cardio will burn a lot of calories and at a quicker rate, but they also lend themselves to burning up more muscle mass than less demanding types of cardio.

I would suggest starting with 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill3-4 times per week on non-training days. As you lose weight, you can make adjustments from there to keep the weight loss coming.

I’ve noticed that you never do any direct shoulder work. Is there any reason for this?

Actually, I stopped doing any direct shoulder work because after dislocating my left shoulder the week before the Arnold, I noticed that any shoulder work I did was aggravating the injury and prolonging my recovery time.

My front delts get plenty of work from all of the pressing I do, and the rear delts get hit pretty hard with all of my back work. So far I haven't noticed any downside to ceasing the shoulder work, and my left shoulder is fully healed and feeling great.

More shoulder work would be needed if I were a bodybuilder, Olympic lifter or strongman, but as I am currently only competing in powerlifting and this is my main focus, I don't feel the lack of direct shoulder work to be a hindrance to my progress.

What kind of warm-up do you perform before you lift?

Everything I do, including warm-ups, is written in my log. My warm-ups just include lighter sets of the exercise I'm going to perform. My first exercise always has at least several warm-up sets, but after that, I only do warm-up sets for an exercise if I feel that body part isn't sufficiently warmed up from prior work.

I do perform some stretching if I feel an area is tight. This mostly pertains to my lower back. Sometimes I also perform some of the band traction exercises that Dave Tate has talked about in his articles. These have helped my back and shoulders and I do them often when I'm having problems with these areas.