The Myths of Iron

TAGS: bad information, muscle magazines, Pumping Iron, logic, myths, information, lifting, truth, chad aichs, recovery, powerlifting, training

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So many lifters are on the journey of iron, but few are enlightened by it. They progress to a certain level and then get stuck. Some just give up and quit while others continue beating their heads against the wall. They refuse to open their minds and get to see the truth. They can’t get past the myths like the idea we must train to the extreme limits every session, and if we don’t feel beaten to shit, then we did not train hard enough. That this is what it takes to make gains and reach the highest levels.

I constantly speak truths about these myths because they have been around too long and become too accepted by the masses. It has gotten so bad that you can get a degree in various strength and conditioning areas that teach mediocre knowledge at best. I personally never finished my degree but took many courses in this area.


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Ironically, I did not get really strong until I searched outside the so-called academic world. My real strength education was taught by guys that were actually strong as hell, guys that actually put their knowledge on the line, testing their own strength. These were guys that backed up their knowledge with actual proof and not poorly run studies. The information was always there; I just had to be willing to search it out and be open to the idea that the masses were wrong.

What really astounds me is how these myths continue to perpetuate. My niece and nephew just recently took weightlifting classes in high school, and I am completely baffled by what they are being taught. This information is not only wrong, but it puts them at a much greater risk of injury. Quality knowledge is out there and easily accessible, so why are we stuck in this loop of unintelligent information?

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Granted, my first 13 years of lifting were riddled with the same stupidity. I was fortunate to have a smart throwing coach in college who oversaw our strength training. These were not the best programs, but they were part of the evolution toward what we have today. Did this training work and was I strong during all these years? I was probably OK but not world-class by any means. These years gave me a base that helped me to total 1,700 pounds raw in my first full powerlifting meet at the age of 28. It was not going to ever make me world-class, though.

When I started lifting, I did not have much access to information like today. I had some books and magazines. I did not even have anyone to ask because I lifted alone due to the fact we could not afford gym fees. To this day, I still question whether the movie Pumping Iron was a good thing or a horrible thing for me to watch. My takeaway from all these resources was that I needed to kill myself in the gym. I needed to squat until I could not walk or collapsed on the floor. I had to train every day and could not miss a day. All I focused on was that I needed to tear the muscle in order for it to grow. This notion was pounded into my head.

I can’t remember any of the articles from back then talking about recovery. Everything was about training and training hard. Not once did I see a multi-page article talking about light training sessions. There were no videos about technique. I read books with simple descriptions and pictures. I read about Arnold squatting logs in the woods for hours. I read about insane training sessions by guys like Tom Platz.

Skip forward 15 to 20 years, and I was writing for some of these magazines that I’d read as a kid. Do you know what I found out? They are f--ing bullshit! I was eventually asked if they could change my articles because they varied too much from the principles they had always written about. They did not want to print the truth; they wanted exciting bullshit stories and training sessions. Of course, this is why I do not write for them anymore. I would rather flip burgers than shit on the sport I love. All they wanted to print was crazy training sessions and stories. They did not want to print that those things happen but not all of the time. They were more worried about creating make-believe superheroes than actually educating lifters.


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I have to admit that as a kid, I probably wanted to hear this bullshit. I was born into a hard-working family that took pride in our ability to work hard and get the job done. We almost relished in how difficult a job was and that we could finish it. I admit, a part of my psyche wanted lifting to be like this, and I took great pride in every insane training session I did, pride in how bad I could beat the shit out of myself and continue to take it.

Eventually, I got to that point in my journey of iron where I was seriously beating my head against the wall. I knew if I did not change course, I was not going to ever meet the potential I knew I had. I did not realize it at the time, but this became a great battle against myself that I am still fighting. I had to begin letting go of my ego and everything I thought I knew. I had to start over with a clean slate that had no preconceived conception of what it took to get strong.

I would love to say it was like flipping a switch, but it took a long time, and in fact, I would say I am still working on it to this day. The first and most important step was admitting I did not know enough and what I did know was probably wrong. I mean, if I had already known it all, I would have already been a world champ, right? During this time, I also had to drop all the lies we tell ourselves to feel better about ourselves. It no longer mattered if someone used steroids, had outstanding genetics, trained at great gyms, or had great coaches. All of that shit is nothing more than excuses to make it OK to fail at meeting our own potential. I had to break it all down so I could rebuild it better.

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Being on the other side of this journey, I want to help lifters experience what I have, but I cannot force anyone to walk forward on the path. I can tell them that they have been lied to, but I cannot make them believe it. Are you like Neo in The Matrix? Do you want to know the truth? I am telling you right now the myth of always pushing to the limit in training and always feeling beaten up is not true. This is not how you get strong(er). Yes, if you’re a beginner or intermediate lifter, you may get away with this for a while. I know I did get stronger training this way, but I certainly did not get world-class.

It is very simple: training and recovery must even out. If you’re training hard as hell all the time to the point you are continually feeling beaten up and beaten down, then you’re not recovering. You may gain for a short period, but you will hit a wall, or worse yet, get injured. If you have to roll around and warm-up for hours before training, then you are severely under-recovered and therefore not growing at the optimal rate. Yes, you should be sore from training, or better yet, you should be sore from some of your training. It can take a few days to recover from intense sessions; this is normal.

But your joints should not ache all the time. You should not continuously have nagging injuries. You should not feel any number of mental issues that can arise from overtraining, such as depression, irritability, poor sleep, loss of interest in things you enjoy, loss of appetite, etc. The CNS controls much of what goes on in the brain, and when overtrained, it can negatively affect so many functions.


READ MORE: Guidelines For Injury-Free Progress: Controlling Intensity


The fact is that this myth of having to beat the crap out of ourselves training with the highest intensity every day is bullshit. It’s worse than bullshit; it holds lifters back from meeting their true potential. Yes, there are times we must train to the extremes. Yes, when we are beginners and even intermediate lifters, we need to push hard more often.

In order to keep growing and evolving as lifters, we must let these myths go. We must realize there is a time for everything. This means a time to train at 100 mph and time to recover with that same intensity. There is a time to train with less intensity and even not train at all.

Too often, I hear people say that I must train every day and always be in the gym to get as strong as I am. My response is, “If I did that I would be weak as hell and probably skinny, too!”

Let go of the myths, they don’t even follow logic. Train intelligently and listen to the people that are not lying to you. You do not get stronger when you beat yourself down; you get stronger when you recover from stress. This is simple logic.

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